Volvo XC40 Recharge Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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Saturday 9th December


What is it like to drive?

Depends which version you’re in. The two powertrains on the XC40 Recharge offer very different experiences: this might be the smallest Volvo but it weighs in at 2.1 tonnes in twin motor guise, 130kg less if you go for the single motor set-up. Of course, we already knew that batteries are heavy, but beyond that what we have here is one of the most acceleration-friendly Volvos ever. Seriously.

Sure, the twin motor’s immense torque is guaranteed to raise a smile, but even increased familiarity with the wicked side of electrification doesn’t diminish the wow factor. But it’s also well-mannered with it, sling-shotting you out of corners or exiting roundabouts in a way that really is as amusing as it is addictive. During a corner? That’s a different (less engaging) story. But getting on the power is a riot.

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What about the single motor car? 

The single motor set-up is a more sedate experience, with almost half the power, a little less weight and two-and-a-bit seconds or so slower to 62mph. In practical terms you’ll appreciate less power on a day to day basis. There are no driving modes in the XC40 Recharge, so it’s all there at a squeeze of your toes, while the single motor car is just a little less in your face.

So far we’ve only driven the dual motor version of the XC40 Recharge, however we have had a go in a more powerful, bigger-batteried, non-UK version of the swoopier C40 Recharge. This demoed the RWD set-up, and although it doesn’t have a transformative effect on the driving experience it does at least loosen up the front end in a corner. We’ll reserve judgement until we’ve driven the UK-spec car, but it could end up being our pick of the bunch.

What’s real-world range like?

Good question. With supposed gains for both its 67 and 79kWh batteries, Volvo now claims 3.7mi/kWh for the former and 3.5mi/kWh for the latter. In our test drive on a mix of quiet Swedish roads on a mild spring day (temperature is important, remember), we coaxed 2.9mi/kWh out of the XC40 Recharge Twin, suggesting a real-world range of 230 miles in those conditions. So expect a good chunk more in warmer weather.

How does it ride? 

The XC40 Recharge in whatever form disguises its weight well and copes admirably in all but the greasiest of conditions. The ride is beautifully damped and the suspension sophisticated in the way it can smooth out the worst of the UK’s tarmac excesses. The front suspension gets MacPherson struts with coil springs, and there’s a multi-link set-up at the rear. Volvo has never pretended to be the last word in driving dynamics or suspension kinematics, but the XC40 Recharge is more than deft enough.

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Is it too much of a techfest?

It’s actually also very simple to use, which is a refreshing change among some of the nerdier class of EVs out there. There’s nothing to fear about going electric if it’s an XC40 you’re getting – the keyless entry option also does away with the start button, the car ready to go once you’re sat in the driver’s seat. You just select Drive and off you go.

There are no powertrain modes to twiddle with – you can firm up the steering if you want (it’s better than the floatier calibration), and set the braking to maximum regen for one-pedal operation and improved efficiency. That can take a little getting used to, but quickly becomes second nature.

What about safety?

That obviously remains a core part of Volvo’s philosophy. Innovations on this model include a rear auto brake that can sense if the car is about to be rear-ended and applies the brakes automatically to stop it slamming into the car ahead.

There’s also an enhanced Pilot Assist, which draws on Google Maps for speed limits and bends in the road. Volvo is probably closer to autonomous driving than most, but the XC40 Recharge doesn’t remonstrate with you by way of warning chimes should you stray across a white line.

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