Are we running the ultimate underrated two-car garage of performance and practicality?
Rowan Horncastle: Remember what your mum said, Jack. Sharing is caring.
Jack Rix: I’ve never been good at it. Ask my brother.
RH: Well, you better get used to it as for the next six months we’re going to be hopping between these two: a Volvo XC40 Recharge and BMW M8 Competition. Which might be the ultimate extremely underrated below-the-radar two-car garage of performance and practicality.
JR: Yep, I’m pretty sure they said at Cop27 that the best way to up your green credentials was to offset your 616bhp 4.4-litre twin-turbo V8 with a small, electric SUV.
RH: Admittedly, it is excessive. But these two may be the perfect pairing as they counter each other’s failings. The single-motor XC40 (a successor to Volvo’s first EV released back in 2020, the dual-motor XC40 P8 Recharge) is small, soft riding and incredibly urban friendly. Plus, it has a claimed 263-mile range which will no doubt be a lot, lot less than that in reality. Especially as we’re running it in winter.
JR: Meanwhile the BMW is big, firm and difficult around town. But it runs off this innovative liquid energy source called ‘petrol’. Admittedly it likes to drink, but that’s not a worry as it can be topped up with a reliable and easily accessible infrastructure.
RH: Exactly. They’re also perfect for our lifestyles and the particular cards we’ve been dealt; we both live in London, juggle short commutes with big motorway distances now and then, and you have children. I don’t.
JR: What does my fertility have to do with anything?
RH: Good luck getting the sprogs in the back of the BMW. You can’t get rice paper between the front and rear seats, let alone limbs. Plus, you have reliable home charging for the Volvo – mine is frustratingly sporadic and shared. So I guess I’ll live in the BMW, then?
JR: What happened to sharing is caring? And don’t be so quick to dismiss the Volvo Horncastle, yes it has less than 500bhp which isn’t ideal, but I’ve now lived with a string of electric cars and I guarantee the inconvenience of charging is less than you expect, although it does require organisation and thinking ahead. They’re wonderful for stress-free, unmemorable trips, which is why I’m craving a bit more excitement in my life from time to time. And my kids are very flexible – we’ll manage.
RH: To be fair, I’m am excited about the Volvo. Having never lived with a full-fat EV I am interested in the joys and frustrations it brings. Plus, it’s a refreshingly simple spec. Having just come out of a £200k Bentley it’s nice to ease the anxiety of where and when you park your car.
JR: Tell me about it. There’s no front parking sensors, keyless entry or wireless CarPlay. The only options are that off-gold paint (£585) and tailored wool upholstery (£1,750).
RH: Yes, my first and probably only step towards veganism is that interior. It’s great. But I’m still not sure what to think of the paint. The awesome military chic drab green would have been my first choice. But being the smaller ‘Core’ single-motor, 228bhp powers the front wheels, rather than 403bhp fed to all four in the Twin. Which would be fun but excessive. Being smaller, the battery size has dropped a bit from its pricier brother too (75kWh usable capacity plays 67kWh) but the single is also 158kg lighter. And EVs are all about weight. Even though this is still a dumpy little thing at 1,955kg. And with 0-62mph served up in 7.5secs it’s not rapid but the instant torque makes it feel quicker than it is.
JR: Not as rapid as the BMW. This is a 616bhp/558lb ft missile, and with 4WD this looks like it’ll monster the winter weather, too. First impressions, the performance is pretty much bottomless, but finding enough space and a suitably grippy surface to launch it during a British winter is going to be an interesting challenge. It comes at a price though – £150k is a dangerous point for BMW to play in, the leap from here to a Bentley or even a full-blown supercar isn’t huge.
RH: Well, the Volvo isn’t exactly cheap. Compared to the £60k Twin the Core is cheap-er with a starting price of £45k. But it’s still a lot for a small family car. But could it be the perfect incognito EV runabout? To everyone else it’s just another Volvo. Which is no bad thing. If there’s a brand with some cache for safe, reliable cars – it’s them. And now it’s electric. What’s not to love? I guess it’s my job to find out.
JR: I agree, it’s the BMW that has more to prove out of this duo. Is a 600bhp+ super coupe socially acceptable in this day and age? Can the BMW actually decide whether it wants to be a full-bore performance car or wafty coupe with limitless torque? All shall be revealed…