Volvo XC40 Recharge
Volvo XC40 Recharge: a good EV, but needs more range
When Rowan and I came to divvying up the M8 and XC40 for Christmas holiday duties it was inevitable that papa here was going to end up with the sensible, beige Volvo, while Rowan – being young and child-free – was destined to zing about in the Beemer. And you know what? I’m OK with that; for haulage of family and sacks of presents, plus round trips to my parents and the in-laws it was just as a Volvo should be – rock solid, quietly capable and every journey, minus two screaming over-sugared children, was stress free.
This could have been so different, because if I’m honest the range of the XC40 is way off the pace. I saw a 160-mile estimated range from a full charge one averagely chilly morning – over 100 miles down on the WLTP figure. For a premium, near £50k SUV, that’s not enough. I mean, it was enough because fortunately my parents live 39 miles down the M23 (and have a home charger), and my wife’s parents are just six miles of joyous London traffic away. But for anyone with a 200-mile-or-more Christmas round trip it brings public chargers into play, and that’s no fun for anyone.
Volvo knows this because an updated XC40 Electric (and C40 - that’s the inexplicably, but marginally more aerodynamic coupe-shaped one) have been announced. The big news is the single motor version is now rear- not front-wheel drive like ours. Skids ahoy. And despite the battery staying at 69kWh, improved efficiency means WLTP range jumps to 286-miles, which is a bit more like it. More interesting than that is a new long-range single-motor version with a more powerful 248bhp motor and a bigger 82kWh battery for a claimed range of 320-miles, which finally feels like the numbers this car deserves…
Because range aside the driving experience is really nicely judged – well damped suspension and steering, armchair comfortable seats, a cocoon from the outside world. At first I recoiled from the overly-aggressive regen mode, but now I’m a big fan – you can feather out some of the ferocity by not lifting off completely, but when you need to it brings you to a complete stop. Proper one-pedal drive. But there are signs all over that this is an ageing car, and an EV retrofit on a combustion engine platform. The lack of a flat floor across the front, the lack of a front truck, that range, the absence of wireless CarPlay.
Now, as all car journalists know, the holidays are also known as that time when you must hand out free car-buying advice to distant relatives. Honestly, next Christmas I’m going to wrap my own head and hand it around. In fact, this season I did recommend an XC40 to two separate people who were looking for something secondhand, un-German, comfortable, easy to use and with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It’s a great car. Had they been looking for something pure electric, I’d have told them to look elsewhere.