Volvo XC40 Recharge
Is Mollie’s the roadside motel the UK has been waiting for?
The great M8/XC40 car sharing crusade continues. And this month I’ve been spending time in the peculiarly coloured but regularly complimented ‘Champagne Dregs Gold’ electric Volvo. Which, after a few weeks living in the sumptuous 600+bhp BMW, has provided a welcome palate cleanse. Plus, a dose of reality. Also a few frustrations.
One thing that drives me insane are unwanted squeaks, buzzes, clonks and rattles in cars. And – annoyingly – the XC40 has them. More annoyingly, they’re hard to locate; little noise ninjas in door cards, suspension struts and the 9.0-inch central touchscreen.
The first exceedingly irritating noise arrives before you’ve even driven the thing. As soon as you get in the Recharge you’re greeted with a faint buzzy static hum from the central screen like it’s a television set from the 1960s. Worse, unlike an ICE XC40, there’s no ignition on/off button in the EV (you just get in, knock it in to gear and go) so you can’t turn it off, even when stationary. Unsurprisingly, being a few years my senior, Jack Rix can’t hear this noise. The way I counter it is to crank the music up and drown it out. But electric cars are meant to be silent and therefore soothing and relaxing.
Which brings me on to my next point. The added silence gifted from the lack of an engine in the Recharge means this XC40’s little knocks and rattles are even more prominent. Like the squeak in the back seat. Or worrying clonk from the left-rear suspension. And having consulted the forums, I’m not the only one who has had this issue – with some tracking it down to a faulty strut. So I’m going to head to a dealer and see what they say, as ultimately all these noises makes the car feel cheaper than it is. And at £48k, this isn’t a cheap car. So it shouldn’t rattle, hum and clonk like one.
Blood boiling sounds aside, aware that the little Volvo might rarely escape the London’s ULEZ zone as Jack and I are tragic urbanites, I thought I’d test out its claimed 264-mile range from the 69kWh battery. The plan was to head from London to Bristol and back, a 240-mile trip down the M4. Easy, right? The XC40 failed spectacularly, only able to deliver 150-miles in cold weather. Luckily, there was a saviour: Mollie’s.
Mollie’s is a new motel and roadside diner just off the M5 near Bristol (there’s also one in Oxfordshire on the A420 between Oxford and Swindon) but a million miles away from those washed-up, kitsch Americana diners you see on the A1. Created from the brains of the people behind ritzy member’s club Soho House, Mollie’s is attacking the market with a disruptive ‘budget-luxe’ alternative to your Holiday and Premier Inns. And they’ve nailed it. In fact, I’d go as far to say it’s a new benchmark. And Mollie’s couldn’t have come along at a more perfect time.
See, roadside offerings when it comes to food and sleep options in the UK are – let’s be honest – crap. And with first time EV-users like me being duped by misleading WLTP figures, EV ‘destinations’ are only going to become more of a thing. And Mollie’s is perfect offering somewhere to fuel both you and the car as it’s flooded with 14 charging bays and a restaurant. There’s a mix of rapid chargers (which can charge the Volvo from 10-80 per cent in as little as 27 mins) and overnight chargers in case you want to kick back and have a few cocktails at the bar before a filling dinner and cheap sleep (prices start at £70 for a double room per night). Tired, weary and thirsty, I opted for the second. And didn’t regret it.
Where a lot of ‘motor hotels’ (as they were called in the 1950s) smell of a student halls of residence, have sticky furnishings and TV remotes you wouldn’t pay someone to touch, Mollie’s is tech-centred (everything from check in, to car charging, playlist in your room and breakfast order is controlled via an app) and chic. The rooms are smart, spacious and have that Insta-friendly trendy minimalism you see in Scandinavian coffee table books; grey walls are offset with blond wood panelling, Conran armchairs and a big TV. Better than that, each room comes with big head rainfall showers, insomnia-be-gone ‘Hypnos’ mattresses, Cowshed cosmetic products and Dyson hairdryers. This is all stuff you get in a Soho house room which costs hundreds of pounds more and isn’t accessible to the public. Admittedly, being juts off a retail park in Cribbs Causeway the view isn’t brilliant unless you’re a fan of B&M, Carpetright, Dreams, Go Outdoors, Halfords and Hobbycraft. Thankfully the thick black-out curtains can be shut with ease and you can pretend your literally anywhere else. Or just go for a bite to eat in the diner.
Diners may draw up imagery of chrome stools, lukewarm drip coffee, greasy burgers and hot dogs that have been boiled in old bath water. But Mollies is light and elegant, blending hints of vintage with modern – like the bottle green banquettes, warm wood and chrome fittings. It’s the perfect backdrop for the social media friendly food serve all day that’d cost you a fortune in London but is delicious and refreshingly reasonably priced, making it the perfect place to stop if you need an EV top up. Or if want to take your EV on a road trip. With Mollie’s opening a further 10 locations around the UK as part of a rapid expansion plan, it can’t happen soon enough if the viral footage of queues at motorway service charging points are anything to go off. And given the XC40’s limited range, I’ll probably be going back sooner than I think.