Auto123 reviews the 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge.
There was frankly no better time to try out an EV than in the dead of winter, with temperatures plunging to uncommon depths and couple of snowfalls thrown in for good measure. Enjoying an all-electric sparkplug like the Volvo XC40 Recharge in mild and dry spring or summer weather is easy, after all.
Optimal Conditions, they call them. Frankly we can learn a lot of what we need to learn about a vehicle’s performance and capabilities in good times from manufacturers’ specs, which deal with numbers recorded in Optimal Conditions.
January in Canada in the middle of an extended cold snap with lots of snow and ice about does not deliver Optimal Conditions. And so it was in decidedly un-optimal conditions that I took possession of the 2022 XC40 Recharge (in its top-of-the-line Ultimate trim) to discover that the estimated range I was being granted was not in the same area code as the official 359 km. With charge listed at 72 percent, I had 170 km at my disposal. OK.
I won’t belabour the point, because all EVs are affected by extreme cold to some degree. It’s just that this SUV looked to me like it was more affected than others. Extrapolate from that charge percentage to a full charge and it works out to about a 240 km range. That’s a loss of about 35 percent of range due to the cold. And that was with the Ultimate trim, which actually includes a heat pump, the job of which is to minimize range loss in the cold. Something to consider if you live in an area where extreme cold is a regular visitor…
There’s more to the XC40 than range, of course, starting with its many positives. Chief among those is that the EV permits you to give gas pumps and their crazy high current prices a wide berth.
There are a few visual clues that betray the Recharge’s lack of a combustion engine, notably the absence of tailpipes, a solid panel in front instead of a grille and assorted Recharge badging here and there. But by and large, the XC40 Recharge looks pretty much the same as its older gas-powered sibling. And that’s just fine, because this is a handsome little crossover.
While the XC40 Recharge is clearly based on the gas-powered XC40, and thus is not a model conceived from scratch as an EV, it does have a notable difference in that the placement of the battery pack under the floor creates a low, evenly distributed centre of gravity, and the solid handling and curve confidence that comes with it.
To the instant acceleration available from the electric powertrain, which includes two 150-kWh motors and delivers a very ample 402 net hp and 486 lb-ft of torque via a shift-by-wire single-speed transmission (0-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds is pretty cool, and a good two seconds faster then the regular XC40), you can thus add responsive steering that’s not too light and nimble handling in the city environment, which is home ground after all for a vehicle of these modest dimensions.
Given the brute strength of the powertrain, acceleration on the highway is also fine, though the advantage an EV like this has over a gas-engine vehicle when departing off the line is dissipated. Ride is on the firm side and you will occasionally feel the roughness of the road surface on your body, but nothing dramatic. The all-wheel-drive system, possible thanks to the presence of one electric motor on each axle, is, according to Volvo, more rear-wheel biased than in the regular XC40, but I failed to really discern any difference. I was just glad to have it during the snow dumps I experienced in my otherwise icy, frigid week of driving the model.
Drivers can choose the level of regenerative braking applied, anywhere from none to mild to aggressive, which basically allows for one-pedal driving. That’s not for everyone, but I’ve made it a point when in various EVs of working to get used to it, and I have. In the case of a model like the XC40, the range of which is modest and prone to shrinkage in the cold, it’s not just principle that will make you want to master it. You’ll want the added range it returns.
The cabin of the XC40 Recharge is a typically Scandinavian affair, all open air and light and lack of clutter. The seats are not anything to write home about in terms of comfort, but nor are they deficient. That lack of clutter, meanwhile, means you might have to rely more on the screen for doing or finding this or that command than you’d like. Buttons for the basics, I say. And the problem is that Volvo’s infotainment system, while modern enough, is frankly not the most-user-friendly in the industry. There are menus and submenus and it’s not always an obvious path to get where you want to go. I suggest you avoid trying to find something for the first time while you’re in motion.
And by the way, to get into motion, don’t go looking for a start button, or knob, or lever, or keyhole, or anything of the sort. Your fob is all you need, and it can stay in your pocket. Once you’re seated, apply the brakes and move the shifter to D or R, and you’re good to go.
This being a Volvo, you can count on more drive-assist and safety systems than students that can cram into a phone booth. Like ‘em or not, you got ‘em. Enough said.
Another advantage of the in-floor battery pack is that there’s no loss of space either in the second row of seats, which is fairly roomy for a small SUV, or in the trunk. You can fit 578 litres worth of stuff in there, but in case you need still more room, know that there’s an extra 21 litres available in the frunk, placed under the front hood in lieu of the absent gas engine. It’s not big, but at least it can keep your charging cable from littering the trunk.
While it’s not a perfect offering in the all-electric domain – there are, already, newer and more innovative and better-performing models coming to the market by the month, ones designed from the get-go as all-electric models – the XC40 is still a very attractive option that offers a great ride and tons of entertaining power and reassuring safety features.
Perhaps the biggest concern with it, beyond the dramatic loss of range in extreme (or even moderate) cold, is the pricing attached to it. The starting price for the Core base model is set at $59,950, which places it out of reach of pretty much all federal and provincial discounts except a partial one in Quebec.
That means that this Volvo has to do one of two things: Either it has to sway premium-vehicle buyers who might otherwise go in the direction of an Audi, Mercedes, BMW or Porsche, or it has to convince mass-market shoppers that its exceptional qualities are enough to make it worth the hefty price difference between it and those new EVs like the Ioniq 5 from Hyundai that start at $45 grand, but from which you can subtract thousands in incentives. I’m just not sure I can say it’s that much better.
The model range is priced as follows, without counting taxes or the $2,015 in transport/prep fees:
Core - $59,950
Plus - $67,950
Ultimate - $70,800
Comfortable, roomy, airy interior
Really abundant power for the size of the vehicle
Decent trunk and frunk space
Much less of that expensive Volvo maintenance to budget for
We like less
More buttons, fewer screen commands please
Middling range, which suffers quite a bit in the cold
Pricing takes it largely out of the government incentives sweepstakes
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