Reviewed: Volvo XC40 Recharge Ultimate

In Car Reviews, Electric, Electric cars, Volvo by Neil Lyndon

If you know any Tesla owners, you won’t need to be told that they routinely turn up their noses at other electric cars

Car Reviewed: Volvo XC40 Recharge Ultimate

They are as certain that they securely occupy a superior position as Marie Antoinette was when she was looking down on the sans-culottes and wondering why they couldn’t eat cake.

I walk every Saturday morning with one of my best friends, who is a Tesla owner and also a distinguished marine architect. He always scorns every electric car that I have borrowed on test and driven to our meeting-place. He was especially scathing as we approached the Volvo XC40 Recharge at the end of a recent walk.

“So many manufacturers who electrify an existing ICE (internal combustion engine) model in their range fail to find a solution to the problem of what to do about the front end, don’t they?”

Looking at the XC40 Recharge in the light of this sage observation, I could only agree. It was obvious that Volvo had simply stuck a sheet of metal into place on the front end of the car where the radiator grille would typically be seen in an ICE version. It didn’t look like a very gainly solution.

By the same token, provision for a transmission tunnel survives on the floor of our test Recharge even though it is entirely redundant in this front-wheel-drive car. If you were in any doubt that this is not a four-wheel-drive car, you need only floor the accelerator pedal. The torque steer from the front wheels is so violent that it could practically rip the wheel out of your hands. Mind you, with 230+ bhp and 330Nm of torque, there’s a lot of power going to those front wheels, enough to propel the car from 0-60mph in seven seconds.

My friend’s criticism cannot, therefore, be denied. The XC40 is, essentially, the modification of an existing model to adapt it to electric power. It’s as if I took my 30-year-old Raleigh bicycle out of the shed and added a battery and a drive unit to the bottom bracket to give it some oomph up hills. It might work up to a point. But it won’t match one of those £3000+ electric bikes that have been designed for purpose from scratch. It won’t, in other words, be a Tesla.

The PHEV Volvo XC40 Recharge is in the position of the Raleigh in this comparison. In its original form, it was a fine piece of work, but the addition of fallible electric power only shows its age. In its week with us, it never once began to approach its theoretical range of 259 miles. Real-world performance was way under 200 miles, which is decidedly inadequate in the present time.

I have loved the XC40 ever since it first appeared in 2017. With lovely finish and matchless interior, it was, to my mind, the perfect subcompact luxury SUV. On first acquaintance at the launch, I knew that my wife would be knocked out if she could ever get her hands on one. And so it proved when a version came to our house on loan. She adored it so much she said it was the car she would buy if she ever won the lottery.

Seven years later, however, the Volvo XC40 is overdue for a complete rethink. Part of that process must inevitably be the creation of an all-electric car that doesn’t draw comparisons with a 30-year-old bike.

Author Rating 3.7/5

Car reviewed: Volvo XC40 Recharge Ultimate

on the road price £45,750 with options as tested £55,050

  • 0-62mph 7.4secs
  • Top speed 99mph
  • Motor 69kWh battery powering an electric motor
  • Dimensions MM 4425 L / 1658 H / 1863 W
  • Max Power 231hp
  • Torque 330Nm
  • WLTP Range up to 259miles
  • CO2 emissions Zero
  • Transmission 1-speed automatic rear-wheel-drive
  • Bootspace 413 / 1289 1itres (seats folded)

Neil Lyndon

Motoring Correspondent

Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK’s national stage for 40 years, writing for every “quality” newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 – the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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