Meet the new C40 Recharge, Volvo’s first foray into the “four-door coupe” SUV format and its first model to be offered exclusively with a battery-electric powertrain. Based largely on the XC40 Recharge—which has gas-fired siblings—the new C40 shares many of that electric SUV’s delights, including handsome styling and grin-inducing acceleration. Unfortunately, it also shares a few of the XC40’s drawbacks.
Volvo C40 Recharge: A Familiar Drive in a Slicker Package
We have a lot of nice things to say about the Volvo C40 Recharge’s looks, but you probably want to know how it drives, so that’s where we’ll start. The C40 shares most of its mechanical bits with the XC40 Recharge, including the 402-hp, 487-lb-ft two-motor powertrain. And like the electric XC40, it’s comically quick versus your expectations—Volvo claims a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds, 0.2 second quicker than the XC40. Our testing showed the XC40 Recharge to be even quicker than Volvo claimed, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the C40 Recharge makes the sprint in something closer to four seconds flat.
While getting from 0-60 in the C40 Recharge is good for grins, it’s the 50-80 that’ll really make your eyes pop. Who thought merging onto the highway could be such fun? In the C40, you can stroll up the on ramp behind the slowest of trucks, then move into the left lane as you nail the accelerator, disappearing into the distance in glorious near-silence.
But the magic of the C40 Recharge is that you won’t realize how quick it is until you ask it. The accelerator pedal setup is masterful: While many 400-hp cars are jumpy and impatient, the C40 allows you to layer the power on smoothly and progressively. It’s only when you give the go pedal a serious jab that the C40 does its disappearing act—and with no hesitating or lurching as you’d get in an internal-combustion-powered car. Its single-speed transmission means there’s no need to wait for a downshift.
The brilliance of the pedal setup is even more evident when you turn on the C40’s one-pedal driving feature, which applies regenerative braking as you lift off the accelerator pedal. (For those unfamiliar, regen uses the motors as generators to both replenish the battery using energy recaptured as the car slows. If you step on the brake pedal, the C40 automatically mixes regenerative and friction braking.) The pedal setup makes for easy modulation between power or braking, and one can easily get gradual slowing or a rapid pull-up to a complete stop. Few cars make one-pedal driving as smooth and intuitive as the C40 Recharge does.
Short Range, Not-Fast-Enough Fast Charging
Unfortunately, another component that the C40 Recharge shares with the XC40 is the 78 kWh battery pack (of which 75 kWh is usable). Volvo anticipates a slightly better EPA range rating here, at 225 miles versus 223 for the XC40 (itself up from 208 in last year’s model), but that’s still not an impressive number. We don’t like to engage in range-anxiety scare tactics; most of the EV owners we know have home chargers and can “fill up” every night if they like, and 225 miles is fine for day-to-day driving. But it’s not great for long-distance travel, as the C40 will need to be juiced up every three to four highway hours.
And that, too, has its own issues. The C40’s fast-charging maxes out at 150 kW; there are several new EVs that can charge at 200 kW or better, and a few that can take advantage of Electrify America’s 350 kW chargers. At its 150-kW rate, Volvo estimates that the C40 can be fast-charged from 10 to 80 percent in 37 minutes—but 80 percent on the Volvo is only 180 miles. Based on our experience, fast-charging at 150 kW from 80 to 100 percent can take a half hour or longer. That’s one heck of a long lunch. If Volvo isn’t going to fit a bigger battery, it could at least fit faster charging gear.
Smooth Cruising with Pilot Assist
The short tether and not-so-fast fast charging is all the more of a shame when you consider what a pleasant long-distance cruiser the C40 is. Our test route took us from Brussels, Belgium, out to the historic city of Bruges and back to Ghent, where the C40 is built. Our hoped-for factory tour was cancelled—damn you, COVID!—but we did get a chance to experience the C40 Recharge’s easy and nimble maneuverability on Brussels’ narrow, urban streets. (Also its good brakes—Google priorité à droite, a chaotic French driving regulation that Belgium uses as well).
What we didn’t get on our route were a lot of challenging curves, so we’ll have to wait until we get a C40 Recharge on our home turf in California to pass judgement on its handling. Like the XC40 Recharge, the C40 seems promising, with good grip and a heavy, low-mounted battery to change the center of gravity for the better. We found the ride steady and comfortable, even on cobblestone streets, and that’s worth noting, as we’ve found some of Volvo’s other performance models to be too stiff for daily comfort. We were rather surprised (and not pleasantly) by the amount of road noise, but Volvo explained that our pre-production, European-spec test cars were wearing a new all-season tire specially designed to meet Europe’s winter-tire requirements, which made them a bit noisier. U.S.-spec cars will get different tires, and we hope they’ll be quieter.
We did get plenty of highway time to check out Volvo’s Pilot Assist system, which comprises adaptive cruise control and lane-centering and will guide the car down the road provided you keep your hands on the steering wheel. Pilot Assist was one of the first such systems we experienced and remains a favorite, to the point that we used it extensively, both on and off the highway, to keep up with the ever-changing speed limits.
One pet peeve: While most cruise systems increase speed by 1 with a single press and 5 if you hold the button down, Volvo does the opposite. That’s great when you’re driving in a metric country—a 5 km/h change is 3 mph—but back home in the States, 5 mph can be too much of a jump. We think the functionality should be changed—single press for 1 mph, press-and-hold for 5 mph—for the U.S. and other countries that still use imperial units for speed.
Good Looks, Inside and Out
With Pilot Assist aiding our driving, we had plenty of opportunity to take in the C40 Recharge’s interior. We’re amazed at the consistency of Volvo’s cabins and control layouts; but for the lack of a start switch—to turn on the C40 Recharge, you simply get in, step on the brake, and engage a gear—you could be sitting in any of the company’s models. The C40 shares most of its interior bits with the XC40, including a welcome excess of storage space for odds and ends and the colorful carpeting (blue on our test car). The 3-D metal leaf trim pieces are unique to the C40, and they look and feel fantastic.
Volvo has revamped its infotainment system, most notably by switching to Google Maps for navigation and including the voice-activated Google Assistant. Those are changes for the better; we prefer phone-based Google Maps or Waze to the majority of built-in nav systems. But we don’t understand why Volvo hasn’t designed a proper multifunction home screen like most cars have. Granted, the C40 recharge has a great moving map on the dashboard, but we’d still rather have the ability to show multiple streams of information on the center screen—a map and stereo controls, for example. On the Volvo, it’s one or the other. While we’re complaining, the Volvo’s portrait-oriented screen, which we once thought of as innovative, now looks puny compared to the massive monitors found in other new models, and not just EVs.
We were driving in a group of C40s, which allowed us to admire this handsome SUV’s styling. This is the first C model from Volvo in almost a decade—last on our shores were the oft-overlooked C30 and the C70 hardtop convertible—and while one can debate whether a four-door is a true coupe, we are pleased to see the return of the C designation. In its new format, the C40 Recharge is aimed at swoopy SUVs like the BMW X4 and Mercedes’ GLC-Class coupe, two models against which the C40 Recharge sort of competes—we say “sort of” since neither offers an all-electric model.
It’s hard to build a distinguished car in this class—note how much the Bimmer and the Benzo resemble each other—and we must give kudos to Volvo for creating something fresh and unique. Prominent details like the grilleless nose with its iron mark badge and those trademark Volvo taillights folded down into the D-pillar give the C40 a look all its own. This is a good-looking vehicle in our estimation, and the sweeping lines also give it a generous cargo hold with a big opening. (There’s a “frunk” under the hood as well, but it’s not particularly capacious.)
Looking Good Ain’t Cheap
What price does one pay for such handsome styling? The literal answer is $4,700, but we’ll get to that in a second. Back-seat headroom is certainly compromised; this five-foot-six author had only a couple spare centimeters between his scalp and the headliner. The rear window is more of a mail slot, and over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t great. Big, rectangular side mirrors largely make up for this deficit, but we’d like to see Volvo fit the C40 Recharge with one of those fancy rearview mirrors that are actually a monitor for the rearview camera. There’s not much to see in the XC40’s mirror, aside from the faces of your rear-seat occupants.
Volvo has priced the C40 Recharge at $59,845, which represents the aforementioned $4,700 premium over the XC40 Recharge, and that’s before the $7,500 federal tax incentive and whatever money your state or municipality will throw at you. For that price, you get the Pilot Assist system, a full-length (but fixed) glass roof, a Harman Kardon audio system, and a bird’s-eye-view parking camera. Metallic paint, priced at $695, is the only available factory option. Sixty large is a big number, especially considering the C40 Recharge’s range. Tesla will sell you a 326-mile Model Y for $3,500 less—but then again, you won’t look nearly as good going down the road.
All in all, the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge makes a very favorable impression. We enjoy looking at it and we enjoy driving it. But its shortcomings are significant: The C40 needs more range to be a serious competitor, not just to other EVs but to its gasoline-powered rivals as well, and we think the price premium over the more practical XC40 Recharge is rather steep. Those are big demerits in what is otherwise an excellent electric SUV.
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