Last year, Volvo unveiled the C40 Recharge. It's a swoopy subcompact crossover. And while it's not the flagship vehicle in the Volvo lineup — that's still the excellent XC90 Recharge — it is a statement about where the Volvo brand is heading this decade.
The C40 Recharge is Volvo's first electric-only car; Volvo plans to be battery-powered by 2030. It uses eco-conscious materials; those are about to become a much bigger deal as manufacturers clean up car production emissions. You can buy a C40 Recharge online; where Volvo eventually wants to move its sales. And it's the antithesis of the boxy wagons and sedans of yore Volvo is jettisoning.
I drove a Volvo C40 Recharge for a week as my family car around Detroit. I found it — with one notable hiccup I'll discuss later — to be about what I anticipated for an electric Volvo. The C40 Recharge is pleasant, premium-feeling and reasonably practical like a regular Volvo. It's quick without being sporty, like a regular Volvo. And the iron logo on the front — once a mark of thriftiness — is now a premium badge you have to pay for.
The C40 Recharge has a potent dual-motor powertrain with 402 hp and 486 lb-ft of instant torque. It gets off the line in a hurry. Volvo officially lists it to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Car and Driver clocked it at 4.3 sec. But like in other products, Volvo juxtaposes that rapidity with tuning that’s not especially sporty. So it’s less track assassin and more of a competent and stable cruiser for normal driving, which is how most people use it.
Like most EVs, the C40 Recharge feels very planted, with a low center of gravity, and it has solid body control in Midwest-grade corners. But it reacts very stiffly when you encounter bumps and potholes — basically all of the pavement in southeastern Michigan. I would also have preferred more of a gradation to the regenerative braking, like competitors offer; Volvo’s two settings are off or aggressively on.
Volvo has made its serene interiors a hallmark, and the C40 Recharge previews where things are heading. It's minimalist, with a smart use of natural light from the standard panoramic roof. To make it more environmentally friendly, no leather is used in the C40 Recharge interior — cows emit a lot of greenhouse gasses...through their mouths — and the carpets are partially made from recycled plastic.
The EPA rates the Volvo C40 recharge for 226 miles. That sounds like enough; few people will drive 226 miles in a day. But typically you charge an EV to 80 percent, which brings you down to 180 miles. That was low enough to make me at least range cognizant, if not range anxious. And it’s about 90 miles less than an AWD Model 3...which costs less.
One cool Volvo EV feature is the start procedure: there isn't one. If you have the key, you shut the door, shift into drive and go. I tried to show off this feature to my parents on 8 pm on Sunday night...but my C40 Recharge stopped recognizing the key fob. So, after extolling the virtues of EVs to my parents during dinner, I left one stranded in their driveway and took my family home in my dad's gas-powered E-Class sedan.
After consultation the next day, I was able to get the C40 Recharge going again with a workaround by placing the fob flat on the floor of the center console storage bin. But I was still fending off SOS warnings for the rest of the week.
The swoopy rear roof is trendy. Some might argue it looks sporty (though I'd personally lean on the side of weird). But this body shape has its downside. Rear headroom — I'm 5'11" — was fine. The trunk space was impinged a bit but still usable.
The trouble is, you can't see out the rear window.
The C40 Recharge's window is tiny and upward tilted. The result, when you look in the rear-view mirror, is that you can't even see the entirety of the car directly behind you. It's fortunate rear cameras are now mandatory. The C40 Recharge may not have been able to exist without one.
As with most modern Volvos, you pay a premium for the brand. I drove the top trim C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate, which priced out to $60,540 with the destination charge. For 2023, the C40 Recharge starts at $55,300 MSRP with a $1,095 destination charge. The Ultimate is a $4,800 option. My tester, with its metallic paint, would have been $61,890 with 2023 price increases.
The closest competitor may be the Audi Q4 E-Tron Sportback ($56,300) which offers more range, 241 miles, but less performance, 295 hp, for about the same price. The C40 Recharge shopper might look at the Tesla Model 3 AWD ($51,390), Hyundai Ioniq 5 ($48,795) and Kia EV6 as well.
Powertrain: Dual-motor electric, AWD
Torque: 486 lb-ft
EPA Range: 226 miles
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