2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric review: International first drive

It’s one of the most powerful Volvos in history, packing an attention-getting 300kW and 660Nm. Not surprisingly, it’s also one of the quickest; able, says Volvo, to zip from a standing start to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. But that’s not what makes the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric a significant Volvo. What makes it significant is that it’s Volvo’s first electric-powered production car.

The XC40 Recharge Pure Electric is powered by a pair of 150kW e-motors, one mounted at the front axle, the other at the rear. The motors are fed by a 78kWh lithium-ion battery pack that delivers a range of 418km on the European WTLP test cycle and 335km under the more highway-oriented US EPA test regime. The battery can be recharged to 80 per cent capacity in 40 minutes using a 150kW DC fast charger.

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The Recharge Pure Electric is built on the CMA vehicle architecture that underpins the regular internal combustion engine (ICE) XC40, modified to package the e-motors and associated hardware, and the battery pack. That makes the Recharge Pure Electric heavier than a car built on a bespoke EV platform – at 2187kg it weighs 38kg more than the larger, roomier, dual-motor Volkswagen ID.4 GTX, for example – but Volvo says using the CMA architecture shortened the development time (insiders claim the decision to build the Pure Electric was only taken in early 2017) and also meant the car could be built in existing factories in Europe and China.

Electrifying the XC40 made sense from a marketing perspective, too. Globally, the compact SUV market is big and still growing. The regular XC40, distinctively designed, well packaged and well equipped, is already an appealing player in the segment.

Wheels Reviews 2022 Volvo XC 40 Recharge Pure Electric Charging

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In Australia the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric will be available in one specification only and priced from $76,990 before on-road costs. Compared with the regular XC40, visual differences are minimal, the blanked grille, the charge-point cover on the left rear quarter panel, and the design of the 20-inch alloy wheels the key giveaways this Volvo is the first without pistons and a crankshaft.

Inside, it’s all familiar XC40 hardware. As befits that hefty price tag – the Recharge Pure Electric costs $12,000 more than the plug-in hybrid XC40 – standard equipment includes a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel with configurable EV-specific displays, panoramic sunroof, heated front power seats, and inductive charging for your smartphone. Also standard is the full suite of Volvo safety features, including lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and rear collision alert.

You also get Volvo’s new Google Android-powered infotainment system, which comes with Google Maps, Google Assistant, and Google Play apps, among others, all controlled via the 9.0-inch central touch screen. The system can handle over-the-air updates, allowing upgrades for everything from apps to vehicle software to be downloaded while the car is parked.

Wheels Reviews 2022 Volvo XC 40 Recharge Pure Electric Cabin

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Despite the battery pack under the floor, interior room is the same as that of the regular XC40, and Volvo claims the rear load space area is identical. With no bulky internal combustion engine up front, there’s also a small frunk, roomy enough for a soft bag and some charging cables, under the bonnet.

Slide behind the wheel and you’ll search long and hard for a start-stop button. There isn’t one; once the Recharge Pure Electric is unlocked you simply sit in the seat, buckle up, tug at the stubby shifter, and drive off. On the road it feels every bit as quick as Volvo claims, whooshing past slower traffic in one effortless, silent surge of acceleration, and leaping out of tight corners on a tidal wave of torque and all-wheel-drive traction.

Despite the battery pack under the floor, interior room is the same as that of the regular XC40.

Wheels Reviews 2022 Volvo XC 40 Recharge Pure Electric Test Drive Review

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With its punchy acceleration and taut ride, particularly on the 20-inch low profile Pirelli P Zero Elect tyres, the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric feels like a high-riding hot hatch. But only to a point: There’s not a lot of feedback from the steering, which is best in the firmer of its two selectable modes to counter the tendency of the tyres to follow contours in the road surface, and the brake pedal gets a little wooden after a stint of hard driving.

There are only two drive modes – Normal, in which the car coasts when you lift off, and One Pedal, which does exactly as it says, using regenerative braking to slow the XC40 dramatically the instant you release pressure on the accelerator pedal.

One Pedal mode can be useful in heavy traffic around town, but in Normal mode, all braking up to 0.3g is done via regenerative braking anyway, which sends energy back to the battery the same way. More importantly, though, Normal mode gives the electric XC40 a smoother, more free-flowing character that makes it less tiring to drive (you don’t have to constantly keep pressure on the accelerator just to keep the car moving) and potentially more efficient (converting kinetic energy into energy stored in the battery invariably means some energy is lost). A little more initial bite through the brake pedal would be welcome, but the blending between regenerative and mechanical braking is smoothly done.

Wheels Reviews 2022 Volvo XC 40 Recharge Pure Electric Design

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The Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric marks the beginning of a radical transformation that will see the iconic Swedish brand selling nothing but electric vehicles by 2030, all built using dedicated electric vehicle architectures designed by Volvo and powered by e-motors and batteries engineered in-house. Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson admits the company has taken its time getting an electric vehicle into production. And therein lies the electric XC40’s biggest problem – the Tesla factor.

Launched almost a decade after Tesla’s first volume-selling electric vehicle, the Model S, the Recharge Pure Electric is nonetheless a solid first step on Volvo’s journey towards total electrification. The electric XC40’s fit and finish, inside and out, is far more premium than that of the similarly sized, similarly priced dual-motor Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD. And though it is speed limited to 180km/h, the Volvo is only half a second slower to 100km/h than the 343kg-lighter American car.

But the official WLTP and EPA range numbers in Europe and the US suggest the Tesla could take you 35 to 70 per cent further than the Volvo on a single charge. And that’s a benchmark consumers will almost certainly factor into their purchase decision when looking at the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric.

2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric specifications

Wheels Reviews 2022 Volvo XC 40 Recharge Pure Electric Rear

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Engine Two electric motors
Max Power 300kW
Max Torque 660Nm
Transmission 1-speed automatic
0-100km/h 4.9 sec (claimed)
Range 335km – 418km
Price $76,990 (before on-road costs)

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