As the industry continues its transition to electrified powertrains, we’re witnessing an interesting split. Some automakers are introducing EVs based on dedicated platforms that, in theory, promise longer range and faster charging times. Others are modifying their existing combustion-powered platforms to accommodate batteries and motors.
It’s popular to view these stop-gap vehicles as inferior to dedicated EVs, and if you care about aerodynamically efficient styling or ultra-rapid DC charging, that’s a fair point of view. But as the 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge T8 shows, just because a vehicle started life with a gas engine doesn’t mean it can’t transform into a compelling EV. The Recharge retains the same qualities that make the standard XC40 one of our favorite premium sub-compacts, but complements it with a huge increase in output and so-so electric range without dramatically increasing the cost of entry.
Favorite Thing: Just A Very Nice Car
Least Favorite Thing: A Poor Value
The highest praise I can muster for the Volvo XC40 Recharge is this: I traded with Seyth Miersma, giving him my XC40 for the Polestar 1 he was driving. Within five minutes, I regretted the exchange. The XC40 works because it eschews histrionics in favor of quiet confidence when executing its mission. A showstopper like the PS1 is neat, but sometimes a simple, well-executed tool is its own reward.
Volvo could have gone hog wild modifying the XC40 for EV duty, but aside from closing off the grille, it’s almost impossible to distinguish the electric model from the effortlessly handsome gas crossover. In the cabin, you look out on the same digital instrument cluster and the same portrait-oriented touchscreen infotainment and enjoy the same high-quality materials in a restrained, tasteful Scandinavian aesthetic.
Yeah, the Recharge is dramatically quicker – its 408 horsepower and 486 pound-feet of torque is a huge improvement on the 247 hp and 258 lb-ft in the XC40 B5 – but if you never bury the pedal, that’s not obvious. The accelerator is predictable and easy to modulate, and unless you call on max thrust, the XC40 is all too happy silently puttering around town. That silent soundtrack only enhances the in-cabin experience, too, with the XC40 Recharge sharing its gas counterpart’s smooth, isolated ride and limited wind noise.
Five years ago, the XC40 Recharge would have been a triumph. Today’s competition is not messing around, though. With just 223 miles of range and a max DC charge rate of 150 kilowatts, this $52,000 EV is down on both metrics to similarly priced EVs like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 (about 300 miles and 240 kilowatts DC). It simply isn’t the value that more dedicated EVs are.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Volvo XC40
Favorite Thing: Volvo’s Torquiest Product
Least Favorite Thing: Dated Infotainment
One surefire way to turn the handsome but mild-mannered Volvo XC40 into a torque monster is to rip out the internal combustion drivetrain in favor of a pair of electric motors and a 78.0-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery (of which 75.0 kWh is usable). Enter the fully electric Recharge model and its stout 408 hp and 486 lb-ft. If you’re keeping track, that’s more torque than any other model in Volvo’s US lineup, all packed into one of its smallest platforms.
At 4,741 pounds, the Volvo XC40 Recharge is half a ton heavier than its gasoline equivalent, but the EV’s prodigious twist all but erases that added heft when you dip into the accelerator. Likewise impressive is the XC40’s poise. The heavy battery is mounted in the floor and driveshaft tunnel, keeping the center of gravity and polar inertia low, allowing the Recharge to maintain most of the nippy, pleasant driving dynamics that make the XC40 so lovable. And while its 223-mile range isn’t hugely impressive anymore, it’s still enough for many use cases; I was able to keep the Volvo juiced overnight using just a 120-volt plug at home.
While I agree with my colleague Brandon’s assessment of the value proposition as it relates to EV tech, I think the XC40 feels as premium as its price would suggest thanks to funky carpeted door panels and cunning interior materials overall. The infotainment is the only detractor from the cabin experience. In spite of a recent update to the Google Automotive operating system, its laggy touch response and cluttered menu screen make quick adjustments a challenge. I also had a hard time convincing the screen to stay dimmed on a foggy, early-morning drive – even in the low ambient light, the display glared at me like it was noon in July.
Otherwise, the Volvo XC40 Recharge is a speedy, snappily dressed premium EV. Swedish logic appears in the clever center console wastebasket and the shallow frunk that’s perfect for bringing home your muddy boots after a hike, and a premium driving experience and attractive styling only add to the appeal.
Favorite Thing: A More Practical, Comfortable Polestar
Least Favorite Thing: But It’s Less Exciting Because Of It
Turns out the Volvo XC40 is much better as an EV. Don’t get me wrong, I was a big fan of the gas version too, but this little nugget is even better when it’s powered by electrons. The powertrain is potent as hell. A 78.0-kWh battery pack with two electric motors puts out 402 hp and 486 lb-ft. For a tiny crossover that is a serious amount of go.
The XC40’s acceleration feels just as rampant as its Polestar 2 cousin, which is honestly my favorite thing about the car. But beyond that, things start to differ from the Polestar quite dramatically. Where that car feels more connected to the road and more dynamic in general, the Volvo is much more subdued. The suspension is softer, the steering is lighter, and there is much more body roll in the corners. Translation: this is a better option for anyone who wants a less aggressive daily driver.
There’s also better passenger space in the second row (a lot better), along with a more usable cargo area –– frunk included. This is a nicely packaged crossover that is more stylish and feels more premium than many other mainstream EVs.
All that said, I would still rather have the Polestar 2. It’s somewhat contradictory, but that car captured my heart after driving it around LA. The design, the cabin tech, all of it just felt like a win. And while I believe the Polsestar’s suspension is too stiff for what it needs to be, I would still make that concession.
The XC40 Rehcarge is the better car for most people, because of its added practicality and more relaxed drivability. But it loses some of the edge that makes the Polestar 2 such a special performance car. Maybe the C40 is the right compromise? There is an option for everyone here, and the underlying work that Volvo has done on all of its EVs is fantastic.