The author samples Volvo’s first EV-only model.
Thanks to the deep pockets of its parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, Volvo’s transformation from ICE to electric vehicles is moving ahead at pace. The strategy was devised by outgoing Chief Executive, Håkan Samuelsson, and will be picked up by his successor, Jim Rowan, who takes over this month (March 2022). The days of the fossil-fuelled Swedish car are most definitely numbered.
Having been the proud owner of one of Gothenburg’s finest for the past eighteen months or so, I recently received an invitation to attend a (nationwide) event at my local Volvo dealership in order to sample the new C40 Recharge. This is the first Volvo to be powered solely by electricity, and it comes in a new shape as well, the currently uber-fashionable crossover-coupé.
First impressions on seeing the car on the Volvo dealer’s forecourt were, frankly, rather dissapointing, despite it being the range-topping all-wheel-drive Twin Pro launch model. While based on the XC40, the shared CMA underpinnings are sufficiently flexible to have facilitated a swift conversion from ICE to EV drivetrain. This was previewed last year on the XC40 Recharge P8. However, the C40R (as we’ll call it from now on) has a new coupé-style party frock that is intended to accentuate the differences under the skin.
Unfortunately, the styling of the C40R does not sit too well with me. There’s nothing hideously wrong with the way it looks, but it is far from pleasantly coherent. The front end is a little dumpy. Yes, the Iron Mark is proudly displayed, but character is otherwise sadly lacking. The lower bodyside apes the XC version, whereas the rear is overly fussy. The overall impression is of a collection of gimmicky styling cues that may themselves have been electrocuted. Volvo’s Head of Design, Robin Page, had to try something to make the C40R to stand out from the ever burgeoning crossover gang, one supposes. According to Page, the C40R is “dialled up even more through its dynamic expression and sleek profile.” Er, ok then.
A routine check of my personal credentials precipitated a surprise: the C40R was solely mine for forty-five minutes, with no salesperson to bend my ear. This unexpected turn of events threw your author. There followed a hurried altering of seat and mirrors, muting the (impressive sounding) Harman Kardon sound system, then out onto the mean streets of Sheffield.
Inside, first impressions were far more positive, with comfy seats and a wonderfully bright interior thanks to, a) the sunny weather and, b) the skylight roof. Controls were familiar Volvo fare, but the driving position was noticeably more commanding than in my considerably lower S90 saloon. This was my first experience of sitting higher than ‘lesser’ motoring mortals and part of me felt the instant appeal. And it didn’t wane. Oh dear.
I felt immediately at home, but the silence was unsettling, this also being my first foray into electrical motion. An unfamiliar whine was soon consigned to the oubliette in my head as the progressive forward motion was enjoyed. With 400bhp and 4WD, goodness, this thing shifts! The straight outside the dealership must witness many a lead-footed blast, albeit without the traditional accompanying soundtrack.
Hastily flung into the test drive experience, perhaps one tends not to drive as one normally does. I was offered next to no information by the cheerful but clueless sales lad, so failed to sample the regenerative braking. In ‘normal’ mode the brakes required a firmer than expected shove. The ‘gear-lever’ took nothing more a flick to operate.
I had checked out internet sources for a heads-up prior to my sampling the C40R. Those fortunate enough to test drive new stuff on a daily basis simply do not know they are born, with their exotic locations and closed road blasts. Whilst we all, no doubt, think we can drive like Verstappen chasing down an under-tyred Mercedes, this test drive quickly settled into something of a familiar routine: heavy traffic, slow moving buses, unexpected manoeuvres from those in front, trying out the (impressive) turning circle and flooring the throttle when (rarely) possible . Even a 0 to 30mph dash is quite thrilling, however, and 62mph is seen in just 4.7 seconds, apparently.
I noted that many reviewers had lambasted the letterbox-style view rearward. In my short experience, seeing only a part of the lunatic tailgater before he whipped past me proved something of a relief: one could only see the new expression VW logo, as opposed to the whole T-Roc descending upon me. The door mirrors lent perfect rear views, however, so I never felt handicapped when observing gaps or maintaining lane discipline. The front corners are visible, but this is a car wholly dependent on sensors fore and aft for close-quarter manoeuvring.
In my allotted time, I squeezed in around twenty-five miles of driving which included the city grind, a quick motorway blast and some steep country lanes. The outside temperature was a heady nine degrees Celsius, the sun shone the whole time and it was a fortuitously dry event. The battery at the start was, of course, 100%. This had reduced to 83% by the end of my outing. I drove as one would on test; to see how, and to what degree, the C40R differed from my normal, everyday ride.
And the answer was rather pleasing, actually. As expected, everything is well resolved and expertly screwed together. Entry and egress were a doddle, with no stooping or genuflecting. I didn’t investigate the Android menus, or the glovebox and boot spaces (the latter comprising both front and rear) nor did I come even remotely close to troubling the 112mph Volvo-set limit.
The unrelenting torque is heady. The cushioned ride, even on 19” wheels, is ample for everyone and everyday. I’m certain that whatever the range is would prove more than adequate in real life. The car’s looks are polarising, mind. The S90 attracted me for its planted stance and devilishly handsome looks. The C40R is just a bit awkward.
As was the session’s end: like an expectant father awaiting his child’s return, the salesman eagerly solicited my thoughts. Why lie? “That was impressive. Smooth, quiet and effortless,” I replied. Did I have any more questions, he countered, so I asked the price. In this specification, around £55,000. The inevitable “I’ll think about it…” left my lips as I took one last glance at the now dusty silver dawn paintwork. I hastened to my equally dusty but trusty diesel-drinking saloon.
Volvo’s subscription service allows for internet purchasing, home delivery, software updates as applicable and, no doubt, other stress-free options and services for a circa £700 per month outlay. Serious wedge for a serious car. It’s only natural to compare similarly priced, traditionally-engined machines. But, as we plough headfirst into electrical driving, my decision is made.
Regardless of range-anxiety, effortless ease of driving, the sublime peacefulness, or the sticking point of price, the C40R ain’t my cup of tea on its looks alone. But hope holds out for future Swedish fare. Nail the style and I may be prepared to relinquish internal combustion.
The C40R is not a bad car at all, just not my type.