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2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge review: Electric Swede speed

Our favorite Swedish automaker is always working hard to stay in the minds of luxury car shoppers. Keeping up with BMW, Mercedes, and Audi isn’t easy, but the Geely-owned Volvo is bolstering its lineup with a selection of electrified vehicles.

The effort begins with the fully electric Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge. Every Volvo model in the lineup has an electrified variant, but the story so far is that they have just been plug-in hybrids. Now Volvo is going the full green mile with the XC40 Recharge.

2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge exterior

Photo credit: Sami Haj-Assaad / EV Pulse

The gas-powered XC40 has earned plenty of love for its clean cute-Ute styling. Somehow the designers have managed to make a rugged boxy profile look modern, and part of this success comes from the small details.

The Thor’s Hammer headlights, for example, are unique enough to recognize at almost any distance (though the new Polestar vehicles are stealing some of that thunder.) The taillights evoke the fan-favorite C30 (occasionally dubbed the Swedish GTI) with a swoopy vertical motif.

(Editor’s note: If Volvo wants to re-introduce the C30 we’d be okay with that.)

Volvo’s EVs get a new white ‘Recharge’ badge on the rear flank, and the XC40 gets an exclusive Sage Green paint finish. It’s a subtle look that goes well with the black roof, which is a standout part of the XC40’s design, as all of the EVs will get a two-tone topper. Those less concerned with ride quality can choose to get 20-inch wheels over the standard 19-inch wheels.

2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge interior

Photo credit: Sami Haj-Assaad / EV Pulse

The XC40 interior hasn’t changed much from the gas model, except for a few omissions. The on/off button is gone entirely. Instead, the Recharge is operable from the moment you sit in the driver’s seat. It takes a short adjustment, but soon enough you’ll forget all about on/off buttons, and demand all items in your life ‘know’ when you’re going to use them.

Screens dominate the interior of the XC40 Recharge, as the clean looking dashboard features only a few physical controls. Like the exterior, the interior feels modern, but not to the point of confusion or distraction. The interior and infotainment system are definitely easier to navigate than the setup in most Teslas.

Shoppers can always bet on Volvo having some of the most comfortable and supportive seats in the business, and that continues here, even in the small XC40. Material choice is also on point — Volvo uses a unique feeling fabric on the door panel, made up of sustainable and recycled fibers. It doesn’t feel cheap and flimsy like other examples of these materials found throughout the industry.

2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge infotainment and tech

Photo credit: Sami Haj-Assaad / EV Pulse

The infotainment system uses the new Android Automotive OS, which is responsive but requires a Google account. Fortunately, it operates much like any other Android device, but with a layout appropriate for use while driving. The infotainment system has access to the Google Play app store (with apps approved for use on the Automotive OS) so you don’t have to use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Volvo says that support for wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will be coming in a few months for those who prefer those interfaces.

For an all-new experience, the learning curve is gentle. Other benefits to the Android Automotive OS is the ability to use the Google Assistant, along with native support for Google Maps, which is frequently updated and familiar to use. The map also includes information about chargers and whether they’re in use. Furthermore, the Maps app will tell you the expected state of charge when you reach a destination, a handy feature for those still paranoid about range.

The XC40 also features a large gauge cluster, which is easy to read. However, I find myself sometimes frustrated with the limited amount of customization and information available on this screen. There are just a few pages to swap through, including a map view. One interesting wrinkle is that Volvo only shows the remaining range in the form of a percentage. If you want the digits on the remaining range you’ll have to ask the Google Assistant. Asking why Volvo doesn’t provide the numbers on the dash, the assistant provides the equivalent of a shrug.

Finally, Volvo offers a ton of high-tech safety equipment and driver assistance systems. The suite of driving focused features is called Pilot Assist and includes an adaptive cruise control system and lane-keeping assist to help the driver navigate more monotonous commutes. The vehicle also offers parking sensors and cameras to help the already easy to park XC40 squeeze into tough spots.

Volvo usually boasts about its safety initiatives, but these days every automaker seems to offer an assortment of safety features. It’s important to highlight that the XC40 isn’t going to fall behind. The software supporting the sensors and cameras can be upgraded over the air, meaning more or safer functionality can come down the line.

2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge charging

Photo credit: Sami Haj-Assaad / EV Pulse

At 100 percent charge, the official EPA rating is a mild 208 miles, returning 79 MPGe. This range is understandable given the performance and all-wheel-drive capabilities of the Volvo, yet the mechanically similar Polestar 2 has more range, along with more affordable EVs like the Kia Soul and Chevrolet Bolt. The Tesla Model Y may look less refined, but it also delivers plenty more mileage.

Recharging the battery is easy enough. Using a simple home charger, you can expect the charge rate to be about seven to eleven miles per hour. This rate leads to a recharge time of 21 to 34 hours, which is great for buyers who don’t use their cars.

Instead, using a proper wall charger will speed things up considerably, providing a charge rate of 20 to 30 miles per hour. This rate results in a full charge in just about eight to 10 hours.

Fortunately, the Volvo XC40 Recharge also supports DC fast charging with the CCS plug. This allows for either 50 kW or 150 kW rates. At 50 kW, the battery can charge from 20 percent to 80 percent in just 60 minutes, while the 150 kW charger takes 20 minutes. It’s safe to say the fast charging times are plenty acceptable for those go-getters who are always in a rush.

2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge driving and performance

Photo credit: Sami Haj-Assaad / EV Pulse

The first thing you’ll notice with the XC40 Recharge is how quick it is, especially in comparison to its gas-powered counterparts. The boxy Volvo subcompact rockets to highway speeds in under 5 seconds, feeling plenty confident making passes at speed on the freeway.

Braking, especially the one-pedal driving experience (activated through the infotainment system), takes getting used to. The modularity of the throttle pedal isn’t as smooth or refined as other EVs I’ve driven with this feature. While looking for a parking spot, or reversing into one, the vehicle feels jerky and awkward, begging me to disable the feature.

There are two steering settings available as well, which will be appreciated by those who want a bit more versatility in their EV. However, they don’t dramatically change the driving behavior of the car.

One important thing to point out is that the XC40 Recharge has gained about 1,000 lbs. compared to the gas model, coming in at over 4,800 lbs. While most of that extra mass is placed low in the chassis which leads to a sporty center of gravity, the vehicle loses a tiny bit of spring in its step. It just feels a tick less agile in terms of handling than other versions of the XC40. Fortunately, this subcompact isn’t for track duty, and the impressive amount of available torque and horsepower make up for that handling deficiency.

Instead, the XC40 feels soft and luxurious, riding comfortably and smoothly, even on the large wheels. It has a quiet cabin and doesn’t thud or clunk over potholes or speed bumps.

2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge practicality

Volvo XC40 Recharge cargo area with rear seats folded. Photo credit: Sami Haj-Assaad / EV Pulse

The boxy design of the XC40 lends itself well to the EV model, and this one is even more practical than the gas-powered model. Cargo space in the rear measures in at about 16 cubic feet, while the front trunk features just about one cubic foot of storage, which is just enough to fit the portable charge cable.

The rear seats fold with a 60/40 split, which is handy but not as practical as other vehicles like the Audi e-tron that features a 40/20/40 split.

Headroom and legroom are still plentiful, although there still is a transmission hump in the rear floor of the vehicle, impacting the comfort of rear center-seated passengers.

As mentioned earlier, the automaker designed its interior with a clean layout, but also ways to keep the interior clean. The hook at the glovebox and armrest garbage bin are practical ways to keep the cabin clutter-free. Clean-freaks, slobs, and everyone in between can appreciate these features.

2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge pricing and incentives

Photo credit: Sami Haj-Assaad / EV Pulse

The XC40 Recharge starts at $53,990, not including a $995 destination fee. The Sage Green metallic paint is an extra $645, while the large 20-inch wheels add $800 to the price tag. Our tester also featured the $750 Climate Package that adds an upgraded heated windshield washer nozzles as well as a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats. We also experienced the $1,300 Advanced Package that includes features like a wireless phone charger, the Pilot Assist advanced driver assistance system, a 360-degree camera, and headlight washers along with a 12V outlet in the cargo area. Finally, our unit featured the upgraded $800 Harman/Kardon sound system.

That all adds up to an asking price of $59,280, including the destination fee, and before the $7,500 tax credit. It sounds expensive at first glance, but then feels like a fair price for an EV that has plenty of performance, styling, and technology to offer.

Final verdict

Photo credit: Sami Haj-Assaad / EV Pulse

While Volvo is easing away from combustion-powered vehicles, the XC40 Recharge is a product that shows that it is ready to serve customers looking for a full EV experience. It has a decent amount of range and supports some speedy charging infrastructure.

Beyond that, it has impressive tech goodies like a fresh new infotainment system and plenty of driver assistance software. It seems to be the right pick for buyers who find the Polestar 2 too weird, and the Audi e-tron too big and expensive.

At a glance:

  • Year: 2021
  • Make: Volvo
  • Model: XC40 Recharge
  • Type: 4-door subcompact crossover
  • Horsepower: 402 hp
  • Torque: 468 lb-ft
  • EV range: 208-miles
  • MPGe: 79
  • Pros: Excellent styling, Smooth ride, New infotainment system
  • Cons: Heavy, High pricing, Could use more range
  • Base price: $53,990
  • Price as tested: $59,280
Written by Sami Haj-Assaad
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