Volvo surges into the all-electric space with the new XC40 P8 AWD Recharge, a car that is just so easy to like. Think Ed Sheeran – but Scandinavian. It’s an XC40 so it’s typically unpolarising with a safe yet sophisticated cut, its only tell being the RECHARGE lettering on the C-pillar and the closed grille piece finished in the body colour. Even with the 20" 5-Double Spoke Black Diamond Cut wheels, it looks like any other XC40 for the most part. It’s the price that will make you look twice. It’s almost double that of a XC40 T3. Here’s why:
This is Volvo’s push into the electric market in South Africa and the P8 Recharge is at the top of the XC40 line-up, not just in price but in performance too. The price is in part, a crutch for all electric car importers brought on by heightened governmental duties and low demand.
For all its power and surprising speed, the electric powertrain pairs well to the Volvo way of interior design. It is the keynote address in uncluttered design – everything you want and need and nothing you don’t. Unless you’re a die-hard Apple user. Volvo has signed a technology partnership with Google and as such, you’ll experience this through the extensive Google-powered set up of this XC40 P8. In front of the driver, sits a 12.3-inch digital display where everything you may want to know resides. It’s easy to read and simple to operate. Complemented by a 9-inch portrait infotainment screen wherein you’ll find Google’s Maps, App Store and Assistant ready to do business. For the full service, you’ll need WiFi connectivity. It's the best voice-recognition in the world of car tech, even understanding my kids lisps and my friend’s strong accents.
The performance however, is leaps ahead of anything else in the XC40 range. It’s as powerful as the flagship XC90 T8 yet with two synchronous electric motors at each end, powered by a 78kWh battery pack, accessibility of all that power is instantaneous. Call the shove with as little or as much foot application and the compact XC40 leaps ahead in a surge of Scandinavian manners. There’s no drama. No madness. No fake Blade Runner sound and no tyre-screeching unless you’re intentionally trying. Consider its 0 – 100km/h sprint at 4.9-seconds. In a small Volvo? It’s absolutely impressive. And surprising. Top Speed, less of a thing with most electric car manufacturers is limited to 185km/h.
Pure briskness aside, the Volvo’s AWD set up and dampers also serve up a confident agility and graceful ride quality all round. Even on gravel sections, the car feels planted and solid and unperturbed. Even over the hardy, rutted roads of my suspension test route, the XC40 P8 just kept ticking the right boxes.
Despite this, the XC40 tips the scales at over 2,2-tons. Battery technology is heavy and that weight hamstrings the car in certain areas one of which is the answer to the first question one gets asked about electric cars. The XC40’s range is quoted at 418km. My best was 320km making use of 86% of the quoted battery percentage. I don’t doubt the possibility of achieving that range with some one-pedal power regeneration and sensible driving which is easy in the XC40. The range isn’t class-leading and it does require some more charge-point planning than would be required in some other electric car competitors with higher price tags. It is decent though, certainly better than the range one might find in a smaller electric city car for instance.
As the flagship XC40, Volvo SA has thrown in a wad of standard equipment including the 13-speaker Harman Kardon system with 650W of doof doof ability. And then of course, its Intellisafe safety systems abound with emergency braking features, lane keeping assist, smart adaptive cruise control and an ability to recognise cars, pedestrians, animals and cyclists. Add to that, the 360-degree camera and pano roof and you’re onto a full house electric winner here. Small sections of the dash and steering trim are sub-standard as far as quality is concerned but apart from those, the fully loaded cabin feels homely and suited to calling this car premium.
Comparing it to purely electric SUV's of its size, there isn't anything on the market right now. Audi's electric SUV's are larger and more expensive and a few more expected electric SUV's are still not here. As a product of size and performance, the XC40 plays in a league all on its own and it does make a case as far as pricing and size is concerned. The XC40, considered alongside ICE competitors too may come as a surprisingly convincing package. An Audi SQ5 for instance, is less powerful and more than R300k more expensive. It's certianly worth a look.
The XC40 houses all of its performance, safety and intelligence in unbelievable simplicity. It’s easy to drive, easy to understand and easy to like. Like Ed Sheeran. But Scandinavian.
At R1,2-Million and considering the price of other electric cars on offer, or ICE cars that develop this sort of power, the Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge is makes a heady argument. It is excellent value, excellent fun and quite a refreshing offering. It is also sold with an 8yr/160 000 Maintenance Plan and Warranty. That’s something to think about too.