Say hello to the Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 – the first all-electric Volvo, which honours the Swedish brand’s promise that more of its cars will be electrified from now on. It joins the conventional and plug-in hybrid versions of the XC40 but doesn’t have too many direct rivals just yet.
Size-wise, it sits between the smaller Kia e-Niro and Jaguar I-Pace, so it should be just big enough for many families. Price may be an issue because the initial First Edition model costs – are you sitting down – around £59,000. That’s around £20,000 more than even the plug-in hybrid version of the XC40, which is already considered expensive.
Part of the reason for the high price is the potent powertrain, which will be diluted to make the launch of cheaper versions possible later on. It features a 75kWh battery and dual motors, giving the XC40 Recharge P8 a range of up to 260 miles and 402bhp. It rockets from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds and has a limited top speed of 112mph but its chassis feels at odds with the acceleration on offer, favouring a comfortable ride over razor sharp handling. It’s likely a less powerful, single-motor, front-wheel drive version will arrive in due course.
With no combustion engine sucking in air, the main visual difference between the P8 and other XC40 models is the solid front grille, and it’s also available with Sage Green metallic paint and unique alloy wheel designs. The differences inside are subtle too, with the arrival of Android Automotive software (not to be confused with Android Auto) for the car’s operating system, a better touchscreen and materials made from recycled plastic bottles.
Practicality is largely unchanged from the standard XC40, so there’s still enough space for adults in both rows of seats. The boot offers 452 litres, which is almost identical to the Kia e-Niro, and there’s also a 31-litre ‘frunk’ under the bonnet that’s ideal for the charging cable.
The electric Volvo XC40 is very smooth, refined and offers great performance, but the power on offer feels unnecessary in the crossover class and it pushes the price beyond the reach of most buyers. With a single motor and a more affordable price tag, the XC40 EV would be even better.
Volvo’s first EV can get 260 miles on a full charge
Despite the XC40 only taking up about as much room on the road as a Ford Focus, Volvo has managed to cram a 75kWh battery into it. That’s an impressive feat, giving the crossover the sort of capacity we’ve been used to seeing in models like the Tesla Model S. The Hyundai Kona Electric, for example, is available with a maximum battery capacity of 64kWh.
But the XC40 Recharge P8 is also heavy, weighing around 2.2 tonnes, so even with its large reserves of energy storage, its range of 260 miles may be slightly disappointing. The aforementioned Kona Electric is more efficient, so it can manage around 300 miles between top-ups.
At least 150kW DC charging is fitted as standard – as it should be given the Volvo’s price – allowing owners to recharge the battery to 80% in around 40 minutes; the equivalent of 55 miles per 10 minutes. Charging from a home wallbox takes longer but eight hours should still allow for an overnight refill, making it convenient for most.
Like all zero-emission models, the electric XC40 will benefit from free car tax, 0% Benefit-in-Kind rates for company car drivers (in 2020/21) and free entry into the London Congestion Charge zone.
Volvo has a reputation for being eminently sensible, yet its small electric crossover has a mighty 402bhp. We can only imagine it wanted its first-ever EV to hit showrooms with a bang because acceleration from 0-62mph in under five seconds might be an impressive party trick, but it feels somewhat out of place in the XC40. It’s fitted with dual motors – one for each axle – giving it four-wheel drive. A single-motor, front-wheel drive version is expected in future and we can’t wait, because a cut-price version with around 200bhp should suit far more buyers.
For now, while the XC40 Recharge P8 doesn’t feel quite as fast as a Tesla, it can easily push you back in your seat if you step on the accelerator. Despite the low centre of gravity created by the positioning of the battery, the chassis struggles to keep up, preferring a more relaxed time. Volvo has done a good job of keeping the suspension compliant because despite the extra weight of the electric powertrain, the XC40 still rides well.
There aren’t any paddles behind the steering wheel to adjust regenerative braking, with Volvo instead choosing a Tesla-style toggle in the infotainment menu to switch between coasting or one-pedal driving. The latter is easy to get used to and works well in urban driving.
Plentiful power but it feels unnecessary
Inside, it’s hard to get away from the fact this near-£60,000 car shares much of its interior with the entry-level model costing £25,000. There are certainly more lavish interiors for the price tag but here you are paying a premium for the clever and potent powertrain.
The biggest change is to the infotainment setup, which gets the new Google Android operating system for the first time in a Volvo – it made its debut in the Polestar 2. The screen resolution has been boosted and it can receive over-the-air updates. It already makes the Sensus software in other XC40’s seem dated, and bespoke apps are yet to arrive. If you give it the necessary permissions, the system will import elements from your Google account such as emails and calendar reminders.
Subtle design changes include door linings and carpets that are now made from 97% recycled plastic bottles. A new Sage Green metallic paint is available, along with new 19- and 20-inch alloy wheel designs.
A new infotainment setup and recycled materials arrive
Volvo is an industry-leader when it comes to safety, and the manufacturer has completely redesigned and strengthened the XC40 Recharge P8’s crash structure to account for the layout change.
The battery comes inside a protective case in the middle of the car, where it’s protected from impacts in a collision. Sensors behind the front grille feed data to Volvo’s latest Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), that can recognise cars, cyclists, pedestrians and large animals. While it won’t be tested separately, the XC40 Recharge P8 is expected to share the standard XC40’s five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.
The Volvo XC40 performed well in our latest Driver Power results, coming 14th out of the top 75 cars on sale in the UK. Owners rated its reliability and build quality very highly, and were also impressed with its practicality, road manners and infotainment system.
Safety and reliability are Volvo strongpoints
The move to electric hasn’t cobbled boot space
The XC40 is bigger than the Hyundai Kona Electric but smaller than a Jaguar I-Pace, so it should be reasonably roomy for small families. Four adults can certainly get comfortable, and the SUV’s tall roof means there’s plenty of headroom, even with the panoramic sunroof fitted.
Its rear seats only split 60/40, rather than the 40/20/40 arrangement of some premium models, but the 452-litre boot is a good size. It has a square shape and is no less practical than other versions of the XC40, which is impressive given the large battery. Thanks to the lack of a petrol engine, there’s also an extra 31 litres of ‘frunk’ space under the bonnet, which is handy for storing the charging cable or a few bags of shopping.