Mountain Wheels: Volvo’s fully-electrified future has arrived with the XC40 Recharge
So what do you do when your electric vehicle is starting to run out of juice, and your available range drops precipitously? You once again realize that planning and, total practicality, are both important and ephemeral concepts with electric vehicles, in these still early days of adoption.
In the case of my low-power crisis with the otherwise sterling, speedy and largely seamless 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge – a Twin Ultimate, fully-electric version of the compact XC40 crossover – you realize that recharging points are very few and far between on US 85 between Greeley and metro Denver, and you pay more attention to recharging. Then it becomes user error, not the fault of the car, I guess. Technically.
Fully charged, the twin-electric motor version of the XC40 Recharge is capable of 223 miles of range, with a wallop of 402 electric horsepower to … well, make you substantially eat into that range when you drive it quickly.
When you do stray into the 30-miles-or-less-of-range territory, hopefully not in the middle of nowhere, XC40’s Google infotainment system becomes much more active, showing you the distance to the nearest available chargers and the previously vague, dividable by units of 10 range becomes much more specific.
I have one sole Electrify America station relatively near my home, and no home charging capability, so I got off lucky again. And it was free for Volvo owners, amazingly enough.
Infrastructure is everything, of course, and understanding the range and capability of this faster XC40 makes it a more interesting part of the fact that in 2023, Volvo’s entire US lineup of cars will literally be mild hybrid, hybrid or fully electric – all with that Google infotainment system.
That was the promise the company boldly made several years ago, and now it’s true, though “mild hybrid” is a slightly polite euphemism for “internal combustion engine with hybrid elements.”
The XC40 was introduced in 2017 and now, along with the more coupe and car-like C40 – and the mechanically interrelated Polestar 2 – the Recharge models are perhaps a little trapped but enhanced by the boxy and upright curiosity that is this smaller platform.
Like the BMW i3, that company’s first mass-market electric, XC40’s looks are certainly foreign/future-exotic, and it goes upscale in spots inside, and also occasionally looks like it is made of recycled materials, as the i3 did.
Mine had nubuck leather on its almost orthopedic and highlight-stitched seats, though a leather-free interior is a more advertised option, plus glossy controls, console and center stack surfaces, aluminum pedals and impressive 20-inch alloy wheels. The inside of the doors wells look like they’re made of recycled plastic bottles, and the curious multi-level cargo area is a little chintzy – despite being priced at just over $60,000 with the Ultimate package.
That package loads the car up with a power liftgate, park assist, power front passenger seat, self-washing headlamps and a heat pump to more effectively deliver winter heating power without hugely draining the battery.
You also get very Volvo-esque touches such as the Pilot Assist lane keep, lane centering and distance tool, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree-view camera and an upgraded Harmon Kardon audio system.
For the most part, the fully-charged driving experience put it somewhere between the ferocity of the Polestar 2, which I drove last year, and the standard gasoline (or, for 2023, the partially hybrid/gasoline) XC40.
It is literally operated by a whoopee cushion in the driver’s seat. Parking your rear in the car activates the entirely silent electric system, and removing your tuckus also serves to mostly turn things off when you leave. No starter to mess with. A micro-sized shifter on the console is the last concession to the old world of automobiles, minus maybe still having a steering wheel and turn signals.
A pint-sized Sensus video screen, a small console garbage container and the difficult-to-use haptic control for the sunroof are again all as Volvo as possible.
Once operative, it felt much slower and heavier than the Polestar 2 on its big 20-inch wheels, making noisy submarine sonar-styled noises as you gingerly back up in a parking garage.
That heavy feeling also carries over to most cornering, with a less-than-light feeling in much driving. But floor it and you are instantly into EV hyperspace, 15 car lengths ahead of other traffic, possibly propelled into the future.
Every time. Braking seems perhaps a little light for all that added power, but you can use the one-pedal driving mode to largely get around with simplified acceleration/deacceleration. Official stats also indicate that a more slowly-driven XC40 Recharge will get a combined 85 electric MPG.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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