Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: March 21, 2022
PALM SPRINGS, California - The alphabet soup of Volvo nomenclature can be confusing, but all you need to know is that the C40 is an XC40 with a sloped roof and a coupe-like silhouette. It’s a formula that favours fashion over functionality, and with it comes all the typical SUV coupe tradeoffs like an elevated price tag, atrocious blind spots, inferior rear seat headroom, and hampered cargo space. What’s the point of it then? Well it looks fantastic, gives off sportier vibes than the boxy XC40, and in a market where the heart generally triumphs over the brain, it’s a smart play from the Swedes. There’s no other reason why SUV coupes like the BMW X6 and Porsche Cayenne Coupe exist.
The C40 Recharge is a small compact SUV, and it’s a popular size, well-packaged, and looks a bit like the Polestar 2 but with sharper sheetmetal. The black contrasting roof effectively shrinks its visual footprint, and the built-in rear spoiler and sizable 20-inch wheels give off some seriously chic vibes.
As the name suggests, the C40 Recharge is only powered by electricity, so you will never find one on the road emitting carbon dioxides. Like its EV siblings, the XC40 Recharge and Polestar 2, the C40 packs an electric motor on each axle, creating a permanent all-wheel drive setup. There’s a 78 kWh lithium ion battery running the show, allowing for a total driving range of around 334 km. That’s enough to match the Audi e-tron Sportback (351 km) and Porsche Taycan 4S (320 km), but falls short of the Polestar 2 (375 km), Ford Mustang Mach-E AWD (435 km), BMW i4 (484 km), and Tesla Model Y (525 km).
Charge time varies by type of charger. Volvo quotes a 0-80% top up with a 150kW fast DC charger at 40 minutes, while a Level 2 home charger will take about 8 hours. Output is a healthy 402 hp and 486 lb-ft combined, allowing the C40 Recharge to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds, two-tenths faster than the XC40 Recharge (4.9s).
The C40 Recharge houses the first leather-free interior for Volvo, so everything you can touch, feel, or sit on, is made from recyclable and sustainable materials. What else is different than the XC40 Recharge? Other than the slightly hampered rear headroom and trunk space, not much. It’s a copy and paste job except for the unique lit-up panels that are embedded into the passenger-side dashboard and the door panels - they add a bit of visual zest when driving at night. The panoramic glass roof is fixed as well - it cannot be opened. Though, like other SUV coupes, the blind spots are atrocious due to the thick B-pillars but it’s remedied by an effective blind spot monitoring system and quite a sizable rear windshield.
The instrument cluster is a fully digital 12.3-inch screen, and the center touchscreen is a 9-inch carried over from the XC40. It’s powered by an Android operating system, meaning you can use it the same way you use your Google account on your computer. That results in a drastically lower learning curve for those new to the Volvo brand. You can use the “Hey Google” command the same way you would your Google Home - ask the C40 to take you to the nearest McDonalds after a midnight shift, or ask it how much electric range you have left and the nearest charging station. For those worried about security and privacy, don’t fret. Volvo says you do not need to sign into your Google account to utilize the vehicle’s features.
Out on the sun-beat desert roads around Palm Springs, the small footprint and zero emission attitude of the C40 Recharge made it feel right at home. Replacing the panoramic roof with a solar panel wouldn’t be a bad idea, right? The C40’s ride quality is what stood out the most, as it’s significantly more sorted and grounded than the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT, and less brittle than the Tesla Model 3 when negotiating pockmarked roads. Still, we’ll have a better idea when we test it on more familiar turf at home.
Even though the C40 was clearly not tuned for performance duty, it never skipped a beat when we flogged it up the twisty, challenging, off-camber turns on the Palms to Pines Scenic Byway. The C40 remained well composed and exhibited minimal body roll despite its elevated ride height. The instant torque offered by the two electric motors is all you could ever ask for on these serpentine roads, there’s no waiting around for a CVT to buzz up the RPMs or for a gearbox to whizz down five gears, and the AWD setup meant grip levels were high.
Matched with strong one pedal driving and we never had to take our right foot off the pedal. Okay, we did have to once when exiting a blind corner and a camper van appeared out of nowhere going half the speed limit. Luckily the brakes were strong, the pedal travel was linear and hydraulic-feeling, and it helped to shave off enough speed to prevent us from painting the guardrails Fjord Blue. Our excuse? Well, without exhaust cues or engine whine, it can be terribly difficult to visually gauge the speed in an electric vehicle - the C40’s instant torque and silent ride only added to that loss of perception.
The Volvo C40 Recharge is only offered in one complete trim, as part of Volvo's 'One Price Promise' approach to a straightforward and transparent shopping experience. So what you see is what you get - no fussy negotiations and your electric Volvo can be purchased both online and in-store. As such, the C40 Recharge starts at a somewhat hard to digest $72,600 CAD, especially when compared to the base XC40 Recharge ($59,950). But when you consider the fact that it’s fully loaded out of the box - panoramic roof, 20-inch wheels, AWD, heated steering wheel - the justification is there. In fact, the only option you can even choose is the paint colour, with the Fjord Blue in our photographs ramping up the price to $73,500. But if style, sustainability, and athleticism are of paramount importance, then the C40 Recharge is set to impress. If not, then the cheaper XC40 Recharge and its boxier profile offers the same essentials but at a more digestible price.
Model: 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge
Paint Type: Fjord Blue
Base Price: $72,600
Price as Tested: $73,500
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,431 / 2,035 / 1,582
Curb weight (kg): 2,185
Powertrain: Twin-electric motors, 78 kWh lithium-ion battery
Horsepower: 402 hp
Torque: 486 lb-ft
Transmission: Single-speed transmission
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Estimated Range: 334 km
Tires: 20-inch wheels