Volvo’s first all-electric model, the Recharge compact-crossover that drives all-wheel-drive impresses with 402 horsepower and an expected range of more than 200 km.
The process of electrification is rapid, and the most difficult thing that is thought for manufacturers to accept it is to buy or build an EV platform. Would it be better to invest the huge amount of money needed to create an entirely new architecture or remove an existing car for electric operation? Although the first approach is more brave and more evidence in the future, it is also much more expensive. Lacking the ability to write as many nos on cheques as larger manufacturers such as Volkswagen, Volvo offered a second option with its XC40 Recharge P8 2021.
Volvo’s compact modular architecture underpins Recharge and is designed with the goal of electrification — it is also the foundation for the Polestar 2 EV — but its engineers still have to make significant changes to fit the P8’s transmission and ensure it is as safe as any other XC40. The compact 201 horsepower electric motor powers each axle, with the head of the car having a new enhanced undercarriage structure instead of the internal combustion engine of the regular model. This space also contains the electronic controllers of the power transmission system and a small compartment designed to accommodate charging cables. The 75 kWh lithium-ion battery pack is mounted under the floor of the car in an aluminum cage, which reduces the undercarriage range from 8.3 inches to 6.9. In terms of packaging, the cargo area loses some storage space hidden beneath the floor, but the losses are offset by a new small “trash” under the hood.
The P8 mostly looks like a regular XC40. From the outside, there is only a badge dedicated to each model and the lack of both the usual grille and any exhaust pipe that distinguishes it from fossil fuel-powered brothers. The cabin also made no changes apart from replacing the speedometer in the digital meter cluster with an electric flow meter. Like other XC40s, cabin space is good by the standards of the compact SUV segment, although the material is more durable than luxurious. The only other notable revision is the pioneering arrival of Volvo’s new Android-based operating system shared with Polestar 2, which combines a number of vehicle and info controls and is navigated through a central vertical touchscreen.
The P8 shares both the drive system and the total power of 402 horsepower with Polestar 2, but the two vehicles have very different characteristics. We expect the slightly heavier Volvo to have a speed of almost Polestar with an estimated time of 0 to 60 miles per hour of 4.3 seconds; we took polestar clock at 4.1 seconds to 60 miles per hour. The instantaneous response of the power transmission system is very impressive, and the twin-engine provides virtually silent. The traction is excellent, even in the wet conditions that we tested the car, although the level of thrust will decrease at higher speeds. We still have no trouble confirming the 112 miles/hour speed limit that Volvo now suits all of its vehicles.
Sudden acceleration is the regular trick of the XC40 Recharge but is not a trick that really suits its characteristics. The P8’s suspension settings are quite flexible and clearly more comfortable than the ability to control the body with iron. Recharge has an estimated weight of 4900 pounds, equivalent to about half a tonne compared to a four-wheel-drive gasoline-powered XC40 T5. On undulating surfaces, the chassis struggles to stabilize and larger collisions have shock reduce controllers struggling to maintain disciplined control. The powerful electric motor had no difficulty in boosting the large volume of the P8, but convincing its volume quickly changed the direction that the front tire quickly surrendered to the lower rider.
The P8 is much more impressive when controlled at normal speeds. There’s something close to Bentley about the combination of easy acceleration and comfortable handling. The ability to improve in-flight is excellent, with only the slightest bit of wind noise ingested from the top of the door at 75 miles per hour. Volvo’s pilot support system remains one of the better intelligent cruise control systems, capable of skillfully managing both stop and go congestion and traffic flow.
Volvo’s renewable braking setup allows you to choose a pedal steering mode for powerful acceleration when you release the gas pedal. But we actually find this setting a bit overly excessive to operate smoothly at urban speeds. Turning it off allows the P8 to move, with both the regeneration brake and the friction brake controlled by the left pedal. Volvo predicts an EPA range of more than 200 miles, with fast P8 DC support charging at speeds of up to 150 kW, enough to take the battery out of the empty to 80 percent in just 40 minutes. The maximum increase of the car’s 11 kW integrated charger with a Level 2 charging station will replenish the package in about 7.5 hours.
The Android operating system is generally a welcome addition, although Volvo said the version we experienced does not represent the final specifications. The core interface looks great, with the app icons displayed intuitively and sharply on the central touchscreen. But maps for Google-based navigation don’t seem to be better than the one you’re running on Android Auto on your smartphone. It can’t label large towns when zoomed out and displays small streets in the form of thin black lines that look like cracks on high-definition screens.
Consider Volvo’s commitment that by 2025, half of the vehicles it produces globally will be EV vehicles, the rests are hybrid or plug-in, fully electric XC40 Recharge impresses on many levels. Government incentives and prices are likely to drop below $50,000. At that price, we expect it to struggle to find niche markets in the rapidly expanding high-end electric car segment. While the United States probably won’t get a less powerful and more affordable front-facing version that will be sold in other markets, the Recharge P8 clearly shows Volvo’s commitment to gasification.
2021 Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge
front- and mid-motor, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
BASE PRICE (C/D EST)
2 permanent-magnet synchronous AC motors, 201 hp, 243 lb-ft (each); combined output, 402 hp, 487 lb-ft; 75.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Wheelbase: 106.4 in
Length: 174.2 in
Width: 73.0 in
Height: 65.0 in
Passenger volume: 95 ft3
Cargo volume: 17 ft3
Curb weight (C/D est): 4900 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST)
60 mph: 4.3 sec
100 mph: 10.7 sec
1/4 mile: 12.9 sec
Top speed: 112 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST)
Combined/city/highway: 115/120/110 MPGe
Range: 200 miles