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Reviews First Drive: 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge

17:51  12 february  2021
17:51  12 february  2021 Source:   driving.ca

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Moving forward, Volvo plans to launch a new electric vehicle every year. By 2025, the goal is to have half of the fleet available with an all-electric option. Leading the charge is the Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 AWD. It is the logical starting point given that it appeals to urban commuters who want flexibility without size.

a car parked in a parking lot: 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 AWD © Provided by Driving.ca 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 AWD

While the newbie is based on the company’s Compact Modular Architecture it shares with its gasoline counterpart and it has Thor’s hammers lighting up the face, Volvo’s first fully-electric crossover is very easy to spot — the traditional grille disappears. Yes, electric rides typically dispense with the grille and the cooling air it supplies, but Volvo’s take is distinctive — there was lots of interest in the new electric ride, but it was the look that captivated most.

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Key to the XC40 Recharge P8 is the 78-kilowatt-hour battery that sits in the middle of XC40’s floor where it is protected should the worst happen. It delivers a driving range of 335 kilometres from a full charge, which takes eight hours using a 220-volt Level II charger. However, it will accept an 80 per cent charge from a DC fast charger in 40 minutes.

The XC40 Recharge allows the owner to schedule charging times when it’s plugged in and the day(s) and departure time(s) have been entered. The system then makes sure the battery is fully charged and the car is pre-conditioned and ready to roll.

The juice powers two electric motors, which gives the Recharge a healthy dose of power and all-wheel-drive capability. For the most part, the electric motors do equal amounts of the driving, however, on the highway it becomes more of a rear-drive setup to help preserve the battery. The key here is the front motor is never allowed to shut down completely, so the system is always ready to react to a sudden change in traction.

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More importantly, the two electric motors combine to produce 402 horsepower and 486 pound-feet of torque. The result is a blistering turn of speed, and this in spite of the 2,150-kilogram curb weight. The proof of the sweetness is found in the drive. The prodigious torque sees it warp off the line and on to speed in a totally hushed manner. Specifically, the Recharge rockets to 100 kilometres an hour in 4.9 seconds. To put that into perspective, the most powerful of the gas-powered XC40s, the T5, takes 6.4 seconds.

The acceleration time really only tells part of the story, as it is the instant-on peak torque the nanosecond the wheels begin to turn that truly wows. The initial blast of speed pushes the riders back into the seat as things begin to happen in a serious hurry!

The flip side is the ability to drive the Recharge using just the accelerator pedal to control speed and braking — the so-called one pedal drive. During the test I managed to run for practically all of the drive route without ever touching the brake pedal. This is the way electric cars are meant to be driven. The side benefit of having one pedal control is the lack of wear on the regular braking system. Porsche says the Taycan’s brake pads only need replacing once every six years because the regenerative braking is such a big factor. The XC40’s one pedal drive should have a similar effect on brake wear. For those that do not like a one pedal drive there is that option. However, lifting off the accelerator sees it coasts like a regular gas car with next to no engine braking.

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The XC40 Recharge also felt light (a term used advisedly) and alive on its P235/50R19 front and P255/45R19 rear tires. There was little in the way of body roll and it resisted the urge to delve into understeer until serious liberties were taken. On the flip side, it handled a rough road without beating up the rider. It did feel tauter than I expected, but it was nonetheless comfortable — part of the credit goes to two of the best front seats in the business . The steering feel is, likewise, crisp and can be adjusted for weight. In normal mode it is light and direct. Firm mode puts more heft in the wheel and makes it feel sharper. That said, I still preferred the normal setting, as it balances ease with precision.

Slip behind the wheel and the Recharge’s cabin is very much XC40, but with two key differences. First, the shifter not only selects the desired gear, but also brings the electrics to life when the lever is moved. More importantly, Google’s Android operating system now anchors the infotainment system. It includes Google Assistant, Google Maps and the Google Play Store. The physical layout mirrors Volvo’s previous system with various tiles giving easy access to the main functions and it still has a home button. Swiping up from the bottom opens up the climate control and touching the settings icon opens up that feature. It is easily mastered.

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The difference is that the voice recognition system is way smarter than most. Simply say “Okay Google, where is the nearest charge point” and the system generates a list, the driver makes a choice and the directions begin. It also keeps the driver up to speed on the available driving range by estimating what will be left in the battery at the end of a route plugged into the map.

 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 AWD infotainment system, now powered by Google Android © Graeme Fletcher 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 AWD infotainment system, now powered by Google Android

In a corny move, it will also tell a joke if the driver needs perking up. During the demo, Molly of the Maps asked, “What do call a shoe made out of a banana? A slipper, of course!” On a more serious note, the beauty is no more trips to the dealer to update the software, as it is now all done over-the-air (OTA). The digital dash is, likewise, smart and reconfigurable. The best view puts the map between the speed readout and selected gear, which leaves the central screen free for other functions.

As for utility, there’s really no compromise. With the seats up the XC40 Recharge is rated at 452 litres and 1,328 L with the rear seats folded. Both numbers are within 10 L of the gas-powered models. The bonus is the lack of a gas engine puts another storage space for the charger cable and the like under the hood.

a laptop computer sitting on top of a car:  2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 AWD © Graeme Fletcher 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 AWD

Safety and driver assistance features are a Volvo forte. The Recharge includes all the key features plus Volvo’s City Safety technology and Pilot Assist system. Pilot Assist can now bring the vehicle to a stop in a safe place if the system detects the driver is in trouble.

The Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 is arriving at dealers now with a starting price of $64,950. It is an attractive, dialled-in drive that has enough range to put anxiety to bed. The plus is the distance to “empty” proved to be accurate, at least by my methodology (actually, a methodology learned from David “ Motor Mouth ” Booth himself).

The only real downside is the XC40 Recharge P8 does not qualify for the BC or Federal government rebates because of the price caps incorporated into the incentive. However, a minor price correction to, say, $59,999 would allow the Recharge to qualify for the $8,000 electric car rebate in Quebec.

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