Volvo is a company that has always been best defined by doing things its own way, with it pioneering countless technologies seen across the entire car market. In the same tradition, Volvo has taken it upon itself to be one of the most important pioneers of electric vehicles in Australia, declaring it will go EV-only by 2026 – four years ahead of the brand’s global deadline.
Given this, a slew of all-electric models are due to hit our shores over the coming few years, with the charge (a pun that’s very much intended) led by this, the 2023 C40 Recharge – the first Volvo to be offered exclusively as a pure electric model, although the closely-related XC40 Recharge Pure Electric was the brand’s first EV.
This isn’t my first rodeo with the C40, however, as I was able to drive both the base Single Motor and the top-spec Twin Motor at the model’s Australian launch in October last year, with my first impressions of it able to be read here. With that opportunity only affording a few hours of seat time, though, I was curious to spend more time with the C40, and its the latter of those two variants that’s on test here.
Priced from $82,490 before on-road costs, the Volvo C40 Recharge Twin is offered in a sole Ultimate specification, with it including all features from the base Single Motor’s Plus specification with the addition of a 360-degree camera, Harman Kardon audio system, and an interior upholstered with sustainable Microtech fabric and adorned with ambient lighting and illuminated trim panels. All there is to choose is what colour you’d like it in, with all hues offered at no extra cost.
The Twin Motor’s larger 20-inch wheels excepted, both C40 variants look otherwise identical outside, and it’s the C40’s styling that makes it stand out in the current sea of SUVs this size. Although it wears the facelifted XC40’s familiar front clip, its sloping fastback-style rear roofline is what makes it utterly distinctive from the side and rear. Although this is a design touch I find to be quite hit-or-miss, it’s a hit here for me. I think the little haunches at the top of the boot and the way the rear side windows end at a point is what really accentuates it and makes the difference, even if the latter does result in a larger blind spot.
Of course, the styling is more than about good looks alone – maximising range is also part of the aim. Unfortunately, that’s something that benefits the Single Motor far more, with it offering over 50km of extra range than the equivalent XC40 with the same running gear. However, the Volvo C40 Recharge Twin only manages to eke out an extra 2km of range over its equivalent in the XC40 range, but the sleeker design does actually make it a bit quicker, reaching triple digit speeds 0.2 seconds quicker.
The inside of the C40 is where the two variants differ most, with this top-spec model feeling thoroughly more premium throughout – not that you’d say the base model felt cheap at all. Although the Microtech upholstery might seem a little odd at first, I don’t actually mind it too much. In the stinking summer heat I was driving it in, it must be said that it can get a bit sweaty – something compounded by the fixed sunroof which you’ll need to buy an optional clip-in cover for to mitigate the issue.
Certain sections such as the centre armrest are prone to attracting fingerprints as well, as you can see in the photo above, although it’s not as much of an issue here as it is in the related Polestar 2. That’s the sort of thing a launch drive sometimes doesn’t reveal, but a week with a car does. However, the peace of mind brought about by the Microtech and the range of other sustainable interior materials used throughout – which includes recycled plastic and wool-fibre fabric – certainly shows the intentions are in the right place.
Much like on the outside, the traces of the C40’s relation to the XC40 are abundant in here, with the materials and trim designs (in this top-spec model, it’s an illuminated topography map of the Abisko national park in Sweden) being the only real defining difference. The steering wheel, switchgear, and dashboard design is shared – something particularly apparent on the latter by its blanked-out starter button, as you simply sit yourself in the C40’s driver’s seat and it automatically fires into life.
Standard technology in both 2023 Volvo C40 Recharge variants is a 12.0-inch instrument display and a central 9.0-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen using the Android Automotive operating system, with its Google connectivity affording it a particularly useful range of features. Not only can you use “Hey Google” voice commands to operate certain vehicle functions like the heated seats, but it also scores Google Maps for its navigation system which couldn’t be easier to use. It also provides estimates for how much charge you’ll have when you arrive at your destination, and how much you’ll have by the time you’re back home again.
A comprehensive air quality sensor that breaks down just what pollutants are in the outside air (and if it’s affecting the air quality inside the car, which it isn’t thanks to the PM2.5 air filter) is another highlight of this infotainment system. However, I would love it if there was wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, since you still need to use a cable for either despite there being a wireless phone charger. I also found it frustrating that you need to go through so many menus to adjust vehicle settings, including even the steering weight and one-pedal driving modes which a physical button (or on-screen shortcut) should really be there for. The instrument cluster also lacks flexibility for what is a massive screen, with it only able to show a map, basic trip computer, or nothing between the gauges.
Dual-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, power-adjusted front seats with memory for the driver, and the aforementioned fixed panoramic sunroof are also standard in both models. So, too, is the usual array of active safety technology you’d expect from a Volvo including the Pilot Assist lane-centring system.
Storage is something that’s fortunately not at a premium in the C40’s cabin, with a good amount of storage space under the boot floor for items such as charging cables, while the boot floor can be propped up in the middle and has hooks to prevent shopping from sliding all over the place. Boot space is 413 litres with the rear seats and cargo cover in place, marking only a four-litre penalty over the XC40 Recharge. The ‘frunk’ under the C40’s bonnet also adds in some extra storage space – again, a good place for keeping charging cables. Braked towing capacity is rated at 1800kg for the Twin Motor, while it drops to 1500kg for the Single Motor variant.
Of course, the real attraction to the Twin Motor – and the real justification for its $7500 premium over the Single Motor variant – is the power it has on offer, with it utilising an electric motor on each axle to give it a whopping 300kW and 660Nm, along with all-wheel drive. That makes it good for 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds – a number that unquestionably shouldn’t be sniffed at given it’s a considerable 2.5 seconds quicker than the base model.
Certainly, that mass of torque can be felt being applied to the road through the C40’s grippy EV-specific P Zero rubber, with the power delivery here defined more by the strength than the ferocity of it. Nonetheless, it’s brilliantly thrilling in a straight line, while the fabulous throttle pedal tuning makes the power delivery just as easy to control on the exit from corners.
Through corners, though, there’s no denying that the C40’s hefty 2154kg mass can at times be felt, although the low centre of gravity thanks to the floor-mounted battery pack which stores 78kWh versus the Single Motor’s smaller 69kWh battery – something that factors into the extra 153kg this Twin Motor carries around. However, it’s only something that’s really exposed when you start to drive the C40 at ten-tenths, and with how responsive the steering, brakes, and throttle feel, it’s easily mitigated.
Where the weight is actually a bit of a positive is in how substantial it makes the C40 Twin Motor feel on the road. Weight is something that conveys luxury, and it does just that here, helping it feel incredibly settled on any road surface. The ride quality is also absolutely superb, with it simply eating up bumps and imperfections with aplomb. Its platform-mate, the Polestar 2 Performance Pack, might be the more dynamically competent, but the C40 is easily the more forgiving on a daily basis.
Perhaps it’s a placebo, but the improved aerodynamics made me feel the C40 was more settled in the corners than the XC40, too. Indeed, as I commented after the one-day launch drive, it truly feels more resolved than the XC40 Recharge on the whole – as you’d expect and hope from a ground-up EV, rather than something repurposed from internal combustion to electric power.
Energy consumption and real-world range was the biggest thing I wanted to get more insight on over my week with the Volvo C40 as it’s the one thing a launch drive can’t truly provide clarity on. After 605km of driving in my week with this car, energy consumption sat at 21.6kWh/100km after a mix of city, highway, and spirited country driving. Demonstrating how big a part aerodynamics play, I only managed 22.0kWh/100km in the equivalent XC40, while I used just 20.4kWh/100km in the Polestar 2, with all three being driven roughly equal distances in the same conditions.
At that 21.6kWh/100km rate of energy consumption I saw in the C40 Twin Motor, real world range comes out at 347km as of the 78kWh its battery pack stores, only 75kWh are actually usable, meaning it’s not that close to the 420km WLTP claim. However, Volvo is at least aware of and honest about this as on its own website, it cites energy consumption of 21kWh/100km which shows an impressive degree of transparency. Plus, even 347km is still a totally usable amount of range, especially as even the slow charger that plugs into a domestic three-pin outlet will get it from 40-90 percent overnight. Do note also that fast charging is capped at a rate of 150kW.
Do also consider that Volvo’s sister company Polestar (which does operate independently from Volvo) has announced the 2024 Polestar 2 is gaining new battery technology and electric motors to improve range, decrease charging times, and boost performance. It’s unclear whether any Volvo models including the C40 will be gaining this technology in years to come, but with the two cars sharing the same platform, we can only hope these changes may come across to the C40 as well.
Like all Volvo models, the C40 is covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty, along with an eight-year EV battery warranty. Eight years of complimentary roadside assistance is also included, along with a three-year/100,000km service plan. Servicing is required every 24 months/20,000km.
Do also consider, on the subject of price, that the C40 Twin Motor is considerably cheaper than the equivalent Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD, although the updated Ioniq 5 Techniq does beat the C40 on price. It’s also $2500 more expensive than the XC40 Recharge but $310 less than a Polestar 2 specified to the same level, so its price tag positions it right in the middle of the mix for its class.
With Volvo’s planned switch to becoming an EV-only brand not far down the track, the C40 is a clear indicator that the brand knows what it’s doing. It mixes all the charm of the brand’s usual cars with the sort of thrilling performance you expect from an EV. Add in its usable 350-odd-kilometres of real-world range, and the fact Volvo is open about its energy consumption being higher than the WLTP test cycle figures indicate, and you’ve got yourself a car that’s already pretty brilliant but will undoubtedly pave the way for cars that are even better.
Despite only having two EVs in its current lineup – this C40 and the XC40 Recharge, with the recently-revealed EX90 not due here until 2024 – Volvo already sold more EVs than internal combustion vehicles in Australia in December 2022. Further to that, 23 percent of its annual sales for 2022 were already accounted for by EVs and plug-in hybrids.
At the C40’s launch in October, Volvo Cars Australia managing director Stephen Connor told Drive Section that he and the brand were aware that EVs are “not for everybody, and [going EV-only] will upset some of our customers.” Judging by the numbers already, though, it looks like Volvo knows exactly what it’s doing, and the C40 is clearly a key part of its plans.
2023 Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate List Price: $82,490
- Performance - 8.5/108.5/10
- Ride & Handling - 8.5/108.5/10
- Tech & Features - 8/108/10
- Practicality - 8/108/10
- Value for Money - 7.5/107.5/10
Pros: Feels premium and substantial from behind the wheel, Google Maps and connectivity makes its infotainment system incredibly easy to use, mammoth amount of torque, excellent ride quality
Cons: Some vehicle functions are buried behind multiple menus on the touchscreen, some interior materials are sweaty in hot conditions or prone to attracting fingerprints, WLTP range claim isn’t terribly accurate
In a nutshell: Volvo’s first dedicated EV feels every bit as resolved as you’d hope it would, with it delivering a mix of Swedish quirkiness and charm, straightforward ergonomics, sleek design, and impressive performance. Sure, the C40’s driving range isn’t actually the greatest, but Volvo is at least aware of it, and sister company Polestar’s recent advances when it comes to battery tech will hopefully cross over to it in coming years.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Volvo Cars Australia for a week with 70 percent charge upon delivery. All additional charging expenses were covered by the author.
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