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Volvo’s first full EV is fast and well engineered but looks too expensive in range-topping form
1 October 2020

What is it?

Although based on the familiar form of the XC40 crossover, Volvo’s first full EV shares its core mechanical layout with the Polestar 2.

As launched in all-wheel-drive P8 form, it uses a pair of 201bhp electric motors, one driving each axle, for a combined system output of 402bhp. Power is drawn from a 78kWh battery pack that can give up to 260 miles of range under the WLTP protocol and is mounted under the floor. Using 150kW DC fast charging, it will be possible to replenish the battery from empty to 80% charge in 40 minutes.

As with the Audi E-tron, the intention here has clearly been to offer buyers coming from the company’s internal-combustion models a familiar experience. Beyond some very subtle badging, the only obvious visual difference from other XC40s is the Recharge P8’s lack of a conventional radiator grille, which has been replaced by a body-coloured cover.

The cabin is similarly familiar, with a redesigned digital instrumentation pack that does away with the rev counter, but the same combination of space and trim that feels more durable than upmarket. Volvo is proud that the Recharge has nearly as much boot space as the regular XC40 – 413 litres – with another 31-litre ‘frunk’ under the bonnet, although this is mostly filled by the car’s charging cable.

Deliveries will start in the first quarter of next year, with the launch spec in the UK being the fully loaded First Edition. This costs a weighty £59,985 and is too expensive to be eligible for the government’s electric car grant. Cheaper versions will follow soon afterwards, including less powerful front-drive variants.

What's it like?

It’s certainly fast. Volvo claims a 4.9sec 0-62mph time and, when fully unleashed, the Recharge’s instant urge makes it feel every bit as quick as that figure suggests. Even under hard use, the electric powertrain is near silent, and although acceleration tails off at higher speeds, it won’t take much space to confirm the presence of the 112mph speed limiter that Volvo now fits to all of its cars.

Running at high speed will obviously devour range but you will be entirely unsurprised to hear that flat-out progress doesn’t feel like an appropriate way to drive the Recharge. Soft suspension settings make for a nose-up attitude under full throttle, with dive under hard braking and lots of lean under bigger cornering loads.

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The potent powertrain has no difficulty in motivating the Recharge’s sizeable 2188kg kerb weight, but the effect of the mass is obvious when asking the car to change direction, and also over anything other than smooth Tarmac. Even small imperfections send a shimmying motion through the chassis and the passive dampers struggle to maintain order on rougher roads, our test car’s 20in wheels likely not helping matters. There’s something Bentley-ish about the combination of so much effortless performance and such a laid-back chassis, which is not a line I was expecting to write.

A one-pedal driving mode can be selected, allowing forceful retardation when the accelerator is lifted. It actually proves a bit keen for smooth operation in stop/start traffic. Allowing the car to coast and regulating both regenerative and friction stopping through the brake pedal feels more natural. Volvo’s smart lane-following Pilot Assist cruise control remains an excellent way to deal with cruising and congestion.

The Recharge is also the debut vehicle for Volvo’s new Android-based infotainment system, with large and crisply rendered icons for various apps and an intuitive interface. But despite Google’s brainpower, the map app of our test car looked and worked less well than the best manufacturer systems, failing to clearly label major conurbations when zoomed out, and with minor roads looking like black cracks on the high-definition screen. Volvo says it wasn’t final spec, which is good because it still needs work.

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Should I buy one?

Volvo is set to move quickly into electrification: the company hopes that half of its global sales will be full EVs as soon as 2025. The Recharge P8 First Edition is a technically impressive flagship for this era, but it's also an expensive one that offers a level of performance well in excess of the car’s natural pace.

The cheaper, slower versions that will follow will almost certainly make more sense.

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Comments
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The Dr 2 October 2020

Wow, too much bunga £££

This is a nice car but price is ludicrous. Will be interesting to see what the lower spec versions cost. A 2WD Versition with just £201BHP would make more sense at sub £40k

MkVII Golf GTI 2 October 2020

After seeing what a disaster the Polestar 2 is, I’d avoid it!

Just look at Bjorn Nyland's videos on Toutube of the Polestar 2 which shares its chassis, interior design, batteries, motors and software with the XC40 Recharge. The Polestar has proved to be so highly inefficient it's unbelievable. Instead of offering Model 3 like efficiency, it's closer to an e-tron meaning your range will be way off the claimed figures. A Model 3 AWD/Performance can achieve  160-190 Wh/km (depends on wheels and tires chosen, 18" aero wheels/Michelin MXM4, 19" sport wheels/Continental ProContact RX, or 20" Performance wheels/Michelin PS4S) at motorway speeds (75mph/130kmh), a Polestar 2 PP consumes 35-40% more energy. When comparing a Model 3 with 18" aero wheels vs. regular Polestar 2 the gap grows even larger. 

Peter Cavellini 2 October 2020

It’s a Volvo.

 Doesn't quite ring true these days, I mean, why start with fully loaded first edition?, what's the reason, and it's not just Volvo by the way, for first editions, selling a car with 70, 80% of tech you'll hardly use if ever, there's no cache in having a car like this just to annoy your neighbours, it's a waste of money, no, it used to be that the lower spec was launched first and then the all singing all dancing appeared.