Review: Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge
Johannesburg – “Rev it!” said the security guard at my local recycling centre, who had his cupped hand and ear wedged against the bonnet of my battery-powered Volvo test car, his body language depicting utter curiosity.
It’s clear that for the average South African, electric cars are still no more than an odd curiosity.
It’s also quite telling that you have to go out of your way to ensure that your recyclables don’t end up cluttering yet another landfill, but then I guess we probably have bigger fish to fry in this country. And that’s a story for another day.
The subject of this test, the Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge, doesn’t exactly further the cause for more affordable electric motoring in Mzansi, with its price tag of R1 260 000, but it’s still the country’s second least expensive EV at the moment and there’s a more affordable, albeit less powerful P6 variant on the way soon.
It’s seriously fast!
Oh, and that call to “rev it” was not as ironic as you might think, as this P8 version has some serious get-up-and-go. It’s got a motor on each axle, collectively producing 300kW and 660Nm, which Volvo says is enough to thrust the compact SUV from 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds.
In reality, that instantly available torque makes it feel even faster than the numbers suggest and if you flatten the pedal from standstill that instant thrust will push you back in your seat and take your organs by surprise.
How long does the battery last?
Of course, you can almost watch the battery percentage depleting in real time if you drive it like that for long enough, but if you manage to behave yourself the Volvo XC40 Recharge allows a range of up to 418km on the WLTP cycle, from its 78 kWh battery pack. Keep in mind that you might not achieve that in real-world driving.
A trusted source in Europe, EV Database, estimates a real-world range of around 380km in mixed conditions in mild weather, and a freeway range of 305km (remember, EV’s don’t get much regenerative braking done at constant highway velocities). For the record, our P8 test car consumed 24 kWh per 100km.
How long does it take to recharge?
One really nice thing about the P8 Recharge is that it comes with Volvo’s Recharge Care package, which includes a wallbox home charging system. An 11kW AC wallbox or charging station set-up should enable a full charge in around eight hours, which is a lot better than the 28-or-more hours it’ll likely take with a conventional wall socket. If you take it to a DC fast-charging station, you could get between 30km and 100km worth of range within 10 minutes depending on the voltage available. An 80 percent charge is said to take around 40 minutes at a 150kW DC station.
But if you really don’t want range anxiety to get in the way of your annual holiday, Volvo’s aforementioned Care Package also includes the use of a petrol-powered courtesy car for two weeks a year for the first three years of ownership. Volvo Cars SA certainly is thoughtful.
Design and packaging: under the radar
Unless you’re an eagle-eyed car nerd, you might easily mistake the P8 Recharge for a regular ICE-powered XC40, and the biggest give away is the colour coded panel that replaces the grille. Sadly SA doesn’t get the Volvo C40 Recharge, with its coupe-inspired roof. You can get some unusual exterior colours though. Our car came in Radioactive Sewage Green (which Volvo insists on calling Sage Green), which looks somewhat grey in low-light conditions, but sunlight brings out a brighter lime hue. I found it a bit strange at first but it quickly grew on me. Check it out in the video below:
The cabin packaging is not radically different from the regular XC40, and there’s a decent amount of stretching space for both front and rear occupants and a 414 litre boot. You won’t be able to stash much in the ‘frunk’ however as the charging cables take up almost all of the space. One big downside is the lack of a spare tyre, with local models only shipping with a tyre repair kit. This is a safety concern in the South African context.
On another note, this Volvo’s start-up process takes some getting used to as there isn’t one. There’s no parking brake and no start button, it all happens automatically once the key and sensors have determined that you’re in the driver’s seat. Literally all you have to do is get in, find the desired gear and go. When you reach your destination, it’s simply a case of put it in park, exit and lock.
If you have the one-pedal driving function activated to maximise regenerative braking, the driving experience will also take some getting used to as backing off the throttle results in the car braking. It doesn’t take long to get accustomed to, but you might want to exercise caution in places like Gauteng where aggressive tailgating seems to be the norm. Then again, with that acceleration on offer that might never be an issue...
As for the cockpit, the Volvo XC40 Recharge is one of the first Volvo models to receive a new Android-powered infotainment system with built-in apps and services, including “Hey Google” voice command. It is better than Volvo’s previous Sensus system with all its swipe-through pages, but I wouldn’t call it the most user-friendly system either as many functions will require some menu digging. You’ll also have to use the screen to operate the climate control system.
The Volvo XC40 P8 Recharge is not flashy in any way and it could easily pass for a regular model, and we like that about it. You’d never say it was a true performance SUV, but it really is. Added to that is a decent range, by electric car standards, and enough practicality to serve as a family car if need be.
If you have R1.26m to spend on an electric car, you’ll find that this vehicle will tick a lot of boxes. Just make sure you have a decent solar set-up at home because there’s no point to a coal-powered car.
Watch the Volvo XC40 Recharge in action below: