Electrification is a hot topic across the automotive spectrum, but some brands are gearing up for it more than others. Volvo, for example, was one of the first manufacturers to offer a plug-in hybrid version of every car it sells, and these are becoming increasingly popular, with its hybrid and electric models now accounting for almost a third of global sales.
But it’s EVs where things are heading, with Volvo introducing the XC40 Recharge as its first fully-electric model in 2021. That line-up is now growing with the new C40 – a sleeker almost ‘coupe-like’ version of the XC40 (just without the X) that is sold purely as an EV. But in an increasingly competitive market, is it good enough?
Though the C40 is linked to the XC40 in terms of its design, it is quite noticeably different, particularly at the rear where the roofline slopes away into a spoiler, giving it that increasingly popular ‘coupe’ styling. The front-end also shows a new ‘electric face’ for Volvos, as well as featuring advanced pixel LED headlights on higher-spec models.
Inside, the C40 is Volvo’s first leather-free car as the brand looks to improve its sustainability credentials, while also using the same Android-based infotainment system that debuted on the electric XC40.
Volvo offers two electric powertrains on the C40. One ‘ordinary’ setup that features a single front motor driving the front wheels, delivering a reasonable 228bhp and range of up to 271 miles.
The other option is the headline-grabbing range-topper we’re trying here, which gets a second electric motor (it’s called the Recharge Twin), making it all-wheel-drive and developing a huge 402bhp and 660Nm of torque in the process.
Getting from 0-60mph takes just 4.5 seconds, with the top speed limited to 112mph. Though it uses a larger 75kWh battery (the single motor’s is 67kWh), the range is very similar, with Volvo claiming up to 278 miles on a charge. With 150kW charging capability, the battery can also be topped up from 10 to 80 per cent in 37 minutes.
Though those performance stats look impressive on paper, it’s even more surprising from behind the wheel. Put your foot down and the way this Volvo SUV gathers pace is incredible – and feels particularly brisk between 30 and 60mph. Does it need to be this fast? Probably not, but it truly needs to be experienced.
It handles relatively neatly too, though its weight can be felt through the corners (this is a 2.1-tonne SUV after all). Refinement is top notch, while the safety assists are some of the best around, being useful, easy to operate but never intrusive. There are some weaknesses, though. One being, surprisingly, the ride comfort, as it’s not as silky smooth as you might hope, likely not helped by the large 20-inch wheels on our test car.
We also reckon Volvo should offer more flexibility with the regenerative braking ‘one-pedal-drive’. It’s either hard on the brakes if turned on, but non-existent if turned off. A middle setting would be beneficial.
The XC40 is already a fantastic-looking SUV to our eyes, and the sleeker design of the C40 really takes things up a level. The rear is the main highlight, as that sleeker coupe styling really suits the shape, with the black roof sloping off from the main pillar, and with spoiler and smaller ducktail making it look the part. The drawback with this is that the view out of the C40’s rear window isn’t the best.
There’s some enlarged LED rear lights too compared to the XC40, and combined with the new ‘electric’ front end, looks suitably different to the car it’s based on, though still easily identifiable as a Volvo.
The interior of the C40 mirrors that of all modern Volvos, with a minimalist Scandinavian design being quite different to that you get from Audi and BMW.
Even though the C40’s cabin might be free of leather – the material we’ve all associated as being ‘high-end’ for years – it certainly feels no worse off. All C40s also get a smart fixed panoramic glass roof, too, which adds to the upmarket feel, though our test car did suffer from an annoying rattle around the roof area.
But we have to address the elephant in the room with this Volvo and that’s its compromised practicality. The roof slopes in such a way that taller adults sitting in the back will scrape their heads on the roof, while the 413-litre boot isn’t overly generous, and some way behind the Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback.
Prices for the C40 kick off from £47,100, which buys a ‘Core’ model that comes as standard with a suite of safety technology, 19-inch alloy wheels and an electric boot. You also get the fantastic nine-inch Android infotainment system included. Featuring in-built Google Maps, it’s seamlessly able to find nearby chargers, and even tell you the estimated state of battery charge and range when you get to your destination. It’s a real highlight.
Upgrade to the Plus, which starts from £53,100 and it brings keyless entry, heated front and rear seats and enhanced safety kit, while the top-spec Ultimate adds advanced pixel LED headlights, 20-inch alloy wheels and a 360-degree camera. Prices for this start from £56,700 for this.
You’ll pay around £5,000 more for the more powerful Recharge Twin car, while the C40 in general costs £1,500 more than an equivalent XC40. As an alternative to ‘cash’, Volvo also offers a subscription service (costing from £669 a month) that also includes service and maintenance.
Volvo has produced another excellent electric car with the C40. It’s stunning to look at, has a fantastic interior and offers a good range and quick charging, regardless of the version you go for.
Though not cheap, and if you’re buying with practicality in mind, the regular XC40 makes for a better option, there’s still a lot to like about this C40. While the more affordable Single Motor version makes a lot more sense than this 402bhp Twin model tested here, if you have the means and want something that could outgun a Porsche 911 from the lights, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
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