FIRST DRIVE: 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge

By Shari Prymak

Like several other automakers, Volvo is on the path to full electrification with the promise of having a lineup of fully electric vehicles by the year 2030. Being a relatively small company, Volvo is somewhat uniquely positioned to make that transition happen a bit faster than others. The first all-electric vehicle on that transitional path is the XC40 Recharge, and it is a promising sign of things to come. 

The XC40 is Volvo’s smallest crossover, and, although it initially launched as a gas-powered model, it was engineered from the onset for electrification. The result is that the XC40 is able to deliver as both a proper electric vehicle and a practical crossover without compromising on either end. The 72 kWh battery pack and 402 horsepower dual-motor all-wheel drive powertrain deliver outstanding performance with the ability to accelerate from 0-100km/h in under 5 seconds. The amount of power available at a moment’s notice is quite addicting, and it is delivered in a smooth, silent manner typical of all electric vehicles. 

On the practical side, the XC40 Recharge offers the same useful amount of passenger and cargo space as the gas-powered XC40. As a bonus, it adds a small cargo area under the hood which is made possible thanks to the lack of a large engine. The interior space is incredibly well-designed with excellent use of materials, fit and finish. There are plenty of useful storage spaces, connectivity options, and a top-notch touchscreen infotainment system. Powered by Google, the user interface offers conveniences such as Google Maps, Spotify, YouTube Music, and other apps available through the GooglePlay Store. In typical Google fashion, it is very user-friendly, responsive, and graphically impressive as well. 

The largest concern with many electric vehicles is the driving range, and it is here where the XC40 Recharge falls a bit short. With an estimated range of up to 325 kilometres, the XC40 simply cannot travel as far as alternatives such as the Tesla Model Y, Hyundai Kona EV, Chevrolet Bolt, and Kia Soul EV, all of which can easily do well over 400 kilometres. The range might be adequate for most, especially for those who have regular access to charging stations, but it is still nice to have that extra bit of practicality to help alleviate range anxiety for when charging is more of a challenge. 

The XC40 Recharge has a starting MSRP of $64,950. My tester had an additional $3,500 in option packages which add features such as a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, wireless smartphone charging, a 360 degree surround view camera, and a Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driver assistance system, all of which should really be standard at this price point. Even so, the XC40 is competitively priced against similar electric crossovers from luxury brands such as the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi E-Tron. It’s toughest competitor is undoubtedly the Tesla Model Y which, for a similar price, offers far superior driving range, more space, comparable technology and performance, and the unique Tesla benefits such as access to a large supercharging infrastructure.  

Although the XC40 Recharge is not perfect, it is a very well designed crossover that will work very well for many consumers. The challenges of a full-electric lifestyle and the substantial price premium of the Recharge will likely mean that the gas-powered XC40 will continue to be the more realistic option for many for quite some time. Even so, the Recharge model is proof that Volvo has a very bright future ahead with electric vehicles, and the XC40 is a strong first effort.