Volvo Charges into the Electric Era with the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

Volvo C40 Electric Car

This is where Volvo’s all-electric future starts.

I spent a few days driving this eye-catching C40 Recharge SUV across Belgium’s countryside and capital city. The sleek, low-slung, futuristic-looking crossover colored in Volvo’s trademark Fjord Blue shade drew long looks from bystanders, no doubt curious about the machine before them. These looks were especially evident during the hours I spent hopelessly lost, driving circles around the same bicyclists, pedestrians, and café-goers crowding the narrow urban streets.

But I didn’t really mind the attention. 

“If you don’t want to be seen in traffic, then you don’t buy this vehicle,” Anders Gunnarsson, Volvo’s director of exterior design, told me later that day.

As Volvo’s first dedicated electric vehicle, the $58,750 C40 Recharge compact crossover is charged with setting the tone and style for the Swedish automaker’s electrified future. Volvo plans to nix its hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and gas engine powertrains to go fully electric by 2030. 

In other words, the history-making Volvo C40 Recharge — which is now on sale and can be ordered online only — is already destined for a spot in Sweden’s hallowed Volvo Museum. 

Related: City-Ready and Country-Bound: The Chic Yet Capable 2021 Volvo V60 Cross Country

Volvo C40 Electric Car

There’s plenty of space for luggage in the trunk. Photo: Jaclyn Trop

Tweaking Volvo’s Recipe With a Sportier-looking SUV

Technically, the C40 is not Volvo’s first electric vehicle. That distinction belongs to the XC40 Recharge, the battery-powered version of the brand’s smallest SUV. But the C40 is Volvo’s first dedicated EV, the first nameplate designed to serve solely as an EV. 

But the C40 Recharge does borrow several elements from the XC40 Recharge. The SUVs are built alongside each other at the automaker’s factory in Ghent, Belgium, the destination for our Flemish road trip. 

However, the C40 is not just an electric vehicle dressed in the XC40’s clothing. Designed as a sporty-looking coupe with a sloping roofline and rear hatch, the EV intends to appeal to customers who want to make a statement. A fighter jet-style roof spoiler, an elaborate LED taillight design, and an integrated wing on its tailgate enhance the SUV’s space-age silhouette. And yes, there’s a frunk, too. 

The C40’s grille-less face bears a bold, distinctive solid panel that integrates with the curves of the hood and bumper. This will be the new face of Volvo. 

Related: The Luxury Hybrid that Has it All: The 3-Row Volvo XC90 R-Design

Volvo C40 Electric Car

Take an SUV, but make it elegant, and you have the Volvo C40. Photo: Jaclyn Trop

Powering Up For the All-Electric Race

The C40 also shares its powertrain with the XC40 Recharge. The SUV uses twin electric motors, one on the front and one on the rear axle, to make 402 horsepower and post best-in-class acceleration. It zips from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds. 

Volvo says the C40 can travel an estimated 225 miles on a fully charged battery. Future over-the-air software updates will boost that number, but for now, that’s significantly less range than the luxury nameplates from Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi it hopes to challenge. 

Starting just above $50,000, the Tesla Model Y leads the segment in range, achieving an estimated 326 miles. The forthcoming BMW iX and Audi Q4 e-tron deliver about 300 miles and 241 miles, respectively. The Mercedes EQA, which is currently available in Europe and being considered for the U.S. market, gets between 248 to 268 miles, depending upon the model. (Note that those range figures are for the European WLTP standard; U.S. figures according to the EPA standard are not yet available, and EPA figures tend to be less generous.)

The C40’s 78-kilowatt battery can be fast-charged via a 150-kilowatt DC outlet to 80% in less than 40 minutes. It takes eight hours to charge the battery from 0 to 100% using an AC charger through a Type 2 connection, the kind typically used in home charging stations.

Related: Why I Bought A Volvo XC90 to Replace My Minivan

Volvo C40 Electric Car

The carpet matching the exterior paint is a nice touch. Photo: Jaclyn Trop

A Vegan Interior Featuring Elegant, Recycled Materials

Inside, the C40 nods both to Volvo’s heritage and its future. It’s the first Volvo model to go completely leather-free, which also has the practical benefit of shaving a few pounds from its payload. Instead, its cabin is rife  with recycled materials, including polyester, fishing nets (hello, Scandinavia), and plastic bottles. For upholstery, buyers can choose between renewable wool fiber or a combination of suede textile and micro-tech material. 

The model I drove featured carpeting, door panels, and floor mats in Fjord Blue, a signature shade inspired by the deep inlets of the Scandinavian west coast. The dashboard and front door panels were accented with backlit translucent graphics, made from recycled plastic, that mimic the topography of Abisko National Park, a popular hiking spot in northern Sweden.

“One of our designers was hiking, and she fell in love with the topographic view from the top,” says Rekha Meena, senior design manager for color and material.

The designers traced the park’s topography to create a digitalized design with a layered pattern. LED lamps illuminate the surface to create a 3D effect.

Passengers may find that the C40 feels airier than the XC40 Recharge because of its standard panoramic sunroof. Its coupe body provides more passenger space in the front but less headroom in the back.

The trunk measures 48.7 cubic feet, which is above-average for the segment and roomy enough to stow several suitcases. Its seats are comfortable enough to withstand hours of driving. In other words, if you can find a weekend trip destination within 225 miles of your home, you’re set. 

The C40 also uses the same Google Android-based infotainment platform as the XC40 Recharge. The tablet-style screen centered on the dashboard provides full access to Google services and apps from the Google Play Store, including Google Maps and Google Assistant. Volvo is offering C40 customers unlimited data for Google services for four years.

Volvo C40 Electric Car

There’s plenty of space for rear-seat passengers. Photo: Jaclyn Trop

The C40 Is Just the Start On Volvos EV Journey 

Undoubtedly, the new nameplate is the cornerstone of Volvo’s aggressive plan to transition to a full-time EV brand this decade. But whether the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge can poach customers from other luxury marques depends upon tradeoffs between range, performance, price, and style. 

“That level of range is on the borderline of acceptable at that price point,” says Ed Kim, a vice president at automotive research firm AutoPacific. “And speaking of price point, the nearly $60,000 starting price is hefty given that the target buyer is relatively young.”

But that’s not likely to dissuade the Kim family.  

“We’re getting an EV early next year, and this one is on our shortlist,” Kim adds. “It’s so pretty that we’re willing to deal with the shorter range.”

Volvo C40 Electric Car

The Google-based infotainment system includes all of your favorite Google features. Photo: Jaclyn Trop

What Did I Like in the C40?

  • The captivating exterior
  • Capacious trunk
  • Cutting-edge infotainment system
  • Comfortable seats

And those seats were especially handy when getting lost in the city and being the focus of long looks from passersby; I didn’t really mind.

Volvo C40 Electric Car

Ergonomic to the max. Photo: Jaclyn Trop

Disclosure: I was Volvo’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.

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