2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge first drive review: The great electric makeover


It’s hard not to like the Volvo XC40. In a growing sea of me-too crossover-SUVs, it stands out with fetching design, fun driving dynamics, a comprehensive safety suite and an interior that feels an awful lot like Volvo’s other, more expensive offerings. Sure, a starting price of around $34,000 means the XC40 also comes at a bit of a premium compared to its competition, but spend a little time in one and you’ll never doubt where that money went.

But what about a version that costs a whopping $20,000 extra? That’s what you’ll pay to get into the XC40 Recharge. Volvo’s new XC40-based EV is here, and it costs $54,985 after a $995 destination charge. 

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge has big power and a little frunk

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Expensive? Yes, but I’m not mad about it. In fact, after just a few miles behind the wheel, I’m in love with this all-electric reinvention of Volvo’s littlest ‘ute. Yes, it’s an asking price that budget-conscious shoppers may struggle to swallow, but the Recharge likewise manages to feel more than worth it. 

The platform beneath the XC40, called CMA for Compact Modular Architecture, was designed from the beginning to be electrifiable. Volvo has finally delivered on that promise by yanking out the selection of super- and turbocharged engines and slotting in a pair of electric motors — and the requisite batteries, of course. 

The result? It’s a little rocketship. I previously spent a lovely few months with our XC40 T5 long-termer and found it sprightly and fun. The Recharge is on another planet, with a whopping 402 horsepower and 486 pound-feet of torque, allowing it to sprint to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. And thanks to the drivetrain layout, the Recharge does a far better job than the T5 of getting that power to the ground. Stomping on the gas on a wet road in the normal XC40 often results in wheelspin at the front followed by an overworked differential’s tired attempt at shuttling torque to the rear. The XC40 Recharge just snaps forward. No drama, no noise, no torque steer, just acceleration. It’s addictive.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

The XC40 Recharge just snaps forward. No drama, no noise, no torque steer, just acceleration. It’s addictive.   

Volvo also gives the Recharge proper one-pedal driving abilities, such that you will rarely need to touch the brake pedal. This is my preferred way of driving an EV and I’m glad to see it here, but for those who’d prefer a more traditional way of going, it can be disabled. Sadly, though, there’s no selectable regen option in between, it’s either all on or all off.

Despite the new performance the XC40 Recharge gives up nothing when it comes to comfort. This XC40 feels premium inside and out, with a polished ride quality that just seems all the more refined thanks to the absence of internal combustion. Volvo’s engines of late aren’t the most aurally pleasing, if I’m honest, and their drone isn’t missed here. 

Here be Android.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

The XC40 Recharge’s interior is clean and refined and largely the same as what you’ll find in other Volvos. That is to say, not as posh as an XC90 but far ahead of most compact SUVs. It also far exceeds anything you’ll find in a Tesla. The panoramic glass roof adds some much needed light into a cabin that is a little too dark for my taste. Charcoal leather is the only option for now. Still, it’s all so very calm and collected. 

Storage capacity in the Recharge is largely the same as the gas-powered variety, the main change being the addition of a slim compartment under the hood. It’s not a proper frunk as you’ll be hard pressed to fit more than a few loaves of rustic multigrain up there, but it does at least make for a convenient place to store your charging cable. 

Outside of what spins the wheels, the most significant change comes in what’s powering the XC40 Recharge’s various displays, both the 12.3-inch gauge cluster behind the steering wheel and the 9-inch portrait touchscreen in the center stack. The layout looks the same as on the regular XC40, but now Android Automotive is calling the shots. I wrote about it extensively when I tested the Recharge’s country cousin Polestar 2, so I won’t rehash everything here, but suffice to say I’m a big fan. This takes a lot of what’s great about Android Auto but makes it standalone. If you’re a Google user, all your contacts, your calendar appointments, your saved addresses and even your playlists just magically appear after you sign in. It is wonderful. 

Sometimes the absence of color is the best color.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

There’s a lot to like about the Recharge, but it’s not all sweet. For one thing there’s the range: just 208 miles on the EPA cycle from a 75-kilowatt-hour battery. 200 miles is plenty for most folks most of the time, but it feels a bit scant for a $55,000 EV — though federal and state rebates will make things more palatable. 

I also wish there were a lighter-colored, vegan interior option and I’m sure some potential buyers will want a few more regen choices, but those are minor nits to pick in what is a stellar reinvention of what was already a pretty great rig. I, like many of you, will be eagerly awaiting more affordable versions of the XC40 Recharge, but those with the means and the desire for a premium crossover EV will be hard pressed to do better. 


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