First Drive: 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge

An excellent first step for Volvo’s expansion into the electrified future.
An excellent first step for Volvo’s expansion into the electrified future.

by Ben So | February 19, 2021


TORONTO, ONTARIO – Over the past couple of years, we have seen an exponential growth in the electric vehicle (EV) market. It is seemingly every day that we see announcements of new EVs in the market, and EVs have become so integrated to the mainstream that traditional automakers such as Jaguar and General Motors have gone as far as committing to going full electric in the not-so-distant future. Volvo is the latest luxury automaker to introduce their first EV, the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8.

From the outside, the Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 looks almost identical to the standard XC40. The main difference is the front grille being a solid piece painted in body colour and a dedicated P8 AWD Recharge badge on the rear hatch. Those with keen eyes will also notice the ‘Recharge’ etchings on the C-Pillars and inside, which represent the brand’s new line of EV and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs). The XC40 Recharge we test drove was also equipped with the optional 20-inch alloy wheels that sharpen up the look even more.

Powered by a 78-kWh Lithium-ion battery, the twin-electric motors on the XC40 Recharge P8 generate an astonishing 402-horsepower and 486 lb-ft. of torque. One of the biggest benefits to EV driving is instantaneous throttle response and maximum power at any given point. Stomp on its accelerator and the XC40 Recharge will respond with ferocity that is unmatched by any gasoline vehicles in its price range.

We do not expect anyone to be cross-shopping a XC40 Recharge with the likes of the BMW X3 M Competition or the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S 4MATIC+, but for a brisk moment when the acceleration pedal meets the floor, the sheer force definitely bears resemblance to these super-crossovers.

The Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 has a rated drive range of 335 kilometres, and it can charge from zero to 80% in as little as 40 minutes using a 150-kW DC fast charger. One of the benefits to having a heavy battery onboard is that it lowers the centre of gravity and the XC40 Recharge P8 is quite stable in the corners. There is good steering feedback and the boxy little Swedish crossover is a nimble vehicle to get around with. Our one complaint with the XC40 Recharge P8 is that the system does not show how much estimated distance range remains and can only be gauged using the remaining battery percentage.

The interior features Volvo’s minimalistic design. A large nine-inch touchscreen display is the centre of attention and it houses the infotainment unit, climate control, and other vehicle functions. Aside from the shifter, several basic audio shortcut buttons, and the all-important volume knob, there are no other keys on the console. We normally despise this level of simplicity as it involves digging around an infotainment system for basic functions such as seat heating and climate control adjustments, but the onboard Google Automotive Services with its excellent voice recognition capability more than made up for the lack of physical keys in this case.

The XC40 Recharge P8 is the first Volvo model to be equipped with this brand-new Android operating system, also seen in the Polestar 2. By simply using the “Hey Google” voice prompt, drivers can control basic vehicle functions such as adjusting the climate control temperature, turning on the seat heaters, or controlling other onboard Apps such as TuneIn Radio or Google Maps. Drivers can also quickly search Google Maps for nearby charging stations, restaurants, or other types of businesses by voice and it introduces a new level of convenience that eliminated much of the need for physical inputs. Apple users are out of luck as the system does not support CarPlay.

Thanks to its boxy styling, we observed good head and legroom in the XC40 for both rows of occupants. The large windows and the standard panoramic sunroof create an airy space inside, and there is good cargo space also especially with the extra storage in the ‘frunk’ afforded by the lack of engine up front.

Volvo has always emphasized the need for safety features to protect those inside and around its vehicles. The XC40 Recharge P8 comes with standard Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, Front and Rear Collision Mitigation Support, Lane Keeping Aid, and front and rear Park Assist systems. The tester we had was also equipped with additional features such as Intellisafe Pilot Assist and 360-degree camera systems for additional driver’s assistance.

While most compact luxury crossover buyers will balk at the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8’s $64,950 starting price and the $71,200 as-tested sticker, it does measure quite well to the popular Tesla Model Y. They are similar in size, performance, and price, and while the Model Y gets most of the hype and attention, the XC40 Recharge should not be overlooked for its fun-to-drive dynamics and the unmatched Volvo safety technology. This is an excellent first step for Volvo’s expansion into the electrified future and is a significant demonstration of their larger commitment to reduce their carbon footprint by 40% per car by 2025 when compared to 2018, as well as becoming climate neutral by 2040.

See Also:

2020 Volvo XC40 T5 Inscription

2021 Polestar 2

2020 Kia Soul EV Limited

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About Ben So


Ben has been living and breathing car magazines, spec sheets, and touring auto shows for his entire life. As proud member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada, he keeps a close eye on the latest-and-greatest in the auto industry. When he isn't geeking out about the coolest new cars, he's probably heading to the next hidden-gem ice cream shop with his three quickly growing kids.

Current Toys: '97 Integra Type R, '07 LS 460 RWD, '08 Corvette Z06, '18 Odyssey Touring