Photography: Siddhant Gadekar
It pays to be different’ is a popular phrase and one that Volvo seemingly lives by. The Swedish carmaker believes in doing things differently and that’s what helps it stand out from the rest of the European luxury carmakers, especially the German ones. This seems to be the case with its electrification strategy as well, as the Volvo C40 Recharge you see here, would have us believe. The C40 Recharge comes after the successful XC40 Recharge, an electric SUV that is one of Volvo’s bestsellers in India. Can it build up on the XC40’s strength and create its own niche?
Personally, I feel Volvo makes some of the coolest looking cars out there and this trend does not change with its electric range either. And when it comes to designing electric SUV Coupes, the result is even cooler. It’s where a boxy dimension meets a sloping roofline, albeit everything is in the right proportion. It looks large in the flesh and at the same time feels well-chiselled, like Jason Momoa in an Armani suit. The C40 Recharge differentiates itself from the XC40 Recharge with sportier looking 19-inch alloy wheels that are a size larger as well but its highlight has to be that sloping roof which helps the C40 have one of the best derrieres this side of the Lamborghini Urus. If you look closely, you will notice two spoilers — one on the roof and one on the tailgate, both of which offer more of a sportscar rather than a ricer feel. The tail lamp strips add a distinct character and sets the C40 Recharge apart.
I have mixed emotions about the interiors. I have always liked Volvo for their departure from convention when it comes to interior design. The C40 Recharge does not break new ground in terms of cabin layout, but does so by ditching leather and wood for vegan-friendly materials. The seats are quite comfortable and you do not really miss the luxury afforded by a leather-clad cabin. The dashboard gets a plastic inlay with embossed topography lines. These are backlit in white which looks fantastic in the dark but quite plain during the daytime. The all-black interior does not feel as luxurious as other Volvos but in true Scandinavian tradition, stands apart with its vertical centre console and aircon vents.
A highlight is the sculpted seats that, besides looking sporty, hug you well. The rear seats are comfortable as well and while the sloping roofline does eat into the headroom, it shouldn’t bother you if your family and friends are shorter than six feet. It gets a fixed panoramic glass roof which looks cool but misses out on a sun blind which is not a good idea in our tropical
climate as it easily traps heat and will have the AC work overtime to cool the cabin down. It does not help either that the AC controls can only be accessed through the centre console as there are no dedicated physical buttons. Overall, the cabin feels sporty and unique but not in the futuristic EV context and I think that’s a miss.
The 9-inch vertically mounted touchscreen instrument console felt unique on previous Volvo models but feels dated now. It is responsive but has a limited menu and a dated layout compared to similarly priced SUVs. It’s the same saga with the 12.3-inch instrument cluster which offers limited customisation options but to its credit, impresses with its high-resolution graphics.
In true Volvo fashion, the C40 Recharge boasts a full 5-star Euro NCAP rating and comes packed to the gills with radar-based active and passive safety features like Emergency Stop Assist, Blind Spot Information, Cross Traffic Alert and even Collision Avoidance and Mitigation by actively braking and steering the SUV.
However, the chief reason you buy the C40 Recharge is for its powertrain. It sits on Volvo’s CMA platform that packs in twin electric motors offering a collective 408PS and a heady 660Nm that’s available from standstill. More importantly, all that thrust is efficiently transferred to all four wheels so the C40 Recharge accelerates like you wouldn’t expect it to. For context, claimed 0-100kmph is 4.7 seconds which makes it one of the fastest accelerating cars for the price. It is one fantastic SUV to try out the experiment where you have your co-passenger try to reach out and touch the dashboard while you accelerate. The instantaneous power and torque on tap translates to the proverbial neck-snapping acceleration and you’ll find yourself hunting for open stretches to mash the throttle, it’s that addictive. Top speed is capped at 180kmph and that’s more than enough for our driving conditions. Performance is just one highlight of the powertrain, it also impresses with its precise and smooth power delivery and even more impressive is the regen function.
It is so well attuned that it makes single pedal driving almost feel like second nature. In fact, in the 400 kilometres I drove the C40, I can possibly count on my fingers the number of times I’ve used the brake pedal. It’s that easy and intuitive. It also works well in recouping range, especially in the city. You have the option to switch regen off as well.
Like the XC40 Recharge, the C40 gets a 78kWh battery pack but packs in improved cells that can hold the charge better. As a result, the C40 has a claimed range of 530km, an improvement of 112km over the XC40 Recharge. During my stint with the SUV, I managed to consistently eke out close to 480km on a single charge.
Charging is via an 11kW onboard charger and the C40 Recharge supports upto 150kW DC fast charging that can charge the SUV from 10 to 80 percent in under 30 minutes. While charging the electric SUV in the city should not be an issue, given its range, intercity trips in the C40 Recharge should be a piece of cake.
While the powertrain is all kinds of sporty, the chassis feels underwhelming given the performance on tap. It seems more tuned towards delivering good ride quality than precise and engaging handling. The chunky steering, while feeling good to hold, feel a tad
dull and slow to inputs. It is light though, making city driving feel effortless. The suspension feels held back in corners and while it is predictable and quite easy to drive, the C40 Recharge does not feel as engaging. Where the chassis shines is in the plush ride. The C40 glides over bumps and sharp ruts despite running 19-inch rims on lower profile tyres.
The Volvo C40 Recharge is priced at ` 62.95 lakh ex-showroom, a premium of six lakh over the XC40 Recharge. The C40, with its coupe SUV bodystyle, manages to stand out from the competition while the performance from its dual-motor AWD setup makes it the quickest electric SUV this side of eight figures. There is scope for improvement, though. Like a more luxurious cabin and maybe a sportier variant with enhanced suspension.
The Volvo C40 Recharge makes sense for those who like the idea of a performance electric SUV and wish to stand apart from the rest of the crowd. You’d buy it for the same reason you’d go for a Seiko Prospex or Tissot PRX. To have something that won’t break the bank but will have you break into a smile every time you look at it.