If you’re making the trip from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, you’ll get a sense of the future as you enter the Coachella Valley, seas of wind turbines lining the route along Interstate 10. It was an appropriate place to take the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge for a first drive since so much of the power those wind-catchers add to the grid could soon be used to charge up battery-electric vehicles.
The launch of the C40 Recharge comes barely two years after Volvo introduced its first BEV, the XC40 Recharge, to the line-up. Though the two models share the same underlying drivetrain, the C40 Recharge becomes the first all-electric Volvo for which there is no gas-powered alternative.
As I discovered during a long day of driving, the newest addition to the Volvo Recharge line-up has plenty going for it, starting with the instant torque of its electric driveline. And its new Google-powered infotainment system is a big step up from the technology Volvo previously relied on. But the C40 Recharge does fall a bit short when it comes to range.
By traditional Volvo nomenclature, you might expect the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge to adopt a coupe-like body style. But this is a brave new world dominated by SUVs and CUVs. Here, the Swedish automaker has taken the boxy XC40 model and given it a much more curvaceous roofline.
Unlike the XC40 Recharge, there’s no gas-powered counterpart for the latest battery-powered model. But both BEVs ride on the same platform — known inside Volvo as the CMA, or Compact Modular Architecture — which eventually will be used for a variety of other all-electric models.
The C40 Recharge offers a significant amount of technology, including a new Google-based infotainment system. And, of course, there’s an emphasis on safety, with a broad range of standard advanced driver assistance systems. Meanwhile, Volvo has adopted a new sales approach for the BEV, putting an emphasis on online ordering.
The new model is peppy, with a twin-motor, all-wheel-drive system coming standard. At an estimated 226 miles per charge, it meets the daily needs of most American motorists, but some potential buyers might hesitate, since the C40 lags the range offered by some of the other new entries into the battery-electric crossover segment.
If you still think of Volvo’s as squat and square, the coupe-like crossover shape of the new C40 Recharge could take you by surprise. Like the XC40 counterpart — indeed, like virtually all new battery-electric vehicles, the C40 has spent plenty of time in the wind tunnel, designers well aware of how aerodynamics influence both range and performance.
While not as tall as some compact crossovers, you do sit higher up than a classic Volvo model, giving you a commanding view of the road ahead. The steep rake of the roofline does impinge a bit on rear visibility, however.
As is the norm with modern EVs, it abandons the traditional grille since there’s no internal combustion engine needing to suck in air. Instead, the flat panel features an oversized version of Volvo’s familiar “iron mark” logo. A scoop below the bumper feeds cooling air to the drivetrain here moved below the load floor.
The look of the C40 Recharge is, to my eyes, handsome, with deep sculpting on the C40’s side panels adding to its sporty flare. But the chopped roof has generated a fair share of debate among my media colleagues. From a rear seat passenger’s point of view it does impinge a bit on headroom, as well as cargo capacity. But there’s plenty of legroom for passengers front and back.
Using a skateboard-like platform — with the battery pack and motors mounted below that load floor — allowed Volvo to recapture some of the space normally devoted to an engine compartment for a surprisingly roomy cabin. There’s a 0.7 cubic-foot “frunk” under the hood that can handle a fair amount of groceries or a modest-sized roller bag.
The cabin carries forward the elegant, yet subtly Scandinavian design we’ve seen on other recent Volvo products. The layout will immediately resonate with those who’ve already seen the XC40 Recharge. There are only a small handful of manual controls, including a welcome volume knob. Instead, almost everything else is operated using the large, vertically oriented touchscreen that dominates the C40’s center stack.
In keeping with the theme of sustainability, Volvo has gone with what might be called a “vegan” design. There’s no leather option available, though the alternative offered retains a luxurious look and feel. It uses a mix of natural materials including cork, while the carpet, door inserts and other surfaces are made of recycled soft drink bottles.
The C40 Recharge is offered with only minimal options and a single drivetrain package. It uses two identical motors, one on each axle, to provide full-time all-wheel drive. Together, they produce a sporty 402 horsepower and 486 pound-feet of torque.
The official numbers tell you the C40 Recharge will launch from 0-60 in a relatively quick 4.7 seconds. It’s not as fast as some competitors — including the Polestar 2, the compact crossover from Volvo’s spinoff brand. But using conventional metrics to describe the launch performance of an electric vehicle can be misleading. Electric motors deliver 100% of peak torque the moment they start spinning and that translates into a more rocket-like launch that will have you sinking deep into the crossover’s plush front seats.
The C40’s 75 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack provides enough energy to travel 226 miles per charge, according to the EPA estimate. Volvo officials are quick to remind you this is significant more than the typical American driver will need but once or twice a year. And, indeed, most EV owners plug in at night to a home charger, so they start each day with the equivalent of a full “tank” of energy. But range nonetheless falls a bit short of what some had hoped for — especially compared to some of the other models popping up of late in the compact crossover segment.
As for charging, the C40 Recharge can handle a maximum 150 kilowatts of energy at one of the newest public charging stations. Volvo claims you will get an 80% recharge in about 40 minutes on a Level 3 charger. At home, using a 240-volt system, expect to stay plugged in overnight.
Safety and Technology
The big news with the launch of the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge is the shift to infotainment technology powered by the Google Android operating system. That has a number of benefits compared with the automaker’s usual package. Among other things, you simply need to say the “wake word” for it to come to life, no pressing buttons. It allows you to use more natural language to issue commands. And it’s quicker than Volvo’s outgoing system.
With the use of smartphone-style over-the-air updates, the C40’s software can be remotely, and invisibly, updated. That covers essentially every microprocessor-controlled system on the vehicle. In the case of the Google maps navi tech, it’s constantly updated.
As you might expect, the infotainment system has Android Auto built in. Volvo promises to add Apple CarPlay later, using the C40’s over-the-air update capabilities. A number of streaming services are built-in, including IHeart Radio, Spotify, Google Play and TuneIn.
The electric crossover features a wide array of digital driver assistance technology, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and bicycle detection, lane-keeping assist and active cruise control.
It takes only a few minutes behind the wheel of the Volvo C40 Recharge to be impressed by the power the electric crossover offers. The instant acceleration offered by its electric drive is certain to shock someone more familiar with the snail-slow EVs we suffered through a decade ago.
The CMA platform’s skateboard-like design translates into an extremely low center of gravity and a near perfect 50:50 weight distribution. That more than compensates for the added mass of its battery pack.
I spent a good part of the morning flogging the C40 around the steep and winding mountain pass leading out of Palm Springs and was duly impressed with its road manners. I was more than able to keep up with several sporty imports as we maneuvered around even the tightest corners.
On city streets, the C40 delivered a luxurious ride, soaking up even the nastiest potholes and bumps I intentionally sought out to test its suspension. Add the fact that it operates in near silence under most circumstances, though it did generate a moderate level of tire noise on rougher pavement.
One of my favorite features is C40’s 1-Pedal mode. This maximizes the amount of energy recaptured during braking and coasting. Equally important, it allows a driver to operate much of the time simply by using the throttle to both accelerate and slow down. The easiest comparison is what happens when you shift a gas-powered vehicle down several gears. Added to the active cruise control feature you’ll find you make surprisingly seldom use of the brake.
2022 Volvo C40 Recharge specifications
|L: 174.8 inches/W: 73.7 inches/H: 62.8 inches/Wheelbase: 106.4 inches
|twin 150 kW electric motors, AWD
|94 city/80 highway/ 87 combined MPGe
|400 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $58,750; As tested: N/A
There is plenty to like about the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge, though I might have a few complaints. The all-electric crossover is handsome, luxurious and fun to drive, taking full advantage of the instant torque its twin electric motors deliver. Though it may not have quite the precise steering feel of the new Mustang Mach-E GT, it delivers a significantly more comfortable ride feel.
There are a few topics of concern, including rear headroom and, more importantly, the range the Recharge offers. The reality is that unless you clock lots of time driving long distances, the EPA-rated 226 miles should more than satisfy your needs — especially if you have a home Level 2 240-volt charger.
The C40 offers plenty of desirable features, including new technology like the Google Android-powered infotainment system. And essentially all of it comes standard for a base price of $58,750. The only option is the metallic paint package which bumps it up to $59,445 — before delivery fees.
If you want this all-electric crossover beware it will take time for Volvo to roll it out across the U.S. And you’ll have to initiate the order process online, later taking delivery at your local dealer.
I don’t’ expect to see Volvo log a large number of sales for the C40. The XC40 Recharge is closer to the mainstream of the emerging market. But, with Volvo promising to go 100% electric before the end of this decade, the new coupe-crossover provides a worthy foundation for what’s to follow.
2022 Volvo C40 Recharge — Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Volvo C40 fully electric?
The answer is in the name — Recharge. It’s part of a wave of battery-electric vehicles the Swedish/Chinese automaker is developing.
What is the range of the Volvo C40 Recharge?
The new C40 Recharge can travel a far as 226 miles on a single charge. The car uses a 75 kWh battery pack.
How fast can the Volvo C40 Recharge go from 0 to 60 mph?
The company says it will sprint from stop to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.