Electric vehicles have finally hit the mainstream. I know that because as I write about the stylish new Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate SUV, all my complaints are about regular-car issues, none focused on its electric drivetrain.
I’m talking about things like a tiny rear window that limits visibility, electronic failures, limited rear headroom, and — of course — price.
Everything about driving Volvo’s sleek new EV is simple and easy, from pulling out of your driveway to its exceptionally well-tuned drivetrain and brakes.
It also offers innovative features, skipping right past push-button start to sensors that power the SUV on and off when the driver steps in or out.
Volvo C40 Recharge model line and prices, according to Edmunds (all prices exclude $1,095 destination charge):
- 2022 C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate: $58,750
- 2023 C40 Recharge Twin Core: $55,300
- 2023 C40 Recharge Twin Plus: $56,850
- 2023 C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate: $60,100
What is it?
Don’t let the name — or Volvo’s previous naming system, which apparently no longer applies — fool you. The C40 Recharge is a compact SUV, not the small coupe or hatchback. It’s essentially a more stylish body on the platform and drivetrain of the XC40 Recharge, a competent vehicle with cookie- cutter Volvo looks.
Recharge, if you haven’t cottoned on yet, is the name Volvo uses to distinguish its electric vehicles from cars and SUVs that still have an internal combustion engine. Twin refers to the two electric motors that give it all-wheel drive. Ultimate is the top trim level.
The C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate’s two electric motors produce 300 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque. It has a 78kWh lithium-ion battery than can be charged at up to 150kW.
The EPA rates the C40 Recharge Twin at 39 kWh per 100 miles driven. That’s less efficient than currently available and upcoming competitors like the AWD Audi Q4 E-tron, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Genesis GV60 and the rear-drive Cadillac Lyriq.
The C40 Recharge’s 226-mile range on a full charge is lower than most competitors.
The C40 has room for five, with plenty of headroom, storage and cargo space.
Volvo believes Americans gravitate to SUVs with more typical looks, so you won’t find a C40 on the dealer lot. It’s a special-order vehicle, built in Ghent, Belgium, and shipped to your dealer.
Safety and driver assistance features:
- Adaptive cruise control
- Collision alert
- Automatic braking for front collisions
- Lane keeping alert and assist
- Automatic braking and unlocking after collision
- Driver alert
- Road sign recognition
- Blind spot alert and steering assist
- Rear cross traffic alert and automatic braking
- Automatic braking and seatbelt tightening for imminent rear collision
- Automatic high beams
For the 2022 model year, Volvo only sold Ultimate models. Prices start at $58,750. All prices exclude a $1,095 destination charge.
For 2023, the model line grows to include the $55,300 Core model and $56,850 Plus. C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate prices rise to $60,100 for 2023, according to Edmunds.
I tested a well equipped 2022 C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate with a single option — $695 metallic paint. It stickered at $59,445.
Competing EVs include the Audi Q4 E-tron, Cadillac Lyriq, Tesla X, Genesis GV60 and non-luxury electric SUVs like the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6.
The Volvo’s price stacks up well against most of the luxury models. It’s a bit higher than the mass-market Ford, Hyundai and Kia.
The C40 Recharge will also compete to a limited extent with compact luxury internal combustion SUVs, but I expect electric vehicles’ rapidly improving range, performance, comfort and looks to marginalize similar-size gasoline-burners.
My favorite features:
- Easy-to-modulate one-pedal driving
- Automatic power-on and off
- Google voice assistant
- 600-watt Harman Kardon premium audio with “air sub-woofer”
Could be better:
- CarPlay failed to launch
- Small rear window
- Rear headroom
- Emergency braking triggered by puddle
Fun and fast, with some glitches
The C40 is fun and easy to drive. “Easy” begins with starting — it powers up as soon as you step into the car with a key fob. No button to push. Step on the brake, shift, and off you go.
The lack of an “off” switch – it comes with the start button, they’re a matched set – initially concerned me.
Would I worry about walking off with the power on? No such thing. The proximity sensors are precise enough that my music turned off every time my right foot hit the ground outside the vehicle. I walked away with confidence.
Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay did not start as consistently as the car. It frequently failed to boot, forcing me to pull over and restart the vehicle to continue the music or navigation I’d been using.
The automatic emergency braking went off for no reason once, slowing me dramatically and unexpectedly in a way that could lead to being hit in heavy traffic. I think the system misread the reflection from a puddle as an obstacle. I couldn’t get the misfire to repeat, but Volvo will want to refine the system.
The C40 uses Google’s assistant for navigation, music streaming and other functions. It generally worked well, but every time I asked it to display my battery range or driving range, the map produced directions to the nearest golf driving range. In addition, I never figured out a way to display the range in miles while also using CarPlay’s display for music, as I do frequently. I’m assured those glitches aren’t an indication the tech giants are fighting it out behind the dashboard, but I wouldn’t care if they were, as long as I could use my iPhone.
The fun part came when I tapped the C40’s 487 pound-feet of torque for acceleration from a stop, or to pass. The power is immediate and effective. Volvo won’t say how much the C40 weighs — batteries are heavy, and automakers act like we don’t know that — but acceleration is satisfying.
One-pedal driving to love
The battery’s mass beneath the floor lends itself to a low center of gravity and good balance in quick curves. The C40 felt a bit floaty over bumps on the highway, but was confident, if a bit nose-heavy, on twisty country roads. The steering is firm and direct.
The regenerative braking, which allows you to adjust deceleration and how much power goes back to the battery as the vehicle slows, may be the most satisfying of any EV I’ve driven, particularly in one-pedal mode. One-pedal, a feature that’s rapidly becoming de rigueur in EVs, increases regenerative braking enough that he driver may never have to touch the brake pedal. The C40’s accelerator — no longer a “gas pedal” — was easy to feather, allowing me to balance one-pedal deceleration with sporty driving and coming to a smooth stop exactly where I intended, not a few feet early, as I do in some other EVs.
The interior is roomy and restrained. No wood, no leather. Backlit plastic trim panels on the door and dash offset a bill of materials that might otherwise feel a bit chintzy for a $60,000 SUV.
The Harman Kardon audio system, on the other hand, is top-shelf. The C40 Ultimate comes with a 13-speaker 600-watt system boasting an “air sub-woofer” that delivers outstanding sound in what Volvo says is a light and efficient package.
Rear headroom and cargo space both suffer a bit from the sleek roofline that distinguishes the C40 from Volvo’s more utilitarian XC40.
2022 Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate at a glance
Base price: $58,750 (all prices exclude $1,095 destination charge)
All-wheel drive luxury 5-passenger compact electric
On sale fall 2022
Price as tested: $59,445
Engine: Front- and rear-axle electric motors
Output: 300 hp; 487 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy estimate: 94 mpge city/80 highway/87 combined. 39kW/100 miles
EPA estimated range: 226 miles
EPA estimated annual fuel cost: $750
Charging time: 37 minutes @ 150kW; 8 hours @240v
0-60 time: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 112 mph (electronically limited)
Wheelbase: 106.4 inches
Length: 174.8 inches
Width: 80.1 inches, including mirrors
Height: 62.6 inches, including shark fin
Passenger volume: 86 cubic feet
Cargo volume: 17.3 cubic feet behind rear seat; 0.6 cubic feet in front trunk
Ground clearance: 7 inches
Curb weight: NA
Towing capacity: 3,970 pounds
Assembled in Ghent, Belgium