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Volvo C40 Recharge review: Volvo's tiny electric rocket ship

Volvo C40 Recharge review: Volvo's tiny electric rocket ship

More manufacturers are also launching their second or third generation EVs, battery-powered cars mounted on a chassis designed specifically for the electric motor, not the engine. Meanwhile, Volvo's current EV offering is still operating with the five-year-old CMA platform, which was designed to hold everything from turbo diesels to lithium-ion batteries.

It would seem like a huge hurdle, but when the resulting car runs, looks and feels good, it's hard to count platform flexibility as a mark against it.

It's the Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate, the long name for Volvo's smallest EV. However, barely. It's only a small piece from the XC40 Recharge, the rear hatch has been cropped to provide crossover-coupe styling, which is too hot to quote Mugatu. Moving to the C40 instead of the XC40 loses 8.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity and 2.4 inches of rear headroom. In return, you get that refreshing style and a shot of personality that many of today's EVs lack.

big well energy
From the hammered headlights of the Thor to the sharply sloping rear glass (which sadly lacks wipers), the C40 recharges trim and looks sharp. It's far from showy—but then, there are some Scandinavian designs, and even then, they're generally pretty cool.

Volvo ditched it in a color called "Fjord Blue," a lovely light metallic shade that sadly, the Swedish manufacturer is the kind of color adventurer these days. Scroll through the entire palette of C40 Recharge color options and you'll find one red, one white, two black and three grays—one of which is almost green. Downhearted.

But step inside and everything is forgiven. Check out the interior, which is highlighted by an even stronger shade that, curiously, is still called fjord blue. I'm not sure why Volvo didn't choose a different name, but I love the result, a tightly woven cerulean carpet paired with suede microfiber and vinyl seats, all with a charcoal headliner. Modern Volvo interiors have always looked attractive, and that's really cool. It's 100 percent leather-free, which is a nice bonus.

A laminated, tinted glass roof sets it all off, letting in plenty of light without glare. At night, doors and dash inlays emit such a subtle glow that you might at first think you're seeing things. It's a stellar effect that's less flashy but no less memorable than the typical Technicolor LEDs on many modern German luxury machines.

It's all wrapped around an eight-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen housing, which is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this entire car: Android Automotive.

android overload
When Google announced this all-powerful in-car native flavor of Android in 2019, I was completely on board. Volvo was also signing up for both the house brand and country cousin Polestar.

Now, years after Android Automotive hit the streets, very little has changed. The app selection is hardly more impressive than it was at launch, yet missing key entries that have been featured on smartphone-based Android Auto for years. Most annoying of all, you still can't use the phone-based Android Auto interface, but at least Apple CarPlay is finally here.

The overall experience feels disappointingly basic, especially with the non-customizable gauge cluster that only offers two near-identical views. Thankfully, the features that are here work well. If you're a Google user, you'll feel at home if you rely on the big G's Google Assistant, Calendar, Contacts, and Maps. The navigation experience is truly top-notch, giving accurate range estimates for every destination, including round trips, and automatically suggesting charging stopovers along the way. The integrated assistant makes finding and modifying vehicle settings as easy as ending the road trip debate about obscure trivia factoids.

However, those road trips will either be short or will be interrupted by frequent charging. Range is the C40's other concern, though it honestly didn't bother me much in my testing. The C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate is EPA rated for 226 miles on a single charge, with a combined mile per gallon gasoline equivalent (MPGe) rating of 87, or 39kWh per 100 miles. In my testing of the car at mixed city and highway speeds, I've found that to be on the conservative side, averaging 34.1kWh per 100 miles. Looking at the car's 87kWh battery, you're looking at a theoretical maximum range of 255 miles. That's enough in my book.

Over and over again, on multiple loans, I exceeded EPA ratings while finding integrated category estimates from Google Maps to be on the money. It's not only exhilarating, but also impressive, because I can't resist a little speed when I'm driving this thing.

You see, it might look like a buttoned-up and slightly cute crossover SUV, but it's actually a bit of a rocket ship. The C40 Recharge makes 402 horsepower and 486 pound-feet of torque from its pair of electric motors. That's enough for a zero to 60 sprint of 4.5 seconds or the equivalent of the new Nissan Z.

Torque is addictive. I really felt bad doing range tests on this because I couldn't resist sampling the go pedal more than I needed to go out of every corner and roundabout. But the way the recharge proceeds, the inside tire screeches for grip, which makes me smile every time. That you can run it that way and still beat the EPA rating says a lot to the power of the platform here - however it may be.

But it is actually an SUV and not a sports car. Handling is more engaging than you'd expect and, with one-pedal driving, it's a blast to cruise through winding roads without touching the brakes. The special thing is that its ride quality is quite good. Despite the larger 20-inch wheels and tires, the C40 recharge here is much smoother than the Tesla Model Y. And it's, of course, blissful and cool in a way that only a well-engineered EV can do.

security and luxury
Door testing is a bit outdated and an inaccurate way to determine a car's quality—but just like that, locking any of the four doors on the C40 feels like you're sealing a safe. , He shut the world down with an official thunk you can feel in your chest. Mind you, if you're sitting in the back seats, you're liable to feel it in your head as well. The rear-seat headroom doesn't benefit from that cropped coupe-like roofline, but younger adults and kids won't complain.

The robustness of the platform makes it a great place for a 13-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. Queuing up tunes is easy if you're a YouTube Music user, but even if you BYO audio from another service, the car may need a little tuning to make sure the subwoofer doesn't sink high . Feels great after.

My favorite part of the sound system is the huge volume knob with an integrated play/pause button that Volvo is still putting in all of their cars. There's so much weight in that knob that giving it a nice counterclockwise spin to mute audio is incredibly satisfying. In the meantime, I'm always wondering why more manufacturers don't include dedicated play/pause buttons, as I find myself using them all the time on any Volvo I test.

Pricing and Competition
That sound system, along with a panoramic glass roof and a dozen other features, comes as part of the Ultimate package, which starts at $58,750. For that, you get Volvo's comprehensive active safety system, Pilot Assist, which includes adaptive cruise with lane-keep assist, and automatic emergency braking. A heat pump helps with range in cold weather while a 360-degree camera helps you with parking.

That fjord blue paint costs an additional $695. Add on the $1,095 destination fee, and you can get yourself that car you pictured here for $60,540. Now, that's a bit darling for such a small SUV, even as you should compare it to the gas-powered nature of the Volvo. A similarly equipped XC40 B5 Ultimate comes in at $49,290—but it certainly burns gas and makes do with about half the torque.

And what if you're thinking about Tesla? Well, the Model Y is bigger, but it's close enough that I think a lot of people will cross-shop. The comparison range will fall nicely in favor of the 318 mile Tesla for longer ranges, but you'll pay for it. The Model Y Long Range starts at $65,990 and has a destination of $1,200. With the low ride quality and decidedly low fares in the interior, along with the autopilot's questionable behavior, and in my book the C40 Recharge is a better buy.

The C40 isn't a cheap car, not by a long shot, but it performs well enough that you'll forgive the medium and heavy infotainment. It's a car that's so clean, quiet, and capable that you feel better as soon as you sit down, lock that safe-like door, and walk away. Or, in my case, proceed to smile like hell.

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