The electric Volvo C40 Recharge is excellent, despite electronic flaws

Electric vehicles have finally reached the mainstream. I know this because when I write about the sleek new Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate SUV, all my complaints are about ordinary car problems, none focus 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 electric vehicle is simple and easy, from exiting your driveway to its exceptionally well-tuned transmission and brakes.

It also offers innovative features, switching right after push-button start to sensors that turn the SUV on and off as the driver enters or exits.

Volvo C40 Recharge model lineup and pricing, according to Edmunds (all prices exclude $1,095 destination charge):

  • 2022 C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate: $58,750
  • 2023 C40 Twin Core Refill: $55,300
  • 2023 C40 Recharge Twin Plus: $56,850
  • 2023 C40 Twin Ultimate Recharge: $60,100

What is that?

Don’t let the name – or Volvo’s old naming system, which apparently no longer applies – fool you. The C40 Recharge is a compact SUV, not a small coupe or sedan. It’s essentially a sleeker body on the platform and powertrain of the XC40 Recharge, a competent vehicle with a cookie-cutter Volvo look.

Recharge, if you haven’t figured it out 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 highest trim level.

The C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate’s two electric motors produce 300 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque. It has a 78 kWh lithium-ion battery that can be charged up to 150 kW.

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 all-wheel-drive Audi Q4 E-tron, Ford Mustang Mach-E, Genesis GV60 and rear-drive Cadillac Lyriq.

Showing the charging progress of a 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate EV on a 150kW DC fast charger.

The C40 Recharge’s 226-mile range on a full charge is less than most competitors.

The C40 has room for five, with plenty of headroom, storage and cargo space.

Volvo thinks Americans are drawn to more typical-looking SUVs, so you won’t find a C40 at the dealership. This is a special order vehicle, built in Ghent, Belgium, and shipped to your dealership.

Safety and driving assistance functions:

  • Adaptive cruise control
  • collision alert
  • Automatic braking in the event of a frontal collision
  • Lane keeping alert and assistance
  • Braking and automatic unlocking after collision
  • Driver alert
  • Road sign recognition
  • Blind Spot Alert and Steering Assist
  • Rear cross traffic alert and automatic braking
  • Automatic braking and tightening of seat belts in the event of an imminent rear collision
  • Automatic high beams

How many?

For the 2022 model year, Volvo only sold Ultimate models. Prices start at $58,750. All prices exclude destination charge of $1,095.

For 2023, the model lineup expands to include the $55,300 Core and $56,850 Plus model. Prices for the C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate jump to $60,100 for 2023, according to Edmunds.

I tested a well-equipped 2022 C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate with just one option—$695 metallic paint. It stuck to $59,445.

Competing electric vehicles 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.

Volvo is building the C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate electric SUV in Ghent, Belgium.

The Volvo’s price compares well with most luxury models. That’s a bit higher than the mainstream Ford, Hyundai and Kia.

The C40 Recharge will also compete to a limited extent with internal combustion-powered luxury compact SUVs, but I expect the range, performance, comfort and appearance of electric vehicles to improve rapidly to sideline the gasoline burners of similar size.

My favorite features:

  • Easy to modulate one-pedal driving
  • Automatic on and off
  • Google voice assistant
  • 600-watt Harman Kardon premium audio with “air-powered subwoofer”

This could be better:

  • CarPlay could not launch
  • Small rear window
  • Rear roof guard
  • Interval
  • Emergency braking triggered by a puddle

Fun and fast, with some issues

The C40 is fun and easy to drive. “Easy” starts with the start – it turns on as soon as you enter the car with a key fob. No buttons to press. Step on the brake, shift gears and off you go.

The lack of an “off” switch – it comes with the start button, they match – initially worried me.

Would I worry about leaving with the power on? It does not exist. The proximity sensors are accurate enough that my music will turn off whenever my right foot hits the ground outside the vehicle. I left with confidence.

Unfortunately, Apple CarPlay didn’t start as smoothly as the car. It often failed to start, requiring me to stop and restart the vehicle to continue whatever music or navigation I was using.

The automatic emergency brake kicked in once for no reason, slowing me down dramatically and unexpectedly in a way that could lead to a collision in heavy traffic. I think the system misinterpreted the reflection of a puddle as an obstacle. I couldn’t get the misfire to repeat, but Volvo will want to fine-tune the system.

The predicted range of the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate EV can be seen on its central infotainment screen.

The C40 uses the Google Assistant for navigation, music streaming and other functions. It usually worked fine, but whenever I asked it to show my battery life or range, the map produced directions to the nearest golf driving range. Also, I’ve never found a way to display range in miles while using the CarPlay display for music, as I frequently do. I’m sure these issues aren’t an indication of the tech giants fighting behind the dashboard, but I don’t care if they are, as long as I can use my iPhone.

The fun part came when I tapped the C40’s 487 lb-ft of torque to accelerate from a stop or to pass. The power is immediate and effective. Volvo won’t say how much the C40 weighs – the batteries are heavy and the automakers act like we don’t know – but the acceleration is satisfying.

Drive to a pedal to love

The battery mass below the floor lends itself to a low center of gravity and good balance in fast corners. The C40 felt a little floaty over bumps on the highway, but was confident, if a little heavy, on twisty country roads. The steering is firm and direct.

Regenerative braking, which lets you adjust deceleration and the amount of energy returned to the battery as the vehicle slows down, may be the most satisfying of any EV I’ve driven, especially in one-pedal mode . The single pedal, a feature that is quickly becoming de rigueur in electric vehicles, increases regenerative braking enough that the driver never has to touch the brake pedal. The C40’s throttle – no longer a “gas pedal” – was easy to feather, allowing me to balance one-pedal deceleration with spirited driving and stopping smoothly exactly where I wanted it, not a few feet earlier like I do in some other EVs.

The interior is spacious and sober. No wood, no leather. Backlit plastic trim panels on the door and dash offset a bill of materials that might otherwise seem a bit chintzy for a $60,000 SUV.

The central touchscreen of the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate EV handles a range of features.

The Harman Kardon audio system, meanwhile, is top of the line. The C40 Ultimate comes with a 13-speaker, 600-watt system featuring an “air-powered subwoofer” that delivers great sound in what Volvo says is a lightweight and efficient package.

Rear headroom and cargo space both suffer a bit from the sleek roofline that sets the C40 apart from Volvo’s more utilitarian XC40.

Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate 2022 at a glance

Base price: $58,750 (all prices exclude destination fee of $1,095)

5-Passenger Luxury Compact Electric All-Wheel Drive

On sale fall 2022

Price as tested: $59,445

Motor: Electric motors on front and rear axles

Power: 300 hp; 487 lb-ft of torque

Transmission: single-speed automatic

EPA fuel economy rating: 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 at 150 kW; 8 hours @240v

0-60 time: 4.5 seconds

Maximum speed: 180 km/h (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

Contact Mark Phelan at 313-222-6731 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan. Learn more about automobiles and sign up for our automobiles newsletter. Become a subscriber.

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