To a dedicated petrolhead whose formative years involved making ‘Vroom Vroom’ noises while pushing toy cars around carefully made tracks on a dusty driveway and fully embracing the love affair that blossomed from there, the idea of an electric car is simply anathema.
At the same time, I do fully understand and embrace the need for the human race to get its collective act together and make this precious Earth a more pleasant place to live, so pollutants have to be vastly reduced – and the electric car is one possible solution (and not a panacea).
Sparking up the Volvo XC 40 Recharge Single for the first time brought back memories of the very first electric car I drove at Volvo’s Gothenburg headquarters in Sweden in the mid-80s. This car was quite a futuristic design and had heavy batteries and a minimal range, never actually making it beyond the ‘concept car’ stage and finally being consigned as a museum piece.
Move forward to the car on test and it still has a futuristic element to the design, especially in front where there is no grille as there is no radiator. From the outside it is sleek, stylish and generally appealing in looks, the coupe styling of the roof curve giving it a bit of a sporty tweak.
This does change a tad on the inside where that swoop of the roof to the rear results in a very small rear window aperture – and, while I do not normally discuss options added to test cars, must make mention of the window tint.
The optional tint was so dark it made driving during the day quite difficult in terms of clearly seeing the road behind in the rearview and side mirrors, becoming impossible at night. The point here is, if you elect to go for a window tint, check the percentage very carefully.
For the rest, the interior is pure Volvo – carefully planned and laid out using upmarket materials and providing high levels of comfort.
As is always the case with Volvo, it is generously specified, with only a panoramic sunroof, window tint and heated seats/steering wheel as optional as everything else is standard. The list of standard features includes items such as wireless smartphone charging, parking sensors (front and rear), a reversing camera and the company’s latest Android-powered touchscreen infotainment system, complete with built-in Google apps and services.
Customers may also choose to upgrade to 20-inch wheels, from the original 19-inch wheels and Volvo’s suite of safety features as well as the Pilot Assist driver support system are also included in the purchase price, along with the Volvo CARE package, which here comprises a five-year maintenance plan and warranty, three years of comprehensive insurance, use of a petrol car for two weeks per year for three years, a public charge cable and a wall box home charger.
The XC40 Recharge Single is rated to travel up to 423 km on a single charge thanks to its low-mounted, high-voltage 69 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Fitted with a powerful 11 kW onboard charger as standard, this model also benefits from very competitive charging capabilities.
With a permanently sealed and maintenance-free electric motor mounted on the front axle (and thus driving the front wheels), the XC40 Recharge Single boasts maximum outputs of 170 kW and 330 Nm, which translates to a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 7,4 seconds.
The little fella in the red race suit and crash helmet who lives on my left shoulder is stabbing me repeatedly in the neck with his pitchfork, screaming ‘traitor, traitor’ as I write but, there is simply no getting around the fact the XC 40 is an absolute delight to drive.
The instant power and torque that comes from electric power should, really, be any petrolhead's dream – only the eerie silence detracting from the exhilaration of the get-up-and-go.
Equally impressive is the regenerative braking. With a bit of practice, it is possible to drive the car in pretty much all situations and speeds using only the throttle. As the accelerator is released the car instantly starts to slow and moves into charging mode – more importantly, rapidly and safely coming to a complete stop if the throttle modulation is managed correctly.
In the test period, the actual distance hovered around the 330 km mark in daily usage in traffic and off-peak times which means the average user going to work and back should get nearly a week’s usage before a full recharge is required.Home or AC charging does take several hours but using a DC charger gets you from 40% to 80% in an hour and there are several of these charging stations in major shopping centres.
As mentioned, it is pure Volvo, so the ride, handling and general behaviour of the XC 40 on the road is on a par with its petrol counterparts – this being comfortable, able to soften road ripples and hurry around corners when the need arises.
The car has a single electric motor driving the front wheels so that exercise in throttle control comes into play when pressing on as that instant power applied at the wrong moment in a corner gives the traction control plenty to worry about.
‘Ouch’ – he’s at it again! But, yes, I did enjoy driving this car.
Colin Windell – proudly ALL THINGS MOTORING