2022 Volvo C40 Recharge First Drive | Joining the crossover coupe party

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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Volvo doesn’t rock the design boat very often, but the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge is an exception to the Swedish car company’s sedate but handsome standard. The C40 is an all-electric crossover coupe and it is Volvo’s first vehicle to take this fastback form. Not only that, it’s also Volvo’s second electric car to closely follow the XC40 Recharge, a vehicle we’ll be driving soon.

Because the C40 Recharge is a new form for Volvo, the design and technology teams use it to introduce new ideas, both inside and out. The rear features Volvo’s new LED taillight technology with segmented LEDs and sequential-activating turn signals for a different look than the typical fully illuminated Volvo taillight. Its grille introduces a new “Iron Mark” that houses a brand new (and improved) array of radar for the driver assistance systems – the logo is now also heated to ensure ice or snow buildup won’t stop the systems from functioning.

As for the crossover coupe part of this design, you’ll notice that the rear is full of spoilers. Volvo’s head of design, Eric Beak, tells us that the twin fin-like roof spoilers are there as aerodynamic aids to increase range. Meanwhile, the large spoiler protruding from the rear edge of the car is designed to give the car more stability at high speeds by reducing lift. The 20-inch wheels you see in the photo here are the only option, so hopefully you’ll like them. We do, and we like the look of this car in general. Photos don’t accurately reflect the angularity and shape of the body panels, but the C40 is a striking crossover coupe when you get close to it.

Ultimately, what could be even more controversial than the exterior design is the interior material choices. You won’t find an inch of leather covering the interior of the C40. Instead, Volvo focuses on sustainable materials made with recyclable materials. The seats, for example, are made from Volvo’s suede-like Microtech material, which is made from recycled polyester. Dumping leather is great, as long as the replacement fits a luxury vehicle at a luxury price, and in this case it works in almost every area. Our only complaint is the handlebars, as the leatherette replacement used here feels too much like plastic and isn’t nearly as nice or smooth to hold as quality leather.

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When it comes to driving and charging the C40, the experience is a vaguely familiar one. The platform underlying this car is Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), which also underpins the Polestar 2 and XC40 Recharge. For the first model year of the C40, it comes in one battery configuration: a 78 kWh liquid-cooled lithium-ion pack with a usable energy storage capacity of 75 kWh. According to EPA testing, this gives a range of 226 miles on a full charge. That’s 3 miles more than the XC40 Recharge, but 37 miles less than the twin-engine Polestar 2. Several other four-wheel drive EVs from other companies offer even more range. The charging speed is up to 150 kW when connected to a DC fast charger, allowing you to charge from 0-80% in approximately 40 minutes. If you’re lucky enough to be in the area, we recommend trying out Volvo’s new Starbucks chargers in the Pacific Northwest.

Stepping on the accelerator on the C40 is enough to immediately draw someone’s attention. Again, only one drivetrain/engine configuration is available: each axle gets an identical motor, making the C40 a four-wheel drive crossover. Volvo hasn’t announced a single-engine front-wheel drive model yet, but given its existence on other CMA models, it could easily be introduced here as well. The two engines combine for a total system horsepower of 402 horsepower and 486 pound-feet of torque. Despite the C40’s prodigious weight of 4,817 pounds, that power is still enough for a 0-100km/h time of just 4.7 seconds. As with all Volvos, the top speed is electronically limited to 112 mph.

Volvo tries not to break your neck off the line, but the acceleration picks up quickly after the first push. Where the C40 will try to give you whiplash whiplash is full throttle applications already in motion. The experience is comparable to virtually any other high-performance EV. Put your foot on it and there’s no delay. There is an artificial light hum in the cabin, but Volvo avoided the kind of loud futuristic noises that fill other EVs. Even if you’re driving up a steep mountain pass, the C40 will always happily pin you to your seat.

Handling the switchbacks on the said pass outside Palm Springs is respectable, but don’t think this car is a Polestar just because it shares its platform with one – there are no Öhlins dampers to be found here. Yes, the underfloor battery gives the C40 a nice, low center of gravity, but it still doesn’t disguise the weight. You can feel the mass of this car when you’re building g’s through a long bend or when slowing down downhill doesn’t seem as exciting as you might expect due to its size. Big tires with a width of 255 sections give a stable and planted feel through corners, but you will quickly run out of grip if you put too much faith in those Pirellis. A Polestar 2 is considerably more fun to drive.

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There are no riding modes – just a toggle to “firm the steering feel” – so it’s mostly one size fits all, and the single size works for the most part. Of all the possible improvements, the most profound change could probably be made in the power balance. As it stands, the front wheels often have a lot more torque (despite always being a 50/50 torque split) than you’d like, causing torque control and disrupting your rhythm. The C40 dumps its power if you say so, but there’s enough of it that a limited-slip differential or torque vector system would be highly beneficial for enthusiastic driving.

City cruising is largely enjoyable, as the C40 has a quiet cabin and the single-pedal drive mode works wonders. We can’t tell you how it handles on bad roads thanks to Palm Springs’ excellent road surface quality, but that question will be answered when we get a C40 on our own turf in Michigan.

The only nagging annoyance that comes as standard when driving the C40 is the supercar-esque rear view. Looking through the small window in the mirror is like looking through a letterbox, and although it didn’t rain during our time with the car, we suspect that the lack of a rear wiper will worsen winter and rain visibility. Few cars beg for a digital rear-view mirror more than this one.

Despite the C40’s short stature and sloping roofline, utility still gets decent points for a small crossover coupe. The rear seats are downright spacious in both leg and headroom, with the latter being the real surprise. Your 5 foot 10 author didn’t even come close to cleaning the roof in the back seat. And while cargo space is negatively impacted compared to the XC40 Recharge, it’s not a terrible loss at just 1.4 cubic feet less. There is a little frunk, but it can’t keep much out of the charging cable.

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Like other Volvos in the line-up, the C40 uses the latest version of Google’s Android Automotive OS infotainment system for display on the 9-inch touchscreen. It won’t support Apple CarPlay at launch, but Volvo says it will arrive via an over-the-air software update this year. Even with the omission, this infotainment is excellent to use with Google Maps as the native navigation system and Google Assistant for voice commands.

We find it a bit annoying to see some control buttons disappear and appear on the screen, such as the activation of Volvo’s Pilot Assist driving assistant – now it takes several clicks of the button to turn this on or off, unlike to a simple steering wheel switch in other Volvos and other brands. On the plus side, Volvo’s 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is a winner with crisp graphics and a handy Google Maps display in the center.

Volvo has eliminated any discussion of equipment by choosing to offer the C40 in a single fully loaded trim in 2022. You can choose your exterior color and interior… and that’s it. We highly recommend the Fjord Blue pictured, which Volvo says is inspired by the water color of fjords in Sweden. This can then be combined with the Fjord Blue interior with blue carpeting and lots of blue interior trim. It looks spectacular and it fits nicely with the glowing dashboard finish that resembles a topographical map of Sweden’s Abisko National Park.

For $60,940, the C40 Recharge can be yours and the full $7,500 federal tax credit applies. The feature set is mostly complete, but there are a few odd omissions like a lack of refrigerated seats and a 360-degree camera. An XC40 Recharge with a similar trim level is about $1,500 cheaper, so that’s the premium you pay for the unique crossover coupe body style. There’s nothing special about the C40 in the EV space when it comes to the way it drives or the drivetrain, but as a style statement it’s a compelling option. Unique features such as the sustainably produced interior, Google technology, Volvo’s safety reputation and its relatively small size (compared to the rest of the luxury EV crossover market) make it desirable. We can’t imagine that the C40 will ever be a volume leader in the segment, but don’t put it off in your quest for electric cars.

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