Review: Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8

Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8

Volvo's first electric car has everything it takes to become a bestseller, but there are two things to keep in mind.

Published 23 January 2021 - 10:00 am
Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8
Lasse Svendsen

Forget the boring image you may have of Volvo, because this edition really shakes up things, despite a rather angular and upright appearance.

The first all-electric Volvo is based on the medium-sized XC40, a relatively compact SUV while the electric driveline is taken from Polestar 2. This means speed resources that are hardly associated with Volvo, permanent four-wheel drive, good range and good driving comfort.

The two electric accelerates pull the car up to 100 km/h in less than five seconds, and the push from a torque of 660 Nm, send accelerations down the spine when you squeeze the accelerator pedal.

Angular, but practical design that stands out. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

But the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8 AWD is not a sports car. It is not even very sporty to drive, despite the enormous speed resources. A Polestar 2 with Performance Pack is far more sporty to steer, and the Tesla Model 3 feels like a skateboard with an electric motor compared to the electric XC40.

Note that the charging socket is on the left side. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

The Volvo is set up for comfort, more than sport. The seats are more comfortable than sporty, although Volvo still calls them sports seats. And I am fine with that, because you sit well in the wide seats with extendable thigh support. Visibility is good and driving comfort in the quiet Volvo is impeccable.

Volvo calls them sports seats, but apart from the name, the nappa seats are just like the regular leather seats. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

We did not have time for a range test, so we will come back to that, but Volvo states 417 km range under optimal conditions. Slightly smaller than the Polestar 2, which is built on the same CMA platform with 78 kWt battery capacity and support for 150 kW fast charging.

The most informative of three screen views, shows the battery capacity in percent. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

Hey, Google

It has Google Automotive, the operating system we know well from Polestar 2, and it works impeccably on voice commands, and is perhaps – together with Teslas – the most accomplished OS in an electric car to date.

Easy driving setup. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

Here you get Google Maps, Google Assistant, Google Play Store with downloadable apps, and a 12.3-inch touch screen combined with a full-dashboard screen in front of the driver.

The voice assistant can, among other things, be used to control the music, you can ask for directions to the nearest charging station, and ask for help finding accommodation nearby, without taking your eyes off the road.

You can also add wireless mobile charging. Just put your phone in the front of the center console, but so far you can not get Apple Carplay in an XC40 Recharge Pure Electric.

The front compartment can be supplied with wireless mobile charging. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

The Volvo XC40 can be ordered with a sound system from Harman Kardon, and I would have chosen that without hesitating. For the system Volvo calls High Performance, which our test car was equipped with, sounds flat and undynamic on music. It’s a bit of a shame, because the quiet and comfortable Volvo would be a perfect starting point for a proper system.

Music lovers should steer clear of the High Performance system! Photo: Lasse Svendsen

The Harman Kardon system can be added to either the package called Navigation and Sound, or the Lounge package which also includes panoramic glass ceilings and 360 cameras. The system is composed of 14 speakers powered by a total of 600 W power, and the sound is optimized by Dirac Unison.

We will return to the Harman Kardon system in an upcoming test of the XC40.

The speakers in the High Performance system sound tame and flat. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

Driving comfort and space

The car is started in the same way as in Polestar 2. Sensors register that you sit in the car, the screens turn on, and then you just choose to drive – or reverse – with the tiny lever center console, and then you drive silently away. When the drive is over, just press the park button.

Just like in any XC40. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

The rather tall Volvo feels agile on the road, but the driving characteristics are of the predictable type, with moderate understeer and good suspension comfort despite the high weight.

The steering is well weighted, and you can choose to have more resistance in the steering wheel from the driving menu. Which also has a setting with the misleading title of off-road driving. In practice, this is a mode for controlled downhill driving, a kind of hill descent, with no lock on wheels or axles.

Like most electric cars, it can be driven in single-pedal mode where the electric motors brake when you release the gas, and at the same time generate some power for the batteries.

You can choose any color you want, as long as it is black. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

There is plenty of space in front. Anyone who has driven a newer Volvo will immediately find themselves at home behind the wheel of the electric XC40. Apart from the fact that Google has found a home in the car, everything else is just like in an XC40 with petrol or hybrid engine.

The quality impression inside is better than in Polestar 2. The Volvo has several padded surfaces, there are no sharp edges in the plastic mold, and the contrast seams on the nappa seats in our test car are a bright spot in an otherwise black and gray compartment


Contrast stitching and Swedish flag. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

The rear seat has heating in the two outer seats, and the back can be folded down completely or partially, and has a ski hatch. Seat comfort is good here too, although the seat cushions are harder than in the front seats, and the seat back is relatively steep. Most can fit in the back seat, but families with children with two rear-facing child seats should check if they fit here before signing the purchase contract.

The rear seat is good for two, but the back of the seat is very upright. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

Two adults sit well in the back, and you get your feet under the chairs in front, but the transmission tunnel steals a lot of the legroom in the middle.

The rear seat backrest can be folded down. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

You will not find a lot of cargo space in an XC40, but the electric version at least has one extra cargo space in front. In the frunk as it is called, there is room for e.g. charging cables, in the waterproof room of 31 liters. At the rear, you can load up to 414 liters, and that includes the small space under the floor at the rear, but if you fold down the rear seat back, the volume increases to 1290 liters.

Enough space for a weekend trip for four. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

It can also tow trailers with up to 1500 kilos total weight, and it takes a roof load of 75 kilos. In other words, the Volvo is a practical, relatively compact, and well-running electric car with four-wheel drive, and plenty of room for four.

31 liters extra in the waterproof room in front. Photo: Lasse Svendsen


Until the Tesla Model Y hits the road, there are hardly any competitors in the same class as the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8. Volkswagen iD.4, Skoda Enyaq and Nissan Ariya, will not be available with four-wheel drive for a while, so if you want an electric SUV with four-wheel drive, the options are very few at the time of writing.

Equipment version

XC40 is not supplied with a heat pump. That is oddly enough extra ecuipment, so be sure to check it off. Also add adaptive cruise control which ought to be standard, and of course one of the packages including the Harman Kardon system. Funny enough, blind spot warning is also optional (on a Volvo?!), But the electric car version, which is based on Volvo’s R-design package, is otherwise well equipped, with 19-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, parking assistant, rear view camera and heated steering wheel.

360 camera. Photo: Lasse Svendsen

There is limited color choice compared to the hybrid version of the XC40. Inside, you can choose between three versions of black on black, but note that the seats are identical even though Volvo claims that those with nappa leather and contrast stitching are sports seats. Sure!

Solid first impression

Volvo has recently announced that it is tripling the production capacity of electric cars in Ghent, Belgium, where the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8 is produced. It’s probably smart, because the car has the potential to become a big seller for Volvo, and the waiting lists already extend to June 2021 for cars you order today. The medium-sized electric SUV is large enough for many families, and comfortable enough for long trips as well as flexible enough for the daily shopping trips. The hefty acceleration quickly becomes addictive, but it is the driving comfort that is in the driver’s seat here. Just remember to order it with the heat pump and the Harman Kardon system.

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The middle neck rest must be raised if you are going to use the ski hatch. Photo: Lasse Svendsen
Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8

We think

Very good speed reserve, safe driving characteristics and good comfort. Google Automotive is thorough and easy to use. Good range. Solid quality impression, the design stands out. Cannot be shipped with Apple CarPlay. The High Performance facility is not for music lovers. Heat pump and adaptive cruise control are optional. Limited color and equipment selection.

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