► Volvo’s first full EV
► Rapid acceleration, and range over 200 mile
► Only available at first in £60k top spec
The most impressive thing about the first all-electric Volvo is not its lively acceleration, although 4.9 seconds to 62mph can be fun. Nor is it the good real-world range, of more than 200 miles per charge. Nor is it the new Google-based infotainment, effective as that is. And it’s certainly not the clunky, confusing name: Volvo XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8 First Edition.
No, the real achievement is just how much like every other XC40 it feels to drive or be passengered in. Considering that the powertrain is completely different, and the weight much greater, it does a very good job of offering the same mix of refinement, comfort and feelgood modernity
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Unfortunately, it’s for now only available in a near-£60,000 spec’d-up First Edition model.
Just how different is it?
From the outside, the main giveaway is the blanked-off grille. The wheels are a different design. (They’re 20-inchers as standard, although our pre-production test car rode on 19s.) The filler is on the other side, and of course takes electricity rather than unleaded. And that’s it.
Inside, it’s barely changed. There’s no ignition key or starter button – a sensor in the seat knows you’re there. There’s a simple D or R or P selector instead of a gearlever. And the instruments are slightly revised, with infotainment now run by a new Volvo/Google system.
The significant changes are all hidden from view. The XC40 Recharge Pure Electric P8 First Edition has a 78kWh lithium-ion battery (75kWh net) under the floor, with one electric motor on the rear axle and one on the front, and all-wheel drive.
Can you still get a normal XC40?
There are no diesels, but there’s a variety of petrols, mild hybrids and plug-in hybrids. You can choose front- or all-wheel drive, and spec from the modest to the full monty. For the P8, though, it’s First Edition spec or nothing (although lower-spec models are certain to follow, along with versions with smaller batteries, single motors and front-wheel drive).
First Edition involves every options pack, leaving the buyer to decide only on their preferred colour, and whether they want to pay for a cycle carrier or towbar.
Even with all the electric comfort features and safety aids Volvo could find in its warehouse, the XC40 interior is still remarkably clean, simple, modern and airy. It’s a great bit of design, with smart use of unconventional fabrics, some of them recycled.
Boot capacity is unaltered, and there’s a modest extra trunk at the front, but the charging cable almost fills that up.
And the new infotainment?
Co-developed by Volvo and Google, it merges smartphone-familiar features like Google Assistant and Google Maps with the usual Volvo touchscreen (a 12.3in version in this case). Sounds a bit messy, but isn’t. It’s an absolute breeze to operate by voice, with the upshot that you spend very little time looking at the screen and thumbing through menus wondering how to adjust your seat heater. The answer for just about everything now starts with saying ‘Hey Google’ and letting Silicon Valley do the rest.
You can decline to share your data with Google, and you can opt out completely, but the trade-off will be a less helpful car.
Want to know how much range you’ve got remaining? The dash will only tell you as a percentage, but Google will give you the figure in miles; you only have to ask.
It’s set up for over-the-air updates, not just to the infotainment but to the whole car, although Volvo promises it won’t do those too often.
That range figure sounds pretty good
It is. We drove for 50 miles, a mix of town and country with a lot of spot-start and a bit of pedal-to-the-metal, and it still reckoned it had 155 miles of charge. If you use a fast charger, your mid-journey stops could be a relatively decent 40 minutes (from empty to 80 per cent).
If you drive hard, that will of course drop, but there’s not much to be gained by caning it. The XC40, in any guise, doesn’t feel like a performance car, with handling that doesn’t engage with the committed driver. It’s much happier breezing around smoothly and quietly, and so will you be.
There are no drive modes, although you can make the steering firmer at the touch of an icon, and there’s an off-road setting. The main choice is whether or not to go for One Pedal driving. If you do, then the electric motors do most of your slowing down for you when you ease off the accelerator. If you don’t, the car will coast when you throttle back, and you need to press the brake pedal in the conventional way. There are pros and cons to both – potentially more energy is recaptured in One Pedal driving; it’s generally much smoother with One Pedal off. Different drivers will make their own decisions about which settings best suit which journeys.
This is a very accomplished EV debut, achieving Volvo’s aim of making the transition simple and painless, aside from the vertiginous price. It’s clearly aimed at early adopters, and it should do a good marketing job, in that the first XC40 P8 that anyone sees will be a quick, well equipped one, driven by someone smart and wealthy.
Expect lower-spec versions to follow, along with models with smaller batteries and a single motor, driving just the front wheels. And assuming Volvo executes those as well as it’s executed the P8, those more modest EVs should retain all of this range-topper’s best qualities: its style, its feelgood factor and its user-friendly, easygoing nature.