SAVING FUEL COMES AT A PRICE

VOLVO

ALEX INWOOD

VOLVO XC40 RECHARGE

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

VOLVO has added a new flagship variant to its COTY-winning XC40 range. Dubbed ‘Recharge’ this plug-in hybrid is the first of two electrified XC40s heading our way and will be followed by an all-electric version in early 2021 that will usurp it both for price and performance. For now, though, this is the most expensive XC40 of the lot courtesy of a $64,990 sticker. That’s a chunky $8000 more expensive than the previous T5 range-topper and, initially at least, the cost-benefit analysis seems a little skew-whiff. 

Equipment levels are on-par with the well-equipped T5 R-Design, and the T5 is almost a second quicker to 100km/h and has the benefit of all-wheel drive. The plug-in Recharge is front-drive only. 

So why buy the hybrid? Saving fuel is the primary attraction. The Recharge combines a punchy 132kW/265Nm 1.5-litre three cylinder turbo petrol with a 10.7kWh battery pack and single electric motor good for 60kW/160Nm. Electric-only range is 45km (we managed 42km) and exactly how efficient your car is will depend on how often you plug it in. It’ll do up to 125km/h on battery-only propulsion so if you keep it fully charged and drive mostly short distances – say to the office and back – then Volvo’s official 2.2L/100km claim seem feasible.

Without topping up the battery we recorded 7.5L/100km over 400km of urban driving, which is a healthy 30 percent improvement on the T5 longtermer Wheels ran last year.

Real-world performance is better than the on-paper numbers suggest, too. Slotting into gaps in traffic is a cinch thanks the electric motor’s instant shove, though the hand-off from battery to petrol motor isn’t always the smoothest. Suddenly asking for max power results in a pause, then a jolt, as the ICE component wakes up.

The brakes can take some getting used to as well. They lack progression and are plagued by a wooden pedal that’s difficult to modulate when you need to come to a complete stop.

The rest of the package is typical XC40, which is to say class-leading. The cabin is roomy and beautifully built, the boost is a useful 460L, the steering is light and accurate (if too remote) and equipment and safety levels are high. 

Recharge variants come standard with Volvo’s R-Design pack which adds stiffer springs and 20-inch wheels. The primary ride is mostly well judged, with only occasional impact harshness over sharp bumps. Adaptive dampers aren’t available, though you can opt for 19-inch wheels with chubbier sidewalls as a no-cost option.

Spec it correctly and the XC40 Recharge is more than the sum of its parts. It makes more sense in the real world than it does on paper, providing you’re willing to pay for the privilege. 

ALEX INWOOD

Model Volvo XC40 Recharge

Engine 1477cc 3cyl, dohc, 12v, turbo

Motor Single (front axle)Motor 

Battery 10.7kWh lithium-ion

Power 195kW(combined)

Torque 265Nm(engine) + 160Nm (motor)

Transmission seven-speed dual-clutch

Kerb weight 1760kg

0-100km/h 7.3sec (claimed)

Economy 2.2L/100km

Price $64,990

On sale: Now

PLUS

Genuine economy gains; useful EV range; rich spec; powertrain performance; packaging 

MINUS

Firm ride on 20s; integration of electric/petrol not always seamless; wooden brake pedal