First drive of the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. — Volvo doesn’t often rock the design boat, but the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge is an exception to the Swedish automaker’s stilted but good-looking standard. The C40 is a fully electric crossover coupe, and it’s Volvo’s first vehicle to adopt this fastback form. Not only that, but it’s also Volvo’s second electric car, closely following the XC40 Recharge, a vehicle we’ll be driving soon.

As the C40 Recharge is a new shape for Volvo, design and technology teams use it to launch new ideas inside and out. The rear features Volvo’s new LED taillight technology which includes segmented LEDs and sequentially activated turn signals for a different look to the typical fully illuminated Volvo taillight. Its grille debuts a new “Iron Mark” which houses an all-new (and improved) suite of radars for the driver assistance systems – the logo is also now heated to ensure that neither ice nor buildup of snow will prevent the systems from operating.

As for the crossover coupe part of this design, you’ll notice that the rear is full of spoilers. Volvo design manager Eric Beak tells us the twin wing-shaped roof spoilers are there as aero aids in an effort to increase range. Meanwhile, the large spoiler that protrudes on the trailing edge of the car is designed to give the car greater stability at high speeds by reducing lift. The 20 inch wheels you see in the picture are the only option, so hope you like them. We do, and we love the look of this car overall. Photographs don’t properly capture the angularity and shape of the body panels, but the C40 is a striking crossover coupe when you get up close.

What might ultimately be even more controversial than the exterior design are 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 from recyclable materials. For example, the seats are made from Volvo’s suede-like Microtech material, which is made from recycled polyester. Abandoning leather is great, as long as the replacement suits a luxury vehicle at a luxury price point, and in that case, it works in just about every way. Our only complaint is the steering wheel, as the synthetic leather substitute used here feels too plastic and nowhere near as nice or supple to hold as quality leather.

When it comes to driving and charging the C40, the experience is vaguely familiar. The platform that underpins this car is Volvo’s Compact Modular Architecture (CMA), which also underpins the Polestar 2 and XC40 Recharge. For the C40’s first model year, it’s offered in a battery configuration: a liquid-cooled, 78 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion pack that has 75 kWh of usable energy storage capacity. According to EPA testing, this gives you a range of 226 miles on a full charge. That’s 3 miles more than the XC40 Recharge, but 23 miles less than the twin-motor Polestar 2. Various other all-wheel-drive electric vehicles from other companies offer even more range than this. Charging speed peaks at 150kW when plugged into a DC fast charger, allowing you to go from 0-80% charge in around 40 minutes. If you’re lucky enough to be located nearby, we recommend trying Volvo’s new Starbucks Chargers in the Pacific Northwest.

Just press the throttle on the C40 to instantly grab anyone’s attention. Again, only one transmission/motor configuration is available: each axle receives an identical motor, thus making the C40 an all-wheel-drive crossover. Volvo has yet to announce a single-motor front-wheel-drive model, but given its existence on other CMA models, it could easily be introduced here as well. The two motors combine for a total system output of 402 horsepower and 486 pound-feet of torque. Despite the C40’s prodigious 4,817-pound curb weight, that’s still enough power for a 0-60 mph time of just 4.7 seconds. Similar to all Volvos now, top speed is electronically limited to 112 mph.

Volvo isn’t trying to break your neck, but acceleration picks up quickly after the initial push. Where the C40 will try to give you a whiplash is full-throttle applications done while it’s already in motion. The experience is similar to virtually any other powerful electric vehicle. Put your foot down, and there’s no delay. A hum of artificial light is channeled into the cabin, but Volvo has avoided the kind of loud futuristic noises that fill other electric vehicles. Even when you’re charging up a steep mountain pass, the C40 will still be happy to quietly pin you to the seat.

Driving on the switchbacks of said mountain pass outside of Palm Springs is respectable, but don’t go thinking this car is a Polestar just because it shares its platform with one – there’s no Öhlins shock absorbers here. Yes, the underfloor battery gives the C40 a nice low center of gravity, but it still doesn’t completely hide the weight. You can feel the bulk of this car when you’re building g’s around a long corner or when it doesn’t seem as thrilled to slow down a hill as you’d expect for its dimensions. The chunky 255-section-wide tires feel stable and planted in the corners, but you’ll quickly run out of grip if you put too much faith in these Pirellis. A Polestar 2 is definitely more fun to drive.

There are no ride modes – only a toggle to “stiffer steering feel” – so it’s mostly one size fits most, and one size works for the most part. Of all the possible areas for improvement, the most impactful change could probably be made to the balance of energy delivery. As it is, the front wheels often have a lot more torque directed at them (although it’s a 50/50 torque split at all times) than you’d like, inducing steering of torque and disrupting your rhythm. The C40 unloads its power when you tell it to, but there’s enough in there that a limited-slip differential or torque vectoring system would be very beneficial for enthusiastic driving.

City driving is largely enjoyable, as the C40 has a quiet cabin and its one-pedal drive mode does wonders. We can’t tell you how it rides on rough roads thanks to Palm Springs’ excellent pavement quality, but that question will be answered when we get a C40 in our home turf of Michigan.

The only nagging annoyance that’s standard in driving the C40 is its supercar-like rear visibility. Looking through the small window in the rear view mirror is like looking through a letter slot, and although it hasn’t rained during our time with the car, we suspect the lack of a windshield wiper rear will further deteriorate vision in winter and rain. You have the option of a 360-degree camera for low-speed maneuvering, but few cars demand a digital rearview mirror more than this.

Despite the C40’s small size and sloping roofline, the utility still gets decent marks for a small crossover coupe. The back seat is downright roomy for the legs and the head, the latter being the real surprise. Your 5-foot-10 author didn’t even come close to touching the roof of the back seat. And while cargo space is negatively affected compared to the XC40 Recharge, it’s not a terrible loss at just 1.4 cubic feet less. A small frunk exists, but it can’t fit much beyond the charging cable.

Like other Volvos in the range, the C40 adopts the latest version of Google’s Android Automotive OS infotainment system to display on the 9-inch touchscreen. It doesn’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 great to use with Google Maps as its native navigation system and Google Assistant for voice commands.

We’re slightly annoyed to see some button controls disappearing and ending up on screen, such as activating Volvo’s Pilot Assist driving assistant – now it takes several button clicks to activate or deactivate it compared to a simple tilt of the steering wheel in other Volvos and other brands. On the bright side, Volvo’s 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster is a winner with crisp graphics and a useful Google Maps display in the center.

Volvo has made any discussion of trims unnecessary by choosing to offer the C40 in a single, fully loaded trim for 2022. You can choose your exterior color and your interior… and that’s it. We can heartily recommend the Fjord Blue pictured, which Volvo says is inspired by the color of the water in the fjords of Sweden. This can then be paired with the Fjord Blue interior which gives you blue carpeting and lots of blue interior trim. It looks spectacular and pairs well with the bright dashboard trim that resembles a topographic map of Abisko National Park in Sweden.

For $60,940, the C40 recharge can be yours and the federal tax credit of $7,500 applies. The feature set is largely complete, but the omission of the cooled seats is a headache. An XC40 Recharge with a similar level of equipment costs about $1,500 less, so that’s the premium you pay for the unique crossover coupe body style. There’s nothing particularly game-changing about the C40 in the EV space in terms of how it drives or the propulsion system, but as a style statement it’s a compelling option. Unique features like the sustainably sourced interior, Google technology, Volvo’s reputation for safety and its relatively small size (compared to the rest of the EV luxury crossover market) make it desirable. We don’t imagine the C40 will ever be a volume leader in the segment, but don’t overlook it in your electric car search.

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