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First drive: Volvo XC40 Recharge P8

Date: 26 March 2021   |   Author: Simon Harris

Volvo's first fully electric model is now in the UK and comes with some eyebrow-raising figures, including its price.
Standard equipment:
9in centre console touchscreen, Google Automotive Services (navigation with Google Maps, Google Assistant voice-activated control, access to the Google Play Store and four years' data allowance), Volvo On Call with app - available for smartphone, smartwatch or tablet, Android Auto and Apple Carplay smartphone integration, wireless/inductive mobile phone charging, eight-speaker sound system with four USB sockets, City Safety (including pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, and front collision warning with fully automatic emergency braking, including at junctions), Oncoming Lane Mitigation (providing steering assistance if you unwittingly drift out of your lane, guiding you back into your lane and out of the path of any oncoming vehicles), Run-off Road Protection (tightens the front seatbelts should the car inadvertently leave the road, while front seat frames with a collapsible section reduce vertical forces to help prevent spinal injuries), keyless entry and start, automatic LED headlights with active high beam, power-operated tailgate with hands-free opening and closing, dual-zone climate control with CleanZone air-quality system, 12.3in LCD driver's information display.
Battery: 300kW/408hp with 78kWh
Equipment grades:
First Edition

Volvo has been late to the game among the premium brands in introducing a fully electric production car.

BMW's i3 arrived on the scene a whole generation ago, while Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Jaguar all launched similar sized electric models during the same 12-month period.

Even Lexus - which has been marketing hybrids heavily for the past 15 years - has brought a fully electric car to market in the past 12 months.

Volvo's first electric car arrived this month, based on the XC40, but with its arrival the company also announced a completely new electric-powered model, the C40, which will arrive before the end of 2021.

As things stand, the addition of a more affordable Volvo might well be needed. We all know the XC40, which launched with petrol and diesel engines in 2017, but is now offered with petrol or plug-in hybrid, is a great car - it's a former Business Car award winner.

The fully electric XC40 Recharge P8 is the fastest XC40 (to my knowledge, perhaps the fastest ever Volvo) for acceleration with 0-60mph certified in 4.7 seconds, a power output of 408hp and a range of more than 250 miles according to the WLTP test.

As well as the electric powertrain, it also debuts new technology for Volvo in the Android-based multimedia system, replacing the Volvo Sensus touchscreen system that made its debut in the XC90 in 2015.

Volvo is also marketing the car on a monthly subscription for consumers, making it available from Care by Volvo at £619 a month. Indeed, the tow bar option fitted to our test car was listed as an extra £20 per month in the subscription.

The well-equipped First Edition grade we had on test, which includes most available option packs fitted as standard, perhaps goes some way towards justifying the £60,000 price tag, although many will look at the other EV options available and wonder whether you get enough car for the money.

The Volvo is priced almost at the same level as the Jaguar I-Pace, and as the Jaguar was designed as a pure EV from the outset, it has a considerably more spacious interior than the XC40.

Its price also tips the scales slightly higher than the (substantially less powerful) BMW iX3 - a slightly larger car than the Volvo. Even the Polestar 2, produced by Volvo's sister company and uses the same technology, starts at around £10,000 lower, although it doesn't have all that the Volvo has as standard.

But, although the XC40 is reasonably familiar to us in its previous guises, the Recharge P8 requires a number of unique interactions.

It unlocks when sensing the proximity of the key fob in your pocket or bag as you pull on one of the door handles. We know how this works. However, there is no start button inside. The dashboard illuminates as the car wakes up, and it is ready for the driver to select D for drive on the gearshift joystick (or R for reverse), and the car begins to move as soon as power is summoned from the accelerator.

Likewise, when you've finished your journey, you select the P button, which locks the transmission and then applies the parking brake (there is no parking brake button), and you seemingly abandon the car when it senses the key is absent from inside, and you can touch the outside door handle for it to lock.

There is much to like about how the XC40 Recharge P8 drives, with 408hp at your disposal and instantaneous torque of 487lb-ft, along with the security of all-wheel drive. Acceleration can be brisk when needed, and the rear tyres are slightly wider than those at the front to better handle and deploy all that acceleration as the mass of the car effectively shifts rearward.

It's possible to activate 'one-pedal driving' through the touchscreen functions and when driving a pure EV, it doesn't take long to get a feel for the braking forces that take effect when lifting off the accelerator, and you can do some journeys without reaching for the brake pedal at all.

We found the Google part of the car a little more difficult to get to grips with than the promotional material suggests. Perhaps because we're used to the previous multimedia system and there are some differences. A couple of times the navigation took several minutes to identify the car's location during my week with it, which would be frustrating for anyone needing instructions and being unfamiliar with an area.

I see the appeal of 'over-the-air updates' but perhaps the XC40 is a car more for Volvo's early adopters and tech lovers.

The C40, announced recently and due in showrooms by the end of the year, will be more affordable and offer less performance (but not inadequate performance). Sadly, it will still have the Google infotainment platform, but perhaps we will have got used to it by then.

Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 First Edition 

P11D: £59,950

Residual value: 44.4%

Depreciation: £33,333

Fuel: £2,156

Service, maintenance and repair: £2,640

Cost per mile: 63.6p

EV range: 250 miles

CO2 (BIK %): 0g/km (1%)  

BIK 20/40% a month: £10/£20

Boot space: 452 litres

Battery capacity/power: 78kWh/408hp


  • Style
  • Performance
  • Safety
  • Costs
  • Slow multi-media interface