Pure Electric Experience

The Volvo XC40 Recharge is ready and waiting, with a contemporary design and sustainable materials.
Nov 6, 2023
Barry Spyker

Looking for a small, stylish EV crossover that’s ready to get up and go – literally – when you are? With a key fob in pocket and buttocks in the seat, the 2023 Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Ultimate is ready to launch.

That’s because there’s no start/stop button – the Recharge senses your presence. Just click the seatbelt and move the crystal shifter into gear. It’s weird at first. We humans like to start things and end them, but it won’t take long to get used to the omitted step, and you may even love it. Upon return, simply push the park button and step out. Everything shuts down automatically.

On the road, the XC40 Recharge is quick and powerful with dual electric motors offering 402 horsepower, and it’s a decent handler thanks to all-wheel-drive and a heavy battery pack to help keep it flat on corners. But, with a shorter range than some rivals, don’t wander too far without one eye on the next charging station. 

The compact Recharge joins a growing segment of premium electric crossovers built with young families and urban dwellers in mind. Among its members are Tesla’s Model Y, Genesis GV60, Audi Q4 E-Tron, Hyundai’s Ioniq 5 and the Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Recharge received a refresh for 2023 with new front and rear bumpers and hammer-shaped headlights featuring pixel technology: Each headlight has 84 individually-controlled LED lamps. Together, they illuminate the road more efficiently, says Volvo, and can adapt to traffic.

Also new are diamond-cut alloy wheels and cool interior elements like the crystal shifter by Orrefors (Swedish, like the Volvo) and a tailored wool-blend upholstery, pitched as a more sustainable option to faux leather. The blend of wool fibers, with accent piping, has an upmarket look and feel compared to base-trim fabric upholstery.

One powertrain fits all three trim levels – the Twin, Twin Plus and Twin Ultimate. Dual motors run the show, one up front and one in the rear, and they are juiced by a 78 kWh lithium-ion battery. 

Total output is 402 hp and 486 pound-feet of torque, which can raise eyebrows as it sprints to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds at 108 mph. That’s faster than most rivals and it happens without a launch button or even conventional drive modes, for that matter. There is one mode, however, for hill descents during mild off-road driving.

Around town, the ride is quiet and comfortable for daily driving but firm enough to feel some rough patches. Steering is nicely weighted and it’s easy to maneuver in city streets and parking lots.

The XC40 Recharge offers one-pedal driving, which uses regenerative braking to slow the vehicle and even bring it to a stop without the brakes. Turn it on via the infotainment screen and it will improve driving range. That’s a plus since range is mediocre at 223 miles or so, depending on driving style, climate and hills. But some have said they can’t even get 200 miles. 

At least it’s a relatively quick charger. DC fast-charging ability is standard, and Volvo says it will recharge the battery from 10 to 80 percent in about 40 minutes. With the Level 2 (240V) charger, it can regain a full charge in eight hours.

The end result is a quiet, impressive ride with EPA-estimated 92 MPGe city, 79 highway, for a combined figure of 85. 

Equally impressive is what’s inside the XC40 Recharge, especially in top-spec Twin Ultimate trim. Two-tone upholstery in charcoal gray or “Fjord Blue” make the cabin really pop. Leather is available but greener options include Volvo’s Microtech textile and carpets made from recycled, uh, carpet. (Presumably, Volvo is not ripping it from an old Volvo somewhere).

Seating up front is comfortable and roomy for heads and legs. The rear seat is best for smaller adults or children, but that is typical in this segment. The cabin has a number of cubbies, and the center console bin even has a useful slot for candy bar wrappers and such. 

A 9-inch infotainment screen is standard and laid neatly into the center of the dash. It contains Google’s new operating system featuring Google maps, navigation and voice commands. It also includes Spotify and Apple CarPlay compatibility. There are few dials or buttons to be found so be prepared to get familiar with the infotainment.

The technology group also includes a dual-mode, 12.3-inch digital driver display in the high-end Twin Ultimate, and a 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. And, a crossover called the Recharge shouldn’t let you down when it comes to recharging devices: Four USB-C ports, two 12-volt outlets and a phone charger are there to juice up the gadgets. 

Cargo space behind the rear seat is ok at 21 cubic feet, but fold the seats (nearly flat) and it opens to 57.5 cubic feet, which is respectable for this segment and bigger than the Tesla Model Y. There’s a way to partition the trunk, if needed; side slots are good for a water jug or bag of cat food. And, a small “frunk” up front can accommodate charging cables or other small stuff.

Standard driver-assist features on the Twin Ultimate include Pilot Assist with adaptive cruise control and 360-degree cameras. Other safety features include low- and high-speed collision mitigation with pedestrian detection, automatic braking after collision to avoid running off the road, and lane-keep assist and lane departure warning.

Bottom line: Shoppers can find longer range, more spacious cabin and a less-expensive EV in the marketplace. But it’s hard to ignore the Recharge Twin Ultimate’s sharp exterior design, lively acceleration spurred by 400-plus horses, and some novel features inside. Living

Barry Spyker was the automotive editor and columnist for the Miami Herald.


2023 Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin Ultimate

MSRP: $59,500

As tested: $61,890 (With Fjord Blue metallic paint and pixel LED headlights, in addition to Twin Ultimate features including Pilot Assist, 20-inch wheels, power-folding rear head restraints, removable/folding load floor, Harman Kardon audio)

What’s all the excitement about? Volvo’s first electric three years ago returns with design improvements and upmarket interior

Powertrain: Dual electric motors, front and rear, powered by 78 kWh lithium ion battery. Net output is 402 hp and 486 pound-feet of torque

How’s the performance? Good jolt from the start, hitting 60 mph in 4.2 seconds; agile enough but less than playful

Fuel economy: EPA-estimated at 92 MPGe city, 79 highway, for an 85 combined; quick charger, but modest range at just over 200 miles


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