Payne: Out on the town with stylish, expensive, masked-up Volvo Recharge twins

Posted by Talbot Payne on May 29, 2022

Detroit — One of my favorite SUV personalities is the Volvo XC40. Cleverly designed inside and out, unique looks, Android operating system, legroom, storage aplenty.

And now it has a pair of electric 2022 Recharge siblings. Though it’s gonna be tough to beat the 355-mile-range gas model. On a wintry April day in Detroit, I had to make a day’s round trip with my son, future daughter-in-law and wife to Charlevoix via Traverse City to check out a wedding venue. With its good rear legroom and clever amenities, I was eager to show the XC40 Recharge off to the clan — but with only 223 miles of electric range, Recharge would complicate our estimated 560-mile round trip.

The 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge bears signature Volvo design touches like Thor's hammer headlights, Volvo stripe badge and floating roof. The masked grille is a bit awkward, though.

If we recharged from 10-80% of battery life (charging over 80% gets reeeeeal slow) at fast chargers, we would have to make four charging stops of about 35 minutes each on a day with a demanding, tight schedule to meet florists, caterers, cake makers (yummm, I love weddings) and more. Fast-chargers were everywhere up I-75 from Meijer parking lots to Burger Kings, but I didn’t even bother to chart the course. It would be much too inconvenient.

So I took a good ol’ diesel Cadillac Escalade instead. Range: 440 miles. One five-minute fill-up, no worries.

The lesson? Buy the XC40 Recharge if you have a gas ute in the garage for long trips. Then use Recharge as your daily commuter, as most EV owners do.

Though it’s gonna’ be tough to beat the Polestar 2.

The Polestar 2, of course, is the first sedan from Volvo’s new electric brand and it’s a head-turner with a sleek bod, hatchback utility, big-screen interior and longer 270-mile range. Recharge boasts familiar Swedish XC40 styling cues with squared-off bod, floating back roof, boomerang tail-lamps, Thor’s-hammer headlights and Volvo badge ‘n’ stripe logo on the grille.

Well, where the grille used to be. With no need for air to feed a gas engine behind, the grille wears a face-covering over its mouth as if dressed for the pandemic. Awkward (especially since Sweden never mandated masks). Brands are still struggling with how to present their EV faces.

The mask-less Polestar gets a more appealing grille design to differentiate its EV brand. But for those who like Recharge’s higher seating position and familiar Volvo styling cues, XC40 will get the nod.

The fastback, 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge has c-clamp rear taillights that are different from the boomerang lights on brother XC40 Recharge.

And for those who like the Polestar’s coupe-like looks, well … XC40 Recharge has a C40 Recharge twin with heavily tapered roof-line and C-clamp tail-lights like a Volvo sedan. Be warned: the fastback reduces rear-window visibility to a military pillbox. Both Recharge models offer unique, eye-catching 20-inch wheels.

The Recharges are quick. Sporting the same big-battery, all-wheel-drive system as the Polestar, our pals at Car and Driver recorded a hearty 4.3-second 0-60 dash — just shy of the more aerodynamic Polestar’s 4.1. ZOT! I shot out of a Detroit stoplight in the XC40 Recharge ahead of an unsuspecting Mustang. Lookit that shoebox go!

Just don’t overdo it into the next 90-degree corner. Despite the battery anchored low in their bellies, the Recharges have little interest in pulling side-Gs. Easy, hot foot.

With standard AWD, the 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge is ready-made for Michigan winters. Or April spring snowstorms.

The standard AWD does comes in handy when it, um, snows in Detroit — which it did on April 11. That didn’t happen when I lived in Virginia and dragged my sports cars out of the garage in March on summer tires. It’s different here in Michigan, and the Volvo was up to the task, sloshing along on I-96 as the blizzard blew.

Where Recharge really earns its love is inside. The interior is familiar Volvo, not sci-fi Polestar, but it shares the same Android operating system with a screen as intuitive to operate as my phone. The instrument screen is a digital beauty and the adaptive cruise control quite competent — at least when snow isn’t blinding it. The standard panoramic roof overhead is easy to operate — just swipe your finger along a pad in the direction you want it opened/closed.

The 2022 Volvo XC40 and C40 (pictured) Recharge both use a Google operating system which usefully displays your phone and range info on the center screen.

Clever storage is everywhere — most impressively in the “fishbox” as the Swedes like to call it. That’s removable trash bin to us Yanks. It’s useful for storing sticky gum, gnawed lollipop sticks, and other trash you don’t want to be sticking in door pockets. Remove and empty when it fills. Why doesn’t every car have one?

The 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge comes with a useful trash can in the console that can be taken out and emptied.

Side pockets extend the length of the door, and a hidden hook flips out from the glove box to hang everything from plastic grocery bags to purses.

To complement the roomy (for a subcompact SUV) rear seats, passengers also get side-seat storage trays. The cargo hold has more flip-out grocery bag hangers, and a hidden subfloor where you can store that bulky cargo blind when not in use. More storage? This is an EV, so there’s a frunk where the engine used to be for the charge plug or a briefcase. My C40 Recharge tester also came dressed with a blue-felt interior trim to match the exterior. Stylin’ Swede.

Frunk-adelic. The 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge offers a front trunk for small bags and charging cords.

Though it’s gonna be tough to beat $45,935.

That’s the price of a comparably equipped, turbo-4 powered XC40 gas model, which is a whopping $15K south of my $60K Recharge twins. The $7,500 federal tax credit will claw some of that back, but it’s a stiff premium to pay for a vehicle with limited metropolitan range.

For Volvo fans, XC40 and C40 Recharge will have some clear benefits. In addition to those clever features, the twin electric motors make for a silky-smooth driving experience — which, ahem, can be a bit choppy with the gas model’s multi-cog, eight-speed gearbox.

Charge at home on a 240-volt wall charger and the 2022 Volvo XC40 Recharge will get full charge (to 223 miles) overnight.

And Recharge offers an EV favorite feature: regenerative braking so you can one-pedal drive around town. It’s a tough market out there for EV adoption, but it helps having an outgoing Volvo Recharge personality.

2022 Volvo XC40 and C40 Recharge

Vehicle type: Battery-electric, all-wheel-drive, five-passenger SUV

Price: $52,795 base, including $1,095 destination fee ($60,090 XC40 Recharge Twin Ultimate, and $60,540 C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate as tested)

Powerplant: 75-kWh lithium-ion battery driving twin electric motors

Power: 402 horsepower, 486 pound-feet of torque

Transmission: Direct drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.3 seconds (Car and Driver, XC40 Recharge); top speed: 113 mph

Weight: 4,791 pounds (XC40 Recharge as tested)

Fuel economy: 223-mile range

Report card

Highs: Clever interior; quick off the line

Lows: Limited driving range compared with competitors; $15K north of gas XC40

Overall: 3 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

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