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The 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge.

Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

Volvo has launched its first all-electric vehicle in Canada. The 2021 XC40 P8 Recharge is a mid-sized SUV based on the XC40 platform but powered by twin electric motors.

As the manufacturer’s first all-electric model, the XC40 sets the benchmark for future Volvo BEVs. “It’s just the start of a journey for us,” said Matt Girgis, managing director of Volvo Cars Canada, at a virtual unveiling of the SUV.

He called the XC40 an important milestone and a statement of Volvo’s “commitment to climate neutrality.” The company’s intention is to launch one pure EV every year from now until 2025, although Volvo would not reveal which model we will see next. It also wants 50 per cent of its global sales to be pure EV by 2025.

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For now, the XC40 Recharge will compete against other luxury electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model Y and Model 3, and Ford’s Mustang Mach E. But while its base price is comparable, in the mid-$60,000s, the XC40 does not come close on advertised range. The Tesla Model 3 Long Range boasts 568 km, and the Mach E offers 483, while the Volvo will travel just 335 km on a single charge.

Volvo seems much more excited to introduce the 2021 XC40 Recharge’s Google Android infotainment operating system, also a first for the company. It offers three key functions – integrated Google Maps, the Play Store and Google Assistant. The voice-enabled assistant will give you directions and find the nearest place to charge the vehicle. With a destination set, it will also predict what percentage charge you will have left when you arrive and will take you to a charger on the way if necessary.

The XC40 Recharge is also the first Volvo that will receive over-the-air software updates. The company will use this capability, for example, to add support for Apple CarPlay and activate Sirius XM radio in the coming weeks and months.

The vehicle has a “P8” badge, which is Volvo’s new nomenclature indicating it is all-electric (P) and that it has a 70 to 80 kWh battery onboard (it’s actually 78 kWh). It will charge on either AC or DC and can gain an 80-per-cent charge in just 40 minutes on a Level 3 (150 kWh) fast charger.

The XC40 Recharge will compete with luxury electric SUVs such as the Tesla Model Y and Ford Mustang Mach-E.

Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

Volvo has partnered with the ChargePoint network, which offers 115,000 charge points across North America. The vehicle is agnostic, however, and can be charged anywhere that has a compatible plug-in. Volvo dealers will be equipped to offer fast-charging hardware for home use through ChargePoint for about $1,000 plus the cost of installation.

Given the range, and the still-limited availability of public charging stations away from major population centres, the XC40 Recharge will appeal to a demographic that’s similar to the traditional luxury customer, but more eco- and safety-conscious and interested in technology, Girgis said. The focus is on metropolitan areas in British Columbia and Quebec “where demand is accelerating quicker than in other areas in Canada,” he added.

For the driver who has never hit the road in a pure EV, the XC40 Recharge has a couple quirks. With the one-pedal driving mode activated, along with the firmer steering setting, it feels like piloting a hippopotamus might – ponderous and unwilling to move. The one-pedal setting slows the vehicle down to a stop – quite quickly – any time you take your foot off the gas. It takes some practice to get the feel for this feature.

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But when you turn those two settings off, the Recharge will charge ahead. With 402 hp and 486 lb.-ft. of torque, it has all the juice you need for a lively drive. Just don’t use up all that juice before you find a charging point.

Tech specs

  • Base price/as tested: $64,950/$71,200
  • Engine: Twin electric
  • Transmission/drive: All-wheel drive, electric motors on front and rear axles
  • Fuel economy: Range 335 km; Charge to 80% from zero: 8 hours on 110AC (11Kw); 40 minutes on DC (150kW)
  • Alternatives: Jaguar I-Pace, Ford Mustang Mach E; Tesla Model Y

Looks

The XC40 Recharge is in line with Volvo's traditional boxy styling but still has a striking, no-nonsense look.

Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

If you are a certain age, you might recall the 1990 film Crazy People, in which a Volvo advertising campaign coined the line “They’re boxy, but they’re good.” While the design has changed, the old ad line still applies. The XC40 Recharge, with its flat snout, squared off shoulders and nearly vertical rear, is definitely boxy, but nice. It’s a muscular, no-nonsense look that will probably appeal to the no-nonsense drivers of all-electric Swedish machines.

Interior

The Recharge has a smart, sleek and Scandinavian interior.

Handout

The black interior of the test vehicle is sleek and very Scandinavian. The ever-popular contrasting stitched trim on the seats looks smart, and the headrests are head-turners with a sexy tapered shape. Controls are simple, and the portrait-oriented touchscreen is ample and crystal clear. Seating is comfortable, and there is plenty of rear legroom, although the rear passenger doors are narrow.

Performance

Our short test drive did not allow for a test of the 335-km advertised range, but it did reveal a peppy ride. Prepare yourself before mashing the right pedal to the floor – the torque will snap your head back and elicit a silly grin. For regular driving, the ready power makes passing effortless, and the Recharge is a well-mannered city ride.

Technology

The portrait-oriented touch screen is crystal clear.

Handout

The XC40 Recharge is first Volvo to come with an Android operating system and full Google services. Without logging in to your own account, its functionality remains basic. Driving directions and charging-point locations can be accessed using “Hey Google” voice commands. To get fully personalized interaction such as a home address and weather information in metric, you’ll need to log in, with all the privacy concerns that might entail.

Cargo

The rear compartment boasts an impressive 500 litres of cargo space.

Emily Atkins/The Globe and Mail

The rear cargo compartment is spacious and tall, and the rear seats fold easily to create a cavernous space of almost 500 litres. In addition to the hard cargo cover, there is a fold-down cage that fits behind the rear seats, presumably to keep rover’s dirty paws from sullying the upholstery.

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The verdict

Competent, like all Volvos, the XC40 Recharge offers good value for the spec. It can’t match competitors on range, but it does make an attractive and comfortable cruiser for those who don’t stray too far from home.

Shopping for a new car? Check out the new Globe Drive Build and Price Tool to see the latest discounts, rebates and rates on new cars, trucks and SUVs. Click here to get your price.

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