An electric car calls for quite a large mental readjustment — although outwardly it may look like your everyday guzzler, a non-petrol-powered car is really quite a different animal altogether. Argue with this point if you must, but it does require a change of mindset to be properly enjoyed. With its new XC40 Recharge Pure Electric, Volvo is making the transition easier than ever by building a car that drives like it is powered by combustion engines but, in fact, is completely electric.
“Volvo Car Malaysia is ready to implement Volvo’s global plan for a fully electric line-up by 2030, starting with the launch of the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric,” says Volvo Car Malaysia’s American-born managing director Charles Frump. “By mid-decade, we’re aiming to reduce our overall CO2 lifecycle emissions per car by 40%. This means more than simply reducing tailpipe emissions — electrification is not enough. We must reduce CO2 emissions across our operations and supply chain.”
The launch of the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric marks the start of Volvo’s aim of accelerating its transformation towards electrification, with a 75% contribution from its pure electric line-up by 2025. Through this ambitious goal, Volvo looks to become the leading maker of premium electric vehicles (EVs) in Malaysia — at present, it is the only automaker to fully manufacture its electric cars locally. Working towards becoming a climate-neutral company by 2040, the Swedish marque will also export fully EVs to markets within Asean in the near future, and has plans to unveil a new EV in Malaysia every year for the next five years.
Based on the highly popular XC40 small premium SUV, the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric is a good way to start a journey for electrification. Its fully electric all-wheel-drive powertrain offers a range of up to 418km on a single charge, which means a return trip to Melaka quite comfortably or a one-way drive to Singapore, now that land borders with our island neighbour are already open. When plugged into a 150kW rapid charger, it goes from flat out to a respectable 80% in about 40 minutes, although on a standard domestic 7-11kW wall point charger, you are looking at eight hours. An option, perhaps, is to leave the car to charge overnight for a full zap.
The winding roads leading up to Janda Baik in Bentong, Pahang, was the chosen route for us to put the car through its paces ahead of its big unveil to the public come April 4. Before we pushed off — talk about there being only one pedal to stop and go certainly raised some concerns — we got a good look at the car. The XC40 Recharge Pure Electric looks identical to its ICE (internal combustion engine) and PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) brothers, save for a few major aesthetic changes — most notably the lack of a front grille simply because an electric car does not need it. A panel in the same colour of the vehicle takes its place, lending it a slick and modern look. The Recharge branding can be found on the C-pillar, the charging port is on the front wing, we spot a new alloy wheel design, and we must say the grey, green and blue exterior colours are lovely.
Ordinarily, we would pop the bonnet to check out a car’s engine, but this time, we could not do that as the 78kWh lithium-ion battery pack is mounted under its floor and feeds two electric motors, with one on each axle, to provide all-wheel drive. Power output is 402bhp alongside an outrageous 660 Newton metres of torque, which in turn translates to the unexpected levels of speed and power for a Volvo: we daresay not many models in the marque’s arsenal can do 0-100kph run in under five seconds. Power is available on tap with this car, as it pulled away instantly upon acceleration and held its pace — on the Karak Highway’s uphill stretches, we are obliged to note — until a very decent 140kph. It could have gone faster and for longer, but with quite heavy traffic, this was the most we could push things. In which case, like all Volvo cars, its top speed is 180kph anyway.
Although we have nothing but bouquets to throw Volvo’s way with regard to pure driving experience, the one-pedal mode holds us back a little. This works in quite an intuitive way — depress the pedal when you want to go, let it up to apply the brakes. It is efficient because you will not have to use the brake pedal as often, thereby increasing the lifespan of the brake pads and rotors. However, we found it rather hard to control, with the deceleration forces appearing much too abrupt when lifting off the throttle completely, which is the equivalent of slamming your foot on the brake. Efficient though the one-pedal mode is, we cannot be sure that the trade-off is worth it.
The one-pedal mode can be disabled through a central control panel that operates as the car’s CPU of sorts. The XC40 Recharge Pure Electric is the first Volvo to use an Android-based infotainment system developed with Google, which includes Google Maps, Google Play Store and Google Assistant. Connect your own Google account to personalise everything, set up Spotify or navigate with Waze if you prefer it to Google Maps. The interiors are comfortable with a generous cabin size, while low window lines make it ideal for families so kids can keep an eye on the scenery whizzing by.
The overall posh, typically Swedish minimalist approach is here but the door linings and carpets are made 97% from recycled plastic bottles to add to the car’s green credentials. The electric conversion of the XC40 has had little impact on the car’s luggage toting ability — the battery only reduced capacity by 47 litres compared with the standard car, but 413 litres is still decent. There is also a bit of extra storage in the form of a 31-litre space in the front, which is the area the engine would have occupied.
You do not start the car, you simply get into the driver’s seat and shift the gear to drive — a sensor will pick up that you are in the vehicle and ready to go. This takes some getting used to, especially if you enjoy the sensation of starting a car and watching it come to life. With no engine, there is also no noise — the drive is remarkably silent with just the most imperceptible of hums incorporated to make the transition easier from an engine-powered car to an electric one.
Great grip, flawless driving experience, power on tap, a good amount of space and, of course, the benefits of electric driving — the XC40 Recharge Pure Electric more than delivers on its promises of a safe, spacious family car with strong green credentials. The mind shift change is worth it, we’d say, and Volvo has made it easy to move from petrol-powered to electric. Are you ready for it? We are.
To book a test drive or obtain the most up-to-date pricing information, see here.
This article first appeared on Apr 4, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.