2022 Volvo C40 First Drive: The Levelheaded EV With A Stylish Twist – Forbes

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Volvo built its reputation on traditional Swedish values of reassuring safety and stoic styling. As the Scandinavian manufacturer eventually moved away from the blocky silhouettes of its late 20th century cars, subtle expressions of character emerged from its typically restrained lineup. The brand never veered too far from its tried-and-true formula, but it did develop an austere sense of flair that set it apart from its more adventurously styled counterparts.  
With a fully electrified lineup promised by 2030 and a slew of EVs coming soon in rapid succession, Volvo is determined to develop its own distinct design language to compete in this brave new, battery-powered world. The first stab at that goal is the 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate, which is priced at $58,750. 
Volvo introduced an all-electric version of an existing model last year, the XC40 Recharge, but the C40 is the first of the automaker’s products to have no combustion-engine equivalent.  
“This is the first car from Volvo that started as a sketch,” says Volvo Strategy and Business head Jonas Angstrom, as new models are typically conceived around their mechanical layout, not their styling treatment. The jauntier C40 Recharge is built atop the company’s shared CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform, which also underpins the XC40 Recharge (which retails for $55,300). The C40 also packs a 78 kWh battery pack (of which 75 kWh are usable), driving all four wheels via a pair of motors, hence the “Twin Ultimate” designation.  
Total output is 402 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque, which is good for 0 to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, 2/10ths of a second quicker than the XC40 Recharge. The advantage comes from optimized software, better thermal efficiency, and a lower roofline that tapers towards the rear for improved aerodynamics, producing a drag coefficient of .32. 
While the XC40’s SUV layout ostensibly makes it the more practical of the two vehicles, the C40 isn’t as space compromised as some of the new breed of small “crossover coupes.” Thanks to its still relatively chunky profile, it’s not exactly one of the coolest kids on the block (see: Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron). But it definitely cops its own vibe, offering an incrementally more engaging visual style than the sober and purposeful XC40.  
The main differences with the C40’s interior dimensions relate to rear headroom (a 2.6-inch sacrifice), and cargo volume with the rear seat upright (between 1.4 and 3.1 fewer cubic feet, depending on which SAE standard is used for measurement). However, the rear seats are by no means cramped, offering ample space for an average-sized adult to feel at ease.  
One feature that helps is the standard panoramic sunroof, which brings an airy feeling to the cabin, though its lack of an opaque cover might irk those in sunnier climates despite its infrared-blocking coatings. 
Interior material qualities in the C40 are generally solid, though the top of the dashboard surfaces is disappointingly plasticky. New to this model is a novel feature that depicts a topographical interpretation of Sweden’s Abisko national park across the door panels and passenger side dashboard. At night, gentle backlighting lends shades of color to the abstract shapes, offering a splash of interest to the otherwise understated cabin.  
Front and center is a 9-inch touchscreen using an Android-powered platform and featuring Google Maps. Though the system isn’t compatible with Apple CarPlay, Volvo promises the feature is coming down the line. As such, the 9-inch display works responsively enough, though more real estate would be a welcome addition so information from different categories (Media, Maps, Settings etc.) could be overlayed without having to switch menu screens. 
One noteworthy development: Volvo has recently decreed that none of its electric vehicles will use animal hides inside, and incorporates a high amount of recycled materials into the C40. Among them is a love-it-or-hate-it bright “Fjord blue” accent on the doors and carpets.  
If leather aficionados are shedding a tear over their dearly departed bovine surfaces, they can rest assured—at least based on our impressions of the C40’s supportive-yet-accommodating seats— that the Microtech/nubuck textile combination doesn’t feel chintzy or compromised. Adding to the premium feel are a fine-sounding Harman Kardon premium audio system, heated front and rear seats, wireless phone charging and a 360-degree parking camera. In fact, the only option is metallic paint, which adds $695 to the bottom line. 
Behind the wheel, C40 drivers face a digital instrument panel and a centrally positioned 9-inch, portrait-oriented touchscreen. Don’t look for a start button because there is none; simply give the car a moment to switch itself on, tug the gearshift lever to engage in drive, and accelerate away.  
Switching to 1-pedal mode requires delving into the settings menu via the touchscreen, but once selected, there’s enough off-throttle regeneration to all but eliminate the use of the left pedal. There’s also a “steering feel firm” menu item to add steering effort, though the standard light feel delivers an accurate, nicely weighted response.
Power comes on smooth and strong, with typical EV seamlessness enabling quick passes and powerful squirts ahead with stabs of the accelerator pedal. The suspension feels relatively compliant considering its 20-inch wheel setup, with some noticeable body roll but good grip during hard cornering.  
With a projected EPA range figure of 225 miles, the C40 Recharge can be driven with a heavy right foot as long as you’re not headed to a far-off destination—in which case, the nav system’s trip planner creates an easy-to-use map that outlines available chargers along the way, which can be filtered by type. The C40 includes an Electrify America Pass, confusingly described as a “complimentary 1-year plan valid for 3 years.”  
Regardless, the battery can go from a 10% state of charge to 80% in 37 minutes (at 150 kW) with a DC fast charger, or from empty to 100% in 8 hours using a Level 2, 48-amp setup. Our 150-mile day trip revealed a comfortable, quiet cabin at 75 mph, and a pleasant view from the relatively high seating positions, though the tiny rear window sacrifices some visibility in the interest of style. 
Volvo has long focused on safety as a central brand value, and the C40 Recharge is no exception to that rule. Senior Safety Technical Adviser Jan Ivarsson says the battery layout was optimized to reduce the likelihood of impact and/or fire during an accident, and unique crash testing procedures included repeatedly dropping a C40 nose-down from a crane in order to ensure the strength of its chassis structure.  
While the C40 Recharge does uphold the brand’s mission of prioritizing safety over fashion, it doesn’t do so in an overtly clunky or unsexy way.  
However, given enough open road, driving enthusiasts might notice that despite its zippy acceleration, the C40’s top speed—and that of every Volvo moving forward— is electronically limited to 112 mph. “We’re making a statement to our customers about how important [reduced] speed is for safety,” says Ivarsson. Additionally, Volvo’s so-called Care Key can also enforce speed limits when the vehicle is loaned to younger drivers. That’s probably a good idea given the C40’s sizable turn of speed below 112 mph. 
The 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge is only the second fully dedicated EV to hail from the Swedish brand, but it’s an important step in Volvo’s plan to achieve a global lineup that’s 50% electric by 2025, and fully electrified by 2030. Those goals may seem achievable given Volvo’s 25% global take rate on EVs globally. However, the U.S. market might take a bit more work.  
Though plug-ins or EVs constitute more than half of Volvo’s sales in California, pure EV Volvos only make up 6% of national totals thus far. Aiding the cause are seven inbound EV models promised by 2025, the first of which is the XC90 Recharge expected in late 2023— arguably a more critical model for the bigger-is-better U.S. buyer. 
While the C40 Recharge proves itself an arguably sharper-looking (and incrementally better performing) version of the XC40, the true test of Volvo’s electrification ambitions will come when larger, America-sized SUV and crossover hit the market. For now, the C40 Recharge, expected in showrooms by early 2022, offers a solid starting point for what we hope will be Volvo’s long and satisfying battery-powered future.  

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