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Volvo "braking" all the rules

 
Created on 19/06/2022 @ 21:16


Volvo XC40 Recharge drive by Steve Rogers

I’ve been driving a car for a week and haven’t touched the brake pedal. Truth or lie?

You are thinking there has got to be a catch here, but it is the truth.

The electrically powered XC40 has a system called one pedal which brakes the car as the driver lifts off the throttle. It is all to do with capturing energy for the batteries and is the next stage in regenerative braking.

We see it in hybrids where gentle braking is induced to harness battery power but this system is full on and will, by feathering the throttle, bring the car to a stop and hold until you move off. It quickly becomes second nature and apart from an emergency stop there is no need to use the brake pedal.

XC40 looks to be leading Volvos charge to electrically powered cars and has a quite a story to tell. It is the company’s smallest SUV previously powered by petrol or diesel engines but now it’s just petrol hybrid and electric.

The only difference in styling is the front grille which has been replaced by a plastic cover because there is no engine to cool. I would have stuck with the grille which is much more classy.

Power comes from an electric motor, or, in the case of the all-wheel drive model tested here, two motors, one on each axle doubling the power to a gobsmacking 408bhp and get this, XC40’s dash to sixty is just two seconds behind a Ferrari F8 or McLaren 720S.

It goes against the grain when electric cars should be driven sensibly, but this car’s performance is such a hoot you are tempted to drive the nuts off it all the time. Honestly, stab the accelerator and you risk snapping your neck such is the pick-up.

Back in Mr Sensible mode XC40 delivered around 220 miles from my Podpoint home wall charger, 36 miles short of Volvo’s prediction. Not too shabby and puts the Volvo in the middle of its rivals on range.

A full charge from a wall box takes 12 hours and double that if plugging into a three-pin socket, and remember never to use an extension lead because it will fry.

XC40 is an SUV so don’t expect handling to match its sports car performance but it is good to drive in spite of weighing in at a hefty 2.1 tonnes. The ride was occasionally jittery on B roads in my neck of the woods but for the majority of driving it has a comfortable ride unless thrashed through bends when you get the inevitable body roll from a high sided car.

You cannot dispute XC40’s premium car status with high quality soft finishes and attractive metal inlays around the cabin. I have been saying for years how Volvo front seats are the most comfortable of any car I have driven and nothing has changed. It is good in the back, too, with ample leg and headroom and space for three adults.

The boot loses a few litres of space because of the positioning of the batteries but there is a decent bolt hole for family luggage. We easily loaded three golf bags and power trollies with the back seats dropped. Surprised there were no levers in the boot wall to lower the seat backs.

Up front the dashboard has pleasing minimal Swedish styling and the infamous Volvo touchscreen infotainment system. Will we ever get used to it? You would if you owned a Volvo but it would still take a while.

This is a spanking new system powered by Android with Google mapping for navigation and is mega quick. That said it is the same old story, lots of menus with long lists of functions in small print, not the sort of thing to be meddling with while driving.

Ironic that a company that has led the world with safety technology and packs its cars with every safety feature known to man has a complex feature that can be a distraction for a driver.

I kept out of it as much as possible relying on the easy to use voice control for heating, radio and navigation commands.

Sixty grand for the all-wheel drive XC40 sounds a lot but is not overpriced compared to its rivals. My guess is the majority will opt for the less expensive front wheel drive models which are still quick off the mark. If XC40 is within your budget it is an extremely good buy whichever model you go for.

How will it stack up against the Audi Q50 etron? Find out here in a couple of weeks.

What the wife says.

I dreaded having to fiddle with the infotainment system but was very impressed with the clever braking system. The covered storage box under the bonnet is a bonus and perfect for storing the hefty charging cables.

Fast facts

XC40 Recharge Twin Pro Ultimate

£60,300 (Range starts £45,750)

Twin electric motors, 408bhp

0-60mph 4.7secs; 112mph

Range 256 miles

0g/km. Road tax zero

Boot 578-1328 litres

Insurance group 41

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