Volvo is one of the main driving forces behind the plug-in hybrid. The V60 diesel-electric is one of the first commercially available PHEV in Europe. The XC40 plug-in hybrid's introduction also means it is the first brand that would offer a PHEV version of every model that it currently sells.
However, the Volvo XC40 PHEV is different compared to its range mates. The introduction of the model precedes its electric stable-mates making it the range-topping option. It joins the plug-in hybrid options such as the XC90 SUV and the S60 and V60 plug-in hybrid sedans and becomes the most affordable electrified alternative from Volvo.
It is clean and simple at first appearance though there is some subtlety in the character lines. The XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid features small side skirts and is stylish with interesting dents on the door sections. The roof still features the brand-specific utilitarian appearance though the quarter windows become lower toward the D pillars.
At the back, the XC40 employs a taillight design similar with the XC90, which is a better touch as it integrates the current SUV line. It does have a clean tailgate, and the licence plate recess has been moved into the bumper, which is almost featureless, save for the thin lip at the bottom and the red light strips disturbing the black apron.
The interior of the XC40 is one of its strong points with a lot of soft plastics and expensive metal trims along with comfortable seating. There are many kits as well, though the reason is that it is not possible to get the Recharge Plug-in with anything other than the R-Design trim. The boot of the XC40 is still the same size as other models within the same range, with space under the floor for tools and cables. That means it allows for more luggage than other models like the 3008 hybrid4.
The centre console is quite extensive, and the centre stack houses a sizeable tablet-like screen, which is nine inches. The slim A/C vents are also a nice touch, going quite elegant with the centre display and the trim, which is on the passenger side dash. The Plug-in Recharge model is an R-Design trim, and thus comes with the best materials. These include leather and nubuck upholstery, perforated leather steering wheel, gear knob, and aluminium dashboard inlays. The inscription trim also has full-leather upholstery.
The features are another strong point of the Volvo XC40 Plug-in Recharge, including a standard infotainment system with a similar setup across all available trims. It includes a 9.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system from Volvo is fast to respond and very intuitive. For the R-Design trim, it adds suspension enhancements for a stiffer ride and improved road handling. Some of the additional features include power passenger seating, navigation, dual-zone climate control, and a motion-activated tailgate.
The Recharge Plug-in Hybrid has a 1.5 litre, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine rated at 134 kW and linked to a 61 kW electric motor for an output of 195 kW. The new flagship brings a 10.7 kWh lithium-ion battery, which allows 46 km of pure electric driving range, and it can be recharged in 2.5 hours using the right fast charger. The fuel consumption when it comes to the combined cycle is 1 litre per 50 kilometres.
The onboard powertrain is linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, and the setup is oddly front-wheel drive. It accelerates from 0 to 204 km/hr in 7.3 seconds. There are plans to expand the lineup of the XC40 when the Recharge Pure Electric is revealed in 2021.
If the battery is charged, the XC40 will always try to start in electric mode, which is quiet and smooth as one would expect. The power is a bit hesitant initially, but the petrol engine kicks in when needed during urgent acceleration or a steep hill. The handling is tidy enough and does not necessarily suffer from the added weight of the batteries. However, there is a bit of body lean so the user would be better off slowing down and enjoying the comfortable ride.
The safety system is standard across all trims, so driver packages include auto emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist, and animal detection capabilities. The XC40 also features rear cross-traffic alerts, blind-spot monitoring, and lane-keeping assist. It features the usual complement of front and side airbags for the driver and front passenger. The side curtain airbags extend to the back row. There are three top tethers and two ISOFIX points to fix car seats.
The price is reasonable at $64,990 before on-road costs and other extras, some of which would be the Comfort Pack that will set you back $900 more. For the Lifestyle Pack, prepared to shell out some $3,000 more and $990 for a 360-degree camera. The total may go past $70,000 before the on-road options. Volvo's three-year unlimited warranty also covers the XC40, while servicing is needed every year or 15 months.
As with the majority of plug-in hybrids, one has to pay more upfront to get low emissions. That is because of the on-road costs significantly increase the pricing. However, the powertrain setup seems slightly underpowered on paper for a three-cylinder engine setup with an electric motor. The turbocharged engine does hold its own, though, and the electric motor is the mainstay, so the petrol option kicks in for added power.
The exterior is simplistic but classy, while the interior is somewhat smaller than other models in the same class. The Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in is a worthy buy for customers looking for a low carbon footprint in an elegant package.
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