I drove the Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin for 3 months — why I’m hooked on electric

The Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin is an excellent SUV for couples or small families, balancing itself in a sweet spot between excitement and comfort while making a good case for early electric vehicle (EV) adopters.

Volvo Car South Africa provided MyBroadband with its current top-of-the-range electric SUV for a long-term test to see what living with an EV in South Africa was like.

I left my much-loved Kia Sonet parked in a secure garage for over three months to properly put the XC40 Recharge through its paces.

During that time, I put over 4,000km on the XC40 Recharge Twin’s odometer, and I can honestly say that the driving experience was sublime.

In addition to my daily commute between our home in Pretoria and office in Centurion, we used the car for numerous shopping trips and several long-distance excursions.

The latter included 260km and 320km return trips to a resort near Modimolle in Limpopo and Sun City in the North West, respectively.

Over the thousands of kilometres travelled, I could see the general appeal of electric cars, while also having a great time with the XC40 Recharge’s particular standout features.

XC40 Recharge Twin front view
XC40 Recharge Twin rear view

As a point of departure, let’s get the Eskom-sized elephant out of the room — I had absolutely no problem keeping the XC40 Recharge Twin charged despite severe load-shedding throughout the review period.

I did not carry around a generator in the boot or on a trailer either — I simply plugged in on several occasions when I had the opportunity.

As explained in detail in a previous article, I could charge the car overnight at home using a 2.3kW charger and get a roughly 20% top-up, even during stage 6 load-shedding.

20% was enough to add between 70–80km of range with each charging session, more than enough for my daily commute.

Buyers of new EVs will typically get a 7kW or 11kW charger included as part of the package. That will allow for charging at about triple the speed I could.

There was also no shortage of opportunities to charge at a public station when I needed a faster top-up.

Firstly, I had a 60kW DC fast charger at one mall on my regular route between home and the office, which could charge the car from 20–80% in about 40 minutes.

I killed some time at a Starbucks where I could sit and get some work done and also spent time watching shows on Prime Video on the 9-inch centre display.

Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin charging in parking lot at Irene Village Mall

There was also one 25kW DC charger and two slower 22kW AC chargers at three shopping malls within 2km of our home.

The slower speeds were generally not an issue because we typically spent at least an hour at each doing our usual shopping.

The lowest level the battery reached at any point was 9%.

That was after I had not charged it for 284km due to having to do an “emergency” back-and-forth trip between Pretoria and Roodepoort.

I still had an estimated range of about 33km left when I arrived home.

Essentially, there were three types of charging I used:

  • 2.3.kW home AC charging — Added about 20–30% in 6–8 hours
  • 11kW public AC charging — Added about 60% in four hours
  • 22kW public AC charging (limited to 4.4kW due to cable) — Added about 10% during an hour of shopping.
  • 50–100kW public AC charging — Added about 60–80% in 40 minutes to an hour
Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin topping up at 11kW AC charging station in Sun City parking

With the chapter on load-shedding closed, we can get into the driving experience.

The XC40 Recharge Twin feels incredibly solid overall, with a stable and relaxed drive.

Despite this, it offers plenty for those looking for an adrenaline rush, which is to be expected as the Recharge Twin’s dual motor system boasts 300kW power output and 660Nm of torque.

The 4.9-second acceleration from 0–100km/h was addictive, yet the car’s low centre of gravity also made it feel very stable at high speeds.

Family and friends who came along for a ride were thoroughly (and literally) taken aback by its ability to dart from one spot to the next while not feeling out of control.

Its unassuming design enhances the surprise.

XC40 Recharge Twin side view
XC40 Recharge Twin rear  — the angle any petrol-powered drivers will enjoy if they attempt to challenge you in a drag race. 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the acceleration is that it is also instantaneous while at speed, making overtaking faster and potentially safer when leveraged correctly.

Unlike petrol or diesel cars, an EV is not limited by mechanical gear shifting delays to start providing the right amount of power you need based on how heavily you press down on the pedal.

What makes this all the more interesting is that the Recharge Twin accelerates while being as quiet as a church mouse.

This was particularly welcome on a short game drive in the Pilanesberg game reserve.

The only noise that will inform you of your increased speed is the wind moving past the windows and a low humming sound from the speakers that increases in pitch as you speed up and drops when you slow down.

This effectively conveyed a sense of acceleration or deceleration without becoming irritating over the long term.

We were slightly worried that we could not hear any pedestrian alert sound at all when standing outside the car.

In overseas markets, including Europe, the XC40 Recharge has an audible sound generated outside due to safety regulations.

South Africa does not yet have such laws, but another EV we previously drove — the iX3 — did have a safety sound.

If the silence inside is too eery for you, you can always turn up the powerful and crystal-clear Harmon Kardon sound system.

We found it equally adept with my favourite ACDC tracks and more peculiar Blue Suede beats as it was with my wife’s much more sophisticated Tchaikovksy compositions.

XC40 Recharge Twin interior from a driver’s perspective.

The XC40 Recharge Twin is loaded with tech that would take several pages to delve into fully.

Perhaps one of its most unusual and cutting-edge features in this department is the lack of a start button.

The XC40 Recharge uses sensors in the driver’s seat to detect an adult and scans for the car’s remote to enter a driving “readiness” state.

If these criteria are met, you can press down on the brake and change into reverse or drive.

Be sure to warn your fellow passengers to avoid startling them when you start moving because there is no warning sound for this either.

Other features worth highlighting include the following:

  • Auto-start with Occupant Classification System — Uses in-seat sensors and scans for remote to determine if car can switch gears
  • 12-inch horizontal digital driver’s display with integrated Google Maps navigation
  • 9-inch vertical touchscreen display in centre console with Google-powered operating system
  • Automatic emergency braking — Avoids rear-ending and driving into obstacles
  • 360-degree parking cameras — Supports augmented overhead or four individual views
  • 360-degree parking sensors — Accurate distance detection to squeeze into tight spaces
  • Adaptive cruise control with adjustable safe following distance
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Speed limit detection and warnings
  • Speed camera warnings
  • Auto-dimming for centre rearview and side-view mirrors
  • Large opening sunroof — Can adjust extent to which sunroof cover is opened and physically open top window
  • Mobile app linking — Allows for checking car’s location, controlling air conditioning and charging remotely, and opening and locking (but not starting) the car
  • Hands-free boot opening — uses tailgate sensors to detect foot swipes
  • Electronic seat adjustments for driver and front passenger, including lumbar support
  • Heated steering wheel and heated seats
  • Two-zone climate control
  • Wireless smartphone charging and multiple USB-C ports for wired charging
Digital driver’s display with built-in Google Maps navigation

My only major gripe with the XC40 Recharge is an aspect of its “Google built-in” infotainment system, which is basically a custom build of Android Automotive.

This should not be confused with Google’s smartphone mirroring software, Android Auto, which is available on most new cars on the market, even budget options selling for under R200,000.

Android Automotive is a fully standalone operating system to which you can also link your Google account.

It can run independently from your phone while connecting to your accounts on several popular apps — like Google Maps, Spotify, YouTube, and even Prime Video.

However,  Android Automotive has a much smaller selection of apps available than standard Android Auto can mirror from your smartphone via a Wi-Fi connection.

For example, it has no support for WhatsApp, which meant I could not receive notifications, read messages, or make or receive WhatsApp calls.

Whenever I wanted to listen to a voice note on WhatsApp, I had to first switch the output to Bluetooth.

The irony is that a person with an iPhone will likely have no issues, as Android Automotive supports Apple Carplay mirroring.

That means you can get all the features and apps available on Carplay — including WhatsApp.

Savings on fuel costs and real-life range

A bonus of using electricity rather than fuel over this period was that I paid around half of what I would have to fill up the XC40 Recharge petrol hybrid.

A person who can use some of their own solar power to fill up their battery would benefit even more.

In terms of real-life range, I averaged around 22.6kWh per 100km. This would theoretically provide about 332km of travel distance on the 75kWh battery pack in the model I reviewed.

The consumption number is quite a bit more than Volvo’s claimed average of 20.5kWh/100km, and the real-life range is only about 80% of Volvo’s claimed figure of 418km.

However, I won’t deny that I had been making liberal use of the Volvo’s quick acceleration, which likely ate into my consumption.

With more measured driving and perhaps less air conditioning use, I think Volvo’s number is very achievable, particularly in urban driving, where regenerative braking can really make a difference.

It is also important to note that Volvo has updated the Recharge Twin and its more affordable Single Motor version with larger battery packs that improve upon the previous ranges.

Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin charging at 60kW DC charger in Menlyn Maine parking lot.

The XC40 Recharge Twin’s interior felt sturdy and refined.

The car and its boot are big enough for the needs of a couple or small family of four people.

The one neat addition in the car is a small removable trash bin that makes it easy to hide and later throw away all your receipts.

The only issue I had was the lack of physical climate control buttons.

While it is becoming growingly common for car manufacturers to integrate this into the touch display, I prefer physical buttons or knobs.

On the positive side, the XC40 offers physical buttons for media controls and volume and a quick defrost function.

Pricing

The XC40 Recharge Twin Motor starts at R1,298,000 when bought new in South Africa.

At the time of publication, MyBroadband found several dual-motor XC40 Recharge models selling from R1,129,950 on AutoTrader.

If you don’t require the sheer amount of power the dual-motor configuration provides, then the Single Motor will cost you R1,108,000 brand new.

Alternatively, you can buy it used starting from R869,900 on AutoTrader with 14,000km on the clock.

Below are more images of the Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin.


Exterior


Interior


Now read: Toyota unveils two new electric car concepts

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I drove the Volvo XC40 Recharge Twin for 3 months — why I’m hooked on electric