Volvo is currently in a solid position. In the last decade, the Swedish business has taken two risky bets: staking a claim on a new kind of automobile ownership structure and a high-profile rejection of two attributes that have long been associated with high-end cars: performance and dynamics. To put it another way, a Volvo is not a sports car (although the firm can own its cake and eat it, since performance is clearly in the field of its very effective Polestar sub-brand). As a consequence, Volvo has become free to transition out internal combustion engines, increase safety and innovation, and change the way we think about automobiles.
We just tested the new Volvo XC40 Recharge, the company’s first and newest 100% electric vehicle, which is an energized version of the excellent XC40 SUV. We also spoke with Robin Page, who works as the Volvo Cars’ Head of Design, as well as his team about the C40, the XC40’s smaller, coupe-like brother, which will be available before the close of the year. Even when completed in a shade of pistachio which only occurs in fever dreams of the Seventies cultists, the XC40 is an excellent first effort. It’s simply styled and proportioned, demonstrating that Volvo’s bulky aesthetics are perfectly adapted to the modern SUV, even though the car feels a little bigger than it appears on the road.
The XC40, in keeping with the company’s new attitude, foregoes such niceties as adjustable suspension or a “sports” mode, as well as any other driving modes. It’s all about simplicity instead: just jump in and go. There is no ‘start’ button to press with the key in the pocket. Most notably, the XC40 foregoes a traditional, highly visible range indication in favour of displaying merely the percentage of battery life remaining.
This is most likely clever psychology, a strategy to get rid of range anxiety. It usually works if the trips are brief; on longer journeys, it’s a different story. A week in the XC40 exposed the UK’s charging infrastructure’s persistent flaws. Simply said, there aren’t nearly enough charging stations. There’s no justification to develop new sluggish EVs now that the bulk of new EVs can take rapid charging (at least 22Kw per hour), but the great majority of stations would still only charge the car at a trickle.
The XC40 is a fantastic electric vehicle that will only improve as infrastructure improves. The C40, its new sister, contains many of the same components as the C30 but it features a sleeker body shape. Inside, it’s also a little more ambitious. The C40 symbolizes a transitional phase, according to Page and his co-workers T. Jon Mayer, Exterior Design’s Senior Director, and Lisa Reeves, Interior Design’s Head.
‘Because we don’t need a grill, the front face, for instance, maybe closed to give the car a cleaner design language,’ adds Mayer. ‘Of course, we’ll preserve our characteristic ‘hammer’ lights and the ‘iron mark’ diagonal insignia.’ Aerodynamics is another important factor to consider. ‘On an electric vehicle, they’re so much more crucial.’ We currently have aerodynamic specialists in the design department since their engagement at the start of the process has the greatest influence.’