The C40 Recharge encapsulates well-being, offering an unmatched relaxing driving experience, while its acceleration will leave you beaming. We drive Volvo’s in-vogue EV on a stormy winter’s day in Cape Town…

I adore the minimalism of Scandinavian design. For example, among many other items around my apartment, the desk I’m sitting at while writing this launch review is of this design language. It’s “clean”. There are no awkward elements to it. I appreciate that. Although design trends have changed over the years, the desk still looks fresh. Timeless.

The latter can also be said of Volvo’s modern design language. It’s timeless. There are no unnecessary lines. They look sleek.

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Locally, the C40 Recharge is available in only top-tier, Ultimate guise.

The C40 Recharge’s styling remains true to its maker’s contemporary design language. However, whereas the roof of, for example, the XC40 has been drawn in a seemingly ruler-straight line, for the C40 Recharge, the Gothenburg-based brand’s designers have applied a curved item — the so-called French Curve; often used in fashion design — to the sheet before completing the roofline. The result: fashionable bodywork that will stand the test of time. However, the C40 Recharge’s in-vogue form is not only head-turning. It serves a function — aerodynamics.

There is, however, a drawback to the sloping roofline. The tapered rear window restricts outward visibility.

Our press unit was dressed in Silver Dawn. The exterior colour palette also includes Thunder Grey, Onyx Black, Black Stone and Fjord Blue. The latter hue (seen in the main image) added some vibrance to the winter’s day, contrasting with the grey clouds gracing the Western Cape skies.

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The C40 Recharge, the first Volvo designed as pure electric-only, measures 4 440 mm in length, 1 873 mm in width, and 1 591 mm in height. The wheelbase measures 2 702 mm. The ground clearance is 171 mm.

The interior is pleasingly minimalistic. Most functions, including the dual-zone climate control system and heating functionality for the seats (for the rear pews, also) and steering wheel, are operated via the Android-powered infotainment system, replete with (it goes without saying) Android Auto and, for Apple users like myself, Apple CarPlay screen mirroring. The latter connected seamlessly when I plugged my device into the USB-C port. Tunes are relayed over a sublime, 13-speaker Harman/Kardon sound system.

Google services are included in the software. For example, whereas I usually activate Google Maps via Apple CarPlay, this navigation app, among many other available applications, is incorporated into the system. In addition, you can set your desired destination via “Hey Google” voice assist. The latter functionality can also be used to check how much range is left and, were the 78 kWh lithium-ion battery in need of a recharge, direct you to the closest charging station. “Hey Google, open Spotify” for some tunes on your way there.

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The sky was clear at the top of Franschhoek Pass.

The battery can be replenished by two AC charging modes — via a traditional, 3.5 kWh home plug and a 11 kWh wall box, the latter of which is included (and installed) when purchasing the C40 Recharge. A 150 kWh DC fast charge allows a 10 to 80 per cent recharge in 37 minutes.

Fortunately, we never had to ask the system to direct us to the closest charging station. The C40 T8 Recharge Twin AWD has a (claimed) electric range of 444 km (WLTP).

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Although the interior is minimalistic, with most functions operated via the central display, there are some pleasingly tactile switchgear.

On the first leg of the launch, we travelled directly from Cape Town International Airport to the evening’s accommodation, Ludus Magnus, an off-the-grid boutique hotel located in the Franschhoek winelands. It’s well worth a visit.

With our overnight bags loaded into the (489-litre) rear luggage compartment (accessed via an electrically operated tailgate; the front trunk, or “frunk”, offers an additional 31 litres of packing space), we entered the cabin. It’s a remarkably relaxing environment. The interior fit and finish and insulation are excellent. Once free from the afternoon traffic, the only sound permeating the cabin en route to our destination was the pitter-patter of rain drops falling on the windshield and panoramic glass sunroof.

No wind noise was present throughout the drive. However, on unkempt stretches of tarmac, a hint of tyre noise was noticeable. (The C40 Recharge’s 20-inch alloy wheels are wrapped in mixed-size, 235/45 fore and 255/40 aft Pirelli P Zero rubber.)

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The (standard-fitment) tinted glass roof allows ample light into the cabin.

The suspension configuration fared well, soaking up most road imperfections commendably, including those, which, owing to the rain, formed on the then-muddy-ish gravel road leading towards our accommodation. Of course, traversing the water-filled potholes of the latter was done with extreme caution and calculation, while the crisp 9.0-inch touch-enabled screen displayed a birds-eye view of the Volvo as we went along. When having to bring the C40 Recharge to a halt, we seldomly used the brake pedal, as we activated one-pedal driving via the infotainment system.

Arriving at Ludus Magnus, we pressed ‘P’ on the centre console. There’s no start/stop button. The Volvo is switched off through doing the latter and switched on by shifting the transmission lever to ‘D’ or ‘R’.

The layered, back-lit graphic on the dashboard takes inspiration from the Abisko national park in Sweden. The contours of a topography map of the park were traced and used to create this ‘easter egg’.

Recharged, us (fully) and the Volvo (to around 82 per cent; the indicated range left was 290 km), the next morning, we took the scenic route back to the Mother City. The rain persisted. However, the C40 T8 Recharge Twin’s all-wheel-drive system inspired confidence on the wet roads, while the optional Pixel LED headlamps, replete with ‘Thor’s Hammer’ daytime-running lights (a Volvo staple and design highlight), equipped to our test unit guided the way through the mist on Franschhoek Pass as we enjoyed the silence provided by electric powertrain.

A hint of body lean was present during (enthusiastic) cornering. However, at considerate speeds, the C40 Recharge felt composed. Besides, it’s only once the road straightens out that you really want to put your foot down…

‘Hyperdrive’. The 2 185 kg all-electric crossover/SUV accelerates at a staggering pace. (Volvo claims the C40 Recharge completes the 0-100 km/h sprint in 4.7 seconds.) However, the sheer acceleration provided by the 300 kW/660 Nm twin electric motor arrangement doesn’t take away from the relaxing driving experience. Instead, it’ll make to beam from ear to ear.

12.3-inch digital instrument cluster.

At a glance

Volvo C40 P8 Recharge Twin AWD Ultimate

The C40 Recharge isn’t perfect, yet, at the moment, I can’t think of another EV I’d want to live with. It’s a subjective take, I know. But this Volvo EV suits me. However, objectively (or, at least, trying to be, because objectivity is something one can only strive for), it’s arguably one of the most relaxing vehicles to drive that’s currently available in South Africa. It feels remarkably refined, with a comfortable ride and well-appointed interior, the latter wrapped in sleek, coupé-styled bodywork. Add to that swift acceleration, and the C40 Recharge will leave you beaming.

  • Price: R1 285 000
  • Battery capacity: 78 kWh
  • Powertrain: twin electric motors
  • Transmission: 1-spd AT
  • Driven wheels: A
  • Power: 300 kW
  • Torque: 660 Nm
  • 0-100 km/h: 4.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 180 km/h
  • Energy consumption: 19.8 kWh/100km
  • Electric range: 444 km (WLTP)