2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge: Current Affair

So this afternoon I found myself over at McLaughlin Motors, shooting the breeze with my salesman friend, Brian Cox. We were talking about everything from the chip shortage to preferred vodka brands, and he mentioned, have you driven the electric XC40 version? I had not. “Well hang on, I’ll bring one around.”

And thus did I drive my first electric vehicle. I am not enamored of electric vehicles. A meme making the rounds lately on social media is when you run out of juice on I-55, you won’t be able to borrow a can of electricity to get back to your destination. Nope. You’ll need a flatbed most likely, to take you to a dealer or recharge station (which might be easy on the West coast but is somewhat more problematic in the Midwest) and hope you didn’t damage anything running it flat.

But I was still interested in trying one out. And although I haven’t owned a Volvo in six years, I still like the brand, despite its current owners. The XC40 itself has been out a few years, built in the Ghent, Belgium Volvo factory, same as the 2006 V50 and 1999 S70 AWD I used to own.

As a result it mostly looks like a normal CUV. The only obvious telltale is the solid body color section where the grille would be on a regular XC40-though the Volvo emblem and ‘slash’ remain for proper marque ID.

Brian said when I found a nice, lonesome stretch of road, to floor it. I did so. Ludicrous Speed arrived in no time. It was a snap to go from 55 to 80. I had perhaps a little too much fun with it. I think I’d get too many tickets in this thing if I owned one.

It’s pretty much standard modern Volvo otherwise, though the start/turn off process confused me at first. There’s no push on/off start button like on the modern Lincolns, instead, you press the brake and move the shifter to drive or reverse.

And as the batteries are beneath the floor, the engine compartment instead has a flush plastic molding with a lid that opens to a space approximately the size of a Coleman cooler. It reminded me of an old VW beetle, only without the spare.

And like many modern cars, there IS no spare, just a tire inflator and patch in the storage space below the rear cargo area-which, incidentally, has a bit more room than the regular XC40 due to no gas tank.

Other quirks include door panel trim made of recycled water bottles, a cordless charger for your phone on the center console, adjustable thigh support for both front seats (a la BMW), and a sunroof open/close button that has no actual buttons. Instead, you sweep the surface back to open it; forward to close it. Like many modern cars it has a panorama sunroof with fabric shade that still lets a small amount of sunshine through it.

Like many modern crossovers/combovers/CUVs, it has a gigantic blind spot on the D-pillar, which is partially mitigated by the BLIS system. Still, I’d have preferred better over-the-shoulder visibility.

I was on I-74 at one point and some variant of silver silvermist Lexus combover was coming up on the right. At first I thought it was some sort of Nissan, a Kicks or Rogue or some other similarly depressing conveyance. But as I got closer I saw it was a Lexus. Geez. I remember the original RX300; it was a nice looking car. Why Lexus has decided to make their cars look cheap and contrived the last 5-8 years is beyond me. Even the ES looks like a long-wheelbase Altima now. Way to attract the country club set. But I digress!

With its large five spoke wheels, two tone and quirky styling, I’m not sure if Volvo is trying to go for a Mini Clubman look, but I kind of got that vibe. Of course, the CUV market is red hot now, and most new cars-those that are actually making it to dealerships lately, anyway-are of this type.

Naturally if I was Ovlov shopping I’d prefer a S60 or S90, because I’m a sedan and wagon guy, but this wasn’t a bad ride. You can still see the family resemblance in the nose, hood and taillights, though I like the XC60 much better, since it is less stubby and has a large rear quarter window instead of the mostly blank flanks of this car. But it was interesting driving an electric car. Probably won’t buy one, but if you do, more power to you. Pun intended.

26 Replies to “2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge: Current Affair”

  1. John C.

    Gosh that interior looks dreary. Anyone interested should keep an eye out for the Inscription level interior. I would also worry about an electric non Tesla. The non standardization of recharge plugs is a problem. Also in my condo, if not Tom’s, the garage electricity is handled by the building, so to rig up chargers for your electric would make enemies.

    Reply
  2. LynnG

    Tom, glad to see you are expanding your horizons, and starting to evaluate appliances 🙂 what next Kitchen Aid ranges and dishwashers. 🙂 🙂 I am sorry that was a poor attempt at humor… But really could they do anymore to make an interior of a vehicle more unappealing. But I have heard, except for Tom, Volvos are manufactured for people who hate cars, so I guess it is good enought. However, your point is well made that the market is saturated with CUVs (small tall station wagons or stumpy mini-van, your choice.

    JohnC. You are correct about condos. At my building a fight almost broke out at the monthly board meeting when it was explained to some of the tree huggers that our buildings electical system could not handle charging stations and the cost of rewireing the garage was cost prohibitive given our building and its garage was build when the average MPG of new cars was 8MPG and gas was 65 cents a gallon (1970). The Tesla owners got even more upset when it was pointed out that they know we did not have vehicle charging stations when they went out an purchased their Tesla electric golf carts. Nothing like a little excitement at a HOA meeting… at least no furniture got broken. 🙂

    (Contributors disclaimer: Most everything in this post was written in a sense of jest, the author fully realizes that we are being forced into an all electric future by choice or at gun point, so no need to de-person the author)

    Reply
    • John C.

      From experience as a condo board president, don’t have monthly meetings! At any given time, half the building is unhappy in their lives, and no matter how much you try to play Sammy Davis’s “Candy Man”, they will think you out to get them.

      Reply
      • Tom Klockau

        Was on the condo board for years, quit about 10 years ago. Let someone else do it. So many whiners, and of course the whiners never served. Fortunately we only had quarterly meetings.

        Reply
        • CitationMan

          My former condo building had the garage beneath our 40 units, and that layout doesn’t appear to be wise for parking EV’s, after reading the Tesla Emergency Response Guide for fire departments.
          The key line on firefighting from page 23:
          “Battery fires can take up to 24 hours to extinguish. Consider allowing the battery to burn while protecting exposures.”
          Give your condo board this guide and let the fun begin!
          https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/Training/AFV/Emergency-Response-Guides/Tesla/Tesla-Model-3-EV-2017-2018-ERG.ashx

          Reply
          • John C.

            CitationMan, you might want to ponder, the pressure on the board of a fellow that has just laid out big bucks on a tesla for a girl that he has not bothered to marry but lives with despite his alleged maturity.. A while ago, I suggested a solar panel on the flat roof that I would allow charging that would not cost the building money. This itself was a risk to the building as the weight of the panel could cause a leak to a penthouse. Just explaining so you understand their are no optimal answers to the brave but sad world we are in. The senile 85 year old man that handles the building now gets my profound thanks every time I see him.

  3. CJinSD

    Bashing Lexus is more convincing when you aren’t driving a Chinese Kia Soul clone.

    Volvo AB bought a hugely successful American start-up premium outboard company called Seven Marine a couple of years ago. Their specialty is outboards with Corvette engines. Volvo AB shut Seven Marine down this year even as high end outboard sales are booming. Volvo AB first killed all the Seven Marine jobs in Wisconsin to move production to Tennessee, and now those jobs are victims of their global marxist climate agenda. I wish we had an American president, as this would be a good time to bomb Sweden’s factories until their invaders think they’re still in Pakistan.

    Reply
    • stingray65

      “Global Marxist Agenda”? Really? I think it is safer to assume those Swedes are just trying to save the world from climate change and inequities between people – after all they desire to be the the world’s humanitarian super power. I am sure that the Swedes will soon be welcoming thousands of refugees from Afghanistan who desire to escape the Taliban while receiving some of those inequity reducing welfare payments and free housing that Swedish taxpayers (60+% marginal tax rates + 26% VAT) pay to support. And the children and young men who remain in Afghanistan will soon be mining rare earths with pick and shovel under the supervision of the Taliban and their Chinese masters, so that the rich Westerners can feel better about themselves by driving a subsidized electric car powered by rare earth minerals mined by children and assembled into batteries, solar panels, and electric generators/motors by slave labor in China. A clean, bright, and fair and electric powered Utopia is just around the corner.

      Reply
    • JF91

      That’s a different Volvo 🙂
      Marine, Truck, Heavy Equipment are still Swedish-owned Volvo AB. Volvo Cars as sold to Ford, now Geely held, is a licensee of the trademark and a separate company that was spun off of Volvo heavy.

      However, I’ve only heard bad things about the reliability of those Seven Marine Corvette and Cadillac powered outboards from my FIL and others who are big boaters.. Killed because the market wasn’t there, resale on boats powered by them is horrific in South Florida… Plus the others had caught up

      Reply
      • CJinSD

        I specified that it was Volvo AB and joked about bombing Sweden. Had it been the car company, then it would have only made sense to go after China. I live by the water. Big outboard sales are booming.

        Reply
  4. Idaneck

    John, a condo? Seriously. A real man owns a house with a minimum half acre for his brood to enjoy the pool, his wife to serve him lemonade on the back deck, and with a circle driveway to show off his latest American made full size ride (Denali, no doubt). Condo is one step towards a communist, landlord owned, tenant building. Be a real man.

    Reply
    • John C.

      I had the three quarter acre house with the circular driveway, a neighborhood pool and as always a dear wife to serve me adult beverages and keep them coming while I am ensconced in my mahogany paneled study. It was not a good experience. The neighborhood hooligans in my gated community loved to egg my home, ring the door bell and run away and once even paint swastikas on my wife’s elegant car parked in that circular driveway. There was an admittedly ill considered McCain sticker on the car. She never liked that car or house after that and my telling of it to the board literally brought tears to old neighbors of mine but won roving security inside the gate to protect us from our own. So when my nest emptied and the daughter was off at boarding school, we sold the house at a loss after 12 years and bought a downtown condo with zero children in the building and rising home values.

      Reply
      • stingray65

        As the mayor of Portland found out (due to his own incompetence), living in a downtown condo doesn’t protect you from “peaceful” protesters or other colorful characters who tend to congregate in downtown areas, especially when big (blue) city police and prosecutors no longer consider arson, carjacking, vandalism, car-jacking, drug dealing/using, pooping on the streets, blocking traffic, shoplifting, assault, looting, or vagrancy to be crimes unless they are committed by someone wearing a MAGA hat.

        Reply
        • John C.

          Indeed it doesn’t. During the thankfully here only one day George Floyd rioting, the National Guard armoured car and infantry truck were outside my building and holding a line two blocks away. Though of course upsetting, it was not as bad as the swastikas because that was a personal attack on my family.

          We did decide if rioters or thugs ever breached the building, we would move.

          Reply
  5. stingray65

    There is a Norwegian vlogger names Telsabjorn who tests all the new EVs for range at 90 and 120kph (56 and 74 mph) and carries out a 1,000KM (600 mile) trip using a standard highway route to compare how long it takes compared to a gasoline car. Norway has the most EVs and best recharging infrastructure in the world and relatively low speed limits so except for the cold winters is a good environment for owning an EV. One thing I have figured out is that EV vloggers think recharging is very convenient because it allows them to film little segments talking about the car they are testing and the recharging speed (or lack of it) that fills the 15 to 40 minutes they are waiting for the battery to juice up. The other thing that I notice about the vloggers is that they almost always run the battery down to less than 1% to extract maximum range, but in reality if you want to keep your expensive battery healthy you are supposed to keep it within the 10% to 80% bracket for normal use.

    Some interesting observations – even the longest range models that are supposedly good for 300+ miles of driving rarely break 200 miles range when driven at 74 mph cruise (and that is running them down to 1%). Range is greatly negatively effected by rain and cold, which is also when it is most fun to find a recharging station (almost never covered) and fiddle with the plug. The best EVs take about 1 hour longer to drive the 600 miles than his gasoline standard, but most take 2+ hours longer and this is in Norway where every gas station on the highways now have EV recharging stations. I love how the vloggers brag about barely having time to run and pee because it now only takes 20 minutes to charge from 10% to 80% on the fastest rechargers (wow – 150 miles in only 20 minutes). Full price recharging is cheaper than gasoline in Norway where gasoline is heavily taxed, but is not cheaper than gasoline in many parts of the US and Australia.

    With that being said, EVs are almost always very nice driving vehicles – my brother just bought a Tesla after the test drive wowed him, but we will see if he is still so excited when he finds he can’t make it to his weekend cabin during the winter without a recharge stop in -10 to +10 degrees. Their advantages are biggest in city driving, and they would make a great 2nd around town runabout vehicle for most people, except those living in condo/apartments without easy plug access, and the fact that unsubsidized EVs are not cheap to buy so the idea of buying one to “save money” on fuel is laughable.

    Reply
  6. stingray65

    Tom, you didn’t mention how many Volvo EVs they had in inventory or whether they were dealing or not, so I did a little search in your area on Autotrader and the results are very interesting. With a wide search of BEV vehicles within 400 miles and new or certified 2020 or newer models only, my search yielded over 1,000 pure electric vehicles for sale, with new 2020 and 2021 Bolts available by the truck load at $12-14K off sticker (approximately 33% discount). When I narrowed the search to Volvo electrics, there were 151 available and they seemed to be widely discounted about $4-6K off the $60K sticker. Given the low inventory and general price gouging going on with new and late model used cars these days, the fact that there are so many new and late model EVs available at substantial discount (before any negotiating even begins) would suggest that the public isn’t yet sold on an EV future.

    Reply
    • Tom Klockau

      Well, you know I’m not buying one. No interest in one. I just like trying different cars out. It’s embarrassing that in this day and age car companies still charge $700 for metallic paint.

      This corporate virtue signaling, cramming electric cars down everyone’s throat, is getting really old. Sad to see all the manufacturers first killing sedans in favor of fat, drunk and stupid combovers, then pledging dubious parties to go full electric by X date. Like my friend Luke says, you dont see any electric snow plows.

      Reply
      • stingray65

        If not for the government virtue signaling in the form of zero-emission mandates and EV subsidies, I suspect there would be no manufacturer efforts to cram electric cars down anyone’s throat since they lose money on every one. Electric cars don’t sell anywhere unless they are generously subsidized, which includes the “tax-free” electric fuel that allows wealthy EV buyers to drive around on roads they don’t pay for (since they don’t pay fuel taxes devoted to roads). As for blaming the manufacturers for the fat, drunk cross-overs that have taken over the market, I think it is fairer to blame the fat and elderly consumers who pay sticker for cross-overs that are easy to enter and exit with 50 lbs of extra weight and arthritic joints, instead of buying discounted “swoopy” sedans and coupes. It will be interesting to see how things progress as consumers will be forced to choose between swoopy aerodynamics that help increase EV range versus the chunky and upright trucks and CUVs that they seem to prefer.

        Reply
        • CitationMan

          This.
          I’ve always thought that one of the main factors in the increase in SUV sales was the size and weight of the populace. Not PC to discuss so it’s never mentioned.

          Reply
          • Tom Klockau

            I kind of thought that too. Every time I see a Sportage or Santa Fat, oops, Sante Fe go by, I picture Stewie Griffin following it with a tuba…

    • JF91

      Most dealers here in “Volvo Country” NJ/CT/NY seem to have 1-2 XC40 Recharge pure electrics, but have been moving several XC90 P8 and XC60 or S60 smaller plug in P8’s which are quite useful for the many of us who “commute” 5-10 miles to the train station each day.

      I have a ‘21 V60 CrossCountry T5 gas, but for a 3rd car we’d strongly consider an electric XC40 as it would cover most trips around town. Had I been able to swing the additional 15k for a V60 Polestar plug in last year, I’d probably be driving that and filling up the gas tank once a month or less.

      I really wish more companies would go the plug in hybrid route as it does really make so much more sense for most people given our infrastructure. 20-40mi electric range, plus a gas engine for long trips is perfect.

      Reply
  7. hank chinaski

    There are more than a few pictures of diesel powered electric charging stations floating around, the most famous at the BurgerKingRing. Some wag calculated the MPG equivalent after conversion losses at around 8 or so, IIRC. My favorite shot is a gas powered car towing a diesel generator charging a dead EV.
    “All green energy ends in a smoke stack.”
    Again, these are for our betters. Plebes won’t be going anywhere. Eat the bugs, live in the pod, get the jab(s), etc. etc.

    Reply
    • stingray65

      The interesting market is California, where they are again shutting off power to parts of the state grid to prevent forest fires and/or because of shortages due to renewable unreliability (including dried up hydro power reservoirs). The state government urges people to shut down their home appliances and electronics completely rather than have them on standby/sleep mode because standby/sleep mode draws a small amount of precious electricity, yet at the same time they encourage/mandate that everyone convert to electric vehicles. From what I understand, most EVs should always be plugged in even when fully charged because the battery life is extended by using plug juice to run the climate control system that keeps the battery cells from freezing or toasting in extreme weather, and because the owners like to climatize the interiors before setting off on a hot or cold day. If the car is not plugged in while parked, then the battery is used to run the climate control for the battery and interior, which significantly reduces the available range, but also leads to another costly danger: bricking the battery pack by letting it “run dry”, where the only fix is a complete replacement at a cost of $5 (used) to $20K+. So if California officials are worried about TVs, laptops, and smart washing machines drawing too much power when on standby, how do they think the grid is going to cope with millions of EVs constantly plugged in to keep the batteries from bricking? I expect the answer for many Tesla owners will be to have a diesel generator for home and office to make sure their precious planet saving EV never bricks or makes them sweat upon entry on a hot day when the grid goes down.

      Reply
  8. gtem

    This electric XC40 wraps up everything I hate about modern cars into one vehicle: thanks, I hate it!

    The UX/NX whatever Lexus is more of the same. Cynically selling cheap rollerskate cars with a badge. Gloss black painted trim, oversized directional alloys, etc, all priced for a mint.

    My current un-modern crossover is my ’99 Forester that I acquired for $300, itself an early version of a crossover. But it feels like a lively piece of agricultural equipment to drive, and is kind of built like one: spin on external transmission filter, redundant/twin air filters, relatively speaking poor NVH (read: road feel), huge windows. Sadly mine’s an auto, but still fun to fart around town in this cheap and cheerful commuter. This was the OG king of unpainted plastic trim, and actual “tough” and utilitarian 205/70R15 tires on painted steel wheels. If you can’t already tell I’ve grown quite fond of it, especially for the price I got it for (rat chewed the crank position sensor harness, and needed rear brake lines). I guess the closest modern vehicle to this is a new Forester or Crosstrek, but those new Subarus are ultimately still closer to the rest of the modern crossovers than this first gen car.

    Reply

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