2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge: Stop Calling Me Polestar!

Strong points
  • High performance
  • Competent AWD system
  • Comfortable ride
  • Google-powered infotainment is much better
Weak points
  • No EV incentives
  • Shorter range than many rivals
  • Not the most energy-efficient
  • Too much road and wind noise at high speeds
Full report

Ever since Polestar became a standalone brand, there’s been some confusion around Volvo vehicles.

Polestar models used to be the performance variants in the Swedish automaker’s portfolio, then the plug-in hybrid options. To make things clearer for potential Volvo customers, the Polestar name will be phased out, and electrified vehicles will now be called “Recharge.”

Leading the way in Canada is the all-electric 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge, which looks a lot like the conventionally powered XC40 except for the closed grille (because cooling isn’t as important to EVs).

Photo: Julien Amado

Big Battery, Short Range

The XC40 Recharge features a 78-kWh battery, which is pretty decent capacity by today’s EV standards. It’s enclosed in a special compartment to prevent harm to vehicle occupants in the event of a crash—nice—but provides a range of just 335 kilometres—not so nice. Consider that a Tesla Model S 75D with a 75-kWh battery offered 420 kilometres a few years ago.

Will customers be worried about that? We asked the question to Volvo reps, and they told us that 335 kilometres are more than enough for daily commutes. Oh sure, but what about the occasional trip to the country? Or longer trips?

There’s also the matter of cold-weather performance. We tested the XC40 Recharge on a day where the temperature dropped to -15 degrees Celsius, and it would have been impossible to drive more than 200 kilometres. With a Tesla Model Y Long Range, you could travel at least another 100 kilometres in similar conditions, which is a major step up.

As you can see, Tesla vehicles continue to set the benchmark for EV range. The latest XC40 can’t possibly compete with any of them.

Photo: Julien Amado

Charging Times

When it comes to charging, Volvo claims you can fill the battery from 0-100 percent charge in eight hours using a level 2 (240V) power source. The XC40 Recharge is also compatible with DC fast-charging stations supplying 150 kW of power, where 40 minutes suffice to get 80 percent of the battery’s total capacity. The problem is that many of today’s public charging stations run on 50 kW or 100 kW, so you’ll have to be more patient than that.

In a good move, Volvo has partnered with ChargePoint so each customer gets a membership card to use this network. If you live in Quebec or Ontario, you might also want to check out the Electric Circuit’s offering.

Photo: Julien Amado

Lightning-quick SUV

Equipped with two electric motors (one for each axle) creating a full-time AWD setup, the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge modulates power distribution based on real-time needs. In other words, both motors are always active, even when grip is not a problem.

The 402 horsepower at your disposal result in lightning-quick acceleration, whether from a standstill or during passing manoeuvres. The XC40 Recharge will pin you to your seat and leave about 99 percent of vehicles behind.

We put the AWD system to the test on dry roads as well as snow and ice, and in typical Volvo fashion it performed admirably. Even when flooring the throttle on a sketchy, snow-covered country road, wheelspin is kept at a minimum and there’s plenty of traction for you to use.

Around town, one-pedal driving is possible, and the controls prove adequately responsive. One small complaint: the vehicle slows down a bit too abruptly just before coming to a full stop. On slippery surfaces, this means the ABS often kicks in.

The XC40 Recharge offers a well-balanced ride and precise steering, making for a nice combination of comfort and agility. The most annoying thing is the excessive road and wind noise at high speeds—by EV standards, of course.

Photo: Julien Amado

“Ok Google, Enhance My Infotainment Experience”

Volvo products are known for having a not-so-user-friendly infotainment system. The new XC40 Recharge boasts pretty much the same interface, except that it’s powered by Google. And it makes all the difference.

Why? Because you no longer have to browse through various menus. Just say “Ok Google” followed by any voice command, and the assistant will work for you just like it does on your smartphone.

Another benefit is Google Maps, which offers up-to-date navigation, real-time traffic information, estimated time of arrival, and more. You can also find the nearest charging station or enjoy your favourite playlist at any moment. Google will even tell you jokes if that’s what you want to hear.

Photo: Julien Amado

The rest of the interior is largely identical to that of a regular XC40. It’s a nice place to be for four passengers, and the fairly boxy cargo area in the back proves handy. Don’t forget that there’s a secret storage compartment underneath the hood up front, although we must say it’s not quite deep enough. Volvo engineers preferred to use the space afforded by the missing combustion engine to add reinforcements to the structure.

No EV Incentives

During the Canadian media launch of the 2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge, we were told that only a few hundred units will be sold across the country in the first year, most of them in EV-friendly Quebec.

Priced from $64,950, the vehicle is not even eligible to federal or provincial incentives, whereas its main competitor, the Tesla Model Y, qualifies for an $8,000 rebate in Quebec and $3,000 in British Columbia. Plus, you don’t need to wait very long to get one.  

Will Volvo adjust the base price of the XC40 Recharge to attract more customers? We’ll have to wait and see.

Share on Facebook

More on the subject

ElectricVolvo XC40 Recharge Pricing Announced for Canada
The all-new Volvo XC40 Recharge , the fully electric variant of the small XC40 crossover, will go on sale in Canada later this fall as a 2021 model. And we finally know how much it costs. Pricing starts at $64,950 plus freight and delivery. If you do the math, that …
New ModelsFully-electric Volvo XC40 Recharge Unveiled with 335 Km of Range
Volvo today introduced the XC40 Recharge, its first-ever fully electric car and the first model to appear in its brand new Recharge vehicle line. Instead of creating a whole new product, the Swedish automaker decided to build on its latest star, the XC40 small crossover. And unlike the plug-in hybrid …
ElectricVolvo’s Second Electric Vehicle to Debut in Late Winter
Volvo , which aims to sell at least one million electric vehicles by 2025 and stop offering gas-only cars and SUVs at the same time, will soon unveil the second piece of its EV offensive. The Swedish automaker indeed plans to debut on March 2 a new electric car to …
NewsVolvo to Stop Selling Gasoline Cars in 2025
Volvo has pretty big ambitions when it comes to electrification. As previously reported, the Swedish automaker aims to sell at least one million EVs by 2025 and for them to account for half of its total sales at that point. Now, get this: the other half will be hybrid models, …
NewsVolvo to Become Fully Electric by 2030, Sell EVs Online Exclusively
Volvo has announced plans to become a fully electric car company by 2030. By then, the Swedish automaker intends to only sell fully electric vehicles and phase out any model in its global portfolio with an internal combustion engine, including hybrids. However, the dealerships should remain operating in Canada. Its …
News2022 Volvo C40 Unveiled as Coupe-style Electric Crossover
While announcing plans to become a fully electric car company by 2030 and sell vehicles online exclusively, except in Canada where dealerships are going to stay in business, Volvo unveiled its second EV today. Meet the 2022 Volvo C40. This coupe-like crossover is basically a sleeker and sportier variant of …
NewsVolvo Wants Fewer Sedans and Wagons, More SUVs
If there’s one automaker famous for building wagons, it’s Volvo . You just couldn’t write the story of the Swedish manufacturer without long-roof cars. But times are changing. SUVs and crossovers are all the rage now, and Volvo feels the need to adjust. Without completely abandoning sedans and wagons, the …
NewsVolvo XC60 Gets Cleaner Looks, Adds Google for 2022
The current generation of the Volvo XC60 , which dates back to 2018 and won the World Car of the Year award at the time, is getting a mid-cycle update for 2022. Designers have made small changes to the exterior, including the front grille and bumper. The difference is hardly …
NewsVolvo Asked Fans to Imagine the Car Garage of the Future
Automakers are starting to use new techniques and materials to make their vehicles greener and more sustainable. House and building designers have been doing the same for many years now, with LEED certification a token of environmental friendliness. That’s what prompted Volvo Canada to launch The New Garage design challenge.
NewsVolvo Canada Invests in Green Power for Earth Day
Volvo Canada wasted no time showing its true colours on Earth Day, announcing a partnership with Bullfrog Power to supply its corporate office in Richmond Hill, Ontario with 100 percent clean electricity. “At Volvo, sustainability is just as important as safety,” said Matt Girgis, managing director at Volvo Canada. “Choosing …
BuzzVolvo Canada and Casca Team Up to Make Shoes Using Old Tires
An association between a car manufacturer and World Car Free Day is always a bit… special. But Volvo seems to be out there for the long run with a carbon-neutral future and wants you to know it. Volvo Cars Canada last week announced that it has teamed up with Vancouver-based …
Comments