Volvo goes high voltage | The West Australian

Just as Volvo does things a bit differently to its luxury German competitors, so too does it take a different approach to plug-in hybrids.

The XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid (lengthy name) is one of the first electrified models from the Swedish company and will be one of many plug-ins and fully electric models with the Recharge moniker in the coming years.

Most car makers aim to have their PHEVs offer as much electric driving as possible before switching power almost entirely over to an internal combustion engine.

While this is possible in the XC40 Recharge, it’s at its best working more like a traditional hybrid, where the electric does all the work it can before the petrol unit kicks in where needed.

Given the electric motor is small — 60kW and 160Nm — this usually means the petrol kicks in when accelerating up to and cruising at freeway speeds. It does the 0-100km/h dash in 7.3 seconds, which is quick enough.

A full charge takes 4 1/2 to five hours.
Camera IconA full charge takes 4 1/2 to five hours. Credit: Supplied/Supplied

The sprint will take longer if you opt for electric power only by selecting the Pure driving mode, which will adjust other functions such as air-conditioning to extend battery life. The digital display claims 45km of electric range but you’ll need to drive sedately and avoid freeways.

We generally only got a tick over 30km under electric power, which doesn’t look great — but the relatively small 10.7kWh lithium-ion battery pack also means a short charge time: a standard household socket will fully charge from zero in 41/2 to five hours.

If you head somewhere for an hour or two, you can add a decent amount of range on the go. But as we said, the XC40 Recharge feels more at home used as a conventional hybrid, which was also our preference.

This was due to the improved performance, but also because this is one of the smoothest hybrids we’ve driven: the petrol engine can be nigh-on imperceptible when it kicks in.

It only enhances the XC40’s luxury bona fides — which are already stellar — across the whole range.

It’s comfortable and quiet and, as with other Volvos, the interior has a light airiness to it making it feel far less austere than many Teutonic rivals.

The 9-inch portrait-shaped tablet-like infotainment screen also helps differentiate the cabin, though it can take time to learn how to use it properly.

Volvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid.
Camera IconVolvo XC40 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid. Credit: Supplied

Given its complexity, a head-up display would have been nice to limit eyes-off-road time.

As the XC40’s flagship, the Recharge isn’t cheap at $64,990 but it does have some generous kit on top of the fancy hybrid set-up: Harman Kardon audio, leather interior, electric front seats, active LED headlights with auto high beam, panoramic sunroof and a wide array of modern safety tech.

Our test vehicle also had options such as the $700 Climate Pack (heated front seats, windscreen washers, and steering wheel), heated rear seats ($350), a 360-degree view camera ($990) and more.

Only the $1150 metallic paint felt like a gouge, but we could have done without any of it.

Also standard is sat nav with road sign information, which annoyingly beeps whenever you go fractionally over the speed limit; it can be turned off, but it always turns itself back on when restarting the car.

But what’s impressive here is there isn’t much compromise for the XC40 Recharge being a plug-in hybrid.

The XC40 Recharge is at its best working more like a traditional hybrid.
Camera IconThe XC40 Recharge is at its best working more like a traditional hybrid. Credit: Supplied

It’s heavier than other XC40s but, unlike most plug-ins, doesn’t feel cumbersome when using only petrol power.

The battery pack doesn’t eat into the usual 452-litre cargo space at all and only reduces the underfloor storage from 49 litres to 29.

However, it is only front-wheel-drive as opposed to the all-wheel-drive XC40 T5 R-Design, which also happens to be one of the biggest reasons not to buy the Recharge.

On top of powering all four wheels, the T5 R-Design also gets all the gear the Recharge does save for the sunroof and stereo, and it is $8000 cheaper.

Fuel use will help justify the price difference though: we used just 1.7L/100km in our week in the car.

VOLVO XC40

Variant Recharge Plug-in Hybrid

Price $64,990 (as tested $69,760)

Engine 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol plug-in hybrid

Outputs 132kW/265Nm (petrol); 60kW/160Nm

Transmission Seven-speed automatic, FWD

Fuel economy 2.2L/100km

VERDICT

You won’t travel far on pure battery power, but the XC40 Recharge is still super frugal, quick to charge and is smoother than most hybrids. Combined with the XC40’s already proved luxury credentials it’s an enjoyable, if pricey, package.

COMPETITION

MINI COUNTRYMAN

Variant Signature PHEV

Price $66,200

Engine 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol plug-in hybrid

Outputs 100kW/220Nm (petrol); 65kW/165Nm

Transmission Six-speed automatic, FWD

Fuel economy 2.5L/100km

HYUNDAI KONA

Variant EV Highlander

Price $65,290

Engine Electric with 64kWh lithium-ion battery

Outputs 150kW/395Nm

Transmission Single-speed reduction gear, FWD

Fuel economy 0.0L/100km

LEXUS UX

Variant 250h F-Sport

Price $64,100

Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol hybrid

Outputs 131kW (combined)/202Nm

Transmission CVT automatic, AWD

Fuel economy 4.5L/100km


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