Launch Drive: Volvo C40 Recharge

Volvo South Africa held a media event for the launch of its C40 Recharge in the Western Cape this week. As with all its EVs, they are sold online exclusively; you cannot go to a dealership to buy it. The C40 Recharge is priced at R1 285 000.

Quick Look

  • 78kWh battery
  • 444km range (WLTP figures)
  • 300kW output; 600Nm of torque
  • 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds
  • 150kW max charging speed

Similar compact SUV EVs

Launch Route

EV launches are different to ICE vehicle launches because it is limited by battery and recharging at some point for multiple vehicles. For the launch, we drove from Cape Town Airport to Franschhoek using a semi-scenic route. It was 123km or so, split between two drivers.

The beginning was highway from the airport and then I took over when we drove towards Stellenbosch into Franschhoek via Sir Lowry’s Pass. It was also very wet and cold. The conditions were not ideal, and we couldn’t really stop for photos. When we did a driver change, it was so windy, it felt like the door wouldn’t close – no exaggeration.

However, the little taster we got was wonderful, the C40 Recharge is super quick, obviously. You put your foot down and feel all the power – 600Nm of torque on tap.

But its just one driving mode, you can’t go into eco or sport as such, and I’m not big on the one pedal driving mode – it’s aggressive. I prefer a bit more granular controls. So in the standard mode it was fine, power when needed and the drive was comfortable, and quiet.

We got to the accommodation spot at Ludus Magnus and drove through a little bit of water, crazy speed bumps etc, which the car kind of handled well. It’s a SUV after all.

Model driven at launch

The model I drove at launch has a list price of R1 285 000 (inclusive of VAT), but when kitted out with extras, it came to R1 312 150. Standard features include: Intellisafe Assist (it detects animals, cyclists and pedestrians with auto braking), back lit topography decor inlays, road sign info, lane keeping, Volvo on call, keyless entry, 360 degree cameras, pano roof, Harman Kardon sound, wireless phone charger, heated steering wheel and seats, 20″ 5 spoke alloy wheels. Options fitted: pixel LED headlights (R24 200), grey exterior (R2950).

This model features a leather-free interior, a first for Volvo, which also includes renewable wool fibres, recycled plastics, etc. Even the carpets are made from recycled plastic bottles. The panoramic glass roof makes it feel more spacious.

Driving modes

Like with the XC40 Recharge, the driving modes are standard, which is basic. You just get a straight up DRIVE option, with no “SPORT” mode. You can however, toggle one pedal driving and go into the built-in range optimiser but you can’t go into “ECO” mode like other EVs at the touch of a button. And being Android, you have to go deep into the menu to find it.

And something else that stands out about Volvo’s EV is that there is no start button, which stumps everyone. You just put the car into drive or reverse and head out. When you stop the car, you just go into park. That’s all there is to it. It’s kinda cool I guess, if you are familiar with it.

Charging and battery

The C40 Recharge has a maximum of 150kW charging speeds on a DC charger, for its 78kWh battery. So if you take it to Mall of Africa’s 200kW charger, you are not going to reach that highest level (separate topic, EVs don’t even reach that speed level in SA, no matter the brand, in my experience so far).

As with last year’s model, you can also expect a Volvo wallbox charger included with your purchase, along with a 7m aux charging cable. Volvo itself has not rolled out public chargers, this is why you get the wallbox charger installed at your home or office, as part of the care package – more info below.

You probably know that sourcing materials for batteries on EVs is one of the ugly sides to this industry, however, Volvo says it sources batteries responsibly. It claims to be first car manufacturer to “use blockchain technology throughout the cobalt supply chain, allowing it to monitor and trace the cobalt used in its batteries.”

Google Automotive Services (GAS)

The car’s 9-inch infotainment system runs on Android, it was the first brand to do so, and it is called Google Automotive Services (GAS). It has built-in Google apps and services. This is different to Android Auto and Android Automotive OS (AAOS). So, the interface is basic and not user friendly, like an Android device. I personally don’t like the look, more effort could have been made by Google when it comes to UX.

My main gripe with this is also connectivity. To use GAS, you need data to access Maps and Google Assistant, etc. But this is SA, there’s load shedding, there’s towers going down, and half the time the maps were not loaded fully. You just follow a blue line on blank black background on Maps. There is CarPlay access but I don’t like connecting my phone on launch drive vehicles because privacy.

It supports over-the-air (OTA) updates like your smartphone. And you can ask it anything with “Hey Google” to trigger voice commands, the same way you would on a smart speaker. It is handy for directions when you don’t have time to type.

The infotainment system has a 13 speaker Haramn Kardon set-up, including an air-ventilated subwoofer that is powered by a 600W digital amp.

Price and care package

As mentioned earlier, the Volvo C40 Recharge can be purchased exclusively online through the myvolvo.co.za portal; you cannot walk into a dealership to buy it. The base model at R1 285 000 includes a care package. You can Volvo on call for 5 years; a charging cable for public stations; and a home wallbox charger.

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