With apologies to Mark Twain:
The reports of the arrival of the electric car have been greatly exaggerated. There have been many big predictions about inflection points and tipping points and eclipses. All of them, false starts.
At the end of this year, with so many different automakers rolling out incredible EVs, and with just a few weeks left in 2021, we can declare it now, ever-so-softly, and in the hushed, cautionary tone of someone who’s seen many been wrong before him...
“2021 is the Year of the Electric Car.”
The vehicle that seals the deal is an electrified version of the successful Volvo C40. It’s an EV that adds a dollop of Swedish style, too. Meet the C40 Recharge, sibling of the terrific Volvo XC40 luxury crossover. The Volvo C40 Recharge has cemented 2021 as the year of the electric car.
Wow. Feels good to finally say that. Here’s why:
From the outside, it's easy to tell the C40 Recharge apart from its internal combustion colleagues. Though it still has the signature Thor's Hammer headlights that adorn each new Volvo, the Recharge sports a solid grille with a floating Volvo Ironmark in the middle, rather than an open space for airflow to the engine.
The grille makes for a striking look — and a dead giveaway that the C40 Recharge is an electric car. It doesn't need nearly as much cooling as an internal combustion vehicle. Also: It gives the C40 a cheerful appearance from the front, like an excited puppy that goes 80 mph before you know it.
Other than the grille, the C40 looks a lot like the XC40 until you get to the rear end. Then everything changes. It has a coupe-ish slope from the B-pillar rearward, giving the car a surprisingly aggressive posture. If you squint a bit, it looks like a sports car and is not unlike the back of a Porsche Macan (another pleasingly coupey crossover). BMW would probably call this the GranCoupe or something, but Volvo, one of my favorite car brands, just slaps on a C40 badge and calls it a day. If it ain’t broke.
The only significant downside of the entire car is the absolutely atrocious rear visibility from this new sporty look. A glance in the rearview mirror is a bit pointless when it comes to seeing anything beyond a few car lengths, though the side mirrors make up for that. It's not Lamborghini Huracan levels of bad when it comes to looking behind you, but it's not great. It doesn't particularly matter in the grand scheme of things (and is the price we must pay for that suggestive rear end), but it is worth calling out.
Thanks to a dual-motor setup, the C40 has all-wheel drive and makes 408 horsepower and 487 lb-ft of torque. That's good enough for a 0-60 time of 4.5 seconds, though it feels even faster thanks to the prodigious instant torque.
Its performance in traffic is even more praiseworthy, with effortless thrust from just about any speed. Merging onto the highway? Whoops, we're going 80 before the end of the ramp. Trying to pass a truck on an uphill? We're by almost before we started.
Putting this much power in such a small car is hilarious, and zipping around tight medieval cities, and smooth Belgian motorways were equally fun. I love cars that put a smile on your face, and every time I got in this car, it was easy to grin.
The interior is wonderfully appointed, as are all Volvos. But this one includes the new infotainment system powered by Google Android. It's not Android Auto, but is an entirely new system rebuilt from the ground up and has extensive integration with Google services, including Maps, Assistant, and the Google Play Store.
An always-on data connection means you can stream music or talk through Spotify or the NPR app, and the Google Play store means developers will be able to release lots of apps designed specifically for in-car infotainment screens.
The dash cluster is another enormous digital screen with a new graphical suite. Along with easy-on-the-eyes gauges and meters, the C40 has a lovely Google Maps integration that takes over the entire center of the dash cluster. There's no head-up display (the XC40 doesn't have one either), but the dash screen is so good that I didn't miss it at all.
Safety — The C40 has Volvo's full safety suite, plus advanced driver assist systems, including Pilot Assist. It engages automatically when cruise control is activated, and it provides significant steering assistance on roads with well-marked lanes. It's not hands-free driving like Ford's BlueCruise or GM's Super Cruise, but it's close. Just keep a gentle hand on the wheel, and the car can do most of the steering.
To keep things easy (and knowing its target audience), Volvo has made things really simple. There's only one trim level available in the US, and it has everything. It's the C40 Recharge Twin Ultimate (which is a mouthful), and the only thing you need to decide is what color you want — I recommend the new Fjord Blue on both the inside and the outside. A Charcoal black interior is also an option.
There's no leather option, as Volvo is slowly moving away from that (one of the other cars I saw was an XC60 with a jaw-droppingly gorgeous wool interior if you can believe that).
Range — Of course, since it's an electric car, I should probably mention range. Volvo estimates that the C40 Recharge will receive a 225-mile range estimate from the EPA, but it has not yet been tested, and that number could change. Volvo says it will charge from 10 to 80 percent in just 37 minutes on a 150 kW charger, which is quite good.
All in, the C40 Recharge costs $60,540 after destination and a $695 upcharge for metallic paint. Given that some states offer tax incentives for EVs under $60,000, you can stay just under that number if you opt for the Black Stone paint instead.
Between the gorgeous exterior, the magnificent interior, the terrific Google infotainment system, heated seats front and rear, parking assist sensors, 20-inch wheels, a Heat Pump, and a fabulous panoramic glass roof, the C40 Recharge has everything you might want in an EV.
It's a more-than-solid competitor in the electric car wars, but we're rapidly approaching the point where folks buying a car like the C40 aren't getting it primarily because it's an EV. If you're on the market for a small luxury SUV, I'd suggest checking out the Volvo C40 Recharge. US deliveries begin early next year.
One Cool Detail: Hidden hinges
The little scoops (see above) at the top of the rear glass aren’t just there to look cool (though they do that, too). They hide the hinges for the tailgate and allow them to sit above and behind the passenger cabin.
If the hinges were inside the roofline like they are traditionally, they would have intruded too much into the rear-seat headroom. Neat!
Volvo covered the travel and lodging to review this car on location, as is common practice in the auto industry. Automakers or their affiliates have no oversight when it comes to Inverse editorial content, which remains wholly independent and from the brain of our extremely opinionated car analyst and critic, Jordan Golson.