I don’t know what it is about pine forests, but they always seem slightly eerie. Maybe it’s the shadows, the wind whispering through the needles, 1000 horror movies, but whatever, I now apologise for giving any of the joggers and dog walkers in Fadden Pines a start due to my sage green Volvo.
The Volvo in question is the new C40 Recharge and it’s the first of the Swedish car maker’s offerings to come as solely electric. This means that when you’re driving through the undergrowth of a pine forest, you can hear twigs snapping. It’s definitely eerie.
Unless you’re reversing, in which case, it sounds a subtle but handy beep to let anyone behind you know they have a few seconds to get out of your way.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure why the C40 exists. It falls under the new-fangled category of ‘coupe SUV’, which is to say a swoopy four-door body-style raised off the ground and skirted with black plastic cladding. It uses the same architecture as the more conventionally shaped XC40 while also ringing a lot of Polestar 2 bells. Why wouldn’t you just go for one of those options, especially as they’re both cheaper?
In both of them, you can also see more than 100 metres of road in the rear-view mirror without having to lower your head. The sloping roofline does hamper visibility when driving, even if a suite of cameras and sensors look out for you the rest of the time.
But Volvo didn’t have to do much homework. A quick look around today’s urban world and it’s easy to see the C40 will sell like champagne at the opera.
There are two models: the $77,000 Plus, with a single 170 kW electric motor over the front axle, or the $84,000 300 kW twin-motor Ultimate. You’re looking at an estimated 434 km and 420 km of range, respectively.
I’ve borrowed the Ultimate from Volvo Cars Canberra and it certainly presents well. In addition to the Recharge badges, there are a few other visual clues to let the discerning know it’s powered by electricity. A blank panel takes the place of a front grille. There are no exhaust pipes. And that’s about it. It’s subtle but edgy, especially with rear lights that look like they were drawn on with a fine-tip pen.
Inside, the C40 is also the only Volvo to do away with animals altogether. Where you’d typically find leather in a conventional car of this type, there is a sort of plasticky-feeling vegan fabric. And the carpets and door pockets started life as plastic bottles.
Other pieces appear to have been lifted straight from Polestar, which is probably not surprising given Polestar lifted them straight from Volvo. The infotainment system – including the Maps – is from Google which knows more about that side of things than a manufacturer of cars, so that’s a plus, even if it isn’t quite as easy to navigate as Polestar’s version.
Fit and finish is excellent, as we’ve come to expect from the Swedish (yes, okay, Volvo is owned by China’s Geely, but they’ve retained autonomy). Not everyone will be a fan of the unshaded panoramic glass roof, despite Volvo boasting of its impressive ability to keep out more heat than sheet metal.
To drive, the C40 has the usual electric-vehicle hallmarks of seamless acceleration, regenerative braking (including one-pedal mode), and unflappable cornering thanks to a low-mounted battery pack.
The pedals do feel quite heavy, though, and the steering and brakes feel more like distant video game controls. Even activating a setting to firm up the steering feel just made it heavier rather than more engaging.
The suspension is also on the stiff side and can be jittery at times, but in a spot of what must be witchcraft from the engineers, somehow the larger bumps you’d expect would shatter your spine vanish without a trace.
And yes, it can go off-road. At speeds of up to 40 km/h, a dedicated drive mode tinkers with the all-wheel drive and steering settings for when the going gets tough. Or maybe just a bit pine-needle-y.
So it might not make a lot of sense, but the C40 still ticks a lot of boxes. For one, Slender Man would love it.
2023 Volvo C40 Recharge Pure Electric Twin Motor
- $82,490 (plus driveaway costs)
- Two electric motors, 75 kWh battery, 300 kW / 660 Nm
- All-wheel drive (AWD)
- 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds
- 420 km estimated range
- 5-star ANCAP safety rating
Visit Volvo Cars Canberra for more information.