The luxury segment in India is buzzing with electricity—every manufacturer wants to muscle into the space. Though range anxiety is a real issue, the number of electric vehicle (EV) buyers is growing, but this is a market with a considerable price divide. At one end are the Tata cars, priced from ₹12 lakh onwards, and at the other, are the luxury EVs with tags upwards of a crore. In the yawning gap between is just the Mini Cooper SE, priced at around ₹47 lakh, but that, too, is a niche vehicle. The latest luxury entrant, the Volvo XC40 Recharge, is the carmaker’s first all-electric compact SUV, is looking to fill this gap. Is this EV, with a great range, compact size, and sportscar-like performance, worth buying?
I set off driving from Delhi to Neemrana in Rajasthan on a hot, muggy day to find out. It’s roughly a 210km drive there and back, and with the XC40 claiming a range of 418km, it should be a breeze. The truth is, claimed range on EVs and real-world scenarios are usually quite different. It all depends on the usage pattern and the terrain. So, with fingers crossed and an intent to drive this car like any other fuel-powered one, I started.
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Getting out of the city, we cut through loads of traffic despite an early start. Bored with the line of slow-moving cars, I tap the large vertically placed tablet screen and toggle mode to one-pedal driving, and immediately feel a pullback. The mode that enhances battery regeneration is too aggressive. Every time I lift off the accelerator, it decelerates, pushing my head forward without me ever having to touch the brake pedal. In Indian traffic conditions, where you have to modulate the brake and throttle a lot to cut in and out of the traffic, this isn’t ideal so I quickly turn it off.
I’m waiting to check the full potential of the 204hp electric motors, one on each axle, which are powered by a 78kWh lithium-ion battery. But, while I crawl through the mass of cars around me, I check all the ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) features. The blind-spot monitoring system is constantly flashing yellow as I weave in and out of gaps in the traffic, warning me of cars close behind. The automatic emergency braking warnings go off when I get too close to trucks to set up an overtake, and the lane-keep assist gently tugs on the steering when I veer out of the lane to warn me to keep within the lines. The entire suite of ADAS features works well to keep one safe—but maybe a bit too well for Indian driving conditions, where congestion is a given.
On range, the XC40 is doing well so far. The battery is not depleting too fast, and now that the traffic is thinning, I stomp down on the throttle every time I see a gap. The rapid response has me grinning; this is an electric performance, pardon the pun. The steering is light, and manoeuvring the SUV is very easy. As soon as the road opens up, I switch the steering mode for more weight, and feel it instantly. There is more feedback, and the vehicle centres better now. The acceleration is instant, especially since there is no turbo lag or gears to measure the build of speed, just instant torque from the electric motors.
The power figures of the XC40 can rival some supercars with 408hp and 660Nm of torque, and needless to say, performance is delightful. The beauty is that it allows you to enjoy the bursts of acceleration without worrying too much about depleting range. I drove to Neemrana and back comfortably and could have gone on some more.
My estimate is in real-world terms. You could get about 350km from the XC40 without having to worry if the terrain is flat. If you encounter a ghat section though, that number will drop drastically as inclines kill battery range, but remember, you can recover a lot on the downhill sections.
This version largely retains the exterior and interior styling of the conventional XC40, the difference being a sealed fascia in place of the traditional grille. Additional recharge badges, and the charging port, sit in the place of the regular fuel tank cap. Due to the underfloor batteries, ground clearance is marginally less, but there is no reason to worry as it sails over even the largest speed breakers. Boot space is down from 460 to 419 litres, and the spare also sits in the boot, but you do get an additional 31 litres of storage space in the form of a frunk since there is no engine in front.
An additional screen, called range assistant, on the inside shows you details like estimated range, energy usage, and consumption. To get battery charge details, you have to pull up another screen from the menu, or get the details in the dials that also show the battery charge level and consumption figures. It has also inherited the new infotainment and telematics systems from the facelifted XC60, and offers a sharper new set of digital dials and an Android-based infotainment system. It is a slick interface with direct access to Google Maps and Assistant and several apps from the Play Store with the help of an onboard e-SIM.
Now for the caveats. Your phone has to be linked via a complex login system using the Volvo app and a Gmail account; there is no conventional ‘plug and play’ Android Auto as in most cars, and Apple Carplay will only come later. So, for now, you can only link your phone via Bluetooth. You get stand-out features like the panoramic sunroof, wireless mobile charging, the ADAS, and a sensational Harmon Kardon system.
Prices are not revealed just yet, but I estimate it to be around ₹65 lakh, which means the XC40 will fill a large price void in the EV space. With its punchy performance, practical size, and great range, it seems a win-win to me.
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