The electric Volvo XC40 Recharge: First-drive impressions

After what seems like years of waiting, a bevy of new battery-electric vehicles is about to go on sale here in the US. Ford is readying the Mustang Mach-E. Volkswagen is putting the finishing touches to the ID.4. And last month in Ghent, Belgium, Volvo started production of the XC40 Recharge. It's an all-electric version of its popular XC40 crossover, one that shares its powertrain technology and Android Automotive operating system with the Polestar 2.

US deliveries remain a few weeks away, so a proper first drive, where we spend a day with a new car like we did with the Polestar 2 this summer, will have to wait a little longer. But earlier this week, I got a chance to spend a little time with a pre-production example that Volvo made available to those of us who serve as jurors for the World Car Awards. The roads of Manassas, Virginia, were my playground, and there was no PR minder, just a request to bring it back after an hour. Here's what I learned.

From the outside, the XC40 Recharge looks a lot like any other Volvo XC40—the easiest giveaway that you're looking at an all-electric version is the blanked-off front that does better things for one's drag coefficient than an open grille. From the driver's seat, there are a few more clues. The 12.3-inch main instrument display has a different theme from other Volvos, including an attractive new full-screen map mode. In the center stack, the infotainment screen has grown from 9 inches to 11.2 inches, and although the tile-based UI looks pretty similar to Volvos running Sensus, it's now running Android Automotive. Google's voice recognition means it understands most of the questions you ask it, and the Google Maps-powered navigation app is smart enough to know your battery state of charge so it can direct you to charging if needed en route.

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