It was a surprise when Volvo’s media partner reached out to me and asked if I was interested in testing out the new C40 Twin Recharge fully electric SUV, because up until then, I had never dabbled in the world of car reviews.
So the following review is not from an expert with engineering experience regarding how many pistons it takes to make a man happy, but rather from a pragmatic point of view, the one that affects the everyday driver (and the enthusiast).
The first time I sat inside the C40 was truly a new experience. It felt similar to the way I feel when people describe Japan to me: futuristic.
Mind you, this was my first all-electric experience.
There are no dials or clusters. There are just two screens on the inside of the cockpit that display information.
That being the digital cluster, which shows you all the relevant information like speed, regenerative braking force, and because it's electric, your battery percentage.
The C40 also has a range on the display, and the model that was given to me indicated that it could go for around 330km on a full charge, but Volvo says it is capable of going “up to 444km” on a full battery.
It also lets you know how many kilowatt hours you use per 100km, which is like watching the prepaid electric meter inside my house, so you can imagine “the future” takes some getting used to.
The interior, according to Volvo, is completely leather-free and created out of sustainable materials.
The boot was big enough to accommodate my golf bag with clubs plus the push kart, with room to spare.
Volvo says the C40 has 489 litres of luggage capacity.
“One upholstery option on offer contains responsibly sourced and naturally renewable wool fibres. A second option uses a combination of suede textile (made from recycled plastic) and a special micro-tech material,” the Swedish manufacturer said.
The seats are something to marvel at, as they do not feel like you’re sitting inside a family vehicle due to their sporty composition. The semi-bucket seats hold firm while riding, pushing the comfort level even higher.
The sustainable materials Volvo used also help you stay secure while driving, as leather can allow you to slip and slide on the seat on corners.
One portion of the interior that just did not sit well with me was the blue wool/fur-like substance they used to cover the door pads. It looks and feels like it doesn’t belong.
The car oozes luxury from the moment you step into it, but these fuzzy door panels do not support the interior.
Another classy touch Volvo added to the C40 that makes you feel like you are driving inside the lobby of a five-star hotel is a lit-up textured panel that runs on the dashboard and doors.
At night, the artistic panels are lit up in an amber hue that gives the interior a sleek feel.
The steering is firm, well built, and does not feel cheap at all. I would have loved to hold on to some alcantara bits at ten to two, but realistically, that's reserved for cars with “R” and “RS” badges.
The gear shift … well. There’s just a rectangular-shaped knob that goes front once, back once, and stays in the centre, that being for reverse, drive, and neutral.
There’s a button for the handbrake, which also serves as a ‘power down’ command, if you will.
There’s also no ignition. You literally just get in and pull the gear back once and drive, like a Playstation.
It feels weird at first, like you are not doing something but still driving.
Then all of those weird feelings start to fade once the C40’s right pedal hits the floor and your face starts to melt off because of the force that pushes back.
I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. It looks slow and sluggish; I mean, it has 20-inch wheels. Who would expect it to kick you like Bruce Lee?
The acceleration with such a high level of comfort is by far the best feature of the vehicle, in my opinion.
There’s an unspoken amount of confidence that you have when changing lanes because of the delivery of power; it's almost like a superbike. And this is not by any means an exaggeration. They did not pay me to write this.
A friend of mine, Preston Chetty, whom I took for a ride, owned a plethora of sports cars, ranging from the E36 M3 to the Honda S2000 and even a turbo Civic.
He currently owns an E30 BMW with a modified 1JZ engine in it that pushes out close to 300kW of power.
The look on his face after the Volvo C40 went full tilt said it all.
“I am just thinking about what I can do to get the money and buy this car,” he said with a smile on his face.
The C40 makes 300kW and 660Nm of torque and does 0-100 in 4.7 seconds, according to Volvo.
For an SUV, that's mad quick.
But it doesn’t feel like an SUV around the corners. On Thursday, I took it out on Durban’s M33, touring through Kloof up to Hillcrest.
I wanted to park it at a favourite spot of mine up in the Valley of a Thousand Hills for some scenic pictures.
The C40 snakes through Durban’s canyons like a breeze. The superb braking system to go along with the ferocious acceleration is like Jordan and Pippen up front for the Bulls; they just work.
Especially on the bends heading up the Old Main Road towards Monteseel.
If the C40 was Pac-Man, the tarmac would be those yellow bubbles he eats.
The cabin is spacious, both front and back, and could make for a good road trip vehicle, provided you can charge it along the way.
I stopped off at the Watercrest Mall in Hillcrest for about 45 minutes until the batteries were all charged up.
I did not charge from stone dead, hence the 45 minutes, but Volvo says a full charge can take around 1 hour and 30 minutes at a fast-charging station. The cables to charge are stored up front, under the hood.
The C40 is priced at R1.285 million and, honestly, well worth the money.
The efficiency, ease, speed, comfort, and handling are unlike anything in the market for that price.
It will decimate most of the new sports cars in a quarter mile and still do it more comfortably than a BMW X3 or Toyota Fortuner can.