2024 Volvo C40 and XC40 Recharge First Drive Overview: Again to the RWD future

The 2024 Volvo XC40 Recharge and C40 EVs will probably be out there with rear-wheel drive, changing the front-wheel-drive model that has been the fraternal pairing’s single-motor base mannequin. That is clearly newsworthy — why else would I be writing about it? However does it really imply something? After driving each of those automobiles across the lakes, seaside, perfectly-maintained highways, and cobblestoned city streets proximate to the model’s headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden, I can say that the reply is, not likely. However that’s not likely Volvo’s fault.

The final time Volvo bought a rear-wheel-drive car in the USA was 1998 when the soft, brick-like 960 was retired (formally S90 and V90 of their remaining 12 months). The whole lot thereafter was front-wheel drive or no less than on a front-drive-based platform, in no small half because of the extra all-weather traction and stability afforded by the extra weight of an inner combustion engine and transaxle over the drive wheels. In brief, it was safer, and whilst Volvo moved away from a long time of arcane, rectilinear design, security remained its raison d’etre.  

That hasn’t modified, however in accordance with Volvo, EVs have essentially modified car dynamics, facilities of gravity, and weight distribution to refute the front-drive argument.

A Volvo spokesperson advised me that this new one-motor structure within the XC/C40, driving the rear wheels, with up to date superior driver help programs, is best in inclement climate than a gas-engine/FWD combo.

That explains why the change to a regular rear-drive structure doesn’t run afoul of Volvo’s established ethos, however why make the change within the first place? Whether or not it was the plan all alongside, or simply an development of next-generation expertise to delay and prolong the relevance of those automobiles, is just not one thing Volvo would touch upon. In any occasion, lots of the base EVs which are in or close to the XC/C40’s aggressive set — the VW ID.4, the Kia EV6, the Hyundai Ioniq 5 — function rear-wheel drive of their single-motor setup. It’s notable that every one of these automobiles have been developed from the bottom up as EVs and might be optimized for the aforementioned dynamics. The XC40 and C40 have been constructed on a platform able to accommodating gas-only, plug-in hybrid and full-electric powertrains.

It is also vital to notice that with this change in normal structure comes new motors, which can have one thing to do with the change. They have been additionally developed in-house, optimizing Volvo’s efficiencies, quite than buying its wants from a provider. This isn’t one thing a carmaker does with an element they’re utilizing merely to increase the lifetime of a car nearing substitute.

This new rear motor is thus prone to discover different makes use of down the road. Volvo spokespeople wouldn’t touch upon future product choices, however I’d hazard to wager that variations of this motor mounted to the rear axle will proliferate via the Volvo vary as its pure electrical choices increase in its subsequent technology(s) of automobiles. (Volvo has promised to construct solely battery-powered passenger automobiles by 2030).

We didn’t actually have an opportunity to place Volvo’s dynamic traction promise to the check. Although Gothenburg is understood for offering cheerless spring murk and drizzle, our time in Sweden’s second metropolis was superb, with 16 hours of day by day sunshine. There wasn’t all-weather traction wanted, anyplace. Too dangerous.

We nonetheless obtained an opportunity to strive each the rear-drive powertrain and the equally new twin-motor, all-wheel-drive model. As an alternative of the earlier setup of equivalent 201-hp motors on the entrance and rear axle, a 255-horsepower model of the brand new rear motor is joined by an equally new, however much less highly effective, 147-horsepower motor on the entrance axle. That one’s solely engaged as wanted for traction functions, which Volvo says improves effectivity.

That’s excellent news for vary, which matches as much as 294 miles for the rear-drive XC40 and 297 for C40, thanks partly to a brand new 82-kilowatt-hour battery pack that may be charged at a most charge of 200 kWh. The dual-motor model retains the outgoing fashions’ 78-kWh pack, however its vary nonetheless goes up by 31 miles to 254 for the XC40 and 257 for the C40. Sadly, its quick charging charge nonetheless tops out at 150 kW.

In order that’s a motive to go along with rear-wheel-drive, however I’m much less bought on its dynamic potential. This isn’t as a result of I don’t get pleasure from the extra conventional driving dynamics supplied up by a rear-biased system, however as a result of Volvo SUVs aren’t actually recognized for his or her driving dynamics to start with. Sure, the setup was detectable to me, somebody who has check pushed no less than 50 new automobiles yearly for a decade-and-a-half, and has been automotively obsessed nearly since start. However my guess is, it received’t be that noticeable to most Volvo homeowners. After I talked about this to a Volvo engineer, they stated, “That is perhaps a superb factor?” that means, a praise. And I believe they have been proper.

This lack of differentiation is, partly, as a result of the RWD motor nonetheless solely produces 248 horsepower, which isn’t all that a lot to inspire 4,500 kilos of electrical SUV. It’s sufficient to get out of its personal method, accelerating from 0-60 mph in a titch beneath 7 seconds, which is best than its varied RWD EV rivals. However for those who’re anticipating the rear-drive structure to allow you to mild up the tires, and even roar right into a freeway merge, you received’t discover it significantly prepared. Clearly, this isn’t its function. The dual-motor automobile, with 60% extra energy — simply over 400 hp — and solely 5% extra weight, is extra of a hustler, operating as much as mile-a-minute speeds in simply 4.5 seconds. However while you step on it in such a method, it goes into all-wheel-drive mode to ship all of this oomph to the highway, so it’s not as for those who’ll be having fun with tail-out shenanigans there both. Once more, this isn’t a dilemma. Nobody is attempting to float an XC40, or if they’re, they’re most likely doing one thing improper.  

Talking of doing one thing improper, let’s take a second to debate the C40. I recognize that Volvo, like many different European producers, has found that there’s a phase of the car-buying inhabitants that’s prepared to pay more cash for a “coupe-like” SUV, one that’s considerably uglier, heavier, and fewer utilitarian than its sibling. However whereas I applaud the continued introduction of recent type components to the automotive realm — particularly as electrification liberates us from among the typical constraints lengthy imposed by the mechanical componentry that has outlined automotive design (engine, transmission, fuel tank, exhaust) — I’m firmly not amongst that subset. Shifting the bias of the propulsion system doesn’t shift my bias on this realm. The C40 is an aberration.

Are the 2024 C40 and XC40 higher than their predecessors? Sure. Do they really feel considerably completely different? No. Is {that a} dangerous factor? Additionally, no. However the truth that Volvo has developed a powerful, rear-wheel-drive powertrain speaks to significant prospects for the model. Let’s hope a kind of is one thing like a small, sporty EV successor to the 1800 ES taking pictures brake. Or an enormous, battery-powered RWD station wagon just like the Idea Recharge they confirmed us a pair years again. Now that Volvo has revived RWD, perhaps it’s time to carry again the brick.

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