The 2024 Volvo C40 Recharge RWD is less powerful but more sensible

Volvo is headed toward an all-electric future, but the company’s new single-motor electric powertrain shares a clear connection to the brand’s past. This is set to be Volvo’s first rear-wheel drive car since the retirement of the venerable 900 series in 1998.

Ergonomically speaking, the choice of a powered rear axle is not surprising. In electric vehicles as in combustion cars, it makes sense to split steering and propulsion duties. However, Volvo has arrived at this rational conclusion in a roundabout way, having previously offered both the C40 Recharge and XC40 Recharge with a single front-mounted engine in Europe. The arrival of a new, more powerful engine has now reversed this configuration, and although the C40 and XC40 still sit on the same CMA platform as before, they have been converted from towing to pushing tools.

In the US, we’ve never gotten Volvo’s single-motor EVs, so they’ll be all new to American buyers when the cars arrive in the second half of the year.

Volvo designed, engineered and will build the new engine in Sweden. The same unit will also power the front wheels of the upcoming EX90 SUV, and is being used in the all-wheel drive XC40 Recharge as well. With only one engine, the rear-drive C40 is clearly less powerful than its dual-motor, all-wheel-drive counterpart, but output numbers of 248 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque are still competitive.

We expect a rear-drive C40 to accelerate to 60 mph in the mid-six-second range, and our drive in Sweden proved that this Volvo feels very quick. Acceleration off the line is blistering, with a constant flow of power making the C40 feel more powerful than its power-to-weight ratio would suggest. (Volvo says the single-motor C40 is 216 pounds lighter than the dual-motor version, which would put it at 4,550 pounds based on our recent testing of the latter.)

At higher speeds, the C40’s acceleration becomes progressively less energetic, and our sample car lost much of its charm by 80 mph. It will take a long, straight stretch and a firm stomp on the throttle to reach the 112 mph limit that Volvo now fits for all its cars. As in the all-wheel-drive XC40, ride refinement is excellent at highway speeds, and Volvo hasn’t given the C40 an artificial sound beyond the low-speed warning noise. The near silence suits him well.

The switch to the new engine was done mostly to enhance efficiency, and this is where the rear-wheel drive powertrain excels. The rear-drive version gets a new 79.0 kWh battery pack, while the C40 twin-motor sticks with the old 75.0 kWh unit. This is expected to provide an EPA range of 297 miles (versus 293 miles in the case of the less aerodynamic XC40 single-engine). The 79.0 kWh battery is also capable of accepting DC charging speeds of up to 200 kW if you’re lucky enough to find such a powerful charger, up from the 150 kW peak of the smaller pack.

Although Volvo has been keen to highlight the dynamic benefits of rear-wheel drive, the C40’s chassis is still designed for comfort and stability rather than any heightened level of sportiness. The car steers precisely, but little meaningful sensation is gained through electric assistance from the power steering, and on standard all-season tires, the front wheels wash out even under modest levels of provocation. Stability and traction control systems maintain order but cannot be switched to a more indulgent Sport mode. We think few C40 and XC40 Recharge RWD buyers will actually know or care which axle it runs.

As before, the rest of the C40 continues to make a compelling case for choosing the XC40. The C40’s lower roofline makes it look somewhat sleeker, though we defy anyone to confuse the four-door crossover with an actual coupe. But it also sacrifices the XC’s spacious rear cabin and dramatically reduces rearward visibility through the steeply raked rear window. It seems like an answer to a question few people are asking, especially since the more practical XC40 should be a little cheaper. Google’s UI has also managed to go right from feeling backwards when it was new to being old-fashioned now, with many functions having to be extracted from submenus.

Despite all that, the C40 Recharge is still a great car. Given the limited dynamics of the platform, the single-motor version suits the car’s relaxed behavior better than the bulkier and heavier all-wheel drive model.

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2024 Volvo C40 Recharge
Vehicle type: Rear or front- and rear-wheel drive, rear or all-wheel drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback

price (grandfather east)
Base: $50,000; All-wheel drive, $55,000

Motors: permanent magnet AC, 248 hp, 310 lb-ft or induction AC, 147 hp, permanent magnet AC, 255 hp (combined output: 402 hp, 494 lb-ft)
Battery pack: Liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 75.0 or 79.0 kWh
Internal charger: 11.0 kW
Peak DC fast charging rate: 150 or 200 kW
Transmission, F/R: direct drive

Wheelbase: 106.4 inches
Length: 174.8 inches
Width: 73.7 inches
Height: 62.6 inches
Passenger Size, F/R: 53-55/43 ft3
Payload size behind F/R: 49/17 feet3
Curb weight (grandfather Estimate: 4600-4800 lbs

performance (grandfather east)
60 mph: 4.3-6.6 seconds
100 mph: 10.9-13.2 seconds
1/4 mile: 12.8-15.1 seconds
Top speed: 112 mph

EPA Fuel Economy (MFR’S EST)
Combined/City/Highway: 99–107/106–118/91–96 mpg
Range: 257-297 miles

Track club
Mike Duff headshot

Chief European Correspondent

Our man across the pond, Mike Duff, lives in Britain but reports from all over Europe, and sometimes beyond. He’s previously held positions at British companies including CAR, Autocar and evo, but his own automotive tastes lean towards Germanic, having owned a teased 987-generation Porsche Cayman S and a Mercedes 190E 2.5-16.

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