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Road tests

New Volvo EX40 prototype review: a new name and more power

We hit the ice in a prototype version of the new Volvo EX40 to see if the renamed XC40 Recharge will be worth the wait

Verdict

The last thing Volvo’s compact twin-motor SUV needed was extra power. But while it’s impossible to draw any definitive conclusions from our brief drive on ice, it looks like the EX40 will remain a fast, composed and comfortable road car, rather than one you’ll relish taking for a spin. Indeed, the intrusive safety aids will put a stop to that.

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Two weeks ago, Volvo announced a series of 2025 model year updates for its electric 40-series SUVs. C40 and XC40 Recharge became EC40 and EX40 respectively, with the range-topping dual-motor variants gaining an optional ‘Performance’ pack.

Comprising little more than a 34bhp software tweak (now 436bhp) and an altered throttle map, the Performance pack will be available to existing MY24 customers in due course via the Volvo Cars smartphone app. New-build production will start in the spring, with the first cars expected in the UK towards the middle of the year.  

To get an early taste of what’s in store, Volvo invited us to try the new EX40 Twin Performance in the icy climes of northern Sweden. While our drive was restricted to a few laps of a frozen lake, the opportunity to drive the updated car back-to-back with the smaller EX30 highlighted a few key differences between the brand’s new compact offering, and its family-SUV stalwart.

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The first is its agility; the XC40 was always a car that prioritised comfort over outright engagement, and our brief experience with the new model proves little has changed. This is a car that is constantly trying to rein things in – a trait that is especially apparent on ice. In the Standard drive mode, the EX40 cuts almost all power to the wheels when it senses a loss of traction.

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Switching to the EX40’s Performance setting loosens the stability control and permanently connects the front axle. But while it does appear a little more playful with this configuration, it’ll still trim your line and put a halt to proceedings if it thinks things are sliding out of shape.

Make no mistake, this is a fast car – and in a straight line on studded tyres it will find the grip and go. Whether it’s substantially quicker than its predecessor remains to be seen; Volvo hasn’t quoted any performance gains, though unofficial stats suggest a marginal (0.2-second) improvement from 0 to 62mph. We’ll test that when we get a car back in the UK.

The third and final drive mode is labelled ‘Off road’, which further relaxes the car’s safety systems before automatically defaulting to its standard settings at 25mph. It did allow for a bit more movement on the frozen lake, but this is strictly for slow speed stuff rather than cinematic four-wheel drifts.

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If that’s your bag, then the compact EX30 is infinitely more dynamic – something we found when we drove that car over a variety of roads recently. The dinky EV allows you to switch off the ESC indefinitely, and in Twin Performance guise it's a remarkably engaging car to drive.

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John Lundegren, Volvo’s engineering manager for driving experience, says this is intentional: “The EX40 is a bit more calm, more mature,” he tells us. “You don’t want the car to break away quickly – you want that predictability.”

We can certainly see appeal in this more grown-up persona; as soon as we start trying to thread together quick corners – rather than purposely throw the EX40 from one bend to the next – the BMW iX1-rival feels controlled and much easier to drive fast. It’s not the type of gratification you’d normally seek out in a setting such as this, but it’s rewarding in its own right.

Prices for the EC40 and EX40 haven’t been announced, nor do we know how much it’ll cost to add the punchier Performance pack – but an estimated upgrade of £700-£1,000 doesn’t seem unreasonable when you’re spending the best part of £60k on a car. The Performance add-on is only available on dual-motor models, and only those built since the last (2024) model year, due to earlier hardware upgrades under the skin.

Model:Volvo EX40 Twin Performance
Price:£62,500 (est)
Powertrain:82kWh battery, 2x e-motors
Power/torque:436bhp/670Nm
Transmission:Single-speed auto, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:4.6 seconds (est)
Top speed:112mph (est)
Range/charging:325 miles (est) / 200kW, 10-80% in 28 mins
L/W/H:4,440/1,910/1,651mm
On sale:April
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Deputy editor

Richard has been part of the team for over a decade. During this time he has covered a huge amount of news and reviews for Auto Express, as well as being the face of Carbuyer and DrivingElectric on Youtube. In his current role as deputy editor, he is now responsible for keeping our content flowing and managing our team of talented writers.

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