Volvo Cars will produce rear-wheel-drive cars for the first time in a quarter century.
The move ends a self-imposed, safety-related boycott of the configuration, which will be applied to the updated -- and pricier -- XC40 and C40 full-electric compact SUVs that will also charge faster and have more range than their predecessors, Volvo said in a release.
Similar upgrades are being made to the SUVs' sibling model, the Polestar 2. Volvo is a major shareholder in Polestar.
The starting price for the updated XC40 and C40 EVs in Germany will rise to 47,500 euros from about 44,800 euros. A Volvo spokesman attributed the 6 percent rise mostly to increase materials and logistics costs.
The automaker said it has no immediate plans to adjust that price downward despite changes in the market led by Tesla’s decision to slash the starting prices of models such as the Model 3, which is a rival to the XC40 and C40.
The starting price for the rwd Model 3 in Germany is 43,990 euros, according to the automaker’s website. That price undercuts the Volvo models by 3,510 euros. Meanwhile, the updated Polestar 2's starting price will be more than 6,000 euros above the Model 3's.
Volvo is also updating the twin motor, all-wheel-drive versions of the XC40 and C40. The new variants start at 57,950 euros and 61,400 euros, respectively. Those prices are roughly 2,680 euros, or about 5 percent, more than the models they replace.
More power, more range
The updated rwd Volvo variants with a single motor and standard range are powered by a 175-kilowatt (235 hp) permanent magnet electric motor that delivers a 3 percent boost in output over the 170-kilowatt (228 hp) from the single-motor, front-wheel drive variants they replace.
The single motor, standard range XC40 retains its 69-kilowatt-hour-battery, but enhancements in cooling efficiency mean its range rises to an estimated 460 km from 425 km under WLTP testing.
The single motor C40’s range improves up to an estimated 476 km from 438 km. Both range estimates are based on Volvo’s tests. The final WLTP range figures will be determined by independent testing, a spokesman said.
A 10 to 80 percent charge in the single motor variants takes approximately 34 minutes using a 130-kW fast charger.
A second rwd version offers a larger battery and a more powerful 185-kilowatt (248 hp) permanent magnet e-motor on the rear axle.
An 82-kilowatt-hour battery pack powers the extended-range variants, which boosts the XC40 Recharge's range to as much as 515 km and the C40 Recharge to a high of 533 km, according to Volvo’s results.
Charging the larger battery from 10 to 80 percent takes about 28 minutes using a 200 kW fast charger.
The permanent magnet electric motor driving all of the updated models’ rear axles was developed by Volvo’s R&D team in Gothenburg, the company said.
On Feb. 5, 1998, the Volvo’s last rwd vehicle -- a 940 sedan -- roll off the automaker’s assembly line in Torslanda, Sweden.
Volvo is giving rwd another chance because the move to full-electric powertrains gives it more control over how torque is distributed and when, and because traction control systems have vastly improved during the last 25 years, a spokesman told Automotive News Europe.
Volvo stopped making rwd cars because it believed front-drive models were safer to operate because they typically perform better on snow and ice, even if it meant forgoing some of the handling and maneuverability advantages offered by rwd models.
Volvo believes the move back to rwd will provide enhanced drivability and increased agility with less understeer as well as no compromised on safety.
Urvaksh Karkaria contributed