At Volvo, plug-in hybrid powertrains are synonymous with performance. Designated with a T8 model series nameplate, they are the most powerful and efficient of the company’s models. And when Volvo embeds a Polestar emblem into a grille, speed goes hand-in-hand with saving gas.
Polestar is Volvo’s performance brand, which soon debuts its own Polestar 1 and Polestar 2 electric models. As such, think of Polestar Engineered Volvos as synonymous with M Sport-massaged BMWs. Until this year, Volvo had never given its XC60 compact crossover SUV the Polestar treatment. That changes with the debut of the 2020 Volvo XC60 Polestar Engineered.
Based on the XC60 T8, the Polestar Engineered version adds manually adjustable Ohlins performance dampers, a front strut bar, gold Akebono 6-piston front calipers clamping drilled rotors, and 21-inch forged aluminum wheels. Polestar also enhances the powertrain to produce 415 hp (+15) and 494 lb-ft of torque (+22). Volvo says the XC60 Polestar Engineered will accelerate to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.
To get first-hand experience with this new Polestar-amplified version of the 2020 XC60, I accepted Volvo’s invitation to come to Banff, Alberta, Canada to briefly drive the SUV.
Zen-like cabin, sumptuous seating
Get into any modern Volvo, and you’ll settle into some of the most comfortable seats available, surrounded by an almost austere environment constructed of top-notch materials. This perfect support, combined with Zen-like calm and monk-like minimalism, instantly puts your mind at ease – even in the new XC60 Polestar Engineered. At the same time, you might wish for more knobs and buttons. Many controls and settings require interaction with Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system. It works just like a smartphone or tablet computer, making it intuitive. Nevertheless, it is a source of distraction, just like using a smartphone or tablet computer while driving is.
Good thing, then, that Volvo loads the XC60 Polestar Engineered with all of its safety-related systems. From the underlying architecture to the seat designs, and from driving assistance to collision avoidance systems, Volvo builds this compact SUV to keep you and your passengers safe. It would be nice, though, if the head-up display were visible through polarized sunglasses.
Roomy enough for four adults (or five if rear-seat riders are willing to squeeze), the XC60 T8 provides 21.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat and up to 63.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down.
Stiff ride, superior handling
Volvo’s plug-in hybrid powertrain pairs a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine powering the front wheels with an electric motor turning the rear wheels. The battery pack resides beneath the center of the SUV.
Volvo says the XC60 T8 provides an estimated 17 miles of electric driving range in its Pure driving mode and gets 26 mpg in combined driving in Hybrid mode once the battery reaches its minimum state of charge. There is also an Off-Road mode and, in this version of the SUV, a Polestar Engineered performance mode.
Driven on the Trans-Canada highway at the country’s absurdly low speed limits, the XC60 Polestar Engineered has a firm, almost stiff ride with the optional 22-inch wheels and the Ohlins struts adjusted to their medium setting. But you should expect this of a performance-tuned SUV.
Otherwise, this Volvo is both quick and quiet and averaged 47 mpg in Hybrid mode using both the battery charge and the gas engine as the technology deemed appropriate.
Later, at an airport, we had the chance to perform high-speed lane change and slalom activities, as well as a hard acceleration run up to nearly 100 mph before slamming onto the brakes. In this environment, the XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered proved exciting and capable to drive.
Volvo says the XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered is aimed at the same buyer who might consider an Audi SQ5. Having driven both of these luxury performance SUVs, we’d say that’s a fair expectation.
Volvo delivers a win-win-win-win-win
A Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered costs $69,500, plus a $995 destination charge. Upgrades include metallic paint, 22-inch wheels, and integrated booster seats, bringing the price to $72,440. That positions the Volvo in the same neighborhood as a loaded Audi SQ5 Prestige with every option box checked.
Based on my brief driving time in the Volvo, it certainly performs like the SQ5, and looks better while doing it. Plus, you get plug-in electric range and impressive hybrid efficiency, along with ownership benefits like Tow For Life and Lifetime Parts and Service for many out-of-warranty repairs.
That’s what some people might call a win-win-win-win-win situation.