Volvo Cars has made significant commitments against climate change.
Volvo Cars has made significant commitments against climate change. They recently announced an aim to reduce their lifecycle carbon footprint per car by forty percent between 2018 and 2025. This announcement represents a major step forward in the brand’s own ambition of becoming a climate-neutral company by 2040. They aim not only to transform their own entire model lineup to be electrified, but also make reform to manufacturing process globally to become fully climate neutral.
In keeping with these initiatives, when it came time to develop the performance version of their S60 sedan, Volvo opted to send the standard T8 eAWD plug-in hybrid (PHEV) to their Polestar Engineered division for a series of performance upgrades. The end result, the 2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered, is a special car that gives us a glimpse of what the future holds in the world of performance luxury sedans.
First things first, the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered is absolutely gorgeous. Unlike many of its peers that seek attention with angry looking front ends, the S60 grabs your attention with its svelte and sophisticated appearance. The blacked-out exterior provides a beautiful backdrop to some of the Polestar-dedicated bits such as the white Polestar badges, the 19-inch split-spoke wheels and gold-coloured Brembo calipers. This is also the best application of Volvo’s signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights as they look particularly bright over the Black Stone paint. The rest of the S60 is well proportioned like a luxury sedan should be, and is a perfect segue to the S60’s world class Scandinavian interior.
The S60 T8 Polestar’s interior follows the exterior’s elegant design language, with clever little details laid out all around the all-black cabin to indicate this is more than just a regular Volvo sedan. The seatbelts and speakers pay tribute to the S60’s Swedish heritage with a goldish yellow colour, and the interior design looks like a page out of an Ikea business catalogue. The seats offer top ergonomic comfort as always with Volvo products, and every piece of material seen or touched is of high quality.
Audiophiles will be delighted to find the Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system that comes standard on all S60 T8 Polestar models. Sound quality is excellent, and is up there with the top-tier Burmester system in the Mercedes-Benz models. Infotainment is delivered using Volvo’s SENSUS system, inputted through the vivid 12.3-inch touch display on the centre console. A cautionary tale for potential buyers is that the system can be complex to learn, but the effort is worth it as most features are accessible through a touch or two once you get acquainted with the layout. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity are both supported, but listeners of AM radio stations will have to rely on smartphone applications as the S60 T8 does not have onboard AM radio.
At the heart of the Volvo S60 T8 Polestar lies a two-litre engine that has been supercharged and turbocharged, producing 328 horsepower at 6,000 RPM, and 317 lb-ft. of torque at 4,500 RPM. Power is supplemented by an electric motor that gives it an extra 87 horsepower at 7,000 RPM, and 177 lb-ft. of torque from 0 to 3,000 RPM, for a total output of 415 horsepower and 494 lb-ft. of torque. With 15 more horsepower than the standard S60 T8 model, the Polestar Engineered model can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 4.3 seconds. Accelerating from a standstill is the car’s best attribute, as the instant torque from the electric motor helps propel the S60 without hesitation, buying time for the powerful gas engine to spool up before it takes over. It is worth noting though, that the additional power from the motor is felt in the low to mid RPM range only. Once the engine takes the reign, the S60 T8 Polestar feels no faster than a S60 T6 that uses the same engine, and in fact is a bit slower due to its extra 514 pounds curb weight.
The electric motor offers four distinct driving modes. “Hybrid” is the default mode that automatically configures the right mix of electric and gasoline power, and drivers can gauge the amount of throttle applied before the gas engine kicks in through its nifty display in the digital instrument cluster. “Pure” mode will keep the S60 in electric mode for as long as possible, offering drivers the opportunity to drive up to 35 kilometres with zero emissions from its exhaust. Those taking spirited drives with the S60 will enjoy the best performance from the hybrid powerplant in the dedicated “Polestar” mode, while an “Individual” setting can be customized for a tailored driving experience.
Driving in the city, the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered is rewarding with firm and accurate steering. The S60’s underpinning combines Volvo’s excellent Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform with shock absorbers provided by famed Swedish suspension experts Öhlins, offering excellent feedback to the driver. A special feature not found in many modern sports cars is that its dampening strength can be manually adjusted through the valves in the engine bay. We observed notable difference from these settings. The S60 T8 Polestar rides firmly even at the softest setting, and its maximum firmness makes the S60 nearly unbearable for street use.
The sedan’s beefy weight shows when you push it to the limit, we observed understeer during rapid cornering; there is no hiding that this car is built on a front wheel drive platform. The Polestar Engineered is equipped with a Brembo six-piston braking system that brings the car to a complete halt on demand, however the combination of strong brakes and a regenerative braking system created confusing balance with the brake pedal. It gives the usual mushy regenerative brake feel near the top of the pedal travel, followed by an abrupt stop if you dig a little deeper. We were not able to find consistent brake feel even after a whole week, and would prefer to have the option of turning off the regenerative braking feature.
Fuel economy is rated at 8.4L/100km in the city, 7.0L/100km on the highway, for a combined rating of 7.8L/100km. Our test week consisted of heavy city commutes and extreme cold weather that prevented us from getting max battery power, but we came away impressed to have achieved a respectable 8.5L/100km. After all, this is a 400-plus horsepower vehicle, and it did far better than what we observed in the BMW M340i (reviewed here) and the Mercedes-AMG C 43 (reviewed here). The S60 T8 Polestar will accept up to 60 litres of premium fuel.
Expanding its commitment beyond combating climate change, Volvo had also announced its Vision 2020 ambition to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo product by 2020. The Volvo S60 T8 takes a leap towards that direction with its suite of standard driver’s assist equipment, including Adaptive Cruise Control, Pilot Assist with Navigation, Collision Mitigation Support, Lane Keeping Aid, Blind spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, 360-degree camera, Park Assist Pilot, and Road Sign Information systems.
Pricing of the 2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar starts at $80,800, and our tester was equipped with a graphic head-up display system for $1,150, as well as the metallic paint option for $900, bringing the as-tested total to $82,850. While it is sort of in a league of its own, being a performance-oriented PHEV sedan, its value proposition start to fall apart when you compare it to other luxury mid-size sedans with comparable performance. The BMW M340i and Mercedes-AMG C 43 both start around $60,000 and can be similarly equipped for a little over $70,000, and the S60’s extra weight negated much of the power gains over these German rivals.
At the end of the day, Volvo is on the right track with the 2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar. It is not perfect, not yet, but is still a beautifully crafted luxury sedan with performance and fuel consumption to match. There is no doubt that the pairing of electric motors and the traditional gasoline engine is here to stay. The performance gains are evident, and any effort to reduce our carbon footprint needs to be commended. We have little doubt that Volvo will achieve its lofty ambitions, and the fact that they are pairing this with performance vehicles means it can garner the support of even some of the most stubborn auto enthusiasts.