The XC60 is Volvo’s compact luxury crossover offering, initially introduced in 2008.
When new, it had the daunting task of competing against some well-established players in the market such as the BMW X3 (reviewed here) and Audi Q5, so the XC60 never received the attention it deserved. Fast forward to 2017 and the XC60 was revamped and made significant improvements. It followed the footsteps of the wildly successful XC90 taking many design cues from its bigger brother.
Since the update, the XC60 has gained popularity and is rapidly becoming Volvo’s best-selling model. Riding on this success, Volvo is pushing the boundaries of the XC60 to battle into new territory. Volvo has given the XC60 the Polestar treatment, letting their performance division work its magic to make a more exciting and performance oriented version. With the keys to the 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered, we set out to see if the Swedes can show us their fiery hot side.
The XC60 continues to carry Volvo’s design language, with the iconic Thor’s Hammer LED headlight design and a gloss black grill to carry Volvo’s Iron Mark. The black treatment can be found on the mirror caps, front bumper vents, roof rails and exhaust tips. The dark details give the XC60 some understated aggression to its utilitarian roots. The Polestar Engineered model also receives widened fender arches and beautiful set of 22-inch bespoke forged alloys to fill the arches for a muscular design. The bespoke alloys give the XC60 a wide and aggressive stance especially noticeable from the rear. The theme of understated aggression has been executed with a Scandinavian touch.
When you step inside the interior of the XC60, there is no mistaking that this is a product of Sweden. The simple clean lines with superb materials are immediately noticeable. Volvo has taken the approach of giving their entire line up the same interior experience with a strong corporate design. It has a nine-inch tablet style display that dominates the center of the console. The Sensus infotainment is very responsive and easy to navigate, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is a bit of getting used to, but learning curve is short. An incredible Bowers and Wilkins sound system for an immersive listening experience, especially when you choose the Gothenburg theater sound emulation.
Seating comfort in the XC60 is the best I have experienced in the segment, bar none. The Polestar Engineered model is fitted with Volvo’s Contour seats, which are sculpted to wrap around you from shoulder to thigh. The front seat bolsters are extendable to provide excellent support for your thighs. The added shoulder and lumbar supports of the seats are well suited to the car’s sporty intentions. With six-way adjustability, you can dial in the perfect seating position maximum comfort and connection to the car.
Feeling connected is also a theme with the XC60’s handling, with the exception of the steering. The steering is very light even in Polestar Engineered mode (fancy Volvo-speak for a sport mode), though remains direct and responsive. The suspension of the Polestar Engineered which has struts manufactured by Swedish suspension expert Ohlins and tuned by Polestar. The results are nothing short of magical. It is very stiff, but paired with the six pistons Akebono brake calipers, it has body control capabilities which nearly hide the fact that this is a crossover and more like a sports sedan.
To address the stiffness of the suspension the dampers are adjustable. Unfortunately, they can only be adjusted manually with a knob at the top of the struts which you have to turn on all for corners; not something you would expect in a luxury crossover. After adjustments according to factory recommendations to soften the dampers, you can really feel the Ohlins magic. These dampers are so perfectly tuned; road imperfections and undulations are absorbed with no unnecessary body motions. It feels like the car is suctioned onto the pavement.
The XC60 Polestar Engineered is powered by the T8 setup, a plug-in hybrid powertrain that works by combining two propulsion units. The first is a gas engine powering the front wheels, and an electric motor powers the rear wheels to provide all wheel drive capability. The gas engine provides 328 horsepower at 6,000RPM and the electric motor provides 87 horsepower at 7,000RPM for a combined 415 horsepower. Combined torque output is 494 lb.-ft. from 2,200 to 5400RPM with the engine.
The result of this complicated system is simple; instant torque and a wide power band excellent for day to day performance. The system sends all its thrust through an eight-speed automatic with smooth personality, but lacks that bit of aggression we expect from a sport tuned model. This powertrain also provides plenty of thrust but does not give you any audible pleasures, remaining mostly muted with no exhaust note at all. This is a big letdown considering this is supposed to be the sportiest model with its 5.4-second acceleration time to 100km/h.
One of the main attractions of the T8 is the plug in charging capability. On a full charge, the XC60 has an all-electric range of 27 kilometers, useful to those who have a short daily commute. The hybrid drivetrain provides great fuel economy as well, rated at 9.5L/100km city and 8.7L/100km highway for a combined 9.1L/100km. During my week of heavy city driving I was able to average 9.3L/100km without charging the battery at all. For the performance and utility this Volvo delivers, the consumption numbers are hard to beat.
The Polestar Engineered XC60 starts at $89,150, no paltry sum. Our tester had the only option available, the 22-inch forged alloys at $1,475, for a total as tested price of $90,625. The Polestar Engineered trim comes otherwise fully loaded with all expected creature comforts such as heated seats and steering, premium audio system, Volvo’s excellent 360 degree camera, adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist and IntelliSafe safety suite.
At this price range the XC60 has some stiff competition. The BMW X3 M (reviewed here) starts lower at $83,200. Another option in the realm of super crossovers is the Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 (reviewed here) starting at $93,000. Both of these provide a much simpler and direct recipe of maximum performance extracted from the crossover platform, but the Volvo gives your performance and efficiency in one package. Honorary mention also goes to the Jaguar F-Pace SVR and the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
After driving the 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered it’s easy to see why the XC60 is now the best-selling model line in Volvo’s stable. The Polestar Engineered trim will be more of a niche player. Volvo’s move to electrification adds another level of complexity to its formula. The outcome is well honed athletic chassis which lacks the soul enthusiast buyers would hope for buying into a performance model. Those seeking efficiency would more likely enjoy the civility which comes from the standard models in the lineup. The Polestar Engineered is magical package, but it may have a hard time finding the niche buyers who want what it has to offer.