2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar review: Excellent but exorbitant
Volvo is on a roll. The Chinese-owned Swedish automaker currently fields a compelling range of vehicles, from the compact though suitably premium XC40 crossover to the luxurious S90 sedan to the fun and functional V60 wagon. Its products are upscale, thoughtfully designed and, as always, incredibly safe.
Sitting at the core of that range is the XC60 utility vehicle. Globally, this multipurpose product is Volvo's best-selling model. The reasons for this stellar showroom success are obvious from the moment you open a door and slide behind the wheel.
The XC60 is luxurious and well made, with generous amounts of cargo space, more than 63 cubic feet with the rear backrest folded down. Put this machine in motion and it carries itself with an imperious air, particularly the range-topping T8 E-AWD Polestar model, which offers loads of performance and a stern driving experience. Friendly it may look both inside and out, but this crossover is nonetheless all business.
Turbo-, super- and electrically charged
Like other modern Volvos, this Polestar-modified XC60 is propelled largely by a creamy-smooth, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine. On its own, this gasoline-burning unit is incredibly quiet and isolated. In fact, it's so well shielded scarcely any noise or vibration makes it into the XC60's passenger compartment. This thing does such a magnificent impression of a six-cylinder engine, and a good one at that, most drivers would never know a mere four pots are propelling their upscale, Scandinavian crossover.
Helping this tiny tot pull with vigor in all driving situations is an elaborate induction system. A supercharger bolsters low-speed performance, delivering a healthy hit of torque off the line, but as speed builds, and exhaust gasses start exiting the cylinders in enough volume and velocity, a turbocharger kicks in to provide even more boost. Throw direct fuel injection into the mix and this engine should be good for 328 horsepower on its own.
But internal combustion is not the only thing motivating this version of the XC60, oh no. That drivetrain is also hybridized, with an electric motor providing an additional 87 ponies and 177 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels. Add everything up and Volvo engineers have graced this utility vehicle with 415 system equines and an astonishing 494 units of twist.
That's enough bacon and eggs to hurtle the XC60 T8 E-AWD Polestar to 60 mph in as little as 4.9 seconds. Top speed is limited to 140 mph, though terminal velocity does drop to 78 mph when running solely on electrons, so, if you're in a hurry, you'd better make sure the gas tank is full.
On the subject of fuel, expect around 26 miles per gallon in city driving, 28 on the highway and 27 mpg combined from the combustion engine. Include all those electronics and the XC60 T8 is rated at 57 MPGe combined, that's miles per gallon equivalent.
Juicing its onboard motor is a battery pack with a claimed 9.1-kilowatt-hours of usable capacity. That's enough to provide an advertised electric-only driving range of 18 miles.
Plug this Volvo in to a 230-volt outlet and its battery should be fully replenished in 8 hours when juiced at 6 amps. Find a socket that offers 10 amps and that time gets cut in half. If a 30-amp outlet is handy, the XC60 can be recharged in as little as three hours.
A dynamic drive
As you'd probably expect based on its output figures, this Volvo scoots. The drivetrain is muscular, having no trouble spinning the front tires in wet or otherwise inclement conditions, its Kilimanjaro of torque making the tires scramble for traction.
Unlike some other hybridized vehicles, the XC60 T8's powertrain is utterly seamless. There's no jerking or bucking as it switches from combustion to electric power or vice versa. Together, the battery and motor provide acceleration assistance and help recuperate energy when it's time to slow things down again. The whole arrangement is totally smooth.
When its electron reservoir is depleted, the gasoline engine is plenty potent and incredibly polished. Handling and steering feel are fine. In this department the XC60 is neither poor nor praiseworthy.
Ride quality with the optional 22-inch, Polestar-specific wheels is firm, though, fortunately, not overly punishing. You certainly feel surface imperfections, though it won't rattle your dentures out.
This Polestar model is also fitted with fancy Ohlins dampers. These shock absorbers are adjustable, but not in the way you might expect. Most driver-selectable suspension systems are controlled from a simple switch inside the vehicle, but not these. Atop each individual damper is a knob that has 22 different settings. The closer you put them to zero, the stiffer the ride gets. Inconveniently, you need a jack to adjust the rear knobs, at least according to the owner's manual. Yeah, I don't see many Volvo drivers climbing underneath their XC60 to screw with the dampers.
Those massive wheels not only look killer but they're a great picture frame for this model's Akebono brakes, which are almost comically large. Up front, you'll find six-piston calipers clamping down on rotors spanning 14.6 inches. I completely understand the importance of having ample stopping power at your tootsies' command, but let's be honest, nobody is racing their XC60 on weekends, so having Nordschleife-rated binders is gross overkill and likely a huge expense, both up front and when it's time for a brake job. But I guess if you're going to go with fancy adjustable dampers you might as well have gigantic brakes, too.
If you've checked out any Volvo built within, say, the last five years, the XC60's cabin will be no surprise. Its interior is familiar, with top-shelf materials including Nappa leather as well as aluminum-mesh inlays, excellent build quality and loads of helpful features.
The dashboard's overall design is mostly horizontal, but its center stack, and the prominent, 9-inch infotainment display it houses, is angled ever so slightly toward the driver for easier access.
Running between the two front seats is a large center console. It's home to a number of important vehicle controls, including the ignition switch and gear selector. During my week with this Swedish crossover, whenever it was time to fire the engine up, I always poked the dashboard with my right index finger, leaned over to peer around the steering wheel's rim and then remembered the switch is actually on the console. Every. Single. Time. There's nothing wrong with the ignition's placement, it's just hard for me to override muscle memory.
The shifter is located near that switch and it, too, is unusual. Apparently even Volvo is not immune to the electronic gear-selector fad that's been sweeping the automotive industry as it's installed one in the XC60. To go, for instance, into reverse or drive you have to unintuitively click the lever twice. That's two clicks forward for reverse and a double click back for drive. What, am I operating a motor vehicle or opening a folder on my computer?
Naturally, this Volvo's power-adjustable front seats are super comfortable, as is the backbench. It's suitably spacious in all major dimensions, though a skosh more legroom would be nice for taller passengers, but this is a minor complaint. Gold-colored seatbelts liven up an otherwise austere interior, one rendered in black, charcoal, light gray and silver.
I've never been a big fan of Volvo's Sensus infotainment system, but like barnacles on the hull of a ship, it's growing on me. At first, I found this multimedia solution daunting, with seemingly crazy menus, an overly intricate user interface and often laggardly performance. As my familiarity with Sensus has grown, I've come to actually like it; this system just has a learning curve that's steeper than the walls of El Capitan.
A 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is also included. It's broad and bright, but some of the controls therein are confounding. Operating parts of the adaptive cruise-control system are challenging at first, ditto for some of the other menus for the trip computer.
Naturally, since this is a Volvo, it's safe and comes with loads of security-enhancing features. My tester is fitted with low- and high-speed collision mitigation technology, a road-departure-prevention system, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, parking assist and more.
Adaptive LED headlamps light the way, while other goodies including a power liftgate, a head-up display, in-vehicle Wi-Fi, heated washer nozzles and sprayers for the headlamps as well as automatic high beams are all included. Computer-controlled headlamps are always a great convenience, providing extra visibility at night without blinding other motorists. But Volvo's implementation of this technology isn't quite as responsive as systems from other automakers such as Honda , Nissan or Ford . In my testing, it seems slower and generally less able to detect oncoming traffic, which was a little disappointing.
On the plus side, Volvo's Bowers & Wilkins sound system is pretty amazing, with 1,100 watts of tympanic membrane-tickling power delivered through 15 speakers. This arrangement can make even highly compressed satellite radio sound decent, and that is an accomplishment.
I hope you're sitting down…
As with nearly any premium product, the Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Polestar ain't cheap. The unit tested here rings up at $73,490. That Porsche-rivaling total is padded by a mere two options: metallic paint for $645 and the abovementioned wheels, which check out at a seemingly reasonable $800. A destination charge of $995 rounds out that sum.
The XC60 is certainly a lovely piece of automotive work, with loads of style, technology and functionality, plus enough good taste to make up for any shortcomings. But is it worth nearly 75 grand? I can't help but feel it isn't.
Fortunately, you needn't spend that much to enjoy one of these Volvos. A base Momentum model checks out for less than $42,000. Grab a well-equipped Inscription version with all-wheel drive, the up-level engine and a handful of helpful options and you'll be spending a hair less than 60 large, a price that seems much more reasonable.