Volvo are the ever changing brand, long gone are the boring days. They have been traded in for the finest in Swedish built quality and style. Now Volvo wants to push the bar out again with their new sports and performance badge, Polestar-Engineered. Polestar is to Volvo, what M is to BMW, AMG is to Mercedes-Benz and RS is to Audi.

Polestar-Engineered will be the pinnacle of performance for Volvo. The badge denoting that this vehicle is not your typical meat and veg dish, but something a bit spicy and exciting. The question is, can Volvo hold its own beside the legendary European performance badges that we all know and love.

The Range

In New Zealand the XC60 is available in four trim levels and four powertrains. The trim levels are Momentum, Inscription, R-Design and Polestar Engineered. The Momentum is the generic spec, Inscription is focused towards comfort and luxury while the R-Design is targeting the Sport segment. The new Polestar Engineered trim level is a step above the R-Design focusing on the performance segment. The overall visual difference is small, but each one has its own characteristics. Mixed with a wide range of colour options available (except for the Polestar Engineered trim level), Volvo has made it possible to customise a unique vehicle.

The available powertrains for the XC60 are the D4, D5, T5, T6 and T8 AWD. The D4 is a 2.0-litre turbo diesel that produces 140kW of power and 420Nm of torque. The D4 has a combined fuel consumption rating of 6.1 litres per 100km. The D5 is a 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel that produces 177kW of power and 500Nm of torque. The D5 has a combined fuel consumption rating of 4.6 litres per 100km. 

The T5 AWD is a 2.0-litre inline-4 petrol-turbocharged engine. This engine produces 187kW of power and 350Nm of torque and has a combined fuel consumption rating of 7.3 litres per 100km. The T6 AWD is a 2.0-litre inline-4 petrol-turbocharged and supercharged engine. This engine produces 246kW of power and 400Nm of torque and has a combined fuel consumption rating of 8.0 litres per 100km. The T8 is a bit more interesting as it’s a Hybrid. This powertrain combines a plug-in electric motor with a 2.0-litre inline-4 petrol-supercharged and turbocharged engine. These systems combined produce a total of 311kW of power and a massive 670Nm of torque, all while having a combined fuel consumption rating of 2.0 litres per 100km. The price range for these specs and engines start with the XC60 T5 AWD Momentum at $84,900, and the D4 AWD Momentum at $86,900. The XC60 T5 AWD Inscription starts at $89,990 and the D4 AWD inscription at $91,900. The XC60 D5 AWD R-Design starts at $96,900 and the T6 AWD R-Design starts at $97,900. Last but not least the XC60 T8 AWD Polestar Engineered start at $129,900

We are going to skip past where we cover all the bits and pieces in each trim level and go right to the main points; what’s the big deal about this Polestar-Engineered XC60? Unlike the V60 R-Design, where you can select between the T5 and T8 drive train. The Polestar-Engineered XC60 only comes with the T8 hybrid system. The D4, D5 and T6 drivetrains are only available on the other trim levels. This means, if you want the T8, you’re getting gold trim and one of four colours. 

With that you get an array of other specifications that are all optimised for performance. The XC60 Polestar Engineered combines a supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor and optimised engine software by Polestar to give you 311kW of power and 670Nm of torque. A large brake kit from Akebono gives the driver more confidence in any conditions. The XC60 Polestar Engineered suspension features shock absorbers created by Swedish suspension experts Öhlins and developed by Polestar. These use Dual Flow Valve technology, unique to Öhlins. In addition to the suspension the XC60 also features a Öhlins special aluminium strut bar that increases the stiffness of the car’s body. Something I have never seen on a car in this segment, the strut bar is also manually adjustable, so you can fine tune it to how you like it.

The entire package is completed with unique design details to express the performance characteristics of the XC60 Polestar Engineered, including front and rear grilles painted in high-gloss black, wheel arch extensions, integrated black chrome tail pipes and discreet Polestar Engineered emblems at the front and rear.

The other trim levels are well spec’d out, Volvo have not skimped on the details. The Momentum includes: adaptive cruise control, adjustable speed limiter, blind spot monitors with steering assist and cross traffic alert, City safety (autonomous emergency braking) distance alert, drive mode settings, park assist with rear view camera, park assist with front sensors, bluetooth connection, cleanzone air quality system, iron ore aluminium inlays, power tailgate, Sensu 9” touch screen centre display, smartphone integration with Apple Carplay and Android Auto, temporary spare wheel and jack, 17” alloy wheels and the Momentum exterior styling package.

The Inscription adds the following equipment to the previous list. A 360-degree camera, heads up display, leather clad key remote, park assist pilot, 4-zone climate control, driftwood inlays, heated front seats, 19” alloy wheels, Inscription exterior styling package, and LED headlights with active high beam. 

The R-Design spec includes everything from the Momentum and Inscription while adding the following. Charcoal interior headliner, metal mesh inlay, R-Design exterior styling package, Chassis four-c (dynamic chassis for T8 only) and Polestar engineered rank mark on tailgate

Interestingly the XC60 Polestar is only available in 4 colours, white, silver, grey and black. Our review car was the XC60 T8 AWD R-Design Polestar Engineered in Onyx Black. It has everything, there are no options other than the colour, all for $129,900.

First Impressions

Volvo XC60 Polestar Engineered is not your typical Volvo. On the face of it, everything looks normal, that lovely R-Design body shape mixed with those strong Volvo features. And then you see behind the 21-inch alloy wheels, a set of really large gold calipers sitting upon massive brake discs. As your eye catches the gold-highlighted seat belts, you suddenly realise that gold is the Polestar colour and that Volvo are not messing around. They want any vehicle bearing this badge to stand out and be seen. 

Even though I knew what to expect after driving the Volvo V60 T8, I was rather intrigued to find out what made the XC60 special, was it all for show or does it have some go? It was time to dive in and find out. 

The Inside

Inside the XC60 it was nice, it’s well built with modern styling. Good solid features, lovely to touch and feel materials, all combined in a pretty minimal dashboard and cabin experience. But let’s not forget the elephant in the room, the gold seat belts. It was a surprise for me too, and at first I admit I was against them, but over time they grew on me and didn’t mind them. Gold is a bit bright and in your face, but I would live with it and was happy that they weren’t just the normal boring black. Not sure how well the belts in the back would deal with kids and messy hands. Hopefully they are easy to clean too.

Even though I spoke about them in the V60 I have to say it again, Volvo’s seats are a benchmark for comfort. It’s like sitting on a cloud that perfectly formed your bum and set up for your weight alone. I have no idea how they make their seats comfier than the other manufacturers. If you ever get the chance you have to try them out. It’s very safe to say that it takes no time at all to find the perfect seating position. 

After the experience in the V60 I was so happy to see that this XC60 Polestar was spec’d with the Bowers and Wilkins sound system. This system is amazing for clarity, I am very picky with sound and this has to be one of the best I had ever heard. The clarity was unimaginable, and you could not tell where the sound was coming from, it was everywhere. It was so crisp and the range was just amazing. This is a nice addition that is included in the Polestar Engineered trim level, no additional costs to having this amazing system. 

The central media display in the Volvo range is a system called Sensu. Thanks to how they set this up, It allows many buttons to be hidden away from the dashboard, while being flexible enough to allow for heavy customisation. The main display shows four sections; Nav, Media, Phone and optional. This is the home screen and with a swipe left or right you can access the other menus with ease. The left screen is where all the apps live. Here you can add or remove apps, and set one to display in the optional area of the home screen. From the home screen going right, you have a huge selection of buttons, which allows you to control all of the features of the vehicle. You can even move these around, making the more common buttons easier to find. 

Much like my negative points on the V60 reviewed recently, I am not a big fan of Volvo’s start/stop switch and drive mode selector. The start/stop switch is a knob on the centre console that you turn to the right to turn on or off. The Drive model selector is just below this knob as a thumb roller and button. It is fiddly to use, and awkwardly placed, behind where your wrist would be on the console. I had to put some effort into using it, sometimes even looking at it while driving. If i could change anything about the XC60, this would be it.

The boot was good size too, and unlike the Mercedes-Benz GLC, didn’t lose any space for the hybrid system. It’s 525 litres with the second row up and this expands to 1432 litres when folded down. It has a hand-operated retractable cover, which can pull out and over the load, or for quick access slide up the rear pillars. The power boot was great and the foot activation worked so well. During the time I had the XC60, I had to buy a new microwave, as I was leaving the store, two hands full with the microwave box it was bucketing down with rain. I was able to just wave my foot under the rear bumper once and the boot opened. Saved me putting it down in the rain and getting too wet. One thing to note about the T8 models is that they do not come with a spare tyre as the battery and EV motor use this space. You do have access to the temporary wheel gel to inflate the tyre if required.

The Drive

After enjoying my time and experience in the Volvo V60 T8, I knew what to expect from the XC60 Polestar. The entire engine and hybrid system was the same. If you want to read more about the engine and hybrid experience check out the following link, Volvo V60 T8 AWD R-Design PHEV. All the pros and cons for the V60 are the same for the XC60. For the remainder of the Drive section I will focus on the extras and differences that come with the Polestar Engineered variant. 

The first and most noticeable upgrade is the brake kit, there is a huge set of 6-piston Polestar Engineered performance brakes sitting snugly inside of the 21-inch alloy wheels. Speaking of wheels, they are Lightweight Polestar Engineered 21-inch forged alloy wheels created exclusively for this vehicle. These big brakes not only stop the XC60 quicker but provide finer control with increased feel and feedback when braking. Big brakes can be used more aggressively withstanding heavy, high-heat use from spirited driving, reducing the risk of brake fade. There are however downsides to this, in many daily situations where you need to do emergency braking maneuvers, the chance of you stopping has increased greatly. By doing this you have also reduced the chance of the car behind you to stop quickly unless they have similar or better brakes. Hopefully everyone will be following the 3-second rule.

Less noticeable than the massive brakes are the other upgrades from Swedish suspension experts Öhlins. Dual Flow Valve technology – an innovation unique to Öhlins that means the suspension responds more quickly to any road surface imperfections, so you are better connected to the road. The XC60 also features a special aluminium strut bar that increases the stiffness of the car’s body. It means the steering and suspension are even more responsive, giving you precise control on your drive. Pretty cool, while not uncommon on other luxury performance SUVs. What is uncommon and I think Volvo are the first to offer it on an SUV is that ability to adjust the stiffness of the strut bar manually, so that if you find the ride still has too much travel, just dial it up to increase the stiffness to where it feels just right.

All of this combines together to give the XC60 Polestar an impressive driving experience. I drove the V60 the week before making it a back to back comparison. I have to say there was not much difference, which is great considering the XC60 is an SUV and the V60 is a wagon. These upgrades have made the XC60 feel more like a car then a SUV, giving the driver the confidence to in all conditions and while pushing the limits. There are not many SUVs that make the driving experience feel this good, and even less hybrids. The team at Polestar have certainly not cut any corners when it came to lifting the bar on the XC60. 

The biggest difference between the V60 and XC60 was that I found it a lot harder to drive efficiently. The numbers I saw the week before were not the same in the XC60. I made sure to charge the battery every night, however the range was a bit less, only 35km. This is possibly due to the additional weight added from the body change, so this meant that the battery did not last as long and the engine had to be used more often. During short journeys I would be able to keep it running on batteries only. But almost every day I would run out before I was home. This left the daily combined consumption around 2.2-litres per 100km, as advertised. As long as I just went to and from work, just under a 20km round trip, I was ok. But anything more, I started to see daily combined consumptions between 5 and 7 litres per 100km. Volvo really needs to improve on the ability to recharge the battery on the move to improve efficiency. 

Out on the road the XC60 Polestar is a great car to drive, smooth handling and effortless steering. It’s very well balanced and does not feel like a big SUV. If you get the chance, you should test one, as it’s a first class driving experience from Volvo.

The Competition

I’m pretty sure that every other hybrid on the market is targeted more towards efficiency than performance, which puts the XC60 Polestar in a league of its own. It also leaves the Volvo at the top of the price brackets for plugin hybrid SUVs. 

Plugin Hybrid Luxury SUV’s

Brand / ModelEnginePower kW/NmNumber of SeatsFuel L/100kmBoot Capacity LitresPrice Highest to Lowest
Volvo XC60 PolestarHybrid electric / 2.0-litre supercharged/turborcharged311/67052.2635/1432$129,900
BMW X3 xDrive30eHybrid electric / 2.0-litre turborcharged215/42052.4550/1550$107,700
Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 E 4MaticHybrid electric / 2.0-litre turborcharged245/44052.6395/1445$107,700

Pros

  • Great power for a small engine
  • Impressive performance upgrades
  • Lovely engine sounds
  • Smooth and comfy ride
  • Such comfy seats
  • Impressive build quality
  • Great handling
  • Quality, luxury interior
  • Tech level and safety features
  • LED headlights are amazing
  • Big boot
  • Mind blowing sound system

Cons

  • Battery range too small
  • Poor Recharging of battery on the go
  • Start/stop switch
  • Drive modes roller switch
  • T8 only with Polestar Engineered trim

2020 Volvo XC60 T8 AWD R-Design Polestar Engineered

Vehicle TypeAll-wheel-drive luxury 5-door mid-size SUV
Starting Price$129,900
Price as Tested$129,900
EnginePlug-In Hybrid with 2.0 l4 Petrol Supercharged/Turbocharged and Electric Motor
Power, Torque311kW/670Nm
TransmissionEight-speed Geartronic automatic
Spare WheelNone, Gel puncture it
Kerb Weight, Kg2145
Length x Width x Height, mm4688 x 1902 x 1648
Cargo Capacity, litres635 / 1432
Fuel tank capacity, litres60 
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – 2.2Real World Test – Combined – 6.5Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked750 /2100
Turning circle, metres12Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty2 years warranty
ANCAP Safety RatingsTo be tested

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