2020 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered


Intro
Back in February I reviewed the 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country and came away impressed. I have always been a big fan of hatchbacks and station wagons. In my opinion, they provide the best balance between utility, fuel economy, and handling. This time, thanks to Volvo Canada, I got to review the 2020 Polstar Engineered (PE) V60, a sexy performance plug-in hybrid (PHEV) station wagon. Yes, I know “performance”, “PHEV”, “sexy”, and “station wagon”  are not normally found in the same sentence. But that is exactly why the PE V60 is such a breath of fresh air.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Polstar brand, it used to be a small company building their own racing Volvos in the late 2000s. Volvo eventually bought the company in 2015. With the purchase, Volvo started offering performance enhanced models of their cars directly to customers. In 2017, the joint venture of Volvo and Geely announced that Polestar would become a standalone brand. The new Polestar brand would exclusively focus on building high performance electric vehicles. 

Still, under the label Polestar Engineered, Volvo continues to offer performance enhanced models to its customers. Typical enhancements include increased power, bigger brakes, tighter suspensions, and tuned throttle responses. 

In 2017, Volvo announced that from 2019 onward, all of its vehicles will have an electric motor, and by 2025, 50% of its global sales will be fully electric cars. With the V60 PE, we are getting a glimpse of that future. Volvo Canada kindly supplied me with the car for one week to test drive. Below is my unbiased review. 

Exterior
In terms of exterior styling, the beefed up V60 has got to be one of the sexiest looking station wagons on the market. While the differences between the V60 PE and the regular V60 are subtle, the low stance, large golden brake calipers, and unique 19" alloy wheels all make the already good looking V60 that much more desirable. The long roofline of a station wagon compliments the long proportion of the car. Without any metal accent trims, the V60 PE looks incredibly slick and modern from the side. Raising character lines and the chiseled door panels keep the V60 looking light on its feet despite the extra mass toward the back. 

At the front, the familiar Thor's hammer style LED headlights look striking against the wide gloss black intake. Besides the standard Volvo logo running across the grille, a small white emblem bears the Polestar logo to quietly remind us what is under the hood. The same Polestar logo can be found at the rear of the car, but you will need to look closer to find it. Volvo’s signature tail lights cut into the power liftgate and run up through the D pillars to provide a distinctive visual at night. The skinnier profile and the addition of LED light bars make the current generation of Volvo trail lights look much more sophisticated compared to older models. 

The V60 PE is a gorgeous car from all angles. I particularly enjoy the crystal white pearl paint of our tester. The contrast between the black trims and white exterior makes the V60 PE look extra slick. It has a sense of timelessness with its clean, minimalist design. It sure turns head on the street, and should continue to do so for years to come. 


















Interior
On the inside, Volvo differentiates the V60 PE by giving it gold racing seat belts, leather racing seats, and a sportier looking steering wheel. Other than that, the interior of the V60 PE is the same clean, Scandinavian design that features a portrait style display and large vertical air vents. A thick metal trim runs across the front deck to provide a distinctively upscale look. Premium materials are used throughout the cabin. Volvo pays special attention to the texture of its knobs and buttons. While the gloss black surfaces may be fingerprint prone, the diamond patterned metallic switchgears look and feel great expensive.

The racing style front seats are exceedingly comfortable with plush leather surfaces, adjustable leg rests, ample lumbar supports, and thick bolsters. The driver’s seat also offers a commanding driving position with excellent outward visibility. The new Sensus system allows the driver to fold the rear headrests down with the touch of a button. This greatly increases the visibility through the rearview mirror. The headrest can only be restored to its upright position manually though. 

The rear cabin is very comfortable with a sense of openness that is only amplified by the gorgeous panoramic sunroof. A noticeable bump is present in the middle. Evidently it is where the battery is located. The rear seats are nice and plush, offering decent legroom for the rear passengers. They are also heated, perfect for those cold Canadain winter days.  There are no rear air vents behind the front center console. Instead, they are located at the back of the B pillars. Overall, the interior of the V60 PE is clean, upscale, and functional. 


















Infotainment
The Volvo V60 PE boasts the same infotainment system as the V60 CC that we reviewed. With the new "Sensus" infotainment system, an iPad style 9.3” portrait screen does all the heavy lifting. The screen is high resolution and responsive. The user interface layout is almost as intuitive as an iPad. A home button below the screen allows you to access the main page quickly. In addition, some useful functions can be accessed directly with their dedicated physical buttons. The buttons are nicely grouped together just below the screen. They give access to road hazard lights, windshield defrosters, volume controls, and media controls. I wish some cabin climate controls, including the steering wheel heater, can be included as well. With the current design, you will have to dig into the menu to change settings.

Android Auto and Apple Carplay are available through the provided USB ports. The portrait style screen leaves some real estate to display other vehicle information while Android Auto, or Apple Carplay are projected onto the screen. The built in navigational system is excellent, and the portrait style screen also allows more roads ahead to be shown. 

The digital instrument cluster is large and easy to read. Two analog looking dials display vehicle speed and engine rpm. The middle portion is reserved for either media information or the navigational map. Only a small portion of the display can be interacted via the buttons on the steering wheel. It is not the most intuitive design and took me a while to get used to.

The Harman Kardon audio system that comes with our tester not only sounds amazing but also looks fantastic with its custom metallic grilles and yellow speaker diaphragms. 






Safety and Driver Assistance
With the new SPA system, the V60 PE is built on a light, yet strong platform. On top of that, Volvo’s City Safety technology comes standard with all Volvo models. It combines automatic braking functionality and collision avoidance systems to cover a range of potential accident scenarios.

The Pilot Assist system combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist to hold the vehicle in its lane on the highway. It is a treat to operate with a dedicated group of buttons on the left side of the steering wheel. The system does a decent job of keeping the vehicle in the center of the lane when all lines are clearly marked. The 360 degree monitor system is high resolution, but there are significant distortions in some areas. 

The Volvo V60 PE is not yet rated by either the NHTSA or IIHS at the time of writing.






Driving
The Volvo V60 PE features almost every modern technology available to power a car. Under the hood is a 2.0L inline four cylinder engine that is both turbocharged AND supercharged. The engine produces 328hp of power and 317lb.ft. or torque. On top of that, an electric motor paired with a 116kWh battery pack adds another 87hp of power and 117lb.ft. of instant torque. 

On paper, it gives the V60 PE 415hp of combined power and 494lb.ft. of combined torque. However, the max horsepower and the max torque of the engine do not occur at the same RPM as the electric motor. That means in reality, the combined max figure would be lower. That, and the fact that the car now weights 2018kg with the addition of an electric battery pack, means the 2020 V60 PE is actually slightly slower than its predecessor.

Don’t get me wrong, the V60 PE is still a fast car. 0-100km/hr happens in 4.5 seconds. It is certainly the fastest PHEV wagon on the market. However, if you are expecting a supercar like performance, you are going to be disappointed. The V60 PE actually feels more powerful once the car gets slightly up to speed. While the drivetrain is undoubtedly complicated, the V60 PE does a fantastic job of transitioning from one power mode to the next. While the transitions are noticeable at times, they are usually quite smooth. My only complaint would be the manual paddle gear shifters. They only respond to inputs in very narrow RPM ranges, and at times experience significant delays. 

In terms of ride quality, the high performance suspension does a decent job of absorbing road bumps while providing stiff handling. The manually adjustable Öhlins dampers are one of the first things you will notice under the hood. They are normally found in high performance racing vehicles. With enough experiments, you should have no problem finding the sweet spot to suit your personal preferences. 

The steering is nicely weighted, but it could use a little more feedback from the road. The other annoyance is the lever shifter. To switch from drive to reverse, you will first need to go through neutral. In operation, that means you will need to pull the lever twice, and vise versa. It took some getting used to, and was particularly annoying when navigating inside a parking lot. 

Finally, let’s talk about the plug-in hybrid system of the V60 PE. The 116kWh battery pack provides a pure EV driving range of 35km. It is quite achievable in the real world if the road is relatively flat. I like how Volvo lets you decide how you want your hybrid system to behave. You have the option of driving in Pure EV mode. The engine only comes on when the battery is sufficiently low or when you push the accelerator hard. In addition, you can choose to charge the battery with the gasoline engine, or to hold the battery charge for later use. With both options combined, you can decide when best utilize the PHEV system. It makes the most sense to hold the battery charge on the highway, and to rely on the hybrid system to save more fuel while driving in the city. 

In my opinion, it is best to consider the 2020 V60 Polestar Engineered as an excellent plug-in hybrid vehicle that is also very fun to drive. There aren’t many of these out there, if any. So the V60 PE really makes the case for performance station wagons. 

The V60 PE is rated at 
fuel economy rating L/100km city, L/100km highway, and  L/100km combined











Cargo Space & Storage
The V60 PE is as practical as it is fun to drive. There is 658L of cargo space behind the rear seats. With the rear seats folded, the cargo volume is increased to 1441L. There is a ski pass-through in the middle rear seat and a cargo net in the trunk to hold smaller items in place. The power liftgate can be foot activated, and there are more than one lights to illuminate the trunk area. There are two latching heights for the roller trunk cover. You will normally leave it at the lower latch point for better rear view visibility, but when you have to fit taller items in the trunk, the higher latch point comes in handy.

There are a decent amount of storage options in the cabin. The front door pockets are above average in size. The center console storage bin is very shallow due to the battery stored underneath. There are side mesh pockets for the front passengers, and two mesh pockets behind the front seat backs for the rear passengers. Rear passengers also enjoy a small storage tray behind the front center console and two cup holders inside the rear folding armrest. 













Verdict
I absolutely adore the 2020 V60 Polestar Engendered. It is stunning to look at, fun to drive, fuel efficient, and gorgeous inside. The fact that it is also a plug-in hybrid vehicle equipped with a decently sized battery, makes it one of a kind. Now I know the $84k CAD sticker price is hard to swallow. But if rarity, performance, and beauty determine the price of a vehicle, the 2020 V60 PE surely deserves it. 

Test Vehicle
2020 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered
MSRP
$84,350 CAD
Color
Crystal White Pearl

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