2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered

Few weeks ago I reviewed the 2020 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered (PE for short). With great styling, stellar performance, and a luxurious interior, it is one of my favorite vehicles of the year. The fact that it is a station wagon AND a plug-in hybrid earns it extra brownie points from me.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Polstar brand, it used to be a company producing race cars based on Volvo vehicles. The company was sold to the joint venture of Volvo and Geely in 2015. Since then, it is responsible of producing performance versions of Volvo road cars under the banner of Polestar Engineered. 

Thanks to Volvo Canada, this time I get to test drive the sedan version of the same car, the 2020 Volvo S60 PE, another Polestar Engineered Volvo featuring the same T8 PHEV drivetrain. Below is my unbiased review.

The exterior of the S60 PE actually looks quite different from the V60 PE. While the front end of the two cars are almost identical, the S60 features a significantly different side profile as well as a completely different tail light design.  

Just like the V60, the Polestar Engineered S60 bears Volvo’s signature Thor's hammer style LED headlights. A small white square of Polestar emblem located in the center grille quietly hints what is under the hood. An array of wide lower air intakes gives the front fascia a sporty, yet serious look. 

The side profile of the S60 PE is expressed through muscular curves, sharp character lines, and sculptural door panels. The roofline gently slopes toward the tailgate to meet with the slip spoiler. Large gold Brembo brake calipers as well as unique 19" alloy wheels give the S60 PE more personality compared to a regular S60. 

Without the D pillars in the back, the tail lights of the S60 sit lower compared to the ones on the V60. The claw shaped housing design is highlighted by smart LED pipe patterns. Interestingly, the exhaust tip design of the S60 is completely different from the V60. The quad tip design of the S60 is more unique and eye-catching in my opinion. 

While the S60 PE is a sexy looking car in its own right, I prefer the look of the V60 PE. The wagon form factor is just so refreshing on the SUV infested road. I have always had a bias toward hatchbacks and wagons, so your opinion might differ. In terms of exterior styling though, you can’t really go wrong with either car. 

While the exterior of the S60 PE and V60 PE differs in some ways, the interiors of the two cars are almost identical. The Polestar Engineered S60 gets gold racing seat belts, leather racing seats, and a sportier looking steering wheel. 

The same clean interior design features a portrait style display and large vertical air vents. A thick metal trim runs across the front deck to show off its gorgeous metalwork. Premium materials are used throughout the cabin. Volvo pays special attention to the tactile feedback of its knobs and buttons. While the gloss black surfaces may be fingerprint prone, the diamond patterned metallic switchgears look and feel 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 S60 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 rear headrest can only be restored to its upright position manually though. 

The rear cabin is very comfortable but feels slightly more enclosed without the huge panoramic sunroof of the V60 PE. The S60 PE comes with a standard sized sunroof that is still enjoyable from the back. A floor bump in the center aisle means the center rear seat should be reserved for emergency only. The rest of the rear seats are nice and plush, offering decent legroom and slightly limited headroom. They are also heated, perfect for those cold Canadian winter mornings. The rear air vents are located at the back of the B pillars. Instead of USB plugs, only a 12V socket is available for the rear passengers. Overall, the interior of the S60 PE is the same contemporary Scandinavian design that is clean, upscale, and functional. 

The Volvo S60 PE is equipped with the same infotainment system as the V60 PE. The new "Sensus" infotainment system is centered around the portrait style 9.3” touch screen. The screen is sharp and responsive. A home button below the screen allows you to access the main page wherever you are in the menu system. In addition to the touch screen, some frequently used functions can be accessed directly with their dedicated physical buttons. The buttons are nicely grouped together in a row below the touchscreen. They control road hazard lights, windshield defrosters, and media playback. I wish some cabin climate controls, including the steering wheel heater, can have their dedicated buttons as well. With the current design, you will have to dig into the menu to change their settings.

Android Auto and Apple Carplay are available through the provided USB port. 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 map area 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 of the screen 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. I wish Volvo utilizes the middle portion of the screen for more functions. 

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

Safety and Driver Assistance
With the new scalable product architecture (SPA) platform, the S60 PE is built on a light, yet strong base. The modular system allows Volvo to standardize the development process. On top of that, Volvo’s City Safety technology comes standard with all S60 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 highways. 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 the lighting condition is optimal and all lines are clearly marked. The 360 degree monitor system is high resolution, but there are significant distortions in some areas. 

The Volvo S60 PE is not yet rated by either the NHTSA or IIHS at the time of writing.

The Volvo S60 PE features the same advanced T8 drivetrain that incorporates most modern automotive technologies as the V60 PE. 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 S60 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 is slightly lower. The 0-100km/hr acceleration happens in 4.3 seconds. Slightly faster than the V60 PE as it is also slightly lighter. 
While the drivetrain is undoubtedly complicated, the S60 PE does a fantastic job of transitioning from one power mode to the next. It is absolutely amazing how well all these parts work together. The only complaint is that there is a significant delays to the inputs from the paddle shifters.
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 I would prefer 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 into neutral. In operation, that means you will need to pull the lever twice, and vise versa. It is particularly annoying when navigating inside a parking lot. 
Finally, let’s talk about the plug-in hybrid system of the S60 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. In this mode, the engine only comes on when the battery is sufficiently low or when you push the accelerator hard. You can also 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 to best utilize the PHEV system. For example, you can choose to hold the battery charge on the highway, and to utilize the hybrid system only for city drives.
Just like the V60 PE, it is best to consider the 2020 S60 PE as an excellent plug-in hybrid vehicle that is also fun to drive. Sure there are more performance orientated vehicles at this price range, but the fact that the S60 PE is also a PHEV puts it in a league of its own. The S60 PE is rated for 3.2L/100km if you get to charge it everyday. The 2.0L engine itself is rated for 8.4 / 7.0 / 7.8 L/100 km city / highway / combined. Our one week test drive with nightly charging averages 4L/100km.

Cargo Space & Storage
The S60 PE offers significantly lower cargo capacity compared to the V60 PE. There is 390L of cargo space compared to the 658L of cargo space of the V60. Inside the trunk, you will find a cargo net to hold smaller items, a 12V charging port, and a ski passthrough to the cabin. 

Interior cabin storage is typical of a luxury sedan. 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 shallow storage compartments inside the rear folding armrest.

The 2020 S60 Polestar Engendered is yet another great car from Volvo. You will be hard pressed to find a 415hp performance vehicle that only sips 4L of gasoline per 100km drive. Its stylish exterior, modern infotainment system, as well as the luxurious interior all make a great case for purchasing this high performance PHEV. Unlike its V60 PE wagon sibling though, the performance luxury sedan market is much more crowded with stiff competitions from Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW. No doubt, the S60 PE can stand toe-to-toe with its German competitors in terms of price and performance, especially when you compare them fully loaded. On the other hand, for roughly the same amount of money, I simply prefer the wagon form factor and the rarity of V60 PE. 

Test Vehicle
2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
$83,715 CAD as tested (including Freight & PDI)
Osmium Grey


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