IT STRIKES me that performance, like money and holidays, falls into that category of things you can never really have too much of. It’s true that life is all about balance, and I don’t discount the benefits
of fuel efficiency or creature comforts, but nothing tickles my adrenal glands quite like an accelerator pedal that feels as though it’s connected to some kind of military-grade explosive.
Read next: 2018 Volvo XC40 Range Review
Imagine my surprise then when, with the keys to a Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S clutched in my hand, I began to question just how much performance a mid-size SUV actually needs. With my XC60 relinquished to Volvo for its 15,000km service, and the GLC in the Wheels garage after last month’s feature drive in Tassie, I approached Affalterbach’s brutish SUV full of anticipation.
Two days later, having experienced the animalism of its 375kW/700Nm 4.0-litre V8, the firm intent of its chassis, and its willingness to perform small powerslides on demand, I began to wonder if, as a mode of regular family transport, it was a little too focused.
My ponderings were thrown into sharper relief by Volvo itself, which in the same week, announced performance upgrades for models with T8 powertrains. Fettled by Polestar, the optimised version of the XC60 jumps to 314kW/670Nm (up 14kW/30Nm), adds swankier Ohlins shocks, beefier Brembos, lighter wheels and a revised gearbox calibration that shifts cogs faster and holds onto gears longer if it detects enthusiastic driving.
The thing is, not once in our six months together have I lusted for my XC60 to feel sportier. It’s fast enough to be exciting, collected enough to accurately carve corners, and crucially, as slipping back into its freshly serviced form solidified, comfortable and quiet enough to feel genuinely luxurious. Remember that ‘balance’ thing I mentioned earlier? The regular T8 XC60 feels like the sweet spot.
Read next: 2018 Volvo XC60 Range Review
Our time apart did, however, shine a harsher light on a few XC60 weaknesses I’d perhaps grown too familiar with to be bothered by. The four-up ride, for example, wasn’t quite as supple as I recalled, with sharper bumps telegraphed clearly into the cabin. And the steering, which has always been light, suddenly felt numb and detached.
There’s no questioning its accuracy, but in an SUV with a performance bent such as this, a greater sense of connection would go a long way. Perhaps someone should tell Polestar.