Volvo is on a charge, so to speak, to turn its internal performance arm, Polestar, into a green brand.
That goes some way to explaining why the Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered wears a ‘fuel’ flap on both sides, since it’s a plug-in hybrid. But get this, it’s also fitted with huge Akebono front brakes, a front strut brace and adjustable Ohlins dampers to show it doesn’t want to make friends with your Toyota Prius. It also has some nice yellow seatbelts for extra identification.
The ride is nice and comfortable. The Ohlins dampers never actually deliver an insane firmness, as you would expect from a club-level damper; even when you turn the adjustment dial clockwise all the way, they’re far from rattle-yer-teeth-out firm. In fact, the adjustment doesn’t change the handling balance all that much or cancel out roll. The XC60 is fairly benign through corners.
However, that might be the better outcome when you consider how much extra flab is packed into its powertain. That inline-four is twin-charged, so it employs both a supercharger and turbocharger, and the hybrid system adds an electric motor (which exclusively drives the rear axle) as well as battery cells in the transmission tunnel.
Petrol powers only the front wheels, where the four-banger produces 246kW and 430Nm on its own. Thrumming along without much drama in the way it delivers its power, the XC60 moves at a decent pace, but it’s only potent when the electric motor can lather on an extra 65kW at 7000rpm and 240Nm at 3000rpm.
Since the motor can make as much as 56 per cent of the petrol engine’s torque, compared to 26 per cent of its power, you feel its shove down low more than up top. Unfortunately due to time constraints we were unable to fully charge the batteries prior to our test and had to rely on the hybrid system’s regeneration smarts to keep it charged during our drive – something it does pretty well.
An eight-speed auto transmission mediates the engine and front-axle without much fuss. It will shift cleanly but can feel rushed when you’re up it.
MOTOR review: Polestar 1
Overall, those big 21-inch wheels with low-profile Pirelli tyres declare serious performance intentions, but in reality the package never feels sharp or fast enough to deliver on them.
We admire Volvo’s attempt at trying to make hybrid SUVs fun, but there’s a sense this XC60 is trying to do too much to excel in one area.
Tested and rated on MOTOR reviews
2020 VOLVO XC60 T8 POLESTAR ENGINEERED SPECS
Engine: 1969cc I4, 16v, twin-charged, hybrid
Power: 246kW @ 6000rpm (engine only)
Torque: 430Nm @ 4500rpm (engine only)
0-100km/h: 5.2sec (claimed)
Likes: Sharp looks; interior finish; solid brakes; decent fuel consumption when you’re up it
Dislikes: Can’t handle its weight; numb steering; a bit slow without battery charge
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars