2020 Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Polestar new car reviews

Hybrids aren't boring. A great example: the 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 eAWD Polestar.

Long name aside, the Polestar version of the XC60 takes the XC60 T8 eAWD Plug-in Hybrid and, through some Swedish techo-wizardy, adds more power. While Volvo claims that the Polestar version of the XC60 makes 415 combined horsepower, the 316 horsepower the engine makes without the electric engine is probably closer to what most drivers will experience in the day to day. 

That engine sounds like something a 10-year-old might come up with: It's a 2.0-liter inline-four that's turbocharged, then supercharged and then joined to an electric motor for good measure.

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J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

Okay, I think someone finally deciphered the magical code that will make me like “sporty” SUVs. Sporty SUVs have always been a bit of a letdown for me, because they seem to sacrifice the U for the S and there’s only so far you’re ever going to be able to go with the S on something with more truckle than catlike proportions.

But the XC60—or at least the Nordic warlocks at Polestar—have figured out the magic sauce to help you get full value from all those letters.

Now, I should mention that the XC60 in this trim is north of $70,000, but after spending some time with it, it kind of adds up. The Plug-in system is great, although you’re only going to get 18-20 miles of electric use from a full charge before the gas motor kicks in to help. But if your commutes are short and your errands are geographically compact, you’re only going to see a gas station maybe twice a month. In the meantime, you’ll be coddled and respected by a very nice—but not overly plush, or unnecessarily aggressive—interior. The seats have support, but not garish bolsters that make it hard to get in and out or even squirm properly during long drives. They’re soft, but not squishy couches. The whole interior is very much the high-tech equivalent of the just-right bowl of porridge Goldilocks chowed down on, before getting severely mauled (I guess that’s the metaphor for anything not under warranty that ever breaks on this thing).

Technology-wise, the XC60 is loaded. Maybe even overloaded, as we just kept finding features upon feature the deeper we dove into the menus on the large touchscreen control center. The Volvo interface is intuitive, but not exactly convenient for a lot of functions. Some seemingly simple functions take two-levels of menu diving, which seems like an overcomplicating. Sure, shortcuts can be established, but this definitely isn’t a “hop in and go” car if you haven’t gone through a fairly extensive setup.

But those are Automotive Journalist Problems®. The good news here is that the XC60 is dynamically excellent. Nimble, responsive, and always very carlike and composed. it never feels like it’s making the clamped 415 combined horsepower from all the propulsion systems, but the power is very linear, which disguises the speed in a steady rush of acceleration. The XC60 is never exciting, as such, but it’s always extremely composed and confidence inspiring.

Colin Wood Colin Wood
Associate Editor

After finishing an exquisite Taco Bell dinner, my wife (who I have been trying to slowly and carefully indoctrinate her into the world of cars for both of our sanities) stopped on the way to back to XC60 and asked, “What’s up with the wheels?” Confused, I asked her what she meant. She pointed to the wheels and said “those...why are they gold?” Looking back once more I realized that she was referring to the brake calipers, which, if you aren’t familiar, Polestar upgrades the calipers and paints them gold. While I’m on the subject of upgrades, Polestar also throws in an upgraded suspension from Öhlins and tweaks to engine and transmission responsiveness.

Yes, while Volvo and Polestar have shifted into electric cars and hybrids, and as much as I miss “Swedish Racing Green” as a color option, this Polestar optimized XC60 is proof that Volvo and Polestar are still taking performance seriously--and maybe even more seriously than before. While it may be deceiving that the XC60 Polestar is only powered by a 2.0 liter inline 4, the little power plant manages an insane 415 hp. How does it do that? Well it takes that 4-cylinder and straps on a supercharger, and a turbocharger, and then an electric motor (okay, the turbocharger and supercharger don’t actually run at the same time, but it’s still cool). What does all this mean? This thing pulls hard when you mash it.

Performance aside, it’s difficult to describe the feel and look of modern Volvo vehicles. It is clear that Volvo is a European brand, yet comes across so much different than BMW or Mercedes Benz or Jaguar or even Alfa Romeo. The only way I can describe it is Starkly Swedish. I’m sure that I could have gotten used to the XC60 if I was going to be spending a couple of weeks or months with it, but considering that my time with the XC60 was limited, I felt particularly overwhelmed by just how different things are, like the gear shifter and the heads-up display and the numerous ways to adjust the seats and even the interface for the infotainment system. As a whole, it was a little too much for me to wrap my young head around, despite how much I liked the XC60. Maybe I’d feel differently if I were at a different stage of my life, but for now, it’s way more than I need out of a car.

Even though driving the Polestar optimized XC60 was a lot to take in, and while Polestar and Volvo have changed their tunes away from conventional engines, they are still serious about delivering real-world levels of performance. Volvo still comes across as a sort of wild card in the luxury segment, and even though the performance isn’t going to make any M’s or AMG’s worried, they should take notice.

My favorite feature? The yellow seat belts. My wife’s least favorite feature? The yellow seat belts.

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View comments on the GRM forums
David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/9/20 3:37 p.m.

Automotive Journalist Problems®.

I like that. And bummed that I missed driving this one. :(

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
4/9/20 3:52 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

There's always a chance we'll get the chance to review the V60 Polestar:

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/9/20 3:57 p.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

I know a guy....

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