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First Drive of the 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered: Summitting

2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered
Photo: B.Charette
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Benoit Charette
Quite a price to pay, but in return you get a Volvo like no other

Banff, AB – It was a postcard-beautiful setting for our first introduction to the new 2020 XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered. Following a brief appearance on a S60 T8, the Polestar name will now be paired with the V60 models (which we briefly drove) and the XC60, Volvo's best-selling model that has sold out more than a million units since its introduction.

What is a Polestar model?
Like the exclusive models presented by other prestige brands, Polestar is a concentrate of the best Volvo has to offer. It compares to Audi S or RS versions, BMW M variants and the AMG models from Mercedes-Benz.

Polestar products are recognizable by their exclusive forged alloy wheels, black tailpipes, a glossy black grille and subtle wing extensions. But the Polestar version retains Volvo’s traditional understated style by showing just the right amount of aggression.

Photo: B.Charette

The XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered is equipped with brakes developed in collaboration with renowned Japanese specialists Akebono. The six-piston calipers and 14.6-inch gold-painted brake discs on the front wheels provide impressive stopping power and also serve to regenerate braking power in the batteries.

Under the sign of comfort and elegance
Inside, a set of gold safety belts offers a contrast with the anthracite colour palette. Aluminum inserts, nappa leather-and-fabric upholstery and a sport steering wheel are some of the other exclusives of the Polestar version.

Volvo offers, no surprise, lots of safety features and an impressive list of standard equipment. You have the vertical touchscreen divided into easy-to-understand menus and a 12.3-inch driver screen. In addition, there’s a panoramic roof, forward collision system and lane departure warning with lane keeping assistance. The seats that set the benchmark for comfort in this category are also designed for safety.

Photo: Volvo

Each part of the construction is designed to protect you during a frontal or back impact and even a rollover. Volvo has made the promise that no one would die in a Volvo and the company takes safety very seriously.

415 horses with a 4 cylinders
Volvo decided a few years ago to produce only one engine and serve it in several flavours. The XC60 gets the spiciest recipe with a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0L 4-cylinder that produces 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque. The extra 15 horses compared to the regular T8 comes from a slightly more powerful battery (11.6 kWh vs 10.4 kWh). With the battery at the rear and the engine at the front, you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle that saves weight because there’s no drive shaft. All this power goes through an automatic eight-speed transmission.

To support this power, Volvo adapts a special Öhlins suspension with dual-throttle valve technology into the struts for faster response to road imperfections, while the chassis also features Öhlins front-bar reinforcement. Braking also gets the premium treatment with Polestar gold six-piston calipers in front. As well, the suspension can be modified via several drive modes to adjust the comfort depending on the road conditions.

Photo: B.Charette

Fun, but not really sporty
Traditionally, German automakers have always (or almost always) focused on performance. Volvo meanwhile has prioritized safety and comfort. The addition of the word sport in the company vocabulary is more recent, but Volvo is all in now that it’s part of the conversation.

Our test vehicle on the day took us to the mountain trails of Alberta and British Columbia, and the first word that came to mind was balance. As in, a fair dose of comfort and maneuverability and power that moves around smoothly. Now, this is not the infernal delirium of an AMG V8 or the thrust of an Audi V6 in the SQ5. It's Swedish discretion with a little more punch.

The comfort level is excellent, the interior is beautifully crafted and the panoramic sunroof brings a lot of light into the cabin. From a driving point of view, everything is contained. It's fast, but never gives you the itch to go faster. The Polestar's braking is powerful and offers a more natural regenerative system than the previous generation.

Photo: B.Charette

You can also adjust the driving dynamics to suit your mood or the situation. Of the six drive modes, the default one is the Hybrid mode that operates the gasoline engine and the electric motor alternately or together as needed. Then comes the Pure mode that prioritizes efficiency in electric driving by activating the stop/start function and placing the vehicle functions in Eco mode, eliminating defrosting of the rear window and exterior mirrors.

Power mode provides the driver with the full power of both the engine and electric motor. AWD mode maximizes grip for poor road conditions. The Individual mode allows for making custom adjustments, and Off-Road mode activates functions such as descent control. It activates at under 20 km/h and switches off automatically if speed exceeds 40 km/h.

Photo: B.Charette

In terms of general form, finish and presentation, Volvo arrives at a pinnacle with this new Polestar Engineered version. There is however a price to pay. It will cost more than $89,000 for the XC60 T8 PE (Polestar Engineered). To give you a little idea, the well-equipped Audi SQ5 is at $67,300, and BMW’s X3 is priced in that range as well. With this Volvo, you’re more in Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, Porsche Macan or well-equipped Jaguar F-Pace territory.

We like

Fit and finish

We like less

High price
Lack of communion with the road
Does not feel powerful

Photo: B.Charette

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Benoit Charette
Benoit Charette
Automotive expert
  • More than 30 years of experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 65 test drives last year
  • Attended more than 200 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists