Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: December 9, 2019
What is the T8 Polestar Engineered and how does it fit into the Volvo spectrum? Think of it like the BMW M340i or Mercedes-AMG C 43 - it’s the midway point between the base models and their more hardcore variants. That means this V60 T8 Polestar Engineered (PE) bridges the difference between a V60 T8 and a yet-to-be-announced Polestar wagon variant, carrying with it some hardware upgrades along with classic wagon design cues, signature safety features, and surprising fuel-efficiency. And unlike its direct rivals, the V60 T8 PE is a plug-in hybrid that utilizes a twin-charged (super- and turbo-charged) four-cylinder engine paired with two electric motors (one on each axle) and a 11.6 kWh lithium-ion battery, to deliver a healthy 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission. That amounts to a 15 hp and 22 lb-ft increase over the standard T8 model.
All-wheel drive is standard and like other PHEVs, the T8 PE can save its battery charge, operate solely with electricity, or use a mix match of both for optimum performance. Volvo claims roughly 33 km of electric-only range, which is usable but in the real world that figure always diminishes. We managed around 20 kms of electric-only city driving on a full battery charge. Keep in mind that this was also in zero-degree Celsius weather with the heated seats, steering wheel, and fans on full blast.
In addition to the uprated engine tune, the T8 PE receives a wealth of enhancements including manually adjustable Öhlins shock absorbers, larger Brembo brakes, lightweight wheels, black exhaust pipes, and a new strut bar that shares its design with the 600-hp Polestar 1 performance coupe. Gold is the theme here, with the shimmering shade painted on the brake calipers and seat belts. The PE treatment is also available with the S60 Sedan (that we reviewed last year) and XC60 as well.
With all that instant electric power pushing the V60 PE off the line you’d expect it to be breathtakingly quick but the weight truly drags it down. I’ll be honest and say it doesn’t feel like it’s got nearly 500 lb-ft of torque, as it doesn’t give off that same accelerative feeling as a BMW M3. That said, the V60 PE is plenty fast and really comes alive in the mid-range of the powerband where pickup is incredible. 0-100 km/h comes in a respectable 4.6 seconds, compared to T6 AWD (5.6 seconds), and T5 FWD (6.5 seconds). As with prior Polestar variants, the 8-speed gearbox remains a sore spot, and while smooth and undetectable when left to its own devices, shifts are lethargic and sluggish by modern day standards when manually controlling them via the paddles.
Snowy weather gave us an opportunity to test out its all-wheel traction, and the V60 PE loaded up with Pirelli Sottozeros remained sure-footed and handled brilliantly on slippery surfaces. It defaults to understeer under moderate loads but its safety net is quite difficult to break. Secure handling makes this Volvo affable and approachable, and its exceptional stability means you can lean on the car and trust its instincts and movements. The PE rides much firmer than the standard V60 but not taxing enough to become a complaint. Opting to do without adaptive dampers, the PE instead utilizes Öhlins shocks that can be manually adjusted to your liking - no tools required. All you need to do is pop the hood and find the two golden coloured knobs that control the front shocks, and peek under the rear wheel arches to find the remaining two. While this takes slightly more elbow grease than a simple button push from the comfort of your heated seat like many of Volvo’s competitors, but it adds a bit of uniqueness to the Volvo lineup, and with a jam-packed segment filled with look-alikes and copycats, it’s nice to have something refreshingly manual - kind of like those Alpina wheels with the pressure gauge located behind a locked center cap.
Our Öhlins were set at a medium setting for a nice balance between comfort and firmness, and conveyed enough athleticism to keep its composure through twists and turns, hiding much of the weight that bogged it down during straight-line acceleration. Steering is not as loose or anesthetized as the non-PE Volvos, but nevertheless numb and without much road feel. Loads up predictably under rotation, though, so it’s not a lost cause. We are happy to report that the V60 T8 PE exhibits none of the inconsistent brake pedal feedback as the pre-production S60 T8 PE we drove last year thanks to a new hydraulic pump system. That said, you really have to stand on the brake pedal to get a decent amount of bite but for a plug-in hybrid, pedal feel is surprisingly linear without major inconsistencies, and gives you a reliable response the further you push.
The V60 PE emits an interesting exhaust soundtrack as well. At wide open throttle, your ears are treated to a confusing mix of supercharger whine, turbocharger hiss, combustion grunts, and low-pitched bellows. To say it’s an exciting noise would be a stretch too far - the outgoing 2015 V60 Polestar with its 3.0-litre straight-six engine has us spoiled. That bright blue smurf-coloured sleeper wagon still tugs on my heartstrings, not only for its bombastic exhaust note but for the way it surprised everyone, myself included, on its impressive handling and all-weather traction. Downsizing to a four-cylinder in 2017 diminished some of that magic, and the PE, well, has a different mindset that just doesn’t hit the same mark. Running on an empty battery charge, the four-cylinder engine wasn’t incredibly fuel efficient either - we averaged just over 12.0 L/100km with an equal mix of city and highway driving in zero-degree Celsius weather. Of course, constantly keeping a full battery will remedy this, though the mediocre range will keep zero-emission mobility to a minimum.
If you have driven a modern-day Volvo, the V60’s minimalist cabin design will look familiar. It’s got the same great infotainment system we have come to love. The giant tablet-like touchscreen is responsive, lag-free, and responds to swipes, pinches, and taps just like your everyday smartphone. That reduces the learning curve significantly for Volvo newcomers. And neat little Volvo features you might find include the rear headrest fold button, which throws down the headrests for a better view out the rear windscreen, and an audio setting that recreates the acoustic qualities and ambience of a sitting in the Gothenburg Concert Hall located in Volvo’s home city. Classic Swedish touches remain, with a polished turn dial for the ignition, roller switch for the driver modes, and a leather-stitched gear shifter that wouldn’t look out of place as home decor. The need to double tap the shifter to get into park or reverse may take some getting used - as to not hit neutral by mistake - but it’s not terribly inconvenient.
The seats are classic Volvo, in that they’re supportive from all sides. Any body shape will find it wonderfully snug and comfortable, however I still prefer the last generation Volvo seats and though they were not as aesthetically pleasing, the padding was thicker, the lumbar support was cozier, and it was the most comfortable automotive seat I’ve ever had the chance to sit in. Also notice how Volvo didn’t slather their new white Polestar badge everywhere they saw fit. Unlike its guilty German rivals, the only places you will find the Polestar insignia are on the front grill and trunk lid, and some Polestar script scribbled onto the brake calipers and digital instrument cluster.
The Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered is a well-rounded product that is more than the sum of its parts. The dynamic upgrades transform this wagon into an athletic corner-carver dripping in sleeper-status material, and who doesn’t love a speedy family hauler? But the V60 PE unfortunately sacrifices a bit of performance for fuel-saving EV measures. It’s not the hardcore wagon we hoped it would be, and the premium price tag may be a tough pill to swallow at $82,300 despite its wealth of standard features, but the Polestar Engineered is still thoroughly impressive with a clever mix of efficiency, packaging, and classic Swedish charm.
Model: 2020 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered
Paint Type: Osmium Grey
Base Price: $82,300
Price as Tested: $84,350
Curb weight (kg): 2,079
Engine: 2.0-litre supercharged, turbocharged four cylinder + electric motor and battery
Horsepower: 415 hp combined @ 7,000 rpm (328 hp engine + 87 hp electric motor)
Torque: 494 lb-ft @ 2,200 - 5,400 rpm (317 lb-ft + 177 lb-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 11.1 / 7.3 / 9.4
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 12.4
Tires: Pirelli Sottozero