by Roger Biermann
If I tell you to think of a Volvo station wagon and you're anything like me, you'll think of the custard yellow 850 T5R of the early to mid-'90s. It was a wedge-shaped, turbocharged sleeper that did the boring family-dad thing, while on the weekends it was conquering the motorsports scene. But both Volvo and the station wagon have evolved since then; Volvos are stylish machines that appeal to millennials, and station wagons are truly sexy, svelte things rather than people-carrying boxes. Throw in performance and you've got the whole package, which is precisely what Volvo has done in the V60 T8 Polestar Engineered - its range-topping luxury compact wagon. You get all-wheel-drive, 415 horsepower, Ohlins suspension and all the tech you could imagine, built on Volvo's now indispensable SPA modular architecture. It's a recipe for success that few could have foreseen back in the '90s, and a recipe that BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz have no real answer to counter with. But if I were to tell you the V60 T8 was a plug-in hybrid, would that change your perception? As it turns out, you can have your luxury performance wagon with a side of eco-consciousness, too.
The Volvo V60 is fresh to the scene, still, after debuting just last year in its current second-gen form. That doesn't mean it goes without changes, however, as 2020 sees the introduction of the Polestar Engineered trim as a range-topping performance derivative. This ultra-exclusive model gets increased power and torque to the tune of 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque, while handling gets a boost courtesy of Ohlins dampers and suspension enhancements.
|Hybrid T8 Polestar||
2.0-liter Twincharged Inline-4 Hybrid
If it weren't for a measuring tape and a numerical suffix on the tailgate, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a V90. The V60 Hybrid has the same long silhouette, concave grille design with black mesh inserts, and Thor's Hammer LED daytime running lights housed in LED light clusters. The Polestar Engineered version gets aggressive front and rear bumpers based on the R-Design styling, while 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels house gold Akebono brake calipers. Blacked out dual tailpipes give the Polestar Engineered true sleeper status, and only a pair of Polestar tiles - one front and one rear - will give away the wagon's true potential.
Polestar Engineered models are no ordinary Volvos, and even the dimensions differ compared to the standard V60 wagon. It measures similarly in length at 187.4 inches, while at 80.3 inches wide, the V60 T8 Polestar Engineered is the same as domesticated versions with the wing mirrors. It's shorter, too, thanks to lower, stiffer suspension, measuring 56.2 inches in height, while a curb weight of 3,725 pounds is marginally heavier than base models, thanks to electric components and an e-AWD system.
The Drive-E engine is at the heart of all modern Volvos, a modular engine architecture that uses - in the US at least - a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline motor with either turbocharging or twincharging, and in certain cases, a dose of electrification. The latter is what you'll find in the V60 T8, which sees the twincharged four-pot given a shot of electric steroids in the form of a plug-in hybrid system that results in power outputs climbing to 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque. Power reaches the tarmac at all four corners through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and power at the rear axle comes solely from an electric motor on each wheel, while a crank-integrated starter generator augments power at the front end. 0-60 mph is dispatched in as little as 4.3 seconds, before the Polestar Engineered stretches on to a claimed 155 mph top end. It does all this while being able to tow up to 2,000 lbs.
The four-cylinder itself is unrefined and sounds gravelly, but the electric hit is like magic. It torque-fills down low and sends the V60 blasting up to illegal speeds with remarkable ease. It might not pack the soundtrack of an M3 or anything else in this performance realm, but then stealthy is how Volvo has always preferred its performance packages.
Jekyll and Hyde in hybrid guise, the five drive modes of the V60 T8 Hybrid ensure the press of a scroll wheel is all it takes to turn from hooligan into business professional, and vice versa. Pure is the one you'll want for rear-wheel-drive shenanigans, although it's more likely to mean silent exits from the carpark as it puts the V60 into all-electric mode, while Constant AWD gives you permanent action at all corners. Performance Volvo aficionados will jump straight to 'Polestar Engineered' mode; this self-titled album unlocks all 415 bionic horsepower and ensures maximum potency.
But fun in a straight line is overrated, and that's where the subtler upgrades to the Polestar Engineered nomenclature come in handy. Ohlins dual-flow dampers, an Ohlins front strut bar, and Akebono six-piston front brakes go a long way to making the V60 Hybrid handle the way it does, with precise body motions, minimal roll, and surprising pliancy in more comfort-oriented modes. It's by no means an M3 rival, dynamically, but as something less vicious, but equally as potent, it's a unique market proposition.
Despite having 415 hp on tap - 165 hp more than the V60 T5, the V60 T8 Polestar Engineered is surprisingly more frugal than the base model. It's actually not too much of a surprise, since the electric motors and 10.4 kWh lithium-ion battery augment combustion for the sake of economy as much as performance, enabling a combined estimate from the EPA of 30 mpg. The gasoline engine alone procures 21/31/25 mpg city/highway/combined, while on electricity alone, the EPA estimates a 69 MPGe rating. A 15.9-gallon gas tank requires a strict diet of premium unleaded, but ensures up to 477 miles of mixed-driving range. Meanwhile, recharging the battery (only limited charge can be accrued via regenerative braking), takes between three and seven hours, depending on the charging system.
Inside the cabin of the Polestar Engineered V60, you get the standard Swedish design and upscale appointments as the regular V60, but Polestar embellishments in the form of Gold seatbelts, and sports seats upholstered in a combination of charcoal Nappa leather and woven fabric, identify the cabin as something special. Those seats are snug but supportive, and you'll not soon be crying for more lateral support when cornering. Those in the back, however, make do with a standard bench, seating a total of five throughout the cabin with ample head and legroom for all but the center rear occupant, whose legroom is diminished by the transmission tunnel that houses the battery packs in this guise. With head and legroom of 37.7 inches and 35.9 inches respectively, however, most adults won't have trouble fitting back there.
The station wagon is often considered the antidote to the crossover plague, and while 23.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats might be beaten by many an SUV, it's more than enough for family vacation luggage on that race weekend outing to Laguna Seca. Flip the rear seats down (a 60/40 split with an alternative passthrough flap) and you unlock up to 50.9 cubic feet including a couple of small storage pockets beneath the floor, resulting in three cubes more than the base T5 derivative.
Internal storage is the same as you'd find in the normal model; large door pockets (without bottle holders) at all four corners, a small-but-sufficient storage bin beneath the center armrest, two cupholders in the center console along with a smaller storage area head of the shifter, and a decently sized glovebox, while rear occupants get cupholders at the expense of a middle occupant and pockets on the back of the front seats.
As a range-topping derivative available in limited numbers, the V60 T8 Polestar Engineered has everything but the kitchen sink housed within its svelte silhouette. This includes Volvo's 12.3-inch digital driver instrumentation cluster, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera, a head-up display, auto-dimming rearview mirrors (inside and out), and a power-operated tailgate, among the plethora of abilities. Dual-zone climate control, fully automatic LED headlights, power-operated heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and 'push-button' start - albeit via the twist of a knob on the center console - are all part and parcel of the Polestar model. There's an abundance of driver assists, too, with blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assist, automatic emergency braking, and access to the full suite of Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving software all ensure you'll never be caught unaware of anything. As for options, you won't find any - it's a full house as-is.
Volvo's Sensus Connect infotainment suite is a love-it-or-hate-it affair, with a nine-inch portrait orientation touchscreen responding to swipes and pinches in a smartphone-like manner than takes a little getting used to. Once you've got the swing of it, though, you can control everything from driver aids to heated seats and climate control, with navigation and audio seemingly playing second fiddle to everything else it can do.
The standard functionality is vast, with full smartphone integration via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, navigation, voice control, and, as standard, the exceptional Bowers and Wilkins 15-speaker sound system with Gothenburg Concert Hall functionality - emulating the acoustics of your favorite band as if they were live in concert just a stone's throw from where the V60 was developed.
The V60 Hybrid is recall-free as far as 2020 is concerned, but last year's T8 was part of a broader Volvo recall for incorrect GPS location data reported in the event of a crash. Still, a comprehensive warranty adds further peace of mind, with the hybrid receiving additional coverage over standard models. The basic warranty covers four years/50,000 miles, while the hybrid battery is covered for eight years/100,000 miles (ten years/150,000 miles in California).
Neither the NHTSA nor the IIHS has crash tested the V60 wagon family, but the mechanically similar S60 sedan has been fully evaluated by the latter, scoring not only top scores of Good in all tests, but taking home a coveted 2020 Top Safety Pick award. That's courtesy of seven airbags (dual front, front side, side curtain, driver's knee), ABS, EBD, high-performance brakes, and most crucially, a vast array of safety features that include front and rear park sensors, blind-spot monitoring, a head-up display, automatic emergency braking, and semi-autonomous driving that detects pedestrians, cyclist, and large animals, too.
Here's the thing: on power and performance alone, one would call the V60 T8 Polestar Engineered an M3 Wagon rival - but there is no such thing, nor is there an AMG-powered wagon in the luxury compact segment which the Swede can do battle with. That's possibly a good thing, as the V60 Hybrid isn't quite as sharp and focused as those cars are, but it certainly isn't lacking in pace, dynamic ability, and most of all, style. It's a completely unique proposition in a world of crossovers, with crossover practicality and performance car dynamics, and with limited numbers (although just how many or few there will be in the US hasn't been confirmed) it's bound to be a future collectors' item. The question, then, really isn't whether it's any good or not - it's stellar both in company and in isolation - but rather what parts of your body you shouldn't sell to have a unique sleeper wagon that's as rapid as it is good for the environment. If only it sounded better.
While lesser versions of the V60 station wagon carry somewhat affordable price tags, the V60 Hybrid in Polestar Engineered form is a rare breed. Just 20 of the sedan counterparts were brought to the US, and we suspect even fewer of these will be made available, so exclusivity alone could be reason enough to justify the $67,300 MSRP, excluding a $995 destination fee. But the burden is somewhat eased by the number of state-to-state incentives the plug-in hybrid qualifies for, as well as the up to $5,419 federal tax credit buyers may be eligible for.
With the regular T8 plug-in version of the V60 off the cards for the new year, the Polestar Engineered model is all that's available - albeit in limited numbers. Still, we can't think of enough reasons you shouldn't at least consider this range-topping variant over its humdrum T5 siblings (reviewed separately). 415 horsepower, frugal economy, and a range of performance enhancements from Ohlins and Akebono seem like reason enough, but when you consider full smartphone integration, heated seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, more safety features than you can shake an IIHS TSP award at, and that exceptional Bowers and Wilkins sound system, the real question is simply, what color should I order mine in? The $645 Osmium Grey Metallic has our vote.
When you're in a class of one, you can pretty much have your run of the playground, so why not pick on the kids in a higher grade? The V90 is the V60's bigger brother, but is built on the same SPA scalable architecture and gets the same powertrains, although with no Polestar Engineered trim for the V90, and in fact no hybrid for 2020, you only get the twincharged T6 model developing 316 hp and 295 lb-ft. It's some way off the V60 Hybrid's performance as a result, and even in R-Design guise, it can't hold a candle to the way the V60 handles corners. Both get the same slick interior design and abundance of safety features, and both are given a big helping of premium comfort, too, but the V90 is bigger, more leisurely, and has loads more space for passengers although the maximum cargo capacity is the same 54 cubic feet in both. So which to buy? If you're into comfort and luxury, the V90 is hot property, but if a performance wagon gets you hot and bothered, the V60 Hybrid is quite literally the only thing available at this price point.
These two are proverbial chalk and cheese - the Outback is built to rough it as a crossover wagon with ground clearance and cargo space aplenty (32.5-75.7 cubic feet), while the V60 Hybrid is low-slung and features performance-tuned suspension more at home on a racetrack than the dirt backroads the Outback calls home. The V60 is also vastly more powerful than even the 2.4T Outback, courtesy of its electric assistance, and yet it's just as frugal at 30 mpg combined to the Outback's 29 mpg in base form. But AWD, similar gas mileage, and wagon styling is where the similarities end. The Outback is cavernous inside, but feels cheap and built to its sub-$35k price tag. The Volvo, meanwhile, is more cramped but is ultra-luxurious. Neither is wanting for safety features, but the Volvo gives you more in terms of comfort. Ultimately, you get the Outback if you're an adventurer, but you get the V60 Hybrid if you're a conservative gearhead out to impress no one but yourself.
Check out some informative Volvo V60 Hybrid video reviews below.