There are no two ways about it, the EV (Electric Vehicle) has arrived and is here to stay. The PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) takes the concept of a ‘battery powered car’ to another level of practicality today. Amongst a number of manufacturers in the market right now, I think Volvo is right up there – getting the blend of today’s world and tomorrow’s world almost perfect.
I’ve been driving the Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered mid-sized SUV for the past week and I can’t write this with more enthusiasm – it’s fantastic!
There’s a lot to review with this car so let’s start by breaking down that rather long model name as there’s a lot to understand and be very impressed by.
The XC60 T8 is as I said a mid-sized SUV. It’s in the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC class in terms of size. The XC60 has a smaller sibling, the XC40 and a larger one, the 7 seat – equally magnificent – XC90.
The T8 specifically refers to the engine and drive-train that in this case is a ‘twin engine’ configuration with a 2.0 litre four cylinder supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor ‘kicker’. The petrol motor is mated to a 8-speed automatic gearbox driving the front wheels and the one-moving part electric motor drives the rear wheels.
Polestar Engineered is Volvo’s version of BMW’s M or Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division. However, that is really where the similarities stop.
What Polestar Engineered really refers to on the XC60 T8 is optimisation.
It’s all about improvements to specific elements of the car that have one objective – to make the driving experience more of an experience.
In the case of the XC60, Polestar Engineering breathes on a number of facets of the car such as suspension, throttle response, gearshift speed, and engine performance. As a result on the XC60 T8 the power increased from 235kW to 246kW, the torque is increased from 400Nm to 430Nm and the 0-100 time is shaved from 5.3 sec to 5.2 sec. All without sacrificing the impressive fuel consumption and emissions figures.
The electric motor adds a further 65kW and 240Nm respectively which means the ‘all-in’ numbers for the XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered are 311kW and 670Nm of torque. They are very impressive numbers for a mid-sized SUV priced at less than $100,000.
The first thing you notice about the Polestar Engineered XC60 T8 are the gold coloured seat-belts that match the massive Brembo / Akeboo brakes. These are the signature styling element of this car.
The rest of the interior is equally impressive and sumptuous. The driving position is almost perfect with very supportive and comfortable front seats featuring nearly infinite electronic adjustment and memory settings for both front passengers. All five seats feature stunning charcoal Nappa Leather with white stitching and piping which instantly convey the luxurious and inviting environment that Volvo has created with the XC60.
All passengers will enjoy plenty of room especially in the rear where the leg and head room is plentiful. Another really useful feature in the rear are the built-in booster cushions which kids who are just out of car seats will really love. Two ISO-FIX points are available on the outer rear seats for car seats should you need them.
A glorious panoramic sunroof extends the entire length of the cabin providing a further sense of space and light.
Filling all that space with your favourite music is so simple with Apple Car Play and Android Auto coming as standard equipment so it’s very easy to connect to Spotify, find your favourite playlist and with the aid of the 15 speakers from the Bowers and Wilkins sound system your music has never sounded so good. In full electric mode (Pure) it’s so quiet inside the XC60, you feel like you’re in the studio with Dire Straits during the recording of Brothers and Arms.
The steering wheel is magnificently crafted with beautiful leather and white stitching. For the cooler months, it is heated as are the front seats. Easy to use thumb controls on either side provide access to all the critical functions with every bit of information appearing very clearly in the 12.3 inch digital display dashboard.
The beating heart of this XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered Volvo however, is the central 9 inch touch-screen display.
For a car with so much technology and safety built in, this display makes accessing and customising the XC60 very easy and intuitive. Everything from the hi-definition 360º view cameras to setting the hue of the interior lights at night is never more than two taps of the screen away.
Other features that can be adjusted and set from the touch-screen display include the lowering of the rear seat headrests and aligning the head-up display so you ensure you can see all the critical information you need without taking your eyes off the road.
Between the front seats is a raised centre console with on the essential controls for START/STOP, a subtle drive selector, and an almost jewel like rolling switch to select between the 5 driving modes – Constant 4WD, Pure (all electric), Hybrid (everyday driving), Polestar Engineered (sport), and Off Road. The console also houses a couple of cup-holders and other spots to put your phone and keys. The central glove box that doubles as an armrest is not huge, but does contain two USB ports.
Another wonderful feature of this interior (and I could go on for weeks!) is the simple central rotating control for the volume that also encloses a simple play/pause control for the music. Too many auto-makers are obsessed with everything being touch-screen – when all you want is a single button or knob to press or turn – located just where you’d expect it to be.
From the outside the XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered is perfectly discreet in the way it stamps its authority on the road. Stunning 21 inch black forged wheels barely contain the huge Brembo / Akebono brakes at the front.
There are no massively flared wheel arches or stupidly fat and low-profile tyres on the XC60 T8. This is a case in point of less is more.
Subtle touches like glossy black roof rails, tinted rear windows and colour co-ordinated door handles with integrated lighting are all that’s required.
At the rear, a single Polestar logo adorns the powered tailgate. Dual integrated tailpipes with polished high-gloss tips help integrate with the lower rear section at the back of the car.
Very clever LED headlights that bend and turn with the steering wheel set the tone at the front, and catch the eye of everyone who approaches the car at night. Another very subtle Polestar badge is attached to the signature Volvo grill also finished in glossy black. A centrally located camera and loads of parking sensors are the tip of the safety iceberg in the XC60.
Side on this car is a stunner. Very few cars can pull this angle off. I think most are designed for the front and rear angles as thats how we see most other cars. Not the XC60.
Safety & Convenience
This is the first time I’ve included a specific section on safety and convenience. I can’t simply blend all these features into my article this week.
As you would expect the XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered is loaded with the the safety features you would expect on a European engineered car in this very competitive category. ABS and airbags are the price of admission in this category. We expect a lot more bang for our buck and Volvo are the leaders in this game.
Around town the car continuously scans the road looking for pedestrians, animals, other vehicles and cyclists to ensure you know what’s down the road before you get there. As you approach intersections the XC60 is aware of cars and trucks approaching from other sides and will help you avoid an accident before you know it might even happen.
Other urban features include Park Assist Pilot where the car will park itself if there’s enough room making even the most challenging spots achievable. The hi-definition cameras on the XC60 T8 are a god-send too. During the week I had the car, the rain in Sydney was the most we have had in decades. There is no more critical time to be able to see clearly at any speed. The cameras on the XC60 are located and engineered in such a way that water doesn’t build up on them and you can see clearly in any light and any conditions.
Blind Spot Detection and Lane Keeping aids keep the driver on the straight and narrow with active vibrations of the steering wheel and lights built into the exterior mirrors.
Out on the open road, is where more of the incredible technology on the XC60 T8 come to life and really make a difference.
The Oncoming Lane Mitigation is a stand-out feature where if a car approaching you whilst overtaking another car, the XC60 will anticipate the closing speed and alert the driver well before your brain can do the maths. If an accident cannot be avoided the car will brake for you and tighten all the belts to minimise the impact of a collision.
Another feature that is much less doomsday is the Adaptive Cruise Control with Pilot Assist. Like most cars in the segment, the cruise control is aware of the car in front and adjusts your speed to stay a safe distance apart if the car in front lowers its speed. Where the XC60 steps it up is with Pilot Assist. The XC60 will make small steering inputs for you to ensure you stay in your lane. This is considered Level 3 autonomy and is an extremely useful feature on longer journeys. Your hands never leave the wheel.
The XC60 T8 can also read road signs and present the information to you via the head-up display.
Who Will Love This Car?
This is the perfect mid-sized SUV for the urban family with small kids. My teenagers really loved the car – but mostly when they were sitting in the front with me. The boot space is very generous and compared to the smaller XC40, this is where the XC60 makes up the difference. The luxury and finish of the interior will please anyone and I think compared to larger, more expensive models from Volvo’s competitors, this is the benchmark interior for now.
The other market for this car has to be the empty-nesters who have a lot of living left to do, but don’t need this big family SUV anymore. You will really love this car!
Others who will love this car are the cost conscious who want to entertain their curiosity for hybrid motoring without sacrificing the quality of the experience of driving.
I’ve done some rough calculations to give you a sense of what a hybrid car like the XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered can do to your fuel consumption and costs of ownership.
|Volvo XC60 T8||Competitor 1||Competitor 2|
|L/100km (ADR Combined)||2.2||8.7||8.9|
|Tank Size (L)||50||70||65|
|Theoretical Range (km)||2,273||805||730|
|Full Tank (at $1.85/L)||$92.50||$129.50||$120.25|
Now, we all know that ADR figures are ‘perfect world’ not real world. We saw 5.6 L/100km in real-world full Hybrid mode driving and that is still a lot better than some of the competition.
The final word from me for this review has to be in relation to the Hybrid technology fitted to this car. The fuel consumption figures above speak for themselves. What I want to convey is the impact driving a PHEV has on the way you think about driving and you driving habbits.
The reason the XC60 T8 Polestar has enormous Brembo / Akebono brakes on it is that the car recharges itself as you use the brakes. When you become conscious of the amount of energy that you use when braking a car that weighs just over 2 tonnes, you quickly see just how much force can be transferred back to the batteries an into Hybrid driving.
Of course you can plug the XC60 T8 into a wall-socket and recharge it. A little over 5 hours and you’re good to go for around 35km.
This is the immediate future for the car and it’s very, very good. The highly efficient combination of state of the art combustion engine technology and the emerging value of battery technology that can augment the everyday driving experience for the greater good of driving an our planet.
The XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered retails at $98,990 plus on-road costs. As tested the car was $98,990 plus on-road costs.