As the gray metallic 2020 Volvo V60 Polestar Engineered ticked, cooling in the SoCal air behind me, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What is a Polestar, anyway?”
You have a right to be confused. Volvo, and its parent company Geely, have spent just enough money to make the general public reasonably aware that Polestar is the name of its new electric vehicle brand. But Polestar also has a two-decade history of developing stonking-fast variants of existing Volvo internal combustion cars in racetrack and street-legal forms. Volvo bought the Polestar racing division in 2016, then quickly made it the symbol for EV development and sales with the Polestar 1 and upcoming Polestar 2.
What’s a Polestar?
And yet, Volvo still builds Polestar variants of its internal combustion vehicles. You can walk into a Volvo dealership, plunk down about $69,000, and get a canyon-shredding V60 Polestar Engineered wagon with turbocharging, supercharging, and two electric motors. Dubbed “Polestar Engineered,” these limited run models start with Volvo’s T8 plug-in hybrid models, and then receive powertrain, chassis, suspension, brake, and styling changes to make the base Volvos even better to drive and look at.
Confusing, yes, but long story long, we consumers win. We’ve driven the Polestar 1 hybrid-electric coupe, and it is magnificent (it narrowly placed second in a recent hybrid supercars test). The Polestar 2 fully electric compact luxury sedan will be here soon. And the V60 Polestar Engineered is definitely worthy of the name.
Some say wagons are dumb—the stuff of 1970s wood-paneled nightmares. They’re wrong; recategorize the V60 as a long hatchback, or a slammed XC60 SUV, or a fast and practical cheese grater. Just look at it in profile—that fast A-pillar angle, the jaunty kink of the tailgate. That’s no wagon, that’s executive transport with bonus cargo space.
How Much Does the 2020 V60 Polestar Engineered Cost?
You can get into a bare-bones V60 for $40,645, which is within striking distance of the average transaction price for all vehicles sold in America. However, we’re here to talk about the prestige model, the V60 Polestar Engineered (as-tested price of $68,940 before federal and state plug-in hybrid incentives).
It’s not like Volvo started building fast cars when Polestar rolled into town. Brickheads hold fond memories of the 850 T5-R and 850R Wagons of the ’90s, as well as the 740 Turbo from the ’80s. (Remember how it snarkily compared itself to a Lamborghini Countach?)
How Fast Is the V60 Polestar Engineered?
That said, those early go-fast bricks were mostly thrust by peaky turbos. The Polestar-engineered V60 is using electric power on top of Volvo’s existing supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder to make a wagon that squirts between corners. The thrilling whoosh of turbo and supercharging, combined with the instant torque of battery boost provides a slingshot effect when you tread on the accelerator. When you place 415 hp and 494 lb-ft in a compact wagon, you tend to get rapid results—and many friends exclaiming, “This is a Volvo wagon?”
But not all is perfect. Although Polestar partnered with the suspension meisters at Öhlins, purportedly with the result of “more precise and responsive control,” the V60 Polestar exhibits inconsistent steering feel. It feels numb when on center, but once you get past 10 degrees of input, steering response gets a bit overreactive.
And although the 2020 model is equipped with updated six-piston brake calipers, the brake feel to brake response ratio is not communicative nor linear. And be sure to brake before you get to the corner, as the V60 Polestar likes to wiggle its tushy on throttle lift in anything but a perfectly straight line.
In other words, although it’s easy to be quick and fast in this car, it is hard to be smooth. The car feels twitchy. Sure, some folks enjoy this sort of skittery behavior, but it wears on your psyche on the way up Angeles Crest Highway. Of course, I was driving this car harder than 95 percent of Volvo drivers ever would, but still. You place a performance badge on a car, it should live up to the hype.
As for everyday driving, the V60 Polestar easily waltzes along open highways at 85 to 90 mph, although the suspension gets a bit choppy over the harmonic undulations of Los Angeles’ notorious Harbor Freeway. Some enthusiasts are OK with this sensation; they’d say this makes the ride “sporty” or “responsive.”
But to me, I suppose the ride feeling depends on what you expect of a Volvo, as a driver. Depending on your mindset, that could make the V60 Polestar Engineered’s ride either dynamically firm or irritatingly harsh.
Is the V60 Good on Gas?
This distinction actually makes a difference, as not everyone who drives a V60 Polestar does so for enthusiast reasons. Some choose it for its green benefits. The Polestar’s plug-in hybrid powertrain delivers EPA estimated mileage of 69 mpg-e using the battery, or 30 mpg with an empty battery in the combined cycle. That compares to 27 mpg for the V60 front-drive and 25 mpg for the AWD version of the V60 T5. In battery-only mode, the V60 Polestar delivers 22 miles of electric range before the gas engine fires up. You can recharge the battery pack while driving from either the regenerative brakes or from the engine’s power. Plugging in at home, off a typical 110-volt garage plug, regains you about 2 miles of range per hour, meaning you can feasibly recharge it overnight without investing in a Level 2 home charger.
When ensconced inside the V60 Polestar, the interior is recognizable Volvo of the past several years—with its signature iPad-sized center screen (and still too-small graphics and text). The center console houses the knurled ignition knob, as well as a covered cubby that is good for little more than storing your phone. But the detail work, such as the contrasting gold seat belts in a black and charcoal interior, is where Volvo shines. The interior fitments, inlays, and leather accents deliver a truly premium experience.
Regardless of your sporting or environmental preference, the best-in-the-biz Volvo seats absorb a host of road jitters and vibration that would normally transmit into your lower back.
Obviously, when you have a wagon, you don’t have a trunk to separate you from the exterior noise coming from the rear wheels and suspension; a lot of booming from road and wind noise comes into the V60 from behind the occupants. Fortunately, the optional 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins stereo provides a crisp yet thunderous sonic reward.
Is the V60 Polestar Worth It?
Besides dynamic improvements and hybrid fuel economy, what else do you get with the V60 Polestar Engineered that you wouldn’t get in the V60’s Inscription trim level? To start, 19-inch wheels, full LED active bending headlights, Nappa leather heated and contoured front seats, and steering wheel gearshift paddles. The only walkback is that the V60 Inscription trim gets four-zone climate control, whereas the Polestar only surveys two. And like the rest of the Volvo lineup, the first three years or 36,000 miles of maintenance is free.
The V60 Polestar Engineered is a limited-run vehicle, which is a good thing because a Polestar-tuned vehicle may not be for everyone. Dynamically quirky, economically questionable, environmentally immaterial … it takes a special buyer to love one. Sign me up.
|2020 Volvo V60 T8 E-AWD Polestar|
|LAYOUT||Front-engine + front/rear elec motors, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon|
|ENGINE||2.0L/328-hp/317-lb-ft turbo + s’charged DOHC 16-valve I-4 plus 46-hp/110-lb-ft front, 87-hp/177-lb-ft rear elec motor; 415 hp/494 lb-ft comb|
|CURB WEIGHT||4,450 lb (MT est)|
|L x W x H||187.4 x 72.8 x 56.4 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.5 sec (MT est)|
|EPA FUEL ECON (CHRG SUSTAIN)||28/33/30 mpg|
|EPA FUEL ECON (HYBRID)||70/68/69 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||48/40 kW-hrs/100 miles (hybrid)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.28 lb/mile (hybrid)|