Around The Bay Auto Weekend Wheels

Weekend Wheels: Volvo’s XC60 T8 Polestar is one speedy Swede

Luxury Living Tampa Bay

Trust me, you never want to sit next to someone at a dinner party who just bought a new Volvo XC60 T8 E-AWD Polestar. 

Before the soup arrives, they won’t be able to resist explaining — in agonizing detail — how this cool new compact SUV comes with NASA-like technologies and true Swedish surprise and delights.

Like how it’s powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that’s turbocharged and supercharged. And that it’s also a plug-in hybrid that can whirr along for 17 miles on electric power alone. 

And that when gas motor and electric motors play together, they can crank out a combined 415 horsepower and stump-pulling 494 lb-ft of torque. That’s a lot.

Long before the entree lands, you’ll be regaled with tales of the car’s potent, gold-painted six-caliper Akebono brakes, the optional 22-inch alloys and, the party piece — the car’s weird Öhlins adjustable dampers that need to be adjusted outside the car.

You read it right. This race-track-inspired Öhlins setup requires you to pop the hood to twist an adjustment knob (there are 20 settings to choose from). Then go down on hands and knees to reach into the wheel-well to adjust the rear shocks.

Most sporty SUVs these days have adjustable suspension, but you stiffen the shocks by twisting a knob inside. This setup is plain odd.

Which will lead your dinner-table companion to begin explaining the significance of that strange badge on the Volvo’s grille and tailgate: Polestar. 

Just like BMW has its M-division and Mercedes has AMG, Volvo has Polestar. Back in the ’90s, it was Polestar that ran Volvo’s hugely successful European racing program. Volvo bought the company in 2015 to help develop its performance models.

But to any dyed-in-the-wool Volvo enthusiast — and this is definitely the target audience for the XC60 T8 Polestar — to see those trademark gold-painted brakes and Polestar badging will result in a knowing nod of approval.

Me? I might have expected a little more from the package. After all, the Polestar-tuned engine software only adds an additional 15 horsepower to the corral. 

But it’s all about the details. Like the blacked-out exterior trim and black grille, the wider wheel arches and standard 21-inch lightweight forged rims. Pop the hood and there’s a serious front chassis brace to help stiffen the body and sharpen the handling.

Climb aboard, and there’s that surprise and delight: the signature Polestar gold-colored seat belts that match the brake calipers.

The interior is typical Volvo design brilliance. I love the body-hugging, sculpted front sports seats and the clean-cut design of the dash. A terrific, salami-thick steering wheel, too, and superb fit and finish throughout. 

And it’s roomy, with lots of kneeroom in the back, and with the split rear seat folded, more than 63 cubic feet of load space.

With a combined 415 horsepower and close to 500 lb-ft of torque, the Polestar XC60 rockets away from a stop light, hitting 60mph from standstill in 4.9 seconds. 

That Volvo four-cylinder motor isn’t especially sweet-sounding under hard acceleration, and the switch from electric to gas is more pronounced than I wanted. But performance is beyond exciting. 

Polestar’s engineering skills have also sharpened up the XC60’s handling. Through on-ramp curves and backroad twisties, this tall-riding sport-ute has a go-kart feel, aided by a low center of gravity and laser-precise electric-assist steering. 

The only downside? The truck’s brittle, jiggly ride. While those optional 22-inch rims with their low-profile rubber look spectacular, they do nothing for ride comfort. Save the $800 and stick with the stock 21s. 

So who’s going to buy this Polestar projectile? Volvo enthusiasts, for sure. And maybe someone considering Audi’s SQ5 or BMW X4M. With a base sticker of $72,045, the Volvo may seem pricey, but it is exceptionally well-equipped and brimming with technology. 

Keep listening to your dinner table companion and by the time dessert arrives, you too might be converted. 

Test drive the new 2020 XC60 T8 Polestar at Volvo Cars Tampa, Ferman Volvo of Tarpon Springs, Crown Volvo of Clearwater, and Volvo Cars Sarasota.

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