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Driven: Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered. Image by Volvo UK.

Driven: Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
If you think this is just an S60 R-Design on steroids, think again; itís a genuinely talented sports saloon.

 



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Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: phenomenal ÷hlins damping, sharp steering, quality and honed feel to handling, superb looks and interior, the pace of it

Not so good: you pay a lot for the privilege of owning it, and it's still not quite the last word in scintillating involvement

Key Facts

Model tested: Volvo S60 T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered
Price: S60 range from £38,285; T8 Twin Engine AWD Polestar Engineered from £56,105, car as tested £59,280
Engine: 2.0-litre super- and turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with 64kWh electric motor and 11.6kWh lithium-ion battery
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door plug-in hybrid performance saloon
CO2 emissions: 48g/km (VED Band 1-50 Alternative Fuel Cars: £0 in year one, then £455 per annum years two-six of ownership, then £135 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 104.5mpg, 27-mile electric range
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 4.4 seconds
Power: petrol 318hp at 5,800-6,100rpm, electric 87hp, quoted system maximum 405hp
Torque: petrol 430Nm at 4,500rpm, electric 240Nm, quoted system maximum 670Nm
Boot space: 390 litres

Our view:

It took about two corners and 50 seconds of driving time to have our preconceptions of the Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered smashed to smithereens. Having sampled plenty of R-Design models from the Swedes over the past five years, all of which rode on too-firm suspension and colossal alloy wheels to exacerbate said issue, we felt comfortable that we'd gone on the record to make our recent proclamation that 'Volvos need to be Inscriptions'. Case closed; let that be an end of it.

And so we were, um, 'looking forward' to a week with a Polestar-optimised S60 with no small degree of trepidation. The reasons for this were Polestar's former road-car efforts. We were first exposed to the performance arm of Volvo's penchant for a set of ÷hlins dampers on the T6 version of the V60 Polestar, which rode in a pretty tough fashion. By the T4 model of 2017, the fastest V60's ride comfort only seemed to have got worse, and then we sampled the (in the main majestic) Polestar 1 last year... and noted that, while the shock absorption was clearly operating at a far higher level than either of the two preceding V60s, the 609hp stunner was still not riding agreeably enough for a £140,000 GT.

Perhaps we should have looked through all of the Polestar clutter to our first drive of the S60 T5, though. Because, with Volvo claiming its smaller saloon was its 'most dynamic product yet', we found the ride and handling on the T5 R-Design to be decent. And as a basis to spin a Polestar from it, sound platform material.

Therefore, whether the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered sent to us just had its ÷hlins clicked to precisely the right settings or not will remain a mystery (seeing as we didn't play with the top mounts under the Volvo's engine bay - steady, this is not a euphemism), but it becomes blatantly apparent from the off that you're dealing with a whole different beast here. This is no 'harder R-Design', its damping instead conveying an air of supreme quality, luxury and ability in all situations.

It's very hard to try and describe the difference between a car that has been given some kid of sports suspension that doesn't quite work as well as it should with UK road surfaces, and one which feels like a properly engineered vehicle that blends body control with acceptable comfort, but to try an S60 T5 R-Design back-to-back with an S60 T8 Polestar Engineered would be the perfect practical demonstration. To be clear, we're not claiming that the S60 PE wafts along, isolating you from every bump, pothole and imperfection in the road like the very grandest luxobarges; and yet, on the other hand, while you'll pick up sensations of the asphalt's condition as you roll along, there's a grace to the way the Polestar's suspension deals with such encounters that speaks volumes about the excellence of those ÷hlins.

Of course, you lose nothing in terms of body control by having the uprated shocks fitted and so this T8 proved to be a genuinely engaging sports saloon, rather than just a very fast PHEV on big alloys; the steering is also sharper, more feelsome and direct, too, thanks to Polestar's fettling. So while the PE's AWD transmission and front-biased architecture rob it of the final few degrees of interactivity that might have had us doling out full marks to this S60 (especially as it costs 720 quid shy of 60 grand as tested), it nevertheless steers, handles and goes in a truly rewarding fashion, making it the best Geely-era Volvo we've tried yet if you're a driving enthusiast.

And yet it still works superbly as a 'normal' S60, with all the added benefits of its plug-in hybrid drivetrain. You can have the S60 T8 without the Polestar Engineered bit of its name, for 390hp and a considerable £6,300 saving, but we'd definitely be ticking the box that fits the Volvo with the gold seatbelts, gold brake callipers (caution: they're Polestar-optimised items, rather than full Akebono stoppers as found on the Polestar 1) and impossibly beautiful Y-spoke 20-inch alloy wheels (they're another £850 but so, so worth it). When you're not asking the excellent petrol-electric drivetrain for all of its 405hp, you can tool around on electric power and revel in the taut-yet-smooth ride, the impeccable sound suppression and the marvellous mechanical refinement. We also managed to go to our local town and back with 112.5mpg showing on the trip computer, although an overall weekly average of 26mpg across 256 miles rather tells its own tales of both how often the full performance was accessed, and also how few times the S60 was plugged into the mains to let its battery recuperate.

Not only are there all these positives to go at with the Polestar Engineered, but also the car you're left with is beautiful to behold. Maybe not as gobsmacking as that Polestar 1 GT, true, but think about it: even optioned-up to the hilt, the 1 costs two-and-a-half times more than the S60, which is almost as fast for acceleration and far more practical, because it has two rear doors, accessible back seats and a useable boot. Furthermore, this three-box motor looks terrific in Crystal White premium metallic paint (£975), with its little white square graphics and clean lines. Inside, it's the usual Volvo excellence, enlivened by those Swedish Gold belts and sundry other Polestar details.

There are just four disparate models in the UK S60 line-up right now, spread across the T5 and T8 drivetrains and three specifications of Inscription Plus, R-Design Plus and Polestar Engineered. And, just as we were quickly shocked by how well-sorted the T8 PE felt to drive and ride in, you might be shocked to know that, despite the expense involved, we're recommending you aim straight at the top of tree when it comes to ordering one of these Swedish machines. This is easily the most excellent and talented of performance Volvos we've had the pleasure of driving so far.

Alternatives:

BMW M340i: we all know BMW has Volvo's measure when it comes to dynamics, right? Well... no, not in this case. M340i is 4WD and boringly benign, and it doesn't look as good as the S60 nor does it have any PHEV tech.

Jaguar XE S: Jaguar boosted the XE S to 380hp in 2017 and it is a cracking thing to drive, although we'd say the Volvo's damping is operating at a higher level than the Brit's. The S60 T8 PE is also quicker than the XE S, too. And it's part-electric.

Mercedes-AMG C 43: OK, once again this is not a plug-in hybrid like the S60, instead delivering its 390hp (from 2018) from a characterful V6. This is a strong all-rounder and has the badge cachet to give the Volvo some problems.


Matt Robinson - 9 Mar 2020









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2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered UK test. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered UK test. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered UK test. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered UK test. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered UK test. Image by Volvo UK.

2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered UK test. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered UK test. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered UK test. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered UK test. Image by Volvo UK.2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered UK test. Image by Volvo UK.








 

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