There's a lot to love about the Volvo product. Safety is high on Volvo's priority list, as is style, so it's no surprise that the brand is making massive strides in the SUV segment in Australia.
With the brand now offering a comfortable range of SUVs for the market, it was time to step up the game and launch a product to compete within the hot SUV segment. The likes of BMW's X3 M40i, Mercedes-AMG's GLC43 and Audi's SQ5 have gone unrivalled from Volvo for some time – that is until now.
The Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered is the top of the tree in the Volvo XC60 range. It blends luxury with performance and aims to offer buyers an extremely efficient plug-in hybrid system that doubles as a sporty SUV.
You'll even find race-car-esque features such as manually adjustable front and rear dampers, and giant cross-drilled rotors with big calipers.
While the XC60 range kicks off from $62,990 (plus on-road costs), the XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered commands a $99,990 (plus on-road costs) price tag. That makes it $1000 cheaper than the BMW, $10,000 cheaper than the Benz, and the same price as the SQ5, so it's not hard to see why it's such a compelling purchase choice.
It's not only compelling at a purchase-price level – the XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered strives to offer a compelling long-term ownership proposition in the way of reduced fuel costs.
Under the bonnet is a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre petrol engine that produces 246kW of power and 430Nm of torque, which exclusively sends torque to the front axle. The rear axle utilises an electric motor that combines with the petrol drivetrain to offer a peak power output of 311kW of power and 670Nm of torque.
That torque is managed at the front end by an eight-speed automatic transmission that is capable of decoupling the internal combustion engine from the mix entirely to drive the vehicle using electric power by virtue of a 10.4kW battery. That system caters for around 45km of driving range on pure electric power.
The official combined fuel economy figure comes in at 2.2 litres of fuel per 100km. Moving from standstill to 100km/h takes just 5.2 seconds.
XC60 production has shifted to China for the Australian market, which ultimately means it's cheaper for Volvo to produce. But it doesn't come at the cost of quality. Our test car looked and felt just like any other XC60 we've driven – a good sign for buyers.
From the outside, you'll be able to spot the hotted-up XC60 in traffic thanks to the white Polestar badges at the front and rear, along with the big 21-inch alloy wheels (a giant 22-inch set is optional) and those huge yellow Akebono brakes.
Peer inside, and that's where you'll find the universal appeal of the XC60. It's a beautifully laid out cabin with supremely comfortable seats and a big focus on technology.
Central to the tech offering is a 9.0-inch portrait-oriented infotainment screen, which features smartphone mirroring technology in the form of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while ahead of the driver is a 12.3-inch screen in place of analogue gauges.
That 9.0-inch infotainment screen not only looks impressive, but is easy to use. The home screen is divided into segments to make navigating each section easier. Voice-control functionality works well, and is backed up by the ability to forward commands to your smartphone's voice-recognition system.
Curiously, and Volvo isn't the first, AM radio has been ditched in favour of just DAB+ and FM. If you need an AM station while DAB+ is out of range, you'll need to use the inbuilt TuneIn radio application pre-loaded on the screen.
Fitted as standard equipment is a killer 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins sound system. It has opulent amounts of bass and hits high frequencies with ear-piercing accuracy. It's one of the better sound systems we've come across, and is a pretty impressive addition as standard equipment.
Front-row passengers are offered plenty of leg and head room, which is to be expected, but what's most surprising is the amount of room available for adults in the second row. It's spacious enough for both long and short journeys, with a clever child booster feature built into the outboard seats. It allows kids to sit a little higher and get better visibility out of the cabin, instead of being confined to a low-slung seating position.
Whereas the other performance-oriented competitors in this segment rely on noise and cornering prowess, the XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered attempts to sit somewhere in between.
Each corner of the car features manually adjustable Ohlins suspension. It's a good and bad thing – good because Ohlins is a specialist in suspension systems, but bad because the firmness of the damping can't be adjusted on the fly.
Most of the competitors in this segment have some form of adjustable suspension damping, which allows the driver to adjust it all on the go from within the cabin, but the inability to do this can become frustrating at times.
Even in its softer setting, it can be on the firmer side of comfortable. Having said that, it's surprisingly compliant despite riding on 21-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tyres.
In and around town it's comfortable enough, but once you hit rougher terrain in the country, or perhaps consecutive potholes at highway speeds on a back road, it can become a little tiring.
Braking comes from a hefty set of six-piston Akebono callipers that wrap around cross-drilled 371mm rotors to give it impressive stopping power. Despite being up for a constant slamming up and down a mountain road, brake pedal feel isn't overly inspiring.
The braking system has to contend with blending regenerative braking, along with the Akebono friction brakes. The net outcome is inconsistent feel throughout pedal travel. It's not a big deal, but equally it's not as pure a braking experience as you will find in the X3 M40i, for example.
Acceleration is impressive thanks to a mix of the internal combustion engine and the electric motor doing its thing. Because there's no direct mechanical link between the front and rear axles, it all works well when power is fed in gradually out of a corner.
But, stomp on the throttle out of a corner, and you'll get an inside front wheel flare into wheel spin as torque is sent through the rear axle, which sometimes results in light kickback through the rack.
Having said that, there's a fun amount of supercharger whine that comes through the cabin under acceleration, and it's enough to put a smile on your face. Outside of that whine, there's not a great deal of noise or emotion both inside and outside the cabin.
Whereas the competitors in this segment focus on noise and substance, the XC60 tends to be subdued in comparison.
Once you're done messing about on your favourite back road, flicking the drive mode over to its hybrid mode settles everything down. The car presents a power meter ahead of the driver that gives you an idea of when the internal combustion engine will kick on to supplement the electric drivetrain.
It's supremely quiet inside the cabin, even as the petrol engine kicks on briefly. If there's enough charge, you can also run entirely on electric power, which turns noise intrusion down even further.
The 10.4kWh battery can be charged at home using a regular 10A outlet at 2.4kW, or you can ramp things up by using a 16A at 3.7kW to achieve a full charge from empty within around three hours.
Using a mix of electric-only driving in the city and to the country for filming, we ended up with a combined fuel efficiency of just under 5.0L/100km.
A diligent owner will aim to charge their vehicle at home or work overnight to take advantage of the 45km range, so the official fuel economy figure is certainly achievable if you put the effort in to charge the vehicle whenever possible.
The Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered is very well equipped in comparison to its peers, and offers bang-for-buck performance in a segment fast growing with premium, sporty options.
It's well and truly the most frugal of its competitive set, but it falls down slightly on the promise of a sportier edge. It makes up for it with incredible fuel economy, though, and style that's hard to match in a segment that's arguably starting to look a little bland.
Volvo has sharpened its ownership pencil on the XC60, introducing range-wide pre-paid service options for customers that were scared away by the comparatively high Volvo servicing costs.
While owners are still stuck with a three-year warranty, they will now pay $1795 for three years of scheduled servicing, which averages out to around $600 per service. Servicing is every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first.
There's no denying that Volvo needed to do something other than just cramming a big engine under the bonnet of an SUV. It has managed to strike a healthy balance between performance and economy.
If you aren't after a strict performance machine, the XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered sits in that awesome middle ground other manufacturers won't be able to hit any time soon.