The Two Big Reasons Why Volvo Could Have a Huge 2020
The Swedes will add some swagger with the sporty Polestar sub-brand and also bring back the station wagon
For generations, the Volvo brand sold safety, solidity and certainty, but rarely swagger, speed and sexiness. Sweden’s top automaker made itself famous as the inventor of the three-point seatbelt and the builder of cars so well-built and reliable that it wasn’t fair to say they were built like tanks — because the Swedish army wishes their tanks were built by Volvo.
The Volvo of the 21st century drove past mere reliability to reforge its machines into ultra-luxury rides that drive as well as their cutting-edge aesthetics promise. During a recent multi-car reveal in the Canadian Rockies, some very savvy Swedes dusted off two machines keen to demonstrate this new identity — the 2020 XC60 T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered and the V-60 Cross Country Wagon.
Pouring in Polestar and Power
Sometimes, driving a luxury car just doesn’t get it done. Excellent build quality, the latest technological advances and every imaginable 21st century comfort might seem like proper currency to Joe Six Pack, but the more worldly and well-heeled driver of means wants that high-five figure ride tuned for maximum performance. It’s not adequate to drive a better car than the other guy. You need him to realize his inferiority after you’ve well and truly dusted him at a turn.
To that end, your fancier automakers turn to their tuning experts to squeeze extra speed, maneuverability and braking power out of their already well-engineered cars, crossovers and SUVs. Some of these tuning operations are in-house, while others are contracted partners — but they all concern themselves exclusively with making already powerful vehicles just that much more powerful (and expensive).
At BMW, you keep an eye out for the M badging. For Mercedes-Benz, the magic letters are AMG. For Jaguar and Range Rover, Special Vehicle Operations handles the gig. And, it’s all about Polestar for Volvo. The latest creation from this creator of its super Swedes is one of the more unique automotive creations in the market today — the (deep breath) 2020 XC60 T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered.
Maximum Production with Minimal Mechanics
While it could really use a catchier name like the Mjolnir or its ilk, this latest incarnation of the XC60 is a 415 horsepower plug-in hybrid compact SUV. It’s as though just hyper-tuning a Volvo SUV wasn’t enough, and Polestar had to put batteries in the thing.
Electrification is no longer a sideline of the automotive industry. Once a blend of experimental technology and marketing schemes to bring in eco-conscious buyers, the use of electrical drive systems in cars is now entirely mainstream — so common that terms like hybrid and initialisms like PHEV no longer garner a second look from most drivers.
Still, when Polestar builds plug-in hybrid tech into a machine that’s intended solely for performance fans, the news demands adjectives like “significant” and “game changing” because it’s bad, pun-addled writing to use “electrifying.” The XC60 Polestar proves electric elements are no longer just to save fuel and spare the environment. Now, those precious electrons can make driving more fun.
The base engine is a 2.0 liter, inline four cylinder, 16 valve hybrid power plant. Once the Polestar people get done fidgeting with it, they squeezed an extra 15 horses and 22 ft. of torque out of the same engine — marrying that to an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shifters.
That’s considerable power from what amounts to a very small engine in the SUV class. A smaller engine means less weight and improved mileage as the 2020 XC60 Polestar manages a projected 59+ mpg on hybrid operation and more than 23 miles in pure EV mode.
Most importantly, the SUV maintains that sophisticated stature every Volvo promises. For a base price of $69,500, you might find better options for rough off-roading or savage power, but such choices simply won’t have the sophistication and settled dignity of a XC60.
Hello Station Wagon! We Missed You!
In years gone by, when the testosterone-stoked hot-rodder or the off-roading Indiana Jones wannabe finally grew up enough to earn the responsibility of a wife and kids, he had to put away the cherried-out exhausts and jungle tires for sensible seating for six and a payload that could handle baby carriages and grocery bags. The dream cars went away, and the station wagon ruled the day.
Even with the exhaust note of an aged basset hound, the aesthetics of a mule cart and the performance of an ore freighter, there was something dignified and reassuring about the station wagon. Our culture lost something when it vanished from the road — replaced by the small SUVs and crossovers that would go on to become the hottest selling consumer vehicle class in the world.
Fortunately, there was one global automaker keeping the station wagon dream alive — and doing so with an attitude. When it debuted in Stockholm a couple years ago, the Volvo V60 quickly established itself as the most beautiful station wagon ever built. However, that V60 wasn’t immediately available in the U.S. Volvo corrects that oversight in the new model year.
A Sporty, Touring Wagon Train
The new 2020 V60 Cross Country is a sort of Americanized version of Europe’s V60 sports wagon. Designed to transition easily between the urban street, the highway and a dirt road, its aesthetics emerge from the Volvo Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) and feature the extended fore deck of a performance sedan and the sloping back end of a crossover. In fact, a sincere look reveals this 21st century station wagon borrows extra height from an SUV, lending more payload space.
This V60 shares its scalable architecture signatures with the very same XC60 SUV the Polestar guys got a hold of and sent back to us as the Volvo Mjolnir – or actually the 2020 XC60 T8 Twin Engine Polestar Engineered. The V60 comes off a little more sleek to distinguish itself.
In Europe, the sports wagon comes to showrooms in T6, T5 and T4 gasoline models and front-wheel drive D3 and D4 diesels with a choice of manual or automatic transmission. Finally, there’s a T8 AWD Gas Plug-In hybrid. For now, the American market gets to jump aboard a V60 Cross Country with 2.0 liter, inline four cylinder engine like the 2020 XC60. That setup puts out 250 horsepower and 258 lb ft of torque. All-wheel-drive and an eight-speed transmission keeps any people tucked away inside this wagon safely stuck to the road.
Of course, the V60 is a Volvo, and that means its exterior styling and engineering wrap around an elite and cultivated interior. Volvo always perfects its unique look of European simplicity and elegance. Lined in real wood and dominated by an HD vertical touchscreen in the center console, the V60 offers excellent sound cancellation, a full infotainment setup and an environmental control system that maintains interior temperatures while filtering dust and germs. Tech like that is why Volvo never mentions a car’s interior. For them, the inside of a Volvo is a Scandinavian Sanctuary.
A grand touring performer with enough capability to take a family to the woods or Wally World, the V60’s starting tag of $45,100 is a small price to pay for the proper return of the station wagon.