An explanation for the uninitiated: “Polestar Engineered” is like Mercedes’ AMG or BMW’s M brands, but for Volvo.
Yes, once staid and conservative Volvo has not only become a lot more dynamic in recent years, but also has a performance division. Polestar was born and bread in motorsport, just like its German counterparts, and having already provided an assortment of go-fast models in previous generation S60 and V60 models, is now doing the same with Volvo’s updated lineup.
“At Volvo Car Canada, we are very excited about the addition of the new Polestar Engineered products in our portfolio,” said Alexander Lvovich, Managing Director, Volvo Car Canada Ltd. “Polestar always played a special role in the Volvo business in Canada, as in the last 2 years we achieved one of the highest levels of Polestar optimized product sales in the world. We plan to fully capitalize on this upcoming opportunity to strengthen both Volvo and Polestar brands in Canada.”
Its most recent project was based on the 2019 Volvo S60, but the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered (as it was called) sold out before most of us even knew it existed. Now we have word from Volvo Canada’s Richmond Hill, Ontario office that new Polestar Engineered variants of the V60 sport wagon and XC60 compact crossover SUV are on the way for the 2020 model year, which should cause those in the know to get pretty excited.
For starters, the new Polestar Engineered duo are once again based on Volvo’s turbocharged, supercharged and electrified T8 Twin-Engine Plug-in Hybrid AWD powertrain, which is sport-tuned to make 415 horsepower and 494 lb-ft of torque, 15 horsepower and 22 lb-ft of torque more than the regular T8 powertrain.
Thanks to software updates, torque arrives earlier making throttle response quicker for more immediate response to input, while more of that twist targets the rear wheels for greater performance feel. To be clear, along with the boosted 2.0-litre four-cylinder, the T8 drivetrain combines an electric motor at each end of the vehicle for a total of two, while its battery pack is fed in both traditional hybrid form and via plug.
Along with the handling benefits of a rear-wheel bias, performance will be further enhanced via an Öhlins-produced strut bar under the hood to aid body rigidity and allow for “more precise and responsive control,” says Volvo in a press release, while the Swedish-based suspension technology brand also designed adjustable dampers for the new models, featuring dual flow valves that respond “quickly to road imperfections.”
Additionally, traditional Polestar gold-coloured six-piston Brembo calipers add stopping power, while lightweight 19-inch forged alloy wheels, unique on all three Polestar Engineered S60, V60 and XC60 models, have been designed to provide freer cooling to those upgraded brakes.
Polestar Engineered models don’t receive the same level of visual stimulation as their aforementioned German competitors, which may help them slide under the radar both figuratively and literally, with styling enhancements including a high-gloss black grille, extended wheel arches, black chrome tailpipes, plus “discreet” Polestar badges front and back.
Following a similar theme inside, the two Polestar models will get a special leather-clad sport steering wheel and shifter, metal mesh aluminum inlays, plus signature gold seatbelts over unique charcoal-coloured Nappa leather and “open-grid” textile upholstered seats.
The V60 T8 Polestar Engineered and XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered will arrive as early 2020 models this summer, so if interested make sure to let your local Volvo retailer know.
Volvo has become the darling of the North American Utility of the Year award program in recent years, having just won last year with its then new XC90 mid-size SUV, but now it’s the redesigned 2018…
Volvo has become the darling of the North American Utility of the Year award program in recent years, having just won last year with its then new XC90 mid-size SUV, but now it’s the redesigned 2018 XC60 compact SUV’s turn to be honoured with the prestigious title.
Like the previous winner, the sharp looking 2nd-generation XC60 represents a completely fresh approach for Volvo and a much more competitive entry within the compact luxury SUV segment.
“The Volvo XC60 raises the bar for safety and driver assistance systems in compact utility vehicles, and does it in a package that exudes Scandinavian design,” said Mark Phelan, president of the North American Car of the Year Awards organization.
It’s true, Volvo is one of few models in the compact luxury SUV segment to include autonomous emergency braking and lane keeping assist as standard equipment, while additional standard safety gear include full LED headlamps, a backup camera with dynamic guidelines, a driver’s knee airbag, and more. On top of these advanced features, the new 2018 XC60 can be upfitted with automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, road sign recognition, and new Pilot Assist, which is Volvo’s highly advanced semi-autonomous driver assistance system that manages steering, acceleration, and braking on well-marked roads up to 130 km/h (80 mph).
Like in previous years, the 2018 North American Utility of the Year was chosen by a jury of 60 professional automotive journalists from the US and Canada who provide content for independent print newspapers and magazines, TV and radio stations, plus websites. The results of their findings were presented at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this month. The award, which also includes a Car and Truck of the Year, honours “excellence in innovation, design, safety features, performance, technology, driver satisfaction and value,” stated a press release.
“We are so proud the XC60 has won this prestigious award,” said Anders Gustafsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars USA. “It is a very tough competition and we thank all the judges for recognizing the great style, technology, and engineering in the XC60. All car shoppers should take a test drive to see for themselves how great it really is.”
It appears a lot of Canadian consumers have done just that since the new 2018 XC60 was introduced in August last year. Prior to that XC60 annual deliveries had been hovering between 1,500 to 1,700 unit sales for years, but despite only being on the market for five months the new redesign helped push XC60 sales up to 2,315 deliveries for 2017. More specifically, year-over-year XC60 sales were up 41 percent in August, 140 percent in September, 290 percent in October, 264 percent in November, and 251 percent in December. The importance of this growth can’t be underestimated, as the XC60 represented 30 percent of the Swedish brand’s worldwide sales before the redesigned version arrived, so therefore the new model’s uptick in popularity will be a boon to the Volvo brand overall.
Part of the 2018 XC60’s appeal is its highly efficient yet powerful engine lineup. All utilize Volvo’s direct-injection turbocharged 2.0-litre “Drive-E” four-cylinder, with the base T5 version making 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The same turbo-four in T6 trim adds a supercharger for a boost to 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, whereas the XC60 T8 includes the supercharger as well as identical Twin Power plug-in hybrid technology to the XC90 T8, resulting in 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque. This allows the XC60 T8 to sprint from zero to 100km/h in only 5.3 seconds.
All powertrains are made even more efficient thanks to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission featuring automated engine start/stop functionality to reduce emissions and save fuel, the technology helping the new 2018 XC60 achieve a five-cycle Transport Canada claimed rating of 10.7 L/100km in the city, 8.5 on the highway, and 9.8 combined for the XC60 T5 AWD powertrain, or 11.4 L/100km city, 8.7 highway and 10.2 combined for the XC60 T6 AWD, albeit no estimate yet for the XC60 T8 eAWD.
This won’t stop us from guessing that the smaller, lighter XC60 T8 eAWD will be slightly thriftier on fuel than larger, heavier mid-size XC90 T8 eAWD, an SUV already rated at 10.1 L/100km city, 8.8 highway and 9.5 combined. This said, when factoring in regular charging an owner could potentially drive the XC90 T8 eAWD every day without ever needing to fill the gas tank, although its official Le/100km (gasoline litres equivalent per 100 kilometres) rating is more conservatively estimated at 4.7 combined city/highway. A slightly better rating should be achievable with the new XC60 T8 eAWD.
While the new 2018 XC60’s powertrain lineup might be reason enough to earn it North American Utility of the Year status, its many other attributes combine for a truly special compact SUV. Its styling, which combines key design cues from its larger XC90 sibling as well as other recently redesigned Volvo models, also has some completely new elements of its own, while its uniquely rich interior design and execution raises the bar in the compact luxury SUV segment.
Its 965 millimetres (38 inches) of rear legroom is best in class as well, while its 731 litres (25.8 cubic feet) of cargo capacity behind its 60/40-split rear seatbacks and 1,792 litres (63.3 cubic feet) of maximum luggage space make it one of the easiest to live with in its segment. Additionally, the XC60 comes standard with a convenient rear centre pass-through that lets rear passengers enjoy the more comfortable outboard seats while longer cargo, such as skis, get stowed down the middle.
The 2018 XC60 represents strong value as well, with additional standard features not yet mentioned including an electromechanical parking brake, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, a high-resolution colour multi-information display, dual-zone auto climate control, leather upholstery, heatable powered front seats with driver’s memory, one of the largest infotainment touchscreen’s in the class at 9.0 inches, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, voice activation, SMS/text message reading and response capability, 10-speaker premium audio, satellite radio, a panoramic sunroof, a powered rear liftgate, roof rails, and much more.
The base 2018 Volvo XC60 Momentum is available now from just $46,350 before freight and fees, while the sportiest R-Design model can be had for $56,000 and top-tier Inscription trim starts at $57,600.
Polestar, a name that was formed to conjure images of Sweden’s cold northern regions (north star, north pole) as well as achieving pole position (being in the very front at the start of a race), became…
Polestar, a name that was formed to conjure images of Sweden’s cold northern regions (north star, north pole) as well as achieving pole position (being in the very front at the start of a race), became Volvo’s official in-house performance division in 2015 after decades of independent racing programs, concept car development, upgrade packages with performance tuning, plus full Polestar branded S60 and V60 sport models.
Now Polestar is being spun off as a standalone brand complete with a new double-V logo (kind of like this “><”), while it will also continue optimizing Volvo models under its new Polestar Engineered sub-brand, its latest creations promising to become both environmental icons and impressively quick SUVs.
It all starts with some very impressive rolling stock, Volvo’s all-new 2018 XC60 compact SUV with its top-tier T8 Twin Engine power unit, and the 2018 XC90 T8 Twin Engine mid-size model, two luxury SUVs that produce 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque for claimed sprints of zero to 100km/h in just 5.3 and 5.6 seconds apiece respectively when “Power” mode is selected. While this is already impressive, the new Polestar versions pump up combined gasoline and electric output by 21 horsepower and 28 lb-ft of torque each, for new totals of 421 horsepower and 501 lb-ft.
While shaving just 0.1 seconds from the larger SUV’s sprint time and an undisclosed (so far) amount from the smaller, lighter model (likely about 0.2 seconds for just over 5.0 seconds to 100km/h), other aspects of engine performance and gearbox functionality are improved as well, including “throttle response, off-throttle response, gearshift speed and hold,” taking the new models to “a new level of driving pleasure,” said Volvo in a press release. Volvo promises the changes will be most noticeable during everyday driving, such as when merging onto the highway, overtaking a slower vehicle or exiting a curve.
“The gearbox shifts faster,” adds Volvo, with gearshift points that have been “calibrated to utilize the optimized mid-range engine performance.” Likewise, “the gear-hold function maintains the same gear when cornering with high lateral g-force in order to avoid unsettling the balance of the car.”
“Our goal is to create usable performance in everyday driving situations for Volvo owners who want an enhanced driving experience,” said Henrik Fries, Vice President, Research and Development at Polestar when speaking about the new XC60 T8 with the Polestar upgrade. “The new XC60 has provided us with an excellent base to work on with a dynamic chassis and a state of the art powertrain. With the Polestar optimization, it makes the new Volvo XC60 a true drivers’ car.”
Separating these two specially tuned Volvos from other performance SUVs are expected fuel economy numbers that won’t anger Mother Nature. In fact, they shouldn’t change much from the less powerful variants, the XC60 T8 Twin Engine-powered SUV already achieving a claimed 10.1 L/100km in the city, 7.3 on the highway and 8.8 combined, while the XC90 T8 Twin Engine gets a claimed 10.1 L/100km city, 8.8 highway and 9.5 combined, or 4.7 Le/100km combined city/highway when factoring in regular plug-in charging (or potentially zero if your daily commute is less than its 43-kilometre EV range).
While all this spells good news for Volvo’s performance fans, the hiccup has been delivery. Dealers have XC60 T8 and XC90 T8 customers waiting for the Polestar optimization upgrades, but so far the package components haven’t arrived. How long can those customers expect to wait? According to Kyle Denton, Public Relations and Events Manager for Volvo Canada, “There is no timeline set at this point.”
Considering Volvo Canada made the official T8 Polestar Performance Optimization package announcement all the way back in July, garnering a lot of news and plenty of excitement in the process, having no timeline for delivery isn’t likely the answer those customers expected to hear.
Of note, XC60 and XC90 customers that purchase base T5 and mid-range T6 powertrains can get Polestar optimized packages, with both models using the T5 powertrain getting a 7 horsepower nudge to 261 horsepower, and those fitted with the T6 enjoying a more significant 14 horsepower bump to 334 horsepower. Like the T8 models covered above, Volvo stresses the biggest improvements are made to powertrain and transmission responsiveness throughout the rev range.
Volvo also offers Polestar Performance Optimization with its other models, but only its S90 and V90/V90 Cross Country models experience a power boost when applied to its T5 engine, the increase identical to the XC60 and XC90’s, resulting in 261 horsepower. The S60 and V60/V60 Cross Country T5s remain unchanged at 243 horsepower, with the Polestar upgrade only enhancing how that power is applied. Alternatively, like the XC60 and XC90 T6 models, Polestar Performance Optimization packages for the S90 and V90/V90 Cross Country T6 boost the models to 334 horsepower, whereas S60 and V60/V60 Cross Country T6 models move up 4 horsepower to 310.
As noted earlier, Polestar has its roots in motorsport. It began as Flash Engineering in 1996 under the leadership of Swedish Touring Car Championship (STCC) winner Jan ‘Flash’ Nilsson, with the purpose of contesting Volvos in the same series, initiated by a Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) built 850 Super Touring sedan. A TWR-constructed S40 Super Touring was entered in 1998, after which a Prodrive-sourced S60 S2000 hit the track in 2003.
With more than 100 STCC wins spanning nearly a decade to its credit, Christian Dahl, who originally joined Flash as chief mechanic in 2001, purchased the team halfway through 2004 and rebranded it Polestar in 2005. Polestar Racing continued to compete and win with the S60 S2000 until 2009 when a C30 S2000 became the basis for the next-generation STCC challenger, which was the same year they started modifying Volvo road cars under their separate Polestar Performance brand.
The first street-spec car was the one-off 405-horsepower all-wheel drive C30 Polestar Concept in 2010, complete with a 4.6-second sprint to 100 km/h and the audacious sound of straight exhaust, followed by the S60 Polestar Concept in 2012, which produced 508 horsepower and hit 100 km/h in 3.9 seconds before attaining a top speed of 299 km/h (186 mph). These garnered so much interest that production cars ensued in 2013, including the S60 Polestar and the V60 Polestar.
All Polestar optimized Volvos pull from that lengthy motorsport heritage, and therefore promise stronger performance along with all the other attributes Volvos are revered for.
It should be noted that Polestar Engineered upgrades are installed at the dealer level, so you have the option of adding them at the time of purchase and including it in your monthly payment, or doing so at a later date. Either way, upping performance with the Polestar Performance Optimization package doesn’t infringe on your Volvo’s warranty.
For more information, contact your Volvo retailer.