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2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered review: Best one-car garage?

A brown, diesel-powered wagon with a manual transmission is the quintessential automotive unobtanium in the U.S. because there’s not a single vehicle that checks all of those boxes. In fact, to sell wagons, automakers have added body cladding and raised suspensions to expand their appeal in a crossover-crazed world. Choices for a conventional wagon are few and all are from European brands.

The 2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered is one of two compact-sized long-roof left and it’s the only one that’s electrified. In addition to carrying the torch for Volvo’s wagon heritage, this car is also part of a line of sporty models that aims to give you a well-rounded experience along with all of the eccentricities you associate with the Swedish brand.

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered exterior

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered rear three quarters 08
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Hands down, the 2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered is one of the most tasteful vehicles on the road. Timeless yet appealing, it’s eye-catching but not in your face. You’re not mistaking this for anything but a Volvo thanks to its Thor’s Hammer LED headlights and full-length LED taillights that highlight the car’s curves and feature a pattern unique to the 60-series models.

Unlike its crossover sibling, the XC60, the V60’s rear is more upright, giving it a squarer greenhouse. There aren’t many cues to the Polestar Engineered model’s sporting intentions. Other than black side mirrors, grille surrounds, and rear diffuser accents, 19-inch alloy wheels, gold brake calipers, and the Polestar Engineered badges on the grille and liftgate, this performance wagon flies under the radar.

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered interior

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered dash 02
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

In typical Volvo fashion, the V60 T8’s interior is impeccably built. Materials used throughout the cabin exude the aura of a luxury car, especially once you touch the surfaces near you and use the physical controls. Everything feels sturdy yet sumptuous. There are unique touches to the Polestar Engineered version’s cabin such as gold seat belts, Charcoal Nappa leather seats with textile inserts, and aluminum trim to brighten the interior.

Despite its sporting intentions, the V60 T8 Polestar Engineered is surprisingly practical. Four average-sized adults fit comfortably and there’s a lot of room for cargo even with all seats in place. Drop the rear seats and you get a squared-off space for bulky items. There’s also a ski pass-through, allowing you to carry long items while retaining four seats. Although there are belts for three in the back, the middle position is best kept for short trips or children because the center tunnel, which is where the battery lives, creates a massive hump that forces you to straddle your legs. Additional small-item storage would be appreciated too. The center console bin is tiny and the door pockets aren’t very big.

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered tech features

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered dash 03
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Volvo’s Sensus interface works like a tablet and it’s best when treated like one. The latest version has benefited from numerous updates to improve usability and speed. The main 9.0-inch touch screen is responsive and most functions are only one to two swipes and/or taps away. You still get physical buttons for essentials like a volume knob, track forward/back, hazard lights, a home button for the user interface, and pause/play media.

All Polestar Engineered Volvos also get a Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system as standard equipment. The 15-speaker unit in the V60 is just as fantastic as the 19-speaker one in the 90-series model. It’s clear, crisp, and customizable, meaning you can make the listening experience as immersive or as personal as you please. There are also set modes like concert hall, which mimics the acoustics of the Gothenburg Concert Hall, and jazz club if you’re looking for something more intimate instead of the former’s epic levels of cabin envelopment.

Just because the V60 T8 Polestar Engineered is a performance-oriented Volvo doesn’t mean it leaves out driver assistance tech. You get Volvo’s full arsenal of active driver assistance features as standard, including the Pilot Assist semi-autonomous system. This blends adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist, lane centering, and steering assist, enabling the car to ease the stress of long drives and congested commutes. Pilot Assist does a fantastic job at keeping you centered, subtly correcting you if you start to drift around, and will even help you navigate gentle curves at highway speeds. The rest of the collision prevention features are equally unobtrusive, operating in the background without acting like they’re trying to take over from the driver.

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered driving impressions

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered side 04
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Like the standard T8 cars, the Polestar Engineered V60 uses a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder coupled to an electric motor, an 11.6-kWh battery, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The total system output is 415 hp and 494 lb-ft of torque, which is 15 hp and 22 lb-ft more than the standard T8 models. Part of the Polestar treatment also includes a reprogrammed gearbox. As a result, acceleration is effortless; there’s power everywhere, put your foot down and you’ll get pushed back into your seats as the car quickly gets to speeds that we won’t mention. The eight-speed auto shifts quickly and will rev-match downshifts in the powertrain’s sportiest setting.

The Polestar Engineered treatment also tweaks the suspension and adds manually adjustable Öhlins dual-flow valve shock absorbers. This means the V60 drives like a proper performance wagon, confident and planted. Despite its 4,528-pound curb weight, it’s light on its feet and changes directions willingly. There’s next to no body roll, allowing you to effortlessly carve one corner after the other. Our test car came in the factory setting, providing a nice ride and handling balance. Yes, it’s stiff but it manages to filter out harsh impacts nicely so that you don’t get beat up over rough pavement. Rounding things out is the quick, accurate steering, which makes the car feel more connected. Keep the steering force in its medium setting under the Individual Mode, though, because low is too light and high is over boosted.

The electric motor mounted on the rear axle does more than just add extra traction for poor weather conditions. It can overdrive the rear wheels to help the V60 rotate through turns, improving handling and minimizing understeer. Despite the lack of a mechanical connection between both axles, the car doesn’t suffer from torque steer. Between the stickier rubber and stability and traction control, the V60 puts its power down effectively and doesn’t get squirrelly under hard acceleration.

Brembo front brakes are standard on the V60 T8 Polestar Engineered, giving it plenty of stopping power. Together with regenerative braking, it’s easy to keep the car’s momentum going during spirited drives as you slice through one corner after another. Volvo also banished the abrupt transitions from regenerative to mechanical braking, making it easier to judge how much stopping power you’re inputting. Easing off the accelerator in B mode provides enough recuperation to slow you down ahead of a turn or bring the car down to city speeds when exiting the freeway. However, it’s not strong enough to bring the vehicle to a complete stop. Switching the braking characteristics to Dynamic in the Individual setting gives you a firmer pedal that’s both linear and progressive. Normal mode softens the pedal’s resistance.

There are some trade-offs for the sportier handling and more responsive powertrain. Power delivery isn’t as smooth in Hybrid (Normal) mode, meaning you’ll feel when the gas engine comes on because the car suddenly surges and gains speed quickly. You also get more road and tire noise due to the summer rubber, especially on poorly maintained and uneven surfaces.

Charging the V60 T8 Polestar Engineered takes three hours using a level 2 AC charger or 240-volt outlet. A conventional home outlet increases the car’s charging time to six hours. It’s best to keep the V60 T8’s ability to drive emissions-free for city driving to get the most of its 22-mile EV mode range. Doing that should help maximize the car’s efficiency and allow you to commute without using the gas engine if your drive is short enough.

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered pricing

The 2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered is available only in one trim that starts at $68,295. Our test car, which came finished in an extra cost metallic paint, checks in at $68,940. Like all other T8 models in Volvo’s lineup, the V60 T8 Polestar Engineered is eligible for a $5,419 federal tax credit plus all available state and local incentives.

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered final verdict

2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered front three quarters 01
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Wagons like the 2021 Volvo V60 T8 Polestar Engineered are a refreshing change from the common crossover. They give you something unique because of their ability to do nearly everything well. The V60 T8 Polestar Engineered is one of the best examples because it blends utility, fun, efficiency, and style all in a timeless package oozing with heritage.

This wagon is quintessentially Volvo because of its sensible approach to performance; you’re not sacrificing safety and daily usability for the sake of fun. The fact that the V60 is not in your face with its capabilities also adds to its appeal. Its wagon body style makes it a rarity while the performance chops it possesses turn it into a formidable, highly desirable vehicle that makes every driving enthusiast weak in the knees

At a glance

  • Year: 2021
  • Make: Volvo
  • Model: V60
  • Trim: T8 Polestar Engineered
  • Type: 4-door, compact luxury wagon
  • Combined horsepower: 415
  • Combined torque: 494 lb-ft
  • MPG ratings (city/highway/combined): 28/33/30
  • EV range: 22 miles
  • Pros: Great ride and handling balance, strong acceleration, well-appointed interior
  • Cons: Small-item storage is lacking, road and tire noise over bad roads, power delivery can be abrupt in Hybrid mode
  • Base price: $68,295
  • Price as tested: $68,940
Written by Stefan Ogbac
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