What are you driving?
You're looking at one of the most expensive examples of the Volvo XC60 SUV currently registered in Ireland. The full name is XC60 T8 Twin Engine Polestar AWD, which needs a little breaking down. The XC60 is Volvo's mid-sized SUV, sitting above the XC40 and below the XC90, competing with the likes of the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Jaguar F-Pace, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Lexus NX, Mercedes GLC and even maybe the Range Rover Evoque and Porsche Macan.
If you're familiar with Volvo's way of naming things, then you'll know that the 'T8 Twin Engine' is a plug-in hybrid. It uses an unusual 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which has a supercharger and a turbocharger, driving the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission, while an electric motor drives the rear wheels. In the regular XC60 T8, the engine produces 303hp and 400Nm of torque, while the electric motor adds 87hp at the top end and 240Nm of torque from a standstill. It's no slouch, with a 0-100km/h time of 5.5 seconds.
But the car you see here is the range-topping 'Polestar Engineered' model. In case you missed it, Polestar originated in Swedish Touring Car racing before it became part of Volvo Cars in 2015. Now the name has been applied to the new standalone Polestar subsidiary that makes electrified cars such as the Polestar 1. It also enhances Volvo road cars to give buyers a particularly sporty alternative to the regular trim lines (the XC60 is otherwise offered in Momentum, Momentum Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro, Inscription and Inscription Pro guises).
And Polestar has extracted a little more oomph from the XC60's engine, its outputs rising to 318hp and 430Nm. The electric motor's maximums are unchanged, but what you're looking at here is a mid-sized SUV with over 400hp when both engine and motor are working hard together. The 0-100km/h time drops only by a tenth, but that's only a small part of the story.
You can't have missed the huge alloy wheels. Those are actually optional 22-inch rims, though the standard T8 Polestar Engineered does get 21s. Behind those wheels sit rather large gold-painted Akebono brake callipers and, if you look closer, you'll see gold-coloured dampers too. Those are expensive Öhlins items that are, rather bizarrely in a family SUV, manually adjustable. You'll need to open the bonnet to do that, where you'll discover this XC60 also gets a chunky strut brace across the rear of the engine bay. And rounding off the surprisingly comprehensive suite of chassis upgrades are stiffer springs all-round.
Unique Polestar badging, a dark grille, wheelarch extensions and special exhaust are also included, while the interior gets a lavish specification and gold-coloured seatbelts.
Name its best bits
There's a lot to like here, starting with the beefier exterior appearance. This car has buckets of presence, yet the Volvo brand is somehow less ostentatious than the big three German marques, so it doesn't seem to have its haters. The XC60's cabin is lovely in this particularly high specification as well, though I'm sure there will be many that don't like the colour of the seatbelts.
The regular XC60 T8 is quick enough for most, but this Polestar model ratchets things up a bit, especially when you discover there's a new 'Polestar Engineered' driving mode to select. That sets the engine and motor to maximum response, which is impressive, but it also seems to use the rear-mounted electric motor's high torque to give the XC60 a more rear-lead feel at lower speeds. On a slippery surface, with the stability control set to the mid, Sport, setting, it turns out to be a bit of a giggle. It's a shame the steering is devoid of feedback, but the body control thanks to those Öhlins dampers and other changes is superb. This really is a rapid SUV cross-country. And yet it can amble about in town in zero emissions mode, too.
Anything that bugs you?
As much fun as this XC60 can be, it's far from perfect. It's impossible to ignore its price, for a start, which is nearly €20,000 more than the entry-level XC60 T8 (thanks in no small part to the extra €5,000 SEAI grant that car attracts), itself quite a costly conveyance. That aside, and as good as the body control is, we suspect that most will find the Polestar suspension too firm for Irish roads. It would be interesting to try it on the standard 21-inch wheels, as the 22-inch rims fitted to our test car undoubtedly exacerbate the situation. And as cool as manually adjustable dampers sound to petrolheads (me included), they have no place in a mid-sized family-shaped SUV. We'd rather it had an electronically adjusted damping system. Finally, and this is not unique to the Polestar model, the XC60 T8 can get quite thirsty if you're using its performance regularly and not charging up the battery from an external source whenever possible.
And why have you given it this rating?
The XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered stops short of greatness because of its suspension firmness and, mostly, because of its very high price. Nonetheless, we really like this car. It looks great, has a fab interior, is of very high quality and can even be a bit of a fun to drive. It's nothing if not interesting, which isn't something you'd say about many SUVs in this part of the market.