BY BRIAN BYRNE
WHEN a car that is already expensive nearly doubles in price at the top end of its model range, it must be special.
That was the case with the Volvo XC60 I had out recently. A very nice car that became, well, another very nice car, with trimmings.
It’s no secret that I like Volvos. The brand over recent decades has transformed from the safest set of wheels on the planet, though dull. Now its cars have become premium and desirable. Dull is well dumped.
In size and class, the XC60 is slap in the middle of the compact SUV space. Where you want to drive here is a function of your wallet, so you can have a Ford Kuga or go for a BMW X3. Closer to the Volvo’s peers, there’s the Mercedes-Benz GLC or the Audi Q5. No pressure.
The XC60 is in its second generation since 2017, the nameplate originally launched in 2008. The basic style is long-lasting, maybe today it is only by the badging that an SUV stands out in this crowded park.
Like all, the Volvo has good presence, and good space inside. Passengers will feel the love. Whether you go for the base XC60 or the Polestar-engineered version I had, you’ll appreciate the top-end materials, the stylish forms and shapes, the detail in the knobs and switches.
They’ll probably like the vertical slab of touchscreen too, iPad style and swipe-able. It’s distinctive. But it doesn’t matter how well it is designed, to operate most functions on touchscreens, you have to look away from the road for too long.
Sure, you can have repeat controls on the steering wheel, or mirrored visuals in front of you. But the screens by their very nature attract your eyes. When you’re driving, there’s only one place your eyes should be focused ...
In engine terms, all Volvos now are four cylinder-only in the company’s tilt towards fuel economy. You can still have diesels or petrol, or the twin engine plug-in hybrid petrol of my review car. Goes without saying that it and the eight-speed auto transmission provided a seamlessly smooth driving experience.
The XC60 with twin engine offers from about 44kms in pure electric mode from a full battery, that takes between three to eight hours to fully charge depending on the charging point. You can also set it to top up the charge while doing motorway driving. I’m now very attuned to the ‘think in advance’ driving which such systems require.
On paper, and probably near enough in practice, the real-world emissions from Volvo’s PHEV system are about a third of those from the company’s standard petrol version.
The tag Polestar-engineered offers more tweaking from the Volvo-Geely electric performance car brand. Visually, there’s less external glister, and a discreet Polestar badge on a blacked-out grille and at the back the main visible designations apart from the bright orange Brembo brakes beaming out from inside the alloys.
A colour matched inside the car in the fabric of the seat-belts. Techwise there’s an advanced electronic suspension and some structure upgrades.
There’s more power too, 405hp total rather than 390hp or the normal PHEV version ... and a big punch ahead of the base car’s 250hp. So the XC60 Polestar-engineered is something special.
Pricey, though, which doesn’t really matter as this version of the XC60 is only being made available in limited numbers globally anyhow.
What I like: The size and the sense of special.
Price: Base XC60 €54,600; review car including options €93,189