It’s almost as if there’s a room somewhere in Volvo’s Gothenburg HQ with pictures of the BMW M340i, Mercedes C43 and Audi S4 affixed to the wall, along with strict instructions for the development team to not make anything like that. The V60 T8 Engineered by Polestar, Volvo’s take on the mid-tier performance estate conundrum, is willfully, almost stubbornly different from the competition.
Instead of a turbo six-cylinder engine, it uses an inline-four that’s both turbocharged and supercharged. Rather than have adaptive dampers which can be altered at the mere touch of a button, the V60 T8 EbP gets Ohlins shocks that have to be manually adjusted by popping the bonnet and jacking up the rear. And while its rivals use proper all-wheel drive systems, the hot V60 doesn’t have a mechanical connection between its axles at all, merely becoming defacto all-wheel drive as there’s a motor at the rear.
It’s this latter attribute that defines the way the V60 T8 drives more than anything else in its makeup. With 86bhp of pure electrical power going to the rear wheels (the battery occupies the space normally taken up by the prop-shaft in regular AWD V60s), the rest of the 409bhp, 494lb ft total system output is sent through the front wheels.
As such, it’s the front wheels leading the show, and you really do feel that. So wheelspin off the line and power oversteer are the orders of the day? Well, not necessarily - there is an element of that, but the V60 is far better at managing all of the power being chucked through the front wheels than anticipated.
The steering’s much sweeter than on the 90 series Volvos, too. Those cars have a springy self-centring attitude that feels horribly unnatural, and while the V60’s setup isn’t perfect, it does feel far more predictable.
I looked up the 0-62mph time after spending a week driving it, and the 4.6sec that’s listed for the benchmark sprint came as a surprise. The V60 does feel plenty fast and response from the twin-charged inline-four is good, but it doesn’t seem quite as ballistic as that figure would suggest. And that’ll be down to the weight.
The hybrid system’s battery alone weighs 200kg, contributing to a total kerb figure that’s just over two tonnes. So, comfortably bulkier than an Audi S6, despite the fact the V60 is S4-sized. This means the T8 isn’t as willing to change direction as we’d like, and it doesn’t feel as happy being lobbed around a set of bends as one of its lighter contemporaries might. You don’t appreciate the stopping power of the Brembo six-pot brakes either, as the by-wire brake pedal is irritatingly inconsistent.
The Ohlins dampers, at least, do a fine job of keeping the heavy body in check without totally ruining the ride. We left the settings as delivered, and although the damping is on the firm side, the V60 still feels comfortable and settled over rougher ground. When we tested an S60 in T5 R-Design and T8 Polestar specs in 2018, the latter car wasn’t any less comfortable despite the obvious increase in stiffness.
But 22 levels of adjustability, which requires jacking up the car if you want to fiddle with the rear settings? It just seems like an odd thing to have in a car like the V60. It’d feel weird even in a BMW M3, let alone a sensible Swedish car that’s better at cruising than track day glory.
Speaking of which, the V60 is brilliant at eating up long journeys like they’re nothing. It’s quiet and refined, the interior is a fabulous space that’s far less ostentatious than the German options, and the Bowers & Wilkins sound system (a very worthwhile £1675 option) is brilliant. It’s just a shame the touchscreen infotainment screen, while responsive and easy to use, is far too distracting. Ditching physical climate controls and burying them into a screen always feels like a backwards step, particularly for such a safety-focused company like Volvo.
The T8 is especially relaxing in electric-only mode, in which it can officially travel up to 25 miles. In reality, it’ll be a bit less than that, while in hybrid mode, the car’s charge does deplete faster than you might expect.
It’s the hybrid capability that helps the handsome V60 T8 carve out its own niche, so while it can’t match rivals dynamically, this estate is one that’s still plenty desirable. The problem is, with the Polestar stuff added - the brakes, the dampers, a 10bhp boost and a lot of gold finishings - it’s more expensive than all of those alternatives we’ve mentioned.
The base price is £57,205, rising to £64,930 with the options fitted to this one - Mercedes-AMG C63 money. Even ‘our’ C43 longtermer, which we went overboard with on spec, was a few grand less.
You could, of course, drop the Engineered by Polestar thing and go for a T8 R Design, saving over £6000 in the process. Tempting, as it’s difficult to know who a V60 with adjustable Ohlins dampers is supposed to be for. But if you have a penchant for the unconventional, this car is a stylish and intriguing way to tap into those desires.