A best-of-all-worlds hybrid

The XC60 is Volvo’s 5-door, 5-seat mid-size SUV. It is built on the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), Volvo’s advanced modular product platform that underpins all Volvo cars in the 90 and 60 Series. Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, the second generation XC60 has quickly become the best-selling model in Volvo Cars’ range. The original XC60 sold almost one million units globally and was the best-selling mid-sized premium SUV in Europe. COURTESY PHOTO
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The XC60 is Volvo’s 5-door, 5-seat mid-size SUV. It is built on the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), Volvo’s advanced modular product platform that underpins all Volvo cars in the 90 and 60 Series. Following in the footsteps of its predecessor, the second generation XC60 has quickly become the best-selling model in Volvo Cars’ range. The original XC60 sold almost one million units globally and was the best-selling mid-sized premium SUV in Europe. COURTESY PHOTO

Performance, mature distinction, youthful whimsy highlight 2021 Volvo XC60

I feel like I should be on an episode of MythBusters for this week’s tester. Hopefully I correct at least one myth and also drop some knowledge regarding a performance trim. Let’s start with the myth as it’s wholly tied into the performance trim, too.

First, not all hybrids are pokey. In fact, some are downright fast and sporty. To wit, this week’s tester, which is the 2021 Volvo XC60 T8. Yes, it has a mild hybrid motor in it, but it also cranks out 400 horsepower That’s a hybrid I can get into and should bust the myth or misnomer that hybrids aren’t fast or sporty.

All of that is tied to another word that may be relatively unknown to the casual person, but that instills excitement in true automotive enthusiasts – Polestar engineering. Polestar is Volvo’s sport-oriented, performance-oriented wing, which produces fun-to-drive, exciting cars. My tester – with that hybrid powertrain – was Polestar engineered, which is why it gets 400 horsepower.

So clearly this is a tester unlike one I normally get and combines what could be the best of both worlds.

On looks, the 2021 Volvo XC60 is classy. Those who have read enough of my reviews know I find many compact SUVs to be dull and lacking personality. Aesthetically, the Volvo brand already has distinction and the 2021 XC60 certainly provides a lot of personality.

The posture is not as squatty as some compact SUVs and the longer hood really balances out the profile. The grille is elegant with the industry’s best-looking headlights. The unique shape of the tail lights provides more character and distinction. All in all, the XC60 is a handsome SUV.

A hybrid with extra power

Being Polestar engineered means my XC60 (T8 powertrain) comes with a hybrid and additional power. The T8 XC60 has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motor assist. This four banger with all-wheel drive cranks out 400 horsepower and 495 pound-feet of torque. It has a record 0-60 mph time of around five seconds. A hybrid that zooms, albeit quietly.

If there’s one negative to this unique combination of power and hybrid, it’s that it’s almost too refined, for a Polestar. It lacks the chills and thrills found with other Polestar-engineered vehicles, and I would like a little more driving personality from the XC60. Being too smooth while also being powerful can be a negative sometimes, and that’s the case here.

The 8-speed automatic transmission does great with the turb/hybrid combination offering pristine shifting and no turbo lag. The yellow/gold Akebono brakes did an awesome job. The fact I’m even writing about brakes (which are normally just there) should attest for something.

Inside, there’s one glaring thing that sticks out. And on my Instagram, I polled my followers to get their opinion where I was in the minority with this opinion. But as part of the Polestar package are bright yellow/gold seatbelts (that match the Akebono brake color on the outside). It’s intentional and by design to be so garish and bold. But for me I found it to be too much. In fact, if the seat belts were as bold and full of life as the overall powertrain, then I might not have objected as much.

Otherwise, the interior is delightful, luxurious and pristine. I did like the special Polestar badging found on the seats, and there were also several other niceties added to this package, including an outstanding Bowers & Wilkins sound system and special metal mesh aluminum inlays and charcoal-colored headliner. All in all, the interior was comfortable, but the sport-style seats with the Polestar feature were less comfortable for me than they might be for a smaller, younger person. I’ve never been a fan of racing-style seats as they snug in on my love handles and that occurred here with the otherwise-nice XC60.

Cargo wise, the XC60 is cavernous, offering 22.4-cubic feet of room behind the seats and 63.3 cubic feet with the seats folded down. This is one of the largest cargo areas of any five-passenger SUV I’ve driven in a while.

Combining hybrid and performance, plus ample luxury comes at a cost. The T8 trim with the Polestar engineering is the most expensive configuration for the XC60, which can start at just under $42,000 for the basic trim. But as tested and loaded up with everything my tester had a price of $69,500. With a few more special touches including a metallic paint coat, my tester’s final MSRP was $71,140.

Calculating fuel economy for a hybrid powertrain is more difficult. The gasoline engine has a fuel economy of 19 mpg/city and 27 mpg/highway. But with 57 mpgE, the fuel economy is tremendous, especially for a vehicle that gets 400 horsepower. In a week’s worth of driving, I never dipped below a half tank of fuel. And believe me, I was heavy into the accelerator at times.

It’s so nice when you get a vehicle that offers the best of both worlds. One that is both a hybrid but has performance and one that has youthful whimsy, but also feels mature enough. That’s where the 2021 Volvo XC60 comes in and that’s really its specialty.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

2021 VOLVO XC60 T8

  • Price/As-tested price................................................ $69,500/$71,140
  • Mileage.........................................19 mpg/city; 27 mpg/hwy with 57 mpgE assist
  • Engine............................................. 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with hybrid
  • Horsepower................................. 400 hp/495 lbs./ft.
  • Transmission................................. Seven speed automatic
  • Drive Wheels................ All-wheel drive
  • Final Assembly Point................ Gothenburg, Sweden