When I reviewed the Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered sedan last year, I came away feeling somewhat vexed by it.
The car clearly has a lot going for it, but it felt to me like it was trying to please a bunch of constituent audiences that don’t necessarily overlap. For as much as it impressed in some ways, I had a hard time figuring out what Volvo is trying to accomplish with such an offering.
Fast-forward 12 months and I’m sitting in a V60 Recharge wagon and I’m getting similar vibes. It’s kind of expensive ($71,100 base, $81,750 before taxes as tested), the pure electric range is equally crummy (35 kilometres), but its gas-electric powertrain produces loads of power. So, who’s the buyer?
Just so we’re all up to speed here, Recharge is Volvo’s electrification sub-brand, and it gets affixed to all the automaker’s plug-ins and pure electrics. Two V60 Recharges are offered (Inscription and Polestar Engineered) and both are powered by Volvo’s Drive-E powertrain: 2.0-litre supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack (400 hp / 472 lb-ft. combined output) that’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
For the purposes of this review, Volvo Car Canada set me up with an V60 Recharge Inscription tester finished in crystal white with a slate (grey) wool cloth interior. As for options, there are about $10K worth of goodies here. Among the highlights are the climate package ($1,000) which adds a heated windscreen, heated rear seats and a heated steering wheel, the advanced package ($2,400) which comes with a head-up display, pilot assist and a 360-degree camera, and a Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system ($3,750).
All this stuff, while nice to have, pushes the MSRP before taxes past $81,000 which can, depending on one’s perspective, hurt the V60 Recharge’s value proposition. For that amount of money, there are other options. Something to keep in mind.
For a wagon, the V60 Recharge is incredibly sleek. It has a wide stance and sits quite low to the ground. Volvo’s minimalistic take on luxury is distinctive, and its iron mark front grille and Thor’s Hammer LED headlights make for a bold and striking appearance. Yes, there is a great deal of family resemblance to other Volvos, especially the S60, but the V60 is arguably the best-looking wagon currently on the market.
As much as I like the V60 Recharge’s sleek and athletic exterior, I absolutely love its interior. The slate wool seating feels like it belongs in a luxury studio apartment in midtown Manhattan. From the colour to the look and feel of the fabric, to the way it nicely balances the black and chrome trim panels, this seating option is one of my favourite cabin features. I say one of because the crystal gear selector supplied by Swedish glassmaker Orrefors is truly exquisite. It’s simply delightful to interact with and looks stunning, especially at night. These details really set Volvo apart and help define the style of Scandinavian luxury.
On the road, the V60 Recharge is a bit of a chameleon. The 2.0-litre supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine and electric motor can produce rocket-like performance, but it doesn’t feel that way all the time. It’s just as happy to trundle along as a comfortable daily driver dutifully shuttling back and forth to work and play, a hybrid that returns good fuel efficiency numbers with a bit of electric range to boot. But if one scrolls the drive mode selector to Polestar, environmental concerns are shoved aside and this wagon is ready to crush sleepy muscle cars at traffic lights, with higher revs and a mildly snarly exhaust to match.
I experienced both during my time behind the wheel and I must say that they are equally intriguing. An eco mode is also available, but honestly, because the V60 Recharge has such tiny pure electric range, it’s hardly worth mentioning. Sure, you can charge the battery up daily to squeeze more efficiency out of it – it can take as little as three hours to charge up from zero with the right set-up – but hybrid mode delivers decent efficiency gains of its own.
In sum, the V60 Recharge is an impressive package of power and efficiency wrapped in an appealing package with distinctive details that really set it apart in a sea of monolithic German alternatives. Plus, it’s an eminently sensible choice given its practical form factor (1,441 litres of maximum cargo volume) and enviable safety record.
Yes, I think it’s a bit expensive, but that can be offset by cutting back on options, and I really don’t love the Sensus display, which was slick and fancy in 2015 but has worn out its welcome with a needlessly fussy and convoluted interface in desperate need of a rethink. Its tiny pure electric range could hurt its appeal in the eyes of green-conscious shoppers, and those seeking performance may also look elsewhere.
Despite these drawbacks, I really like the Volvo V60 Recharge. I love its style, its form factor and available power. It’s the non-SUV in an era gone mad for them. And there are few left. We should appreciate them while they’re still here.