Until the arrival of the 850 T5 in the mid-1990s, memorable performance was something of an abstract concept for Volvo. The boxy new five-cylinder saloon and estate models changed that, supplementing the demure looks with a serious turn of pace.
With a ‘combined’ 400bhp produced by its petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain, meanwhile, the S60 Polestar Engineered could never be described as ‘slow’ – although it is in danger of pulling off the same trick as its forebears, albeit to opposite effect. Against the stiff asking price, muscular looks, Pirelli P Zero tyres and gold brake calipers, our tested 0-60mph time of 5.4sec looks underwhelming and is some way shy of the more impressive 4.4sec to 62mph that Volvo claims.
Admittedly the car had damp test conditions with which to contend, but even with the entirety of this downsized engine’s power and torque delivered to the front contact patches, traction off the mark was not the problem – a fact that surprised some testers. In fact, even without a dedicated launch-control function, the Volvo leaped forward from a standstill mostly thanks to its electrically driven rear axle.
Thereafter, however, it struggled to deliver truly strong acceleration, and the drawbacks of the car’s powertrain layout became plain. Upshifts are suitably slick, but as your speed increases and the tachometer needle is kept usefully within the middle of the rev-range – a point at which the powertrain’s generous combined torque output should really be making itself known – the car’s apparent force of acceleration dwindles slightly.