The most powerful production Volvo ever is a plug-in hybrid SUV. Really. That’s thanks to a new performance package for the XC90 T8 “Twin Engine” courtesy of in-house speed shop Polestar, Volvo says.
Polestar started out as an independent race team and tuner, and was bought by Volvo last year. It’s known for the S60 and V60 Polestars, standard Volvos that were given complete overhauls to turn them into performance cars. But Polestar didn’t even go that far with the XC90 T8.
The XC90 T8 doesn’t get the full-on Polestar treatment. Instead, it’s equipped with one of the milder “Polestar Performance Optimization” packages released for other XC90 models last year. The changes may not be too drastic, but they’re enough to boost output to 421 horsepower and 501 pound-feet of torque, compared to 400 hp and 472 lb-ft. for the standard XC90 T8. That allows for 0 to 62 mph in 5.5 seconds, Volvo says.
The powertrain is mechanically unchanged. A 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission work with an electric motor to drive four wheels. The Polestar Performance Optimization package includes mostly software changes, meant to improve throttle response and unlock that extra power.
The package also adds a gear hold function, which keeps the car in a pre-selected gear during cornering at high lateral g-forces. This prevents mid-corner shifts, which can upset the car’s balance, and ensures the engine is in its power band when it’s time to exit the corner. Automatic transmissions that don’t hold gears, but do habitually upshift, are the bane of the modern driving enthusiast, so this should be a useful feature.
Volvo recently confirmed that the Polestar Performance Optimization treatment will be offered on the S90 and V90, which share a platform and powertrains with the XC90. The package isn’t available for the T8 plug-in hybrid versions of those models yet, but expect that to change eventually. Meanwhile, U.S. buyers can order the Polestar package for the XC90 beginning in October.