The 2021 all-electric Polestar 2 arrives in North America this year as the brand’s first pure electric vehicle, aiming to take on Tesla in a market that’s seeing increased interest in EVs. Produced in China through a collaboration of Volvo and Geely Motors, this 5-door midsize electric hatchback proudly forwards the Polestar nameplate that was formerly dedicated to Volvo’s performance arm. Now, Polestar represents the maker’s global electric car initiative as a stand-alone car brand.
At first glance, there’s no mistaking the Volvo pedigree of Polestar 2 as it embraces the design language of Volvo’s XC40. Manufactured on Volvo’s CMA (compact modular architecture) platform, it presents premium fit and finish seamlessly blended with the utmost in functionality. This eye-catching model gets high marks for attention to detail, clean lines, and an unapologetically conventional front facade and grille design that fits its persona, without giving way to the whims of those who seem convinced an electric must look decidedly different.
No performance is lost here in the transition to zero-emissions electric power. Polestar 2 is motivated by dual electric motors, one at each axle, producing a combined 408 horsepower and 487 ft-lb torque in the Performance Pack all-wheel drive variant. This delivers a claimed 0 to 60 sprint in just 4.5 seconds.
A 292 mile range is estimated on the electric’s 78 kWh LG Chem lithium-ion battery pack, which is said to be 10 percent more powerful than Audi and Jaguar offerings. Polestar integrates the battery module as a crash-protected unibody stress member, improving overall road handling characteristics through strategic weight distribution. There are multiple charging options with integrated dual inverters and AC/DC at-home and network charge capability. Charging to 80 percent capacity can be had in 45 minutes at a fast-charge station.
Polestar 2’s regenerative braking enables one-pedal driving, a feature pioneered by the BMW i3 some years back and now adopted in an increasing number of electric models. In effect, strong regenerative braking slows a vehicle down sufficiently to often allow coming to a gradual stop without using the brakes, a fun feature that enhances the joy of driving. Although not fully autonomous, Polestar 2 comes standard with the automaker’s Polestar Connect, Pilot Assist, and adaptive cruise control for Level 2 partial automation.
Inside, driver and passengers enjoy a more conventional cockpit and cabin environment than that presented by some competitors. Polestar 2 is minimalistic but also business class posh in its interior design, placing emphasis on low environmental impact manufacturing practices and materials like repurposed Birch and Black Ash wood accents, plus soft touch ‘vegan’ synthetic seat fabrics.
Heated and cooled seats, inductive cellphone charging, ample points for device connectivity, and a standard panoramic digitized sunroof are provided. Information is intelligently presented in the instrument cluster and a large center stack navigation/infotainment touchpad. A familiar center console select shift is used. Easy access to an ample cargo deck is afforded by a power lift rear hatch, with additional room provided by a fold-down second row seat.
The price of entry for Polestar 2 is $59,900 before federal or state incentives, with the model offered in three trim groups, five color combinations, and four add-on price upticks. It’s currently available for order in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. Buyers will discover a no-salesman showcase approach with a take-your-time-and-look buying and lease environment. As the market reacts, Volvo intends to make Polestar 2 available in all 50 states.
Sharing drive components and integrated technology with Volvo’s XC90 T8, the latest rendition of the Swedish maker’s best-selling vehicle comes to market more powerful and smarter than ever. Volvo’s upscale 2018 XC60 T8 PHEV (plug-in-hybrid) presents a premium and rugged, yet refined, SUV where high performance meets advanced technology and comfort. It is the most powerful two-row SUV in Volvo history. The editors at Green Car Journal take a closer look.
How it works: Volvo’s XC60 T8 successfully follows in the footsteps of its larger XC90 T8 crossover sibling. Both upscale plug-in hybrids use a 313 horsepower, supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with an eight-speed automatic transaxle and two permanent-magnet AC motors.
In this through-the-road AWD hybrid system, a 46-horsepower electric motor drives the front wheels while an 87 horsepower AC motor powers the rear wheels. This results in total system output of 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft torque. There is no mechanical connection between the two axles.
A lithium-ion battery pack is positioned in the center tunnel where a driveshaft would normally be located. This 10.4 kWh pack enables the 2018 Volvo XC60 T8 to travel about 18 miles on electricity alone. Total driving range on gas and electric power is 370 miles. The battery can be recharged in as little as three hours from a 240-volt source and six hours from a standard 120-volt outlet.
Regenerative braking, stop/start capability, and a Pure EV electric-only mode contribute to a 59 MPGe rating, quite good for a vehicle with a nearly 4,600-pound curb weight. The twin electric motors and 472 lb-ft torque bring impressive acceleration for a SUV that can carry five people, propelling the vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.
Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription versions of the XC60 T8 are available, offering similar standard and optional equipment to non-hybrid T6 models. Optional driver assistance packages are available including a Vision package that includes blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, automatic mirror dimming, power-retractable outside mirrors, and a parking-assist function.
The XC60’s Convenience package includes adaptive cruise control with Volvo's semi-autonomous Pilot Assist, a Level 2 partial-automation system that assists with driving tasks like remaining in a lane and matching traffic speed on the highway, while still relying on a driver as the primary monitor of the driving environment. Optional Steer Assist, which is linked with Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System and Oncoming Lane Mitigation, helps the driver steer around an obstacle if a collision is likely.
A 9.3-inch Sensus Connect screen in the dashboard center stack offers tablet-like swipe-and-pinch gestures. It’s large enough that it can be divided into four independent sections to provide quick and easy access to any controls needed. Sensus Connect provides 4G/LTE connectivity and offers its own suite of apps including Pandora, Spotify, Glympse, Local Search, Yelp, Weather, and Wiki Locations. The main Sensus screen interacts with 8-inch or 12.3-inch driver information displays and the optional head-up display showing navigation, infotainment, and basic information.\
Volvo’s XC60 T8 is offered at a base price of $52,900, about 10 grand more than its conventionally-powered sibling. It’s an exceptional compact crossover providing the luxury appointments and advanced technology we’ve come to expect from Volvo. It’s also a compelling option for new car buyers looking for an upscale crossover experience with the efficiency of plug-in hybrid power.
Automakers have been in a frenzy of late to claim a leadership position with electrification. Volvo has now taken a significant step in that direction by announcing its intention to include an electric motor in all of its models launched after 2019.
That doesn’t signify an exclusive leap toward battery electric cars, even though Volvo does plan to launch five all-electric vehicles between 2019 and 2021. Electrification can take many forms including hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric-assist systems, plus of course cars that run exclusively on batteries. There will be a mix in the Volvo lineup depending on a model’s propulsion needs and market demands.
This move is not a surprise. Volvo announced three years ago that it was replacing the five- and six-cylinder engines that had been powering its models with a new and more efficient Drive-E four-cylinder. This engine architecture was designed from the beginning to include a start-stop motor and regenerative braking, plus ready integration with hybrid and plug-in hybrid technology.
The first use of Drive-E engines in the U.S. was in select 2015 Volvo models. Since Volvo’s plan all along was to transition its models to Drive-E power and this engine was designed for electrification, using electrically-augmented Drive-E engines – or in some cases battery electric drivetrains – in all new models after 2019 represents the next stage of this transition.
Volvo has marked the 90th anniversary of its first car rolling off its assembly line in Gothenburg, Sweden with the production of the first 2018 XC60 two-row compact SUV, available in T8 plug-in hybrid performance trim. The first generation XC60 – with well over a million units sold in its initial nine-year production run – is the best-selling premium SUV in Europe and represents 30 percent of Volvo’s global volume. Volvo is aiming to continue this model's success with the all-new, second generation XC60.
“Volvo is very proud of its history,” says Håkan Samuelsson, chief executive of Volvo Cars. “The past 90 years have been exciting, but the 10 years left until the 100 year anniversary may come to be more exciting as industry focus shifts to autonomous driving, electrification, and connectivity. The new XC60 is in many ways the embodiment of these trends.”
Green Car Journal has long recognized Volvo car as a leader in passive and active safety innovations, hybrid gasoline-electric technology, low environmental impact, and most recently advanced autonomous driving technology. Volvo’s flagship XC90 T8 sport hybrid SUV earned the magazine’s 2016 Luxury Green Car of the Year award.
We live in a day and age when many consumers look to their car not only as a safe form of everyday conveyance, but also as a personal retreat or perhaps an extension of one’s office…with perhaps a dash of dynamic drive performance thrown in for good measure. Our recent drive experience with Volvo’s 2017 S90 T6 along Spain's Costa del Sol illustrated that this sedan answers all such anticipations with a spot-on drop of Thor's Hammer.
What Volvo has accomplished with the all-new S90 over a relatively short development timeline is nothing short of astounding. Simply, the Volvo S90 T6 delivers as promised with a comfortable, safe, quiet, and near-luxury driving experience. It follows the well-received XC90 in Volvo’s total reinvention of its model lineup. For 2017, Volvo takes its second-generation Drive-E engine technology and performance to the next level, with the S90 powered by a very advanced, high output, supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine that’s both fuel efficient and near zero emissions.
While most luxury sport sedan buyers seek turbocharged mid- to high-displacement V-6 through V-12 twin cam torque monsters to inject their adrenaline rush, Volvo sees things differently. This automaker envisions a future with turbocharged three- and four-cylinder gasoline engines fulfilling primary drive duties, cogeneration, and plug-in electrification in the near future. And Volvo engineering sees this no later than model year 2018. In fact, international S90 project lead Peter Martens tells Green Car Journal that cylinder count is inconsequential in today’s engine technology. In Peter’s words, “it’s the engine's horsepower and torque output that matters at the end of the day.”
But are four cylinders enough? As my co-driver commented during our test drive: “One would have to look under the hood of the S90 T6 to discover the four-cylinder.” Simply, this efficient engine is a source of exceptional power and satisfying performance. In all truth, the S90’s direct-injected, twin-cam aluminum 2.0-liter engine produces seamless torque. Notably, its use of both supercharging and turbocharging means there’s absolutely no turbo lag up to red line. An eight-speed automatic transmission contributes to the sedan’s overall fuel efficiency.
Producing 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque in the midrange, Volvo’s S90 T6 AWD achieves a respectable 0-to-60 mph sprint time of just 5.7 seconds, quick enough for the majority of drivers in the midsize luxury sedan segment. This efficient powerplant delivers an EPA estimated 22 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway.
A front-wheel drive T5 variant with a turbocharged rendition of the same mill produces a respectable 250 horsepower/258 lb-ft torque at 2200 rpm. This rivals the specs of many six-cylinder engines on the market today while achieving a desirable 23 city/34 highway mpg. Volvo expects market demand for the T5 and T6 variants will run about 50/50.
While we found the S90 T6 AWD model quite capable during aggressive driving on two-lane country roads, where this sedan truly shines is in long-range highway driving. It’s a luxury midsize rolling lounge with near-sports sedan handling attributes. Surprisingly, we found Volvo’s therapeutic seat requiring no break-in time. Our S90 came with driver and front passenger seating cooled, heated, and equipped with a massage option, arguably the best in the class. Leg, shoulder, and headroom is exceptional front and rear, as is this model’s premium-class fit and finish.
The S90 presents ride quality rivaling that of the best luxury commuters in the industry, thanks in no small part to Volvo’s optionally available rear air suspension, superior hydraulic dampening, and active electronic noise cancellation. It does this well while facilitating a split personality with the kind of sport-like-driving capability required by today’s all-inclusive consumer mindset.
Attention to the road is enhanced by a well-positioned heads-up display, where speed, engine temperature, and more can be monitored without requiring a glance at the instrument panel. The S90’s drive environment is well balanced, leather covered, wood-accented, and high-tech rich, yet intuitive in its operation. Everything is in its place and enveloped in high-end Swedish style and sensible accommodation.
Volvo runs a bit ahead of the trend with perhaps the best-working active safety suite available in the segment today. As demonstrated through its S90, Volvo continues the company’s historical emphasis on driver and passenger safety by providing its notable active safety features on all S90 trim levels.
The S90’s City Safety feature includes frontal collision avoidance, low-and high-speed collision mitigation, and auto brake engagement, plus pedestrian, cyclist, and large animal recognition. Run Off Road Mitigation senses if the vehicle is about to unintentionally leave the pavement and takes corrective action. With Pilot Assist, the S90 will assist in driving up to 80 mph, but the driver’s hand is required to stay on the wheel in 15 second intervals to ensure driver attention. Yes, we did test this and it worked flawlessly with near dead-center lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control that maintained distance from the car ahead.
First to market in the States is the S90 T6 AWD, followed by the front-drive S90 T5. Later we’ll see the V90 Estate Wagon and the S90 T8 plug-in hybrid. The price of entry for the S90 T5 is $46,950 with the T6 coming in at a base of $52,950. Volvo’s Inscription trim level adds $3,300 to the cost of each. Whichever you choose, the Volvo S90 may well be the bargain of the midsize luxury sedan segment.
Volvo's XC90 T8 SUV – Green Car Journal’s 2016 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ – emerged a completely redesigned model in the 2016 model year, the first time the enduring XC90 has had a complete makeover since 2002. It rose to the top to claim the award at the 2016 Washington Auto Show over finalists that included the BMW X5 xDrive40e, Lexus RX 450h, Mercedes-Benz C350e, and Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid.
Even though immediately recognized as a Volvo, virtually nothing carried over from the previous generation save for some mechanicals. The T8 ‘twin engine’ XC90, the more efficient sibling to Volvo’s conventionally powered XC90 T6, is a plug-in hybrid that uses Volvo's efficient 316 horsepower, 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged Drive-E four-cylinder engine. This engine powers the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
A 46 horsepower starter-generator motor located between the engine and transmission provides start-stop capability to enhance efficiency. This motor also enables regenerative braking and can provide additional power to the transmission when maximum performance is required. An 82 horsepower electric motor drives the rear wheels. The battery and both electric motors are liquid-cooled. Battery coolant can also be refrigerated under very hot conditions. Volvo’s new XC90 design locates the lithium-ion battery in the tunnel between the front passenger seats, not beneath the trunk as is the case with many PHEVs. Thus, cargo capacity in this seven passenger plug-in SUV is no less than the conventionally powered T6 that has no batteries.
The T8 has several drive modes. Hybrid is the default and uses power from the gas engine and electric motor as needed for optimum efficiency. Pure mode offers all-electric driving, with the AWD mode driving all four wheels on demand. Save mode conserves battery power for later use. In Power Mode, maximum electric torque is provided from start for great acceleration at low speeds with the Drive-E engine taking over at higher speed.
Drivers have the ability to motor exclusively on battery power up to 13 miles according to official EPA estimates with a total gas-electric range of 350 miles. EPA also rates the T8 at 53 MPGe (mile-per-gallon equivalent) on battery power with a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 25 mpg during hybrid operation.
The 2016 XC90 is longer, wider, and taller than the previous XC90. It uses Volvo' s Scalable Product Architecture platform that is destined for most future Volvo models. The XC90 T8 comes in base Momentum, more luxurious Inscription, and sportier R-Design trim levels. All include a two-panel panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and third-row seating as standard equipment. The illuminated shift lever is genuine Orrefors crystal, probably the first time any automaker has used real crystal glass in a production car.
A Sensus Connect infotainment system brings tablet-like features and convenience to the dashboard of this Volvo model. This system is said to have more processing power than any iPad with incredibly quick response. The touchscreen uses infrared lasers rather than capacitive touch sensors so the smart, intuitive interface can be used while wearing gloves, or even with a pencil or other object.
Volvo’s entire suite of standard safety systems are included plus advanced driver assist items like Lane Departure Warning, Road Sign Information display, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Pilot Assist adaptive cruise control, and Park Assist Pilot automatic parallel and perpendicular parking. World firsts include Auto Braking at Intersections if another vehicle comes into its path from oncoming or side traffic, and should the car swerve off the road its Run Off Road Design pre-tensions seat belts and crushable supports in the front seats absorb crash forces. Safety is, after all, one of this marque’s longstanding core values and the XC90 addresses this in a big way.
We are heading toward self-driving cars quicker than anyone could have imagined just a few years ago. While it will clearly be some time before our highways are packed with driverless cars making their way to work, home, and parts beyond, there are glimpses of the future driving alongside us now.
It may be the Honda Civic self-aligned in the fast lane beside you, or the Ford Fusion Energi in your rear view mirror that stopped without driver assistance as traffic ground to a halt, then automatically paced your car as your lane began moving again. Or maybe the driver of the nearby Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid who misjudged how quickly traffic would stop, but escaped incident because of on-board systems that sensed a collision and automatically initiated emergency braking. And what about that Tesla Model S ahead that signaled and changed lanes seemingly on its own as its driver focused on something else?
These are real capabilities of vehicles on the road today. Not all models with autonomous technologies are ‘green’ cars, but assuredly many of them will be since there’s a natural convergence of autonomous driving technology and more efficient cars unfolding before us. This is only gathering momentum as a growing number of vehicles begin to feature systems like these.
Already, cars are increasingly equipped with an array of sensors, radar, and cameras to facilitate driver assistance systems that help deal with mundane chores like backing up safely and parallel parking. These same sensors and systems provide a foundation for even more sophisticated autonomous driving capabilities.
Several automakers are striving mightily to lead the field. Tesla is one of these, not only with the ability for its Model S to autonomously stay in its lane and with traffic flow, but automatically and safely change lanes with the flick of a turn signal when Autosteer is engaged. Cadillac is another with its upcoming Super Cruise.
Volvo is also at the forefront of this race to an autonomous driving future, in part because autonomous cars are considered much safer ‘drivers’ than humans and this aligns well with Volvo’s ambitious goal to eliminate traffic fatalities in its vehicles by 2020. Its XC90 plug-in hybrid already features some of the most advanced autonomous systems out there including Sensus Connect, Intersection Auto Brake, and Pilot Assist. Volvo has also created its Concept 26 autonomous driving interior for the XC90, the first such autonomous-focused concept interior built on a vehicle platform sold today. Volvo is taking a lead role in the world’s first large-scale autonomous driving pilot project that will find 100 self-driving Volvos negotiating everyday driving tasks on 30 miles of public roads around Gothenburg, Sweden.
The specter of life with self-driving cars presents its challenges, not the least of which is consumer distrust of such systems and the concern we will lose the driving enjoyment and sense of freedom that automobiles have brought us since their invention. While we may be in a new era that finds technology impacting most facets of daily life – with this technology increasingly making its way to our cars – the love of driving remains a priority for many.
This is supported by a recent Volvo survey in which a vast majority of those asked said autonomous car technology should respect the love of driving and, in fact, autonomous cars should include a steering wheel even if they are capable of driving themselves. At the same time, most felt that technology in autonomous cars would make their travel time more productive. In other words, we want these worlds to coexist. There’s a lot to read into that …perhaps from the driver’s seat at 65 mph, no?
Volvo’s new Concept Estate not only continues to reveal this automaker’s evolving design language, but also illustrates that Volvo is ready for the ‘big screen.’ Of special interest is this concept wagon’s interior design, which integrates a large tablet-like touchscreen at the center of the dash, a sure sign that connectivity and infotainment loom large in Volvo’s future, as they do with all automakers.
The automaker says its aim is to organize controls and information in an intuitive and user-friendly way, with the portrait touchscreen serving as the control panel for Volvo’s in-car user experience. This strategy does away with all buttons and controls save for a select few, including functions like window heaters, hazard warning, volume, and play/pause. From a design standpoint, this greatly simplifies interior architecture and provides significant design freedom for Volvo designers.
Like most automakers. Volvo is downsizing its engines to make them more fuel efficient. Future Volvo models will be all be powered by a family of Drive-E four-cylinder, 2.0 liter gasoline and diesel engines – no more five and six cylinders. The new engines, developed by Volvo in Sweden, will offer higher performance than today’s six-cylinder variants. They will also be 100 pounds lighter, more compact, and reduce fuel consumption by 10 to 30 percent.
The first new two-liter, four-cylinder Drive-E powertrains will appear in 2015 Volvos. These T5 and T6 gasoline and D4 diesel engines will all use the same architecture that includes an aluminum block, dual overhead cams, 16-valves, and continuously variable valve timing. They can be machined and assembled on the same production lines. All Drive-E models feature start-stop and brake regeneration.
Except in the U.S, the new S60 sedan, V60 wagon, and XC60 crossover will be available with three engines. The T5 and D4 will also be available in the new Volvo V70 wagon, XC70 crossover, and S80 sedan. We will not get the diesel engine here in the U.S. Rather, customers can choose between the new Drive-E engines and some current engines until Volvo transitions solely to Drive-E.
The T6 is both turbocharged and supercharged, using a Roots-style blower supercharger that fills in the bottom end torque to lend the feel of a large, naturally aspirated gasoline engine. The mechanically linked compressor starts functioning immediately at low rpms, while the turbocharger kicks in when airflow builds up. Power is impressive, with the T6 producing 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. The T5 is turbocharged only and is rated at 240 horsepower with a torque rating of 258 lb-ft.
Friction-reduction in the T5 and T6 includes ball bearings on the camshaft. There is also high-speed continuous variable valve timing and intelligent heat management with a fully variable electric water pump. Other innovations are built in, with the Drive-E diesel featuring i-ART (intelligent-Accuracy Refinement Technology) with pressure feedback from each fuel injector instead of a traditional single pressure sensor in the common rail. Each injector has an intelligent chip on top that monitors injection pressure. Using this information, the self-adapting i-ART system ensures that the ideal amount of fuel is injected during each combustion cycle.
The diesels also feature refinements such as an advanced twin-turbo, reduced friction, and a smart valve on the cooling system for a more rapid heat-up phase after a cold start. Featuring a very high 36,750 psi rail pressure, the D4 produces 181 horsepower and 295 lb-ft torque. Drive-E engines are mated with either a new eight-speed automatic or an enhanced six-speed manual tuned transmission, though U.S, models will probably come only with the automatic. Both FWD and AWD will be available.
While official fuel economy numbers are not yet available, Volvo is estimating 36.8 mpg for a Volvo S60 T6 with the new 8-speed automatic and a 0-62 mph (0-100 kph) time of 5.9 seconds. The Volvo S60 D4 with a manual transmission should rate in the 62 mpg range.
Drive-E engines are ready to be used with an electric motor in hybrid Volvos. Because of the compact size of the four-cylinder engines, the electric motor can be located in front or at the rear. The battery pack would be located in the center of the car.