The world changed during the year since Volvo Car USA flew journalists to the picturesque Banff, Canada for the model year 2020 drive in late 2019. By March of 2020, much of the world would be in quarantine wondering what was next. As the weeks and months went by, dealerships and manufacturers reopened adhering to social-distancing guidelines while adapting to operate in the new normal. As we move into the last quarter of 2020, families have adapted to teleworking, started virtual classes and wear facial masks, which have become a form of self-expression and a new promotional platform. Families may not feel comfortable traveling on a plane, train or cruise ship and staying home may be creating other challenges. The classic roadtrip has experienced a revival this year as it provides families with a safer way to travel and explore new destinations. Virtual classes and teleworking from within a new Volvo while touring the country might be the experience of a lifetime. Imagine how the next generation will add their spin on the classic tall tale of, "When I was a kid, I walked to school uphill both ways in the snow."

Volvo offers a unique portfolio of SUVs, wagons and sedans ideal for families to explore local and distant destinations. Model year 2020 delivers a few enhancements to current models and for performance enthusiasts, the new XC60 T8 Polestar-Engineered. I had the opportunity to drive the refreshed XC90 with the six-seat configuration, XC90 T8 Inscription, V60 Cross Country and the XC60 T8 Polestar-Engineered and each are worthy vehicles for traveling coast to coast while staying connected.

The 2020 models offer the following technology upgrades across the line-up:
  • The 12.3" Digital Driver Display is now standard on every Volvo model
  • Haptic feedback is added to Pilot Assist Driver Assistance System
  • Increased battery size for the T8 Plug-In Hybrid models; now 11.6 kWh
  • Autobrake is now a standard component of Cross Traffic Alert on all vehicles featuring BLIS with Cross Traffic Alert
  • Steering Support is now a standard component of City Safety on all 90- and 60-series models

The 2020 updates enrich Volvo's already award-winning vehicles. The XC90's six-seat configuration is a welcome option for families that need frequent access to the third row for kids or the family dog. My only recommendation for product planners would have been to include arm rests on the second-row passenger seats, similar to configurations found with other manufacturers.

XC60 PolestarFor the past few years I thought the V90 Cross Country was the best five-seater within Volvo's fleet, most notably the 2018 V90 Ocean Race Edition. That was until I experienced a few hours behind the wheel of the 2020 XC60 T8 Polestar. The versatility, power and stylish good looks make this XC60 my pick for the best new Volvo at the dealership. Acceleration is strong and smooth with the Polestar-Engineered 2.0L four-cylinder aided by a supercharger, a turbocharger and electrification to deliver an impressive 415hp and 495 ft/lb of torque. Massive six-piston Akebono calibers and 14.6-inch ventilated brake discs deliver impressive stopping power from well above the posted speed limit and help regenerate power stored in the battery.

While the XC60 Polestar delivers spirited driving, I feel it misses a visceral edge expected from a performance-oriented vehicle selling for $70,000 and carrying a Polestar Engineered badge. Volvo T8 models have the potential to deliver 50+ MPGe (gas & battery combined) making them a great commuter vehicle option. However, the weight of the hybrid technology reduces the fun factor. The XC60 Polestar is smooth, efficient and a "jack of all trades" for families. The center console storage space is reduced as the traditional exhaust tunnel houses the hybrid batteries. While I miss the small blue badge from the previous generation Polestar models, the new white Polestar badge adds a modern and distinctive identifier that this XC60 is not like the others.

As Volvo launches Polestar as a separate performance brand of electric vehicles, the Polestar Engineered vehicles are a hybrid bridge to their pure electric siblings. Hybrid vehicles are a good option for consumers for the next several years while Volvo and other manufacturers release full electric models.

V60 Cross CountryWhether you are driving over the always-under-repair streets of the suburbs or up snow-covered trails to a cabin retreat, the second-generation Volvo V60 Cross Country offers crossover versatility within a wagon profile. Ground clearance for the V60 Cross Country is raised 2.5" (63MM) higher than the regular V60 wagon, thanks to the specially developed Cross Country chassis and suspension that enhance the car's off-road capability. All-Wheel Drive is standard on the V60 Cross Country, as are Hill Descent Control, Electronic Stability Control, Corner Traction Control and a special Off-Road driving mode.

The V60 Cross Country benefits from Volvo's award-winning Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, safety technology, and Sensus Connect infotainment system found in the 60-series and 90-series models. More powerful computer processors for 2020 models improve boot-up time and responsiveness. Apple Carplay is nicely integrated, and passengers can use other apps on the phone while not interfering with the Waze navigation displaying on the center stack screen.

The V60 Cross Country T5 AWD comes with a single powertrain delivering 250hp and 258 ft-lb of torque from the 2.0L four-cylinder and a single turbocharger. Power delivery is smooth and efficiently propels the V60 across any terrain. The more powerful 316hp T6 found in other Volvo AWD models would be a nice option to this popular wagon.

XC90The first of the SPA platform vehicles, now the oldest in the portfolio, receives a few exterior styling updates along with a six-passenger model. The now familiar three powertrains continue with the gas-powered T6 turbo- and supercharged engine provides 316 horsepower and the T5 turbocharged engine delivers 250 horsepower. The T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid offers a combined 400 horsepower and an increased battery size of 11.6kw. Advanced Intellisafe City Safety features, including standard Pilot Assist, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, BLIS with Steering Assist, and Cross Traffic alert with Autobrake exemplify safety and a luxurious driving experience.

The color pallet for 2020 adds pleasant earth tones with Thunder Grey Metallic, Pebble Grey Metallic, and Birch Light Metallic. More exciting than the exterior are the new interior options with a Midnight Zinc Tailored Wool Blend, Slate Grey Leather, Slate Grey Tailored Wool Blend, Blond Leather in Charcoal Environment (R-Design), Grey Ash Wood Trim, Black Ash Wood Trim. The Blonde leather within the Bursting Blue metallic R-Design trim package is a beautiful combination.

With these 2020 models, Volvo maintained its sales momentum in August 2020, with volumes up 7.2 percent compared with the same period in 2019 as Europe, China and the US all reported increasing sales. In the first eight months, Volvo sold 383,492 cars, down 13.5 percent when compared with the same period last year. Consumers have an opportunity to take advantage of incentives and low financing rates to find that special new Volvo for their family's next epic roadtrip. Imagine building memories for a lifetime of new tall tales based on traveling the country in the backseat of a Volvo while taking virtual classes. "When I was a kid ... "