How much more performance can Polestar squeeze out of Volvo’s S60?
In the fifteen years of Volvo’s S60 lineage, the Swedish sports sedan has seen differentiations of varying degrees, from the tame front-wheel drive Kinetic to the classic all-wheel drive turbo-charged five-cylinder R, featuring upgraded Brembo brakes and a Haldex drive system.
Arriving hot on the heels of our S60 R-Design review, a car that saw an unfortunate departure of features that made the mid-2000s line-topping R model so sweet, we have the new S60 performance king: The Volvo S60 Polestar, a collaboration between Volvo and its official performance partner, Polestar Performance.
The S60 Polestar features a powerful 257kW/500Nm turbocharged 3.0-litre six-cylinder with gearshifts taken care of via a six-speed automatic transmission. Although we miss the dearly-departed Volvo five-pot, the fully-balanced six-cylinder is a good thing. At 500cc per cylinder, the turbocharged straight six has the torque and power deliver that has made this engine configuration a classic.
The $99,900 price tag is also well tuned when you consider the level of kit and performance on offer. It’s not an M3 or C 63, but the four-door sedan will whisk the kids to school and gallop through the hills on a quiet Sunday afternoon with similar excitement, while being much softer on the wallet.
The interior has a familiar S60 feel. The seats are not run-of-the-mill, featuring bolstered black leather and suede brought together with blue stitching. The steering wheel feels very reassuring, finished with a similar covering and nice ergonomic thought while the centre console is laced with carbon fibre and the gear shift is distinguished by an opaque Polestar covering.
Bluetooth connectivity is good and the Harman Kardon sound system is clear with a well-balanced sound.
The racing house-tuned Polestar is heavy at 1766kg (according to Volvo’s own figures), and it will be interesting to see how the retuned Öhlins suspension responds to that weight when trying to conquer every corner thrown at it.
The process of engaging sport mode is unchanged from the R-Design, in that the auto selector is simply moved across the gate from Drive. It’s not the most inspiring of starts, but it’s worthwhile, for when it’s engaged the competent city commuter converts, producing a gurgle that only a worked in-line six produces. It’s a little raspy in character, but the extra two cylinders provide enough resonance over the four that it warrants a ‘driver beware’… If the Volvo S60 range is a shirt-and-tie kind of vehicle, Polestar undoes the top shirt button, relaxes the tie and entices you to play bad.
In daily driving, the engine provides a smooth and quiet drive. It commutes through traffic without fuss and remains economical, if you can keep it out of sports mode. But why block out the alter-ego? Actually, in practice the exhaust is a little too low on volume, despite the intake’s initial promise. On downshift, occasional over-fueling brings a nice crackle, but requires a little right foot sorcery.
On throttle, the engine sings. That six-cylinder in orchestra with the turbo whine is a delight higher in the rev range. Still, it’s a little too tame in noise, and it would be terrific to see this rectified in the future.
The power delivery is almost linear, with the turbocharger’s twin-scroll design offering solid response before the arrival of peak torque at 3000rpm. Out of a corner, whether tight or gentle, power is on-tap. And, thanks to the latest Haldex all-wheel drive system, the grunt doesn’t lead to unwieldy corner exits.
Heading out to a fast-paced piece of country Victorian tarmac, S60 Polestar rides with firm agility, courtesy of bespoke Öhlins suspension that features 80 per cent stiffer springs. The dampers are also adjustable within a pre-defined 20-click range, however this requires fiddling under the car and is not something we have yet investigated (let us know in the comments if you’d like us to run a tech piece on the process in future).
The weight is well distributed across the chassis through the quicker corners and it helps keep S60 Polestar’s Michelin Pilot Super Sports remain well planted. With the all-wheel drive distributing the power between wheels the driving is enjoyable and seemingly effortless. The six-piston Brembos do a tremendous job of pulling up its weight, with a reassurance they’ll be there on the next turn.
The steering is precise and responsive to user input, pointing the nose into corners in nimble fashion. The electronic steering is nicely weighted and transmits the nuances of the road well; it’s a step-up over the R-Design. With the introduction of some understeer nearer the limit, the steering response can feel a touch ambiguous before ‘catching up’.
Driving along the highway, road noise is minimal. Although the suspension is stiffer than usual, the car cruises with grace.
The road narrows slightly as the next leg sees Polestar tackle some tighter turns on a medium gradient. The soft-touch backed paddle shifters come into play more here and the tyres are starting to get noisy from the heft of lateral forces.
Polestar performs well, however it’s starting to feel a little out of its comfort zone when pushed harder into tight corners, with consecutive bends unsettling the posture of the vehicle and its contact with the ground. But that’s potentially where the beauty of the adjustable dampers comes in, and loosening up the rebound a touch might provide better contact up-front, with ultimately less understeer.
Through a variety of conditions Polestar performs well, and its unique pitch in Volvo’s lineup is reasonably alluring, especially given the $10,000 price drop over the inaugural offering to go with its improved specification. If the damper adjustment is a matter of five minutes, there could be a lot of fun, fine-tuning and performance gain for the avid motorist.
|Specs||2015 Volvo S60 Polestar|
|Price||$99,990 (plus on-road costs)|
|Engine||2953cc six-cylinder turbo|
|Power||257kW at 5700rpm|
|Torque||500Nm at 3000-4750rpm|
|Power to weight||6.87kg/kW|
2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Gallery:
- Great engine
- Great suspension
- Easy to live with
- More noise required
- It's a bit weighty
- Could we see a CSL-style knock off please?