Volvo V60 Polestar Review

Driven: Volvo V60 Polestar | Are fast Volvos back?

By Tim Kendall | 29th May 2015

Vital Statistics

  • Model: V60 Polestar
  • Engine: 3.0 straight-six turbo (346hp)
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto
  • Price: £49,775
  • 0-60: 4.9 secs
  • Top Speed: 155 mph (limited)
  • Economy: 27.7 mpg
  • Options fitted to test car:
    none (see text)

Volvo V60 Polestar Review

21 years ago Volvo wandered off into a dark, murky hinterland and emerged with the slightly subversive turbocharged 850 T-5. It was a promising start for the tyre-shredding Volvo genre, marking a shift away from one-dimensional family wagons. As comfortable worrying Cavaliers and Lagunas around Brands Hatch in the BTCC as it was heading to the tip stuffed with rubbish, the T-5 pushed Volvo into new territory during the ‘90s. But somehow in the intervening years, the Swedes lost their mojo. And then the fast Volvo estate died quietly with the R brand in the early noughties.

Now in the midst of Volvo’s four cylinder downsizing and labotomising driver ‘aids’ comes a flourish of Nordic noire with this new V60 Polestar. The Polestar marks a return to form, albeit in limited numbers – just 125 reached the UK in 2014 – (all sold out) and the total production run has been pegged at 750 worldwide. Better visit your Volvo dealer sharpish if you want one. They’re built in S60 saloon form too, but knowing the Brits’ penchant for space and pace, Volvo UK are only bringing the V60 estate to these shores.

Volvo V60 Polestar front

The Polestar gets a few subtle styling tweaks including a chin spoiler

Volvo V60 Polestar – what is it?

In simplistic terms, the Polestar is a re-worked V60 T6. Whilst the rest of the Volvo range gets worthy but dull Drive E four cylinder engines, the V60 Polestar stands out like your great aunt break-dancing at a wedding, with a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six amply endowed at 346bhp, 19bhp up on the now defunct T6. That power output is enough zip it to 62 mph faster than you can say Swedish meatballs, or 4.9 seconds as Volvo claim. However it’ll need to do more than look good on paper to take on the likes of Audi’s S4 and anything with an AMG badge on its rump.

Volvo V60 Polestar

Who is Polestar and what have they done with the V60?

Volvo’s partner on track for two decades, Polestar runs the Swedish Touring Car campaign for Volvo and has been tasked with breathing some attitude into the V60. Look closely and you’ll spot little blue Polestar badges, but more importantly, some bespoke spannering has happened beneath the unassuming skin.

The power gains come courtesy of a new BorgWarner twin-scroll turbo and larger intercooler, massaging the 3.0-litre lump up to 500Nm (369 lb-ft) of torque, which arrives low down at 2800 rpm.

Volvo V60 Polestar exhaust

Twin Polestar pipes play a good tune….

V60 Polestar styling – what’s changed on the outside?

In the main the styling tweaks are subtle, with the possible exception of the wheels. It sits on 20” rims which look natty if a tad big, although they need to be to accommodate the six-piston Brembo calipers and 371mm discs. And take note motorsport geeks, because Polestar has enlisted Ohlins, purveyor of pricey suspension, to supply bespoke dampers, which paired with 80 per cent stiffer springs are said to result in a “precise, yet comfortable driving experience”. More on that later.

 Volvo V60 Polestar wheels

20″ wheels needed to cover six-pot brakes

There’s also a Polestar branded stainless exhaust with twin 2.5” exhausts poking out of the rear valance. These are most definitely not the pipes of peace though – think Jaguar F-Type with the noise factor wound down a tad. And like the Jag the Polestar has a bit of pop and crackle thanks to ECU settings that deliver unburnt fuel into the exhaust.

A subtle chin spoiler and rear diffuser aid stability at high speeds, but this isn’t a car which shouts about what it’s packing in the trouser department. Unless of course you opt for the Rebel Blue paint (at no cost) of the test car.

Interfacing between the V60 Polestar’s six-speed torque convertor auto and tarmac is a Haldex four-wheel drive system. Both this and the gearbox have been recalibrated along with the traction control, to provide an ‘active’ driving experience. Danger is the V60 Polestars middle name then.

What about the inside?

It’s tasteful, restrained and very well screwed together. There are flourishes of naughtiness in the shape of some black and blue stitched alcantara and leather sports seats, plus a smattering of Polestar badges on the gearlever and sills. You also get satnav and a Harmon Kardon premium stereo, along with every other option box ticked. The only choice you have to make with a Polestar is colour – you can have the lairy Rebel Blue of the test car. If that’s too loud then it’s black, silver or white.

What’s the V60 Polestar like to drive?

It’s a hoot. The straight six fires up with a rude gurgle from those twin pipes and that sets the tone for something quite unlike any Volvo you’ve driven before. It feels mightily quick most of the time, with tremendous in-gear flexibility requiring only small throttle inputs to catapult the speedo needle from dawdle to illegal in no time.

Yet the Polestar isn’t a Pirelli-destroyer in the mould of the old 850 T-5, because it delivers its power in a far more effective way thanks to the Haldex four-wheel drive system. The only fly in the ointment is a slightly slow-witted gearbox which, despite Polestar’s best efforts, is sometimes slow to swap ratios. It’s better with the lever flicked across into sport so you can use the steering wheel paddles, but it’s a way off the predictably efficient dual clutch boxes of German rivals. The fact that you’re almost always in the torque band of the burly straight six means it’s not as much of a problem as it could be though.

 Volvo V60 Polestar

The Polestar is a properly engineered machine

But it’s a Volvo – does it handle?

This is a car that feels properly engineered, not just tweaked. Polestar has done a thorough job on the chassis and suspension development with the V60 such that it feels balanced, sharp and, whisper it, fun. Apparently they worked with Öhlins for two months developing the shocks, which feature DFV (Dual Flow Valve, but you already knew that). That helps the shock absorber quickly iron out compressions, which is probably why it feels so composed over faster ridges and bumps yet remains agile through bends. Directional response is also keen and the steering feel good – although there are actually no changes to the rack over the T6.

 Volvo V60 Polestar interior

Interior gets subtle tweaks

Any downsides?

Not many. Although you’ll immediately notice a bit of road roar from those huge alloys and a tendency to tramline over broken and off camber surfaces. But the trade-off is an extremely capable and exclusive estate car.

The price is also a bit on the heavy side, at £49,775, which is a good £9k more than an Audi S4 Avant and getting on for RS4 territory. On the plus side, with so few coming to the UK, residuals should hold up relatively well.

 

Volvo V60 Polestar Review

  • Performance: 8/10
  • Ride & Handling: 8/10
  • Economy: 6/10
  • Equipment: 9/10
  • Want one factor: 8/10

The Verdict

It's a thinking man’s RS4, the Polestar. Properly desirable and good fun to boot. It’s not perfect and it’s not cheap, but it is a properly engineered performance estate car with a quality, bespoke feel. It also sets the tone for more collaborations between Volvo and Polestar. I’m in.

Summary

  • Volvo has rediscovered its mojo
  • Not much. A touch pricey

By Tim Kendall
29th May 2015

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