Reviving the whole idea of a hotted up Volvo, the company introduced the Polestar S60 and V60 models for 2015, and while Polestar may still be a unknown performance brand, it was born as a legitimate racing concern. Founded in 2005, the organization grew from a pure racing operation and branched out with a new division tuning roadgoing Volvos, Polestar Performance.

Working closely with Volvo – so closely in fact that Polestar Performance engineers worked in house at Volvo – they developed some go-fast Volvo road car concepts which culminated with the Australian 2014 S60 Polestar and the 2015 S60 and V60 Polestar models we’re familiar with here in Canada. Rarely do road cars get tuned by engineers working for a legitimate racing concern, but these Polestar Volvos got the secret sauce.

The 2015 V60 Polestar remains one of my favourite all around performance machines simply because the Polestar engineers thoroughly improved every necessary component and system. Of course, the wagon body style is incongruous with cars that can go fast, brake, and turn, which makes it even more appealing. Who expects a wagon to be this quick?

The trick with the Polestar is that everything was recalibrated and resolved with a perfect balance between outright performance, on road comfort, and daily utility. Polestar completely reworked the suspension based around a very trick and very effective set of Öhlins dampers. The transmission, all-wheel drive, ABS, traction, and stability control systems were all recalibrated by Polestar to suit the new set up, which included twenty-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. Polestar also fitted massive Brembo brakes with two piece rotors for a brilliant all around package.

There’s another reason why I’m dwelling on the 2015 model and that’s because a Polestar engineer let me in on a little secret. I was having a casual discussion with the unnamed engineer and I suggested that the car feels quicker than its 345 horsepower and 369 pounds of torque. They told me that their T6 – with a unique intercooler, twin scroll turbo, and exhaust system – didn’t make 369 lb-ft, but rather 405. No wonder it felt so quick.

Since then, Polestar Performance was acquired by Volvo and is now an entirely in-house performance brand.

For 2016, the V60 and S60 Polestars are much the same, save for their hearts. The in-line six cylinder is gone and replaced by Volvo’s new, versatile power unit, the turbo- and super-charged 2.0L inline four cylinder. In Polestar tune, it makes 367 horsepower and 347 pounds of torque. Yes, it’s got a turbocharger and a supercharger, but Volvo’s proven that it does indeed work, particularly for a company that can benefit from a flexible power unit like this. It’s so good that it earned a spot on the 2017 Wards 10 Best Engines list.

My biggest concern is that with the engine change the new Polestar may have lost some of its charm, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. An eight speed auto has replaced the six speed, giving it a bit more real world flexibility, definitely a good thing, and the exhaust makes even better sounds, particularly on part throttle upshifts.

The chassis still uses the superb Öhlins dampers and the body and wheel control of this suspension is the among the best in the business. The brake pedal is a touch soft around town, but once speed increases, so does your confidence with the whoa pedal. Power and modulation are excellent with these Brembos.

Don’t mistake the V60 Polestar as a BMW M3 or AMG C63 competitor. Both of those are fine cars, but they start at about $5,000 more than this Polestar, and when well equipped, you can easily have a $20,000 delta.

Instead, it’s best to think of this Swede as a grown up Golf R or WRX STi. Less boy racer, especially in black (not this Rebel Blue), and a more respectable option when pulling into the office or taking clients for lunch.

So, is it better than the six cylinder? In terms of performance, it’s nearly the same good ol’ performance-minded Volvo and simply a blast to drive. My seat of the pants dyno says it’s just as quick, but doesn’t come near the torque of the six. However, it’s better in one meaningful way that will save you thousands of dollars during your ownership: fuel consumption.

Normally, I don’t even comment on the subject, but the old six’s fuel consumption was so terrible it rivaled the kind of numbers I get with truly crazy cars like Lamborghini Aventadors and Challenger Hellcats. My last Polestar six cylinder test ended with an average fuel consumption of 22 litres per 100 km, if I recall correctly. This new engine’s consumption is so much better that it’s actually worth highlighting. My test of this 2017 finished with a 13.6 average.

With this Polestar, you can have your cake and eat it, too. Decent fuel consumption, authentic race-bred engineering, fantastic performance, and plenty of exclusivity because you’ll never see another one on the road.

2017 Volvo V60 T6 Polestar
Base Price: $69,000
As Tested: $69,000
Notable Options: None. It’s got all of the good bits already.
Drivetrain: 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged four cylinder engine, 367 horsepower at 6,000 RPM, 347 lb-ft at 3,100-5,100 RPM, 8-speed automatic transmission, all wheel drive
Performance: Zero to 100 km/h in well under five seconds and a tops out at a software limited 250 km/h
VVUZZ Says: The outsiders choice. Brimming with character compared to any of the Germans.

 

Images courtesy of Volvo.

Published on Dec 13, 2016