The 2015 Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar lineup consists of an all-wheel-drive sedan and wagon duo from Volvo's new performance partner and racing team from back home in Sweden. The name Polestar might sound unfamiliar to those new to the brand, but the company has been racing and tuning Volvo cars since 1996. Polestar's racing and tuning efforts didn't go unnoticed, and the company soon found itself in a partnership with Volvo not unlike the early days of Mercedes-Benz tuner AMG.
Polestar's first official collaboration with the automaker resulted in a tuned C30 hatch available through Volvo dealerships, giving Volvo fans a taste of what the racing company has been using on the track. A second limited edition offering in Australia in the form of the Polestar-tuned S60 sedan tested the waters further, apparently with success, which is why the U.S. will be receiving a modest batch of Polestar-tuned S60 and V60 models very soon -- 120 cars to be precise.
Polestar used the S60 T6 and V60 T6 R-Design cars as a starting point, both of which already produce a healthy 325 hp at 5,600 rpm and 354 lb-ft of torque from 2,100 to 4,200 rpm. The engineering team at Polestar has fitted the cars with a new Borg Warner twin-scroll turbo and intercooler, adjusting the Engine Control Unit (ECU) along the way, resulting in the cars producing 350 hp at 5,250 rpm and 369 lb-ft at 3,000 rpm. Not a tremendous jump in power on paper--and Polestar engineers will readily admit as much--but the cars' abilities are improved in much more dramatic fashion with the improvements that Polestar has made to the chassis and suspension.
The S60 and V60 cars feature springs that are 80 percent stiffer than the stock units found on the S60 R-Design, which work wonders when coupled with Öhlins shock absorbers. The shock absorbers use Öhlins' clever Dual-Flow Valve technology, a tiered valving system that can swallow up big impacts that would otherwise inflict serious hits to the suspension. A second valve works to get the wheel back on the ground again after an initial impact. The result is a suspension system that can work with very stiff springs without getting too harsh. 20-inch wheels wear Michelin Pilot Super Sport 245/35 ZR20 tires, and the dampers themselves have 10 settings for those who wish to make minute manual adjustments, though Polestar recommends that adjustments be made when the car is up on a lift.
Polestar has also beefed up the brakes, fitting the car with larger front discs and six-piston Brembo calipers, and it has altered the Haldex four-wheel-drive system and the traction-control system. The S60 and V60 feature a six-speed automatic gearbox with paddle shifters, along with a Sport mode that can be used as a gateway to the launch-control system. With launch control enabled, the Haldex four-wheel-drive system will send 100 percent of the torque to the rear wheels, giving the S60 the ability to get to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, and the V60 wagon in 4.8 seconds. The soundtrack is provided courtesy of a 2.5-inch stainless-steel full-flow exhaust system with twin 3.5-inch tail pipes.
Polestar made a few aerodynamic changes to the car as well, adding a new rear spoiler and diffuser in addition to redesigned front splitters. The modifications extend to the cabin in the form of special seats and materials. Sport pedals, as well as Nubuk inlays in the doors and center armrest, add a bit of luxury, with blue stitching added to the leather steering wheel. And since Polestar's S60 and V60 are based on the top R-Design spec cars, they've had the options book thrown at them, as well.
What's it Like to Drive?
We spent the better part of two days piloting the S60 and V60 Polestars around the south of Sweden along back roads you only see in car commercials, and we found both versions of the car very impressive. The chassis control was terrific, with those Öhlins shock absorbers eating up anything the twisty roads could throw at us. In fact, these roads had more in common with luge tracks, and the cars demonstrated an amazing level of grip on all surfaces. The 20-inch wheels gave no hint whatsoever of being 20-inch wheels, and we experienced a grand total of zero harsh impacts of any sort over two days and hundreds of miles of driving.
Acceleration in both Polestar models was impressive as well, and we took every opportunity to gun the throttle and peel away. The six-speed Aisin Warner automatic gearbox was very intuitive in practice, making us wonder on several occasions why anyone would want to mess with success and use the paddles. Given the acceleration offered by the engine, we were too busy scanning the outlines of the road ahead to need to use the paddles. Sport mode offered quicker shift times, but even with the shifter parked in D, the transmission knew what was going on and adjusted accordingly.
The Brembo brakes resisted fade all the way up to the point where we took the cars to the Knutstorp Ring racetrack used by the Polestar racing team in the Swedish Touring Car Championship. After the team's race car drivers showed us around the track, we had an opportunity to pilot the S60 and V60 cars around the circuit; only after dozens of hot laps did the brakes get a bit soft on us. Volvo was keen to point out that the Polestar-tuned S60 and V60 cars are not track-day cars, but we found them very capable, even wearing the street tires.
Road and tire noise was very minimal, even while flinging the cars through successive S-curves along the back roads. We've grown used to gauging the limit a car's handling abilities by the volume of complaint from the tires, but these Michelins were too well behaved to give any kind of hint of just how close to the limit the car was being pushed; if "Bullitt" was reenacted with Polestar wagons, it would be a very boring affair in terms of the soundtrack.
As far as utility goes, the Polestar S60 an V60 cars are largely the same on the inside as their "civilian-spec" siblings, though they do offer nearly every option Volvo has available. Space is a bit tight in the back seats; then again, if its the cargo capacity you're after, you would be looking at the upcoming S80 and V90 cars, both models that are yet to be revealed. The interiors of both vehicles are wonderful places in which to spend time, and we're pleased to report that Volvo still does seats very well.
Do I Want It?
The S60 and V60 Polestars juice up the T6 R-Design versions of both cars, finally giving Volvo enthusiasts the cars they've been lusting for. Polestar appears to be well on its way to becoming Volvo's AMG or BMW's Alpina, and the alterations offered in both cars improve on already impressive engineering.
The controls and the abilities of the car are not overwhelming for non-car people, so the Polestar versions stay very commute friendly and civilized. The performance keeps things sane by offering just the right amount of excitement while maintaining the same fuel-economy figures of the base T6 R-Design models, all while keeping the car solidly planted.
For the V60 Polestar wagon, no competition really exists in this segment and at this price point because...well, the U.S. just doesn't receive small or midsize performance wagons from the German brands anymore. So no Audi RS4 Avant or a similarly spiked BMW 3-series Touring will take on the V60, and the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG wagon is in a different price and performance category entirely.
Only 120 examples of the Polestar cars will make it stateside: 80 wagons and 40 sedans, in Polestar's Rebel Blue or Black Sapphire. Pricing is yet to be announced, though it is expected to be just north of $50,000. The question isn't whether or not you want one, but whether the base T6 R-Design cars already offer enough excitement to satisfy. For a dose of exclusivity too, though, Polestar is the way to go.
2015 Volvo S60 Polestar and V60 Polestar Specifications
On Sale: June 2014
Base Price: $50,000-$55,000 (est)
Drivetrain: 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six gasoline, 350-hp, 369 lb-ft, six-speed automatic with paddles
Curb Weight: S60: 3,893 lbs., V60 4,043 lbs.
0-60: S60 Polestar sedan: 4.7 seconds V60 Polestar wagon: 4.8 seconds
Fuel Economy: 19 city/28 highway mpg (est)
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