16 May 2014

Volvo V60 Polestar Review

Matt Hubbard drives the Volvo V60 Polestar, a limited edition, super-hot Volvo estate.

Volvo V60 Polestar

What the hell is Polestar?  In short it's a company that started out as a race team in 1996, grew to produce various concept Volvos and has now teamed up with Volvo to produce a 350hp, all wheel drive production Volvo called the V60 Polestar. Polestar is still racing and won the 2013 Swedish Touring Car Championship in an S60.

The name is a bad joke, it comes from Polestar's race team origins as well as being named after the Pole Star. Pole star, pole position star. Get it?

The car's no joke though, in fact it's one of the best hot estates on the market, and it comes with built in exclusivity.  The car will be made alongside other Volvos on the production lines (a combination of S60s and V60s) and with the usual Volvo support and warranty but only 750 will be made, and only 125 will come to the UK, and all will be V60 estates.

On casual inspection the V60 Polestar looks like any other highly specced V60. Look a little closer and you notice the unique Polestar additions such as the 20" wheels, blue stitching in the seats, carbon fibre dash trim, Nubuk inlays in the seats, doors and armrest and various Polestar logos dotted around.

Outside and the most obvious, but still quite subtle, additions are the Polestar bumper and chin-spoiler, rear diffuser and roof spoiler. These were honed in Volvo wind tunnels and the spoilers and diffuser each add 20kg of downforce.
Volvo V60 Polestar

But it's under the skin where Polestar has made the most changes over standard Volvos.

The suspension is completely new and includes adjustable Öhlins DFV (Dual Flow Valve) dampers, 80% stiffer springs, stiffer mountings and bushes and carbon fibre reinforcement of the front strut brace.

The Haldex four wheel drive system has been calibrated for more rearward bias. How much? It's naturally 50:50 but 100% can be sent to the rear wheels (or front) if necessary.

The 6-speed automatic (sadly not dual clutch) gearbox has been calibrated for faster gearshifts, curve hold (reduces pitch in-corner) and launch control.  The launch control system is super easy to use and means anyone can replicate the car's 0-60 in 4.8 seconds.

The engine is the 3 litre, inline-6 T6 with a Borg Warner twin-scroll turbo that produces 350hp and 500Nm/369lb/ft of torque.  The turbo and engine tuning have been designed to produce huge torque from low down and across the rev range - max torque is available from 3,000-4,750rpm.

The exhaust is a 2.5 inch stainless steel unit with 3.5 inch tail pipes - and sounds brilliant.

6-pot brakes and Michelin Pilot Supersport tyres complete the mix.
Volvo V60 Polestar

So what is it like to drive?

Well, it's like any other V60.  At first.  The ride is smooth and the drive refined.  Check out my V60 D3 R-Design review to find out what levels of comfort and interior quality you can expect.  Then push a little further and the V60 Polestar is about as fast and unflappable as a race car disguised as a practical estate should be.

So take one top-spec V60 (and I mean absolutely every single option box ticked, the V60 Polestar costs £49,775 but a fully specced V60 D5 R-Design costs £45k without the Polestar bits) and make it really, really powerful and capable and you have an idea of what this car is.

In a straight line it is simply fast. 0-120mph takes 16.7 seconds.  The automatic gearbox is quick to change but does have the very slight delay of a normal (i.e. not dual clutch) gearbox.  However the launch control makes up for this.

In some cars launch control is super-complicated but in the V60 Polestar you simply turn ESC off, put your foot on the brake then press the throttle, wait a second and let go. What's more as it's an auto you can do this again and again because it doesn't have a clutch plate to wear out.

Find a corner and it pulls around it in a much more capable fashion than you'd expect an 1,800kg estate to do.  The suspension provides for great feedback but it's also supple and refined and never harsh or crashy.

Hit the brakes and it doesn't have immediate initial bite. Press further and it's feelsome and has huge stopping power.  This is because race drivers have engineered the brakes and race cars don't have fake, over-servoed brakes but rather you feel what the brakes are doing.  Need to stop faster? Press some more.  Simple.
Volvo V60 Polestar

As well as a ton of road miles I drove the car on the Top Gear test track at Dunsfold.  The Hammerhead is a left, right corner which has been specifically designed to highlight understeer and oversteer.  The V60 Polestar entered the Hammerhead on the brakes and turned in to the initial sharp left with a ton of grip.

Flip right for the increasing radius meat of the corner and the wheels screech the whole way through as power is applied and third gear selected as we really get going.  Speed is dramatically increased and the car is at the limit of adhesion, with the Haldex system sending power rearwards, but unless you cock the entry up (as I did once) it stays neutral throughout the entire complex.

Very impressive, very refined, very competent.

The Follow Through and Bentley are the following corners and are super-fast.  These highlight high-speed stability and through both the V60 Polestar was rock solid.

Before setting out on track I was chauffeured by Thed Björk, multiple race winner and current Swedish Touring Car Champion.  Most race drivers drive like complete nut jobs with journalists in the passenger seat, but Thed took it easy.  His laps were fast, but composed.

This is the essence of the Volvo V60 Polestar.  Fast, composed, subtle, refined.  It is a car that has been designed by race drivers, but race drivers who want to drive the car on the road, to relax when they want and to raise the adrenaline levels when that is called for.

Which is why the V60 Polestar is quite simply brilliant.

Hopefully we'll see more Volvo Polestars in the future.  Polestar is an independent company which is funded by Volvo to go racing and to provide R&D, design and engineering for its road cars.  The V60 Polestar may only be available in limited quantities but the fundamental basis of its construction is that is quite easily scalable.

We could soon see another performance brand joining the likes of AMG, Audi RS, M-Sport and Alpina.  On the basis of the V60 Polestar this is a good thing.

The Volvo V60 Polestar is available to order now and will be in Volvo dealers from October.

NB - The car I drove was a pre-production left hand drive model. The UK V60s will be right hand drive and will get Polestar logos in the wheel centre caps.


Price - £49,775
Engine - 3-litre, inline-6, turbocharged petrol
Transmission - 6-speed automatic 
0-60mph - 4.8 seconds 
Top speed - 155 mph (limited)
Power - 350 hp 
Torque - 369 lb ft 
Economy - 27.7 mpg 
CO2 - 237 g/km 
Kerb weight - 1,881 kg
Volvo V60 Polestar

Volvo V60 Polestar

Volvo V60 Polestar

Volvo V60 Polestar

Volvo V60 Polestar

Volvo V60 Polestar

Volvo V60 Polestar

Review by Matt Hubbard