Volvo S60 Polestar road test
THERE was an unusual upbeat chatter around the retired group at their traditional Sunday mornign exercise catch-up.
Bubbly conversations are not uncommon. But the topic was … Volvo.
The marque was making waves in V8 Supercars and injected some much-needed diversity into the series. Volvo driver Scott McLaughlin also added some personality, and his "give it some jandal" quote has become part of V8 folklore after an outstanding debut in the opening round at Adelaide last year.
Helping capitalise on this newfound racing popularity is the S60 Polestar. Like what AMG is to Mercedes, RS is to Audi and M is to BMW, Polestar is the performance treatment for Volvo.
This breathed-on Volvo is not cheap at just under $100,000, which makes it double that of the entry-level S60. Yet there is no doubting its sporting credentials.
The S60 Polestar is outstandingly quick and boasts rail-like handling courtesy of an all-wheel drive system which clings to the bitumen.
Apart from the typical vertical style dash layout, there's enough cabin differentiation to warrant the sporting persona.
Bucket seats up front, complete with Nubuck leather and trademark Polestar blue stitching, help create an environment befitting the racing lineage. Carbon fibre centre stack, the cool-looking illuminated gearshift knob and sports pedals complete the deal.
It all makes for a welcoming environment, where even the rear pew is nicely contoured and where the outer pews, like those up front, have a heating function. Even the steering wheel has heating elements.
Modern Volvos have all adopted a design which is simple and easy to navigate once you get used to the remote control-looking dash styling. The driver can choose from several digital displays, and our preference was the raging red with large speedometer.
On the road
From start-up you know this Volvo is the business.
It's quick no matter what your standards, be they European or German. Achieving 0-100kmh in less than five seconds with launch control, the S60 can haul like some of the best.
And damn does it love a bend. Beneath the skin is the generation five Haldex all-wheel drive which is also used in the highly-rated Golf R. The system enables Polestar to vary torque distribution between the two axles, and the end result is a beautifully balanced sedan in all circumstances.
Tight and twisty stuff is where the S60 shines and it's backed by a lovely shunt courtesy of the turbo six under the bonnet.
Slot the shifter across into Sport mode and you can hear its intentions via the active full flow exhaust system with 3.5-inch stainless steel dual tail pipes. Particularly noticeable above 3000rpm in normal mode it inspires you to regularly exercise your right foot.
Stopping power comes courtesy of huge six-piston Brembo callipers, 370mm ventilated floating discs with high performance pads front and rear. You can repeatedly jump on the anchors without fear of fade, which makes the S60 a perfect accomplice for the odd track day … and it will get you to and from in comfort.
What do you get?
Volvo hasn't been shy in throwing kit at its performance star. Among the givens are a Harman Kardon Multimedia Infotainment unit with 12 speakers and a 17.7cm colour screen, full Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB/auxiliary and iPod access, sat nav with road sign recognition to provide accurate speed limit information, voice control, push button start and climate controlled air con.
Plus, what would a Volvo be without safety? There is an array of safety kit, with all the usuals like anti-lock brakes and stability/traction control, but the Polestar also gets radar cruise control, pedestrian and cyclist detection function, warning tune to tell the driver they are too close to the lines and a collision warning which can automatically stop the car or lessen the impact of a crash.
Among those also worth considering with four doors and sports performance are the Audi S5 Sportback ($119,900), BMW M3 ($156,430), and the soon-to-arrive Mercedes-AMG C 63 S ($154,900).
There are a pair of cup holders up front and another set in the fold down arm rest in the back, while each door has a handy storage nook where you can slot a larger drink bottle.
Unusually, the space-saver spare is an oxymoron. Underfloor bracing means it has to sit in the boot with additional shelving around the space, which impinges on space.
While there is a 60-40 split of the rear seats, there is a limited gap between the wheel arches so fitting in awkward size equipment like bikes or furniture is nearly impossible.
Drinking just over 10 litres for every 100km, the Polestar S60 is not frugal when it comes to fuel consumption. That's still not horrible for a car that achieve these kind of performance figures.
Special Polestar touches make it a standard-out, like the front splitter corners and rear diffuser, black grille and rear spoiler.
Massive 20-inch rims look the part, and show off the Brembo brakes nicely to highlight the performance abilities. Certainly a standout in the hero Smurf blue, it's also available in black, white and red.
Dexterity is the hallmark of Volvo's Polestar S60. While not quite in the same league as the Mercedes-AMG C63 or a BMW M3 it's certainly nipping at the heels.
The $100k price-tag has many wincing, but compare it to the Benz or Beamer and it looks like excellent value, although the marque doesn't quite have the performance of brand cachet.
Beautifully put together and boasting wonderful daily transport, with the ability to handle some quick stuff at the track, this is the beginning of good things from Volvo's performance arm.
What matters most
What we liked: Prodigious all-wheel drive grip, lovely exhaust burble, features and interior styling.
What we'd like to see: Lower price, improved boot space, less sensitive forward collision warning functionality.
Warranty and servicing: Servicing is annual or 15,000km.
Model: Volvo S60 Polestar.
Details: Four-door five-seat all-wheel drive medium-size sedan.
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 258kW @ 5250rpm and peak torque of 500Nm @ 3000-4750rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Consumption: 10.2 litres/100km.
Performance: 0-100kmh in 4.9 seconds; top speed limited to 250kmh.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $99,990.