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Driven: Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.

Driven: Volvo V60 Polestar
Volvo signs off on six-cylinder engines with the raucous V60 Polestar.

   



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Volvo V60 Polestar

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: astonishing noise, great engine, pace, rarity

Not so good: it's dear, not that involving near the limit, has a firm ride and steep running costs

Key Facts

Model tested: Volvo V60 Polestar
Price: £49,785
Engine: 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, six-speed Geartronic automatic
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 237g/km (Band L, £870 VED year one, £490 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 27.7mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Power: 350hp at 5,250rpm
Torque: 500Nm from 3,000- to 4,750rpm

Our view:

We've talked a lot about Volvo's Drive-E campaign, in which 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines will be the biggest capacity units the Swedish firm punts out, and we're seeing the first fruits of that labour with the sublime XC90, wowing critics and buyers alike wherever it goes. It is the pioneer of 'Future Volvo' and by 2019 all the company's cars will have Drive-E engines and the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) chassis the big seven-seat SUV boasts. Things look bright for Gothenburg.

It does, though, for those of us who are fans of more than four cylinders, mean an end to the five-cylinder, six-cylinder and V8 lumps Volvo has given us in the past. The last of these was a Yamaha-sourced 4.4-litre unit seen in the 'classic' XC90, while the former two just about cling on in the current range under the badges 'D5' and 'T6'. And it's very hard not to view this Polestar, the ultimate iteration of T6, as a last large displacement hurrah from Volvo.

Polestar, a race-car prep company, is going to be Volvo's M Division, or AMG, or quattro GmbH when it comes to road cars. That means it will create faster and louder versions of the more prosaic showroom fodder. But first the brand must be built up in the minds of the car-buying public, and this V60 is the first attempt at performing just that task.

A bizarre one, though, as it's freakishly expensive (at £49,785, it's £8,400 more than a basic Audi S4 Avant and comfortably more than double the money you'd need to plonk your backside behind the wheel of the entry-level Volvo V60) and stupidly rare. Just 125 of these Polestar wagons are coming to the UK; Polestar has also done S60s but they're not destined for our shores.

You can look on the second figure as a good thing, of course, as it means this particular V60 is something special. UK-registered Ferrari 458 Italias outnumber it 4:1, there are a hell of a lot more Lamborghini Gallardos in the country and for every Polestar you see on the roads, you'll clock almost 100 Bentley Continentals. There's even mitigation for the list price, in that Volvo says there are 'no options' for the Polestar save for a choice of four colours. Go for black, silver or white if you must; really, though, you should be choosing the signature Rebel Blue of the car in our pictures.

To turn a V60 T6 R-Design into this 350hp, 500Nm monster, Polestar fits a larger BorgWarner twin-scroll turbocharger, a bigger intercooler, fiddles with the ECU, bolts on a naughty exhaust system (we'll come back to this) and then tweaks both the Haldex four-wheel drive and six-speed Geartronic transmission to suit the extra grunt. Öhlins adjustable dampers, 371mm front brake discs with six-piston callipers, a carbon fibre strut brace and a gorgeous set of 20-inch alloys wearing Michelin Pilot Sport tyres (they look perilously vulnerable to kerbing, though, given the rims stand well proud of the rubber) complete the range-topping V60.

And we love it. There's a muscular purpose about the Polestar that the Rebel Blue sets off to a tee - even the brand's badge is cool, a sky blue square with a four-pointed star shining to the top-right of the word 'Polestar' spaced across the bottom. The interior is a bit more underplayed, the highlights being the lovely half-Alcantara bucket seats in the front, light blue stitching everywhere, some carbon-effect trim on the centre console and the paddle shifts on the steering wheel. You'll find the Polestar square embossed into the seat-backs, positioned on the gear lever and repeated in tiny fashion on the sill plates. Other than that, it's standard V60 fare inside.

But then you fire it up and it sounds like no Volvo on Earth... save for, possibly, Rickard Rydell's S40 from the title-winning 1998 BTCC campaign. The big 3.0-litre straight-six roars fabulously and the exhaust blares with every blip of the throttle. On the move, this makes the V60 Polestar sound sensationally quick and, luckily, the actual performance has enough verve to back the Volvo's aggressive shouting; 500Nm does its best to negate the impact of 1,834kg, which is a hefty kerb weight for a performance estate. With its all-corners traction, there is little reason to doubt the claimed 0-62mph time of 5.0 seconds flat, as the Polestar feels perfectly capable of such a feat.

It provides a reasonably entertaining steer, too, but you can probably guess what's coming - yes, that's right, not quite entertaining enough. There's oodles of grip and meaty, feelsome steering, the brakes are just epic and the body control is from the top drawer. And yet at no point does charging along a back road ever put a smile on your face, unless you're sold on the noise alone. It's all quite safe and anodyne near the limit, which makes it more rewarding to keep the Volvo V60 just within itself rather than trying to drive it on the door mirrors. A BMW 3 Series Touring would offer more interactivity for less money.

The other problem is that when you throttle back in the Polestar, it never quite settles into a comfortable gait. The damping is always busy and the ride is therefore firm, while tyre roar is noticeable at all times. We did see mid-30s economy on a stately motorway run but in reality, that 27.7mpg figure is going to be more like what you'll get. Which makes the Polestar pretty expensive to buy and run for something that's not that exciting to drive in anger.

It's an endearing machine and one guaranteed special status thanks to its limited build; yet if you're after a genuinely involving fast estate you're better off looking elsewhere and, tragically, by that we mean the annoyingly competent German machines. Nevertheless, there's a lot of promise shown by Volvo's fledgling performance arm and if the Swedish carmaker can get 400hp out of a 2.0-litre four - thanks to super- and turbochargers, and an electric motor in the XC90 T8 Twin Engine - then we reckon Polestar would have a field day with the Drive-E powerplants. So it's not a brand for M Division, AMG and RS to worry about... yet. One day, though, we think you'll see a lot more sky blue squares on the back of hot Volvos. And by that point, some people might have enough of an idea what 'Polestar' really means.

Alternatives:

Audi S4 Avant: the new A4 is on the way so this thing is nearly obsolete. Yet the excellent engine, classy image and broadly similar drivetrain to the Polestar make the Audi's £41,385 price tag look very tempting indeed.

BMW 335d Touring xDrive: a bit of a leftfield choice, but the BMW is around the £42,000 mark, xDrive traction makes it quicker to 62mph than the Polestar and it'll give you circa 50mpg economy with £180 a year VED. Nothing like as rare as the Volvo, however.

Volkswagen Golf R Estate: perhaps unfair to lob a car from the class below at the V60 Polestar - however, the Volkswagen has sublime damping and will easily match the V60 for performance and practicality (in terms of space). The £16,200 list price saving you'll have in your pocket will also buy a LOT of options for the R.


Matt Robinson - 22 Aug 2015



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2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.



2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 

2015 Volvo V60 Polestar. Image by Volvo.
 






 

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