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Retro drive: Volvo V60 Polestar (T4). Image by Volvo.

Retro drive: Volvo V60 Polestar (T4)
Trying out the final link between Polestar-as-Volvo-tuning-arm and Polestar-as-standalone-brand.


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Volvo V60 Polestar (T4 2017MY)

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Good points: something a bit different in the world of fast wagons, Cyan Racing Blue paint

Not so good: nowhere near as much fun as the six-cylinder variant it replaced

What is it?

A Volvo V60 Polestar, which we've actually driven before. However, take a close look at the spec of the car we tested in 2015 and you'll see it was the old 3.0-litre inline-six model. This one is the later Polestar, which came into play in 2016 when Volvo's 'all-four-cylinders' Drive-E campaign was gaining pace. It actually has more power than the bigger six-pot Polestar lump, delivering 367hp to the older car's 350hp, although it's down on torque to the tune of 30Nm with a 470Nm peak. Still, if you seek out and then buy the four-pot Polestar today, then you can console yourself with the super-cool geeky facts about the 'Polestar T4', as it is now informally known (yes, the other one then has to be retconned to the 'Polestar T6', even though it was never called that when it was new), such as the fact it has a super- and turbocharged engine like a Lancia Delta S4, or that it is 20kg lighter overall than the T6, with 24kg less mass over the nose (lord knows what the other four kilos of weight gain elsewhere in the T4's body pertain to).

It's still a pretty cool car overall, too, the Polestar T4, as it runs the Öhlins adjustable dampers, the Polestar-tuned chassis settings, six-piston Brembo/Polestar front brakes and a three-inch stainless-steel full-flow active exhaust with twin 3.5-inch tailpipes. Oh, and some almost impossibly beautiful 20-inch diamond-cut alloys, which - with their spokes standing proud of the tyres - look like they were designed purely to be mercilessly kerbed by inattentive drivers (we didn't, in case you're wondering). Also, as the T4'll crack five seconds for the 0-62mph sprint, pinging in a highly respectable 4.8-second run, it was the most accelerative Volvo production car yet seen when it appeared in 2016. Although it has already been outpaced by one of its offspring, the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered. Which we'll be driving in a few weeks. Oh well.

Why are you driving it?

To fill in a tiny gap in our Polestar knowledge. Very quick history lesson: Polestar began as Flash Engineering in 1996, being renamed Polestar Racing in 2005 when Christian Dahl bought the team. It was, and always has been, closely affiliated with Volvo, given its roots in the carmaker's home city of Gothenburg, running various touring cars for the Swedish outfit over the years. In 2014, the V60 Polestar T6 (and S60, in some markets) arrived and then, a year later, Volvo purchased Polestar Performance, said it was going to be its version of something like BMW's M Division and started using Polestar's trademark icy blue logo as the branding. Polestar Racing renamed itself Cyan Racing as part of the deal, a fact which will become pertinent shortly.

Aside from some talk of doing a mega-hot version of the always-alluring C30 hatch, in Europe at least this Volvo-performance-arm part of Polestar's history was incredibly short-lived and centred exclusively around the 60-series cars. After the S60/V60 T6 Polestars launched in 2014, and then both shifted to four-pot power in 2016, plans were already well afoot to turn Polestar into a standalone, luxury electric cars brand, a plot which has already reached fruition with the quite astonishing Polestar 1 plug-in hybrid. So the performance era of this Scandi brand lasted less than four years and, in the UK (where we only got the estate), amounted to two rather expensive, limited-build V60s (226 in total for this market) which could be had in striking blue paint. Rebel Blue, in the case of the T6, and... Cyan Racing Blue on this T4. Which looks a lot like Rebel Blue, if we're honest, but we told you that Cyan Racing fact we blurted out earlier would soon become pertinent. We are people of our word, y'know.

Anyway, with the Polestar 1 already having landed, the Polestar 2 EV in the offing and the V60 Polestar T6 driven almost five years ago, it felt like a perfect time to tie up this solitary loose end and have a whirl in the V60 T4, courtesy of Volvo UK's PR team. Most gracious of them, eh?

Is it any good these days?

Hmm. Much of what we said about the V60 Polestar T6 back in the black-and-white days of the mid-2010s still holds true, as there's genuine chassis talent here and the obvious signs that Polestar knew (knows) what it was (is) doing. That lighter engine over the nose of the T4 V60 helps corner turn-in, with this V60 feeling less cumbersome than we remembered the T6 to be and also possessed of more feelsome steering, while the eight-speed automatic gearbox is a big improvement over the six-speed Geartronic in the 350hp T6. The ride remains on the firm side, as those Öhlins shocks can only be adjusted with spanners, not via a button on the dashboard, and the 35-profile tyres on the 20-inch alloys do nothing to smooth out lumps and bumps in the asphalt.

Sadly, though, this already feels like a performance car from a bygone era, even if some of its tech soldiers on. The problem is the T4's engine; it might have lots of interesting technical points, it might have more power than the old T6, it might supposedly return better fuel economy than the preceding 3.0-litre lump (although, on this score, we'd say it doesn't: we saw 23.9mpg overall from it across 257 miles of mixed-roads driving, with a best of around 28mpg on a part-motorway/dual-carriageway run; the T6 turned in mid-30s on the motorway back in '15), but boy, is it soulless. It's basically the combustion unit that forms the basis of any current T8 Twin Engine Volvo you can think of and it's not very exciting in those applications. That makes it doubly disappointing in something which has an 'exclusive performance car' bent, and even more of a let-down in the wake of the sonorous six-cylinder which went before it. Also, like the economy claims, the on-paper stats might make the V60 T4 the faster out of it and the T6, but it never, ever felt that way on the roads. In fact, the T4 felt rather heavy and leaden under full acceleration, and not even the whizzing noises of the supercharger in action could save it from rather anodyne fast-driving sensations. Truth be told, this V60 was all just a bit 'meh'.

Is it a genuine classic, or just some mildly interesting old biffer?

We don't deny it's odd to be driving a car that went on sale almost four years ago and yet calling this review a 'Retro Drive', but the Polestar performance legacy was short-lived. Both this T4 and the earlier T6 V60s showed genuine promise and some truly nerdy technical goodness, such as engines featuring bigger turbos, new conrods, new camshafts, larger air intakes and higher-capacity fuel pumps, but at the same time they were a long way from being dynamically perfect. This T4 also loses much of the T6's blood-and-thunder six-pot character, so while it might have been improved in many ways over its predecessor (sharper turn-in, purportedly faster acceleration, better gearbox etc), it feels notably the less-special car of the two.

The rarity factor of these Polestars might just play into their favour on the used-car market one day, but as Polestar was not a well-enough known brand in the petrolhead community between 2014 and 2018, we cannot legitimately call this V60 Polestar T4 a genuine classic; we'd struggle to do so for the more endearing T6 version, either, although that's a much harder call to make. Nevertheless, the T4 is also a long way from being an 'old biffer', either, yet we can't help but feel that all we will think when we look back on this car in a more distant future is that it is a moderately intriguing piece of record-keeping that marks an evolutionary dead-end in Polestar's history. That, we don't mind telling you, is a bit of a shame.

The numbers

Model tested: Volvo V60 Polestar (T4 2017MY)
Price: when new in 2017, £50,765; good used examples starting from £21,000-£26,000 for the T6 and £30,000-£35,000 for the T4 at the time of writing
Build period: 2014-2018
UK sales numbers: 141 T6 V60 Polestars sold in UK; 85 T4 V60 Polestars sold in UK - 226 Polestars sold in total
Engine: 2.0-litre super- and turbocharged four-cylinder Drive-E petrol
Transmission: Polestar-optimised electronic all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door performance estate
Combined economy: 34.9mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Power: 367hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 470Nm at 3,100-5,100rpm

Matt Robinson - 17 Dec 2019    - Volvo road tests
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2017 Volvo V60 Polestar T4 retro UK test. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo V60 Polestar T4 retro UK test. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo V60 Polestar T4 retro UK test. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo V60 Polestar T4 retro UK test. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo V60 Polestar T4 retro UK test. Image by Volvo.

2017 Volvo V60 Polestar T4 retro UK test. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo V60 Polestar T4 retro UK test. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo V60 Polestar T4 retro UK test. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo V60 Polestar T4 retro UK test. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo V60 Polestar T4 retro UK test. Image by Volvo.


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