Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar Tame the California Hills: Review
Stockholm syndrome. Definition: feelings of trust or affection felt in cases of kidnapping by a victim toward a captor. Consider me afflicted. I found myself strapped-in behind the wheel of a 345-horsepower, bright blue Volvo, faced with carving up some of California’s tightest switchbacks with nowhere else to go but off the side of a few very steep cliffs. The vessels of infection? Volvo’s hottest offerings of late, the 2015.5 Polestar S60 and V60. RELATED: Volvo's Race-Prepped Volvo S60 is a Blast in Blue
Engineered and built by Volvo’s official motorsport partner, Polestar, the blue duo stitches together nearly two decades of racing know-how, and weaves it into a competent road-going package. As such, Polestar begins with a proven Volvo base, the S60 and V60 T6 AWD R-Design, and proceeds to throw some of its crucial bits away.
The engine – a Volvo 3.0-liter straight six – survives the cut, and is subsequently fitted with a new twin-scroll turbocharger and intercooler, which boosts output up to 345 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. Volvo’s six-speed paddle-shift automatic makes the grade as well, though significantly reworked by Polestar’s wizards, and backs up to a specially developed Haldex all-wheel-drive system.
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The result? The mechanically identical S60 and V60 jump on the power quickly, rocketing from 0-60 mph in 4.7 seconds (4.8 in the V60), all the way up to an electronically limited 155 mph top speed. Throttle response remains sharp without becoming twitchy. And power delivery feels more akin to a "whoosh" than a jolt in the spine.
Keep your foot on the go-pedal and you’ll find yourself very far away from where you began. Hold it longer – past 4000 rpm – and the Polestar’s active exhaust valves open, resulting in a raucous, throaty howl that neither you nor anyone near you is soon to forget.
But straight-line performance is merely half the equation. Where the Polestar really excels is in the corners.
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Underneath, the S60 and V60 Polestars sport 80 percent stiffer springs than the R-Design, matched with Öhlins dual-valve shocks (the same used on the Lamborghini Aventador), 20-inch wheels, and sticky Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. The overall on-road effect is one of impressive grip and road holding, a comforting impression especially when whipping around a mountain at 8,000 feet above sea level.
Despite all the added stiffness, both cars feel rather forgiving in everyday driving. Bumps are smoothed out with quick suspension rebound and imperfections in the pavement are merely noted by your backside, rather than announced. However, the new rubber isn’t what you’d call quiet. At cruising speed, the 20-inch wheel and tire combination gets a bit vocal, so we suggest turning up the ABBA.
On track it’s a different story though. That same rubber, paired with chompy six-piston Brembo brakes, grips to the tarmac like a tick. Steering feel is precise and Polestar’s trick all-wheel-drive system allows you to push the Volvo further into the bends, all while in a controlled manner.
On the inside, there’s no hint that you’re sitting in a bright blue Swedish ballistic missile. The leather bucket seats, adorned with blue Polestar stitching, feel soft and laterally supportive, and the dash layout retains typical Scandinavian styling: form follows function.
The infotainment system remains less inspiring though. Functions like navigation are intuitive, but good luck configuring the stability control or steering settings on the fly. Volvo's newest Sensus system would be a great upgrade.
Which segues to the other downside, you can’t have one … yet. The Polestar S60 and V60 mark the company’s latest and largest model range extension, which allots for an output of 750 cars among eight countries. That means just 80 V60s and 40 S60s are bound for the US, all of which sold in the span of five days and all of which can be serviced at your local Volvo dealer.
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Polestar has yet to confirm any subsequent production runs, but we’ve seen some pretty conclusive winks and nods to suggest more are on the way.
So onto the big question – how much does one cost? The V60 and S60 Polestars ship in one spec – fully loaded – at around $60,000. That’s within the same region as a fully optioned Audi S4 or BMW 335i sedan, but represents a relative sweet spot for the V60 wagon.
At 345 horsepower, it is burlier than both the Audi Allroad and Cadillac CTS wagons, faster than the similarly priced Mercedes E350 five-door, but also $5,000 cheaper than the current 556 horsepower CTS-V and a whopping $40,000 less than the high-flying E63 AMG estate.
You can keep your German go-fast machines. I’ll take the hot Volvo.
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