With the Volvo V60 Polestar, the Swedish auto giant sheds its conservative image by rolling out this quirky, high-performance estate car, writes Tiff Needell
Ask the average person in the street what a Volvo V60 Polestar is and the most likely answer will be a reference to a rather risqué form of dancing as opposed to the latest product from a carmaker best known for its conservative approach.
But ever since Volvo launched its barking-mad 850 estate onto the 1994 British Touring Car grid, we’ve always known there’s a little bit of the unorthodox lurking deep in the manufacturer’s Swedish base, and it has emerged again with the eccentric Volvo V60 Polestar.
The link with Swedish racing team Polestar is the first step in a tie-up that can be likened to that of the AMG Mercedes and Alpina BMW brands, which has brought sporting models to the two famous marques. There is no doubting Volvo’s intentions when you consider the 350 horsepower turbocharged engine that’s lurking under the bonnet of the V60 estate.
Polestar has been in existence since 2005 when it took over the factory-backed Flash Engineering motorsport team that had already won Volvo the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship drivers’ title in 1996 and 1997 and the manufacturers’ crown in 2002 and 2003 – another seven titles have been added since. The V60 is the first official collaboration between Volvo and Polestar.
There’s no big wow factor inside the Volvo V60 Polestar cabin. You get neat blue stitching to match the paintwork (which can also be black, white or silver), a few Polestar badges and sports seats that aren’t actually that sporty, but otherwise it’s the standard, homely feel of every Volvo. It is what’s underneath you that really matters, though.
Sadly there’s no manual gear-change or even a twin-clutch flappy paddle affair, with the only choice being a six-speed automatic. Volvo hasn’t gone as far as swapping from front-wheel drive to rear as the racing cars have but instead has added a Haldex four-wheel drive system to try to give the front tyres help with the extra power.
To improve handling Volvo has all but doubled the spring rates and added two-speed Öhlins shock absorbers that you can adjust and six-piston Brembo brakes to slow things down if you get too carried away. To make all this work, the Volvo V60 Polestar bodyshell has been beefed up and the results are impressive.
As with the interior, the Volvo V60 Polestar doesn’t go mad with its styling either and, unless your car is bright blue, other road users will have little idea of what’s behind them and might be shocked at how quickly it’s in front of them. A small front splitter, a new rear spoiler and diffuser, and a pair of stainless steel exhaust pipes are the only real giveaways.
The end result is a car with remarkable acceleration and braking, with a not too harsh ride, and handling that varies from neutral to understeer in a steady manner – it’s rather more Audi than BMW. The throaty exhaust note and racing pedigree probably shouts a little louder than the car itself but, for the few lucky enough to place an order, it could well put you in pole position at the traffic light Grand Prix.