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Monday 19th November 2012


DRIVEN: VOLVO S60 T6 POLESTAR

No, not the mental $300,000, 508hp one - the version you can actually buy from your friendly Volvo dealer...


From sub-grand T5 sheds to six-figure one-off specials, hot Volvos have a niche but surprisingly passionate PH following. Hell, there's even a place in our hearts for those lumpy 340s with a suitably welded up diff for cut price comedy drifting thrills.

And for those craving a bit of hot Swedish action (one for the search engine optimisation boys there...) Volvo offers a range of Polestar-branded power upgrades available across the range for surprisingly reasonable money. Plans for the V40 look especially appealing too.

Nothing subtle about this Polestar package
Nothing subtle about this Polestar package
Dealer-fit and warrantied respectability means you needn't scare your neighbours (or fleet manager) with the whiff of aftermarket tuning chavdom and, though the Rebel Blue paint does make a statement and look rather cool paired with optional Polestar wheels and wing, you can do it all a lot more stealthily than this.

£660 will get your 215hp S60 D5 up to 230hp but the same money has a more noticeable effect on the petrol T6, which goes from the standard 304hp to 329hp, torque climbing from 324lb ft to 351lb. It's enough to take three tenths out of the 0-62mph time without affecting the official - if not especially impressive - mpg and CO2 figures and swells the already muscular mid-range of Volvo's quirky transverse six into something really rather impressive.

Hot Swedish action
So why would you go Swedish when you could follow the herd and opt for an M Sport spec 335i (306hp, £37,540) or, perhaps more relevantly, a similarly all-wheel drive S4 (333hp and £38,665)?

Would you really have it over a 335i? Um...
Would you really have it over a 335i? Um...
Maybe it's the fact the S60 isn't a generic German that makes it seem rather refreshing, in particular Audi's crushingly generic design inside and out making the Volvo's cool minimalism feel genuinely different. OK, the buttons are fiddly and the incessant bonging of the various safety systems (followed, invariably, by an error message on the dash shortly afterwards) any time you veer within 500 yards of, well, anything will drive you mad. But after squinting at the dash for 10 minutes trying to find the requisite buttons (try this on the move and you'll get A LOT of bonging) you can turn them all off.

And get on with driving the thing.

OK, it's not up there with the best of the German rivals. But it's a hell of a lot more pleasant than the Insignia VXR and has those impressively relevant performance traits of a huge, immediately accessible power band, smooth transmission, slightly wafty handling and well weighted, if a tad stodgy, controls. It's no scalpel-like blade in other words. But it'll put the wind up an S line and trouble an M Sport enough to keep you entertained, the straight-six's big-lunged puff - complete with old-school rush of boost, puffs and shimmies on the overrun and surprisingly muscular top-end - is a really satisfying engine to explore.

Expect more from this partnership
Expect more from this partnership
Cool Swedish minimalism
On twistier stuff it's a making progress kind of car rather than a cornering on the doorhandles thrill-ride but as long as you don't rush the inputs, settle the front end in and let that boost build and catapult you through, balancing the chassis with that Haldex'd four-wheel drive torque delivery, it's a very satisfying way to cover ground.

OK, it doesn't have the nimbleness of that concept car on its trick Ohlins dampers, nor the involvement of the manual gearbox Polestar went to some pains to engineer into it. But it costs a tenth of the price and when we drove them back to back on the launch for the concept there's just a hint of the 'big' car's character in the base S60.

There are many sensible, rational reasons not to buy this car. But for the non-conformists looking to break out of the German stranglehold on premium mid-sized saloons we'd salute anyone taking the plunge. And circle like vultures until depreciation has really taken its toll. See you a few years down the line...


VOLVO S60 T6 R-DESIGN POLESTAR
Engine:
2,953cc six-cyl, turbocharged
Transmission: six-speed auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 329@5,400 (standard: 304@5,600rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 351@3,000 (standard: 324@2,100rpm)
0-62mph: 5.8 sec (standard 6.1 sec)
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,784kg
MPG: 27.7mpg (NEDC combined)
CO2: 237g/km
Price: £38,590 (base price for standard car; Polestar power upgrade £660, Rebel Blue paint £300, wheels c. £1,500 depending on final package, spoiler c. £200)

 

Author: Dan Trent