Driven: Volvo S60 T6 Polestar

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...

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)


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Comments (59) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Pesty 25 Nov 2012

    wow 40k when you add the power upgrades etc etc.

    Just shows how much of a bargain an insignia VXR is.

  • jamesw81 22 Nov 2012

    I almost bought one of these (V60 T6 SE) earlier this year. I thought it would be quick with over 300bhp but I think the weight must hold it back. The handeling was stodgy and whilst the car was well screwed together the interior is no way near as 'premium' as the equivalent BMW or Audi. Space in the rear is also a little tight and the loadspace isn't great.

    I believe the torque is limited in first gear hence the poor off the line stats.

    Looks nice from the outside though and I like the fact it isn't a Merc/BMW/Audi. Also had a great app where you can start it with your iphone to get it warm on a cold winter's morning!

  • AlexKing 22 Nov 2012

    Cacatous said:
    Nearly 1,800kg! Sod that.
    How much do you think an S4 weighs? Here, I'll help - 1,735kg, or 49kg less than this. Hardly a deal breaker.

  • Timberwolf 21 Nov 2012

    I really want to like the current Volvo line-up but it's the first one they've had since at least the launch of the 850 where I can't find anything to enthuse me. They've all got this sort of me-tooish attempt to have an in-your-face Brand Image, and the mechanically interesting stuff is either fast disappearing or turns out to be a curate's egg. This T6 is a great example; quirky engine, 4WD drivetrain, reputedly one of the best-handling Volvos yet... and you can have it in a choice of automatic or automatic.

    I know the subtle shapes of the first Peter Horbury "shoulder" design era are no doubt marching out of date, and the industry-wide downsizing means they can't keep on sticking five cylinder engines anywhere they'll fit, but I can't help feeling the current journey towards marketing middle ground is a misstep. Looking at the V40 for example, there are a whole load of manufacturers who'll sell me a slightly gloopy, amorphous looking hatchback with a well-made interior and a turbo four under the bonnet. Give it a couple of years and Kia will probably give you 200bhp in a small car for five grand less with a seven year warranty.

  • Waveboy14 21 Nov 2012

    - basil hume's interior colour choice!
    - no bulb on the dash as BMW & Merc have had for a while
    - agility & comfort mix (driven this against a BMW coupe and on the edge you can feel the DSTC, but then you're pushing it to feel it, something you wouldn't try with the beemer. biggrin
    - the possibility of bringing the Polestar 500bhp to market if the T6 sells...

    - the look of the airvent under the centerscreen
    - the front lights melting (will be changed soon)

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