As you might expect, turning off the ESC in a Volvo isn't especially easy. But rather in contrast to the general tone of
the SMMT day
the Swede running the Polestar fleet was insistent, despite the fact it the Millbrook hill route was drenched. Or perhaps because of this.
Transverse turbo six is defiantly unconventional
Anyway, before we were allowed to turn a wheel he made sure all electronic nannies - there are rather a lot of them too - were switched off, the better to enjoy the considerable chassis and engine work
Polestar has lavished
on the otherwise sensible Volvo V60. The basic message then? It might look stylishly straight-laced but within lurks a proper hedonist. How very Swedish.
We've already driven the 350hp Polestar V60 on the launch event and detailed the work done on the car. To summarise though this is a lot more than the Volvo approved 329hp chip upgrade you could get for the standard 304hp T6. This feels like a properly resolved tuner car, the relationship between Polestar and the mothership perhaps similar to that between AMG and Mercedes before the 1993 buy-out. Meaning Polestar is happy to pick and choose designer-label aftermarket parts like Ohlins dampers and Brembo brakes a mainstream manufacturer might otherwise skimp on.
And you get the full package too, making that intimidating £49,755 asking price exactly that. The Audi S4 Avant that seems the most obvious rival is 'only' £40,610 but you only need add £1,400 Super Sports seats, carbon inlays, Audi Drive Select, Dynamic Steering, £1,150 19-inch wheels, active dampers and the essential £620 Sports Differential to be knocking on the door of a similar price. Audi even charges £2,320 for all the driver assist systems and radar controlled cruise that Volvo - conforming to type - considers bare necessities in a car of this class.
Rock solid build, cool design - Scandi chic!
Which is a defiantly un-German way of doing things. And sets the refreshing tone that runs throughout the car.
It's only when you get in something different that you realise quite how locked down the premium car segment is to the Teutonic way of thinking. Flit from Audis to BMWs and Mercs and you know the formula. The Volvo feels very different, and more cool for it.
There are imperfections in the V60's interior - fiddly buttons, irritatingly high seating position and disappointingly compromised visibility among them - but overall there's a sense of style, quality and integrity to put any German rival to shame. Little touches like the tactile Alcantara on the inside of the wheel and translucent gear selector smack of attention to detail that's impressive for a car with a 750-unit production run.
Wheels lovely; mind those kerbs though...
Enough on the soft furnishings - there's engineering to match, most noticeably in the chassis. Just how much stiffer is the Polestar compared with the standard V60? 80 per cent, at least in spring rate. That's astonishing. And obvious - first impressions of the ride are that it's not shy. The dampers are at least a match for this and a lesson, once again, in how quality passive dampers can show the multi-mode 'adaptive' equivalents a thing or two when it comes to body control and chassis balance. There are (deeply buried) clicker adjusters too, if you fancy a fettle.
Much like the Ohlins-damped Megane Trophy-R, the Polestar has a busy chassis unafraid to permit lots of vertical movement. Meaning it can get a bit jiggly at times. But there's real class here too, the buttery smoothness and lack of stiction in the dampers proving body movement is nothing to be afraid of if you can control it properly. It's therefore surprisingly busy down a bumpy road but the wheels always feel resolutely tied down to the road surface, maximising cornering grip and the traction abilities of the Haldex 5 four-wheel drive. Given there's a massive lump of six-cylinder engine unfashionably slung across the front of the car understeer is commendably well contained and under power the Polestar maintains defiant neutrality. What was that about national stereotypes again?
It's not like the Volvo estates we used to know
It's devastatingly effective on a greasy autumnal road though, the boosty kick of that engine and the characterful snarl as it piles on the revs all adding to the sense that this is a car of charisma and character put together by folk who really know what they're doing. The variable weighting to the wheel, its low gearing and lack of lock are perhaps slight failings but the murmurs of feedback are welcome and the control weights are all very well harmonised. Much like the spec, the driving experience suggests the full package. Thirst - 30s at best, low 20s when pressing on - and the perception that a six-speed auto is a bit 'old tech' in this day and age are going to count against it though.
How best to sum it all up? Sensibly mad would seem fitting, the fit, finish and sense of quality plus individuality factor all very much counting in its favour. Will it win many over from the default German choices? Unlikely. But for those seeking something distinctive and characterful it's a bold choice and a very impressive first effort as Polestar evolves from race shop and accessories-based tuner to proper in-house performance brand.
VOLVO V60 POLESTAR
Engine: 2,953cc 6-cyl turbo
Gearbox: 6-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 350@5,250rpm
Torque (lb ft): 369@3,000-4,750rpm
0-62mph: 5.0 secs
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
MPG: 27.7 (NEDC combined)