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Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered | Driven

Swedish style meets trick chassis in Volvo's 405hp hybrid range-topper

By Sam Sheehan / Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Q car fans are likely to be encouraged by Volvo's latest Polestar model, the S60, which combines a hybrid system totalling 405hp with just the right kind of purposeful look. As the sleekest and lightest of the three T8 Twin Engine cars to receive the Polestar Engineering badge (there're also V60 and XC60 versions), the top-spec S60 is capable of 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds while also delivering a claimed 104mpg combined and 27 miles of pure electric range. It leaves the 292hp BMW 330e looking comparatively underpowered. And a bit plain.

It kind of has to, though, at £56k. As a Polestar-tuned Volvo rather than a standalone product of the newly standalone division, the S60's design is deliberately buttoned-down, building on the confident styling of the four-door base model with gold Brembo brake calipers, machine-polished 19-inch alloys and a stance underpinned by sports springs and Ohlins manually adjustable dampers. As these things go, PH did not feel shortchanged by the result. Inside there's Volvo's familiar, large centre console screen and digital instrument cluster; inferior to some rivals on the digitalisation front, but probably more functional - and easier on the eyes - for it.

Throw in premium grade trim materials, and it's very easy to imagine wiling away a long commute in the S60. Despite its newfound status in the range, the model has not sacrificed much in the way of refinement. There's no real need to delve into that extra potency or engage its sportier modes either; the car exudes Swedish calm. With plug-supplied power in the mid-mounted 11.6 kWh battery, the supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-litre will remain dormant, leaving the 87hp electric motor running solo for 27 miles. That's 10 short of the cheaper (and less potent) 330e, but the Volvo's recuperation tech does a good job of clawing back the odd mile here and there. Around town, there's an adequate level of progress with battery power alone.

Even in the frugal setting, however, the Polestar-grade S60 never lets its underlying intent go completely amiss. The damping provided by those adjustable shocks is very clearly of superior quality, with drain covers, speed humps and all manner road imperfections unable to induce a thud from the chassis. But the quickness of each damper's returning stroke - even when wound back to a road setting via the rotary knobs on the top mounts - means the ride is permanently firm. In fact, the whole structure feels pretty stiff, helped in part by the strut brace and bushes that accompany the new suspension. There was enough give for PH, especially when you factor the calibre of the running gear - but it's not inconceivable that some might find the result a little tiring over longer distances.

Elsewhere, the S60 is very good at doing things to which you are paying no attention - like starting to go very quickly indeed. The S60 piles on speed smoothly thanks to the quietness of the four-pot and the seamlessness of the eight-speed auto it's mated to. Set to Polestar Engineered mode, the throttle response is ultra-sharp, but the transmission is smart enough to hang onto a cog mid-corner so you're not forced to cope with additional torque via an upshift when lock's applied. There are steering wheel mounted paddles, to which the 'box responds swiftly, but as you can't knock the car out of auto mode completely, using them aggressively feels somewhat redundant. With the meat of the power delivered to the front axle by the 318hp petrol engine (the electric hardware sends its torque rearward), the S60 grips and pulls like a nose-biased all-wheel drive car. Suffice to say it's planted, emphatically so when the ESP cannot be switched out.

Body control is, as you might expect, brilliant. The composure provided by those Ohlins is unflappable, making the two-tonne S60 feel light on its toes and nicely balanced, particularly as the speed builds. The front end responds keenly to input and you can sense the tyres load up as the damping keeps each wheel forced into the road's surface. Press on and the chassis feels more focussed than in any hybrid-drive rival, and you're never aware of the unseen battery cell mass. Although with no way of escaping Volvo's stability-first straitjacket - not to mention a numb steering rack and brake pedal - you're rewarded with confidence and cross country pace rather than the full spectrum of fast saloon driving pleasure.

This means that for all the implied links to motorsport that the Polestar badge instills - and despite the sophistication of the adjustable damping system it has painstakingly installed - the S60 is less a thoroughbred driver's car and more something to go effortlessly quickly in. While also looking good. This it does very well, while almost certainly laying claim to being the safest car in the segment; a plethora of warning bongs and drive assist features pay testament to that. It's exceptionally easy to drive, too - if you can get past the slight mismatch of race-inspired damping and hybrid-based functionality.

Admittedly, it makes for a curious concoction when you stand well back. But that's not necessarily unappealing; not when you tot up the advantages of its potential, efficiency, plushness and appearance. Anyone hunting for a Q car which doesn't subscribe to the German way of doing things need look no further, even allowing for its less than totally rounded dynamic talent. Wannabe Polestar fans might also like to note that it's £83k cheaper than the firm's limited edition GT, while still delivering on some of the new brand's allure. And while those of us desperately seeking a hybrid saloon truly worthy of the long way home still need to keep looking, the S60 at least provides us with something which has been notable for its recent absence - a truly niche Volvo.


VOLVO S60 POLESTAR ENGINEERED - SPECIFICATION

Engine: 1,969cc, turbocharged and supercharged, plus electric motor
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 405@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 474@2,050rpm
0-62mph: 4.4 secs
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 2,050kg
MPG: 104.5 WLTP
CO2: 48g/km
Price: from £56,105

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