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Volvo V60 Polestar Engineered | Driven

The V60 Polestar was once a six-cylinder cult hero; now it's a two-tonne hybrid. But is it any good?

By Matt Bird / Monday, January 06, 2020

Look familiar? Yep, correct, Christmas overindulgence hasn't clouded the memory (or judgement) too far: this V60 Polestar is a lot like the S60 Polestar driven just last month. Where that was a saloon, this is an estate. Other than that, they're pretty much identical: same powertrain, same interior, same very expensive chassis hardware. They're even hard to separate on kerbweight, the V only adding 29kg to the chunky 2,050kg kerbweight of the S.

But the crucial difference is the obvious one, because it's a fast Volvo estate - and in the UK at least, that still means a lot. Because people still speak fondly of 850s and V70s, we've all been overtaken (or, perhaps, pulled over) by a battenburged bus from Torslanda, and furthering the mystique, the last Polestar of note over here was the estate-only V60. Big, quick, Volvo saloons are nothing more than that, but the estates have a cult charm seldom replicated elsewhere, meaning this Polestar Engineered car almost has a responsibility to deliver. There's a quarter of a century of heritage behind it now, after all...

However, while memories of that heritage may quickly turn to tyre-squealing, warbling wardrobe wagons of old, the V60 Polestar Engineered is an altogether more subdued experience. Indeed running purely on electricity for the first few urban miles, it's the perfect foil to the festive hustle and bustle, with ample performance from the motor and isolation from the outside world so luxurious it borders on deprivation. It's chamber of total calm. With the best seats in the business and a thumping media system, the V60 makes for a fine urban warrior; surprising perhaps, but surely of merit if it will see service on the school run.

Moreover, there's the feel of a properly engineered, thoroughly developed car even when running on electric power. The pedals are easy to modulate and meter out force to, which isn't always guaranteed with EVs and regenerative braking; while the steering is not the last word in anything, the response off-centre is nice and the weighting good; there's a burly sophistication to the ride from those Ohlins dampers that makes the V60 feel plush, if lardy. Even without its engine running, the V60 feels tangibly more Polestar than Volvo. Which is great, of course, though for £6k more than an R-Design Plus with the same powertrain, one would hope for at least a little Polestar presence.

Called upon to deliver the full potential of its hybrid powertrain and the V60 is obliging, probably more so when fully committed than not, when it can feel hesitant in its decision making. And while this newly hybridised four-cylinder would make a mockery of any five- or six-cylinder Volvo engine that came before it, there's no escaping the fact that the Polestar never feels anything more than decently brisk (blame that kerbweight, once more). That said the eight-speed auto is a mostly dutiful ally, and it'll be more than fast enough for most. Don't underestimate the appeal of drivers moving aside for a white Volvo estate, either...

While many of the Volvo's laudable handling attributes are evident when driving at higher speed, that isn't to say it's beyond criticism. It always feels like a front-driven car with extra traction in its balance and behaviour, which isn't something that could be said of an Audi S4 or Mercedes C43. While the podgy Polestar steers accurately and faithfully, there's no great sense of urgency to its direction changes. And the whine emitted from the four-cylinder combustion engine isn't exactly tuneful, particularly in the context of predominantly six-cylinder rivals.

So as a conventional fast estate the V60 PE struggles to cut it, even if other reports suggest it's a worthwhile improvement from the standard T8. But that would be missing the point. Because as a fast Volvo the Polestar hits the target more convincingly than a Harry Kane penalty; it accrues speed with the minimum of fuss and maintains it almost as nonchalantly, with enormous grip from the bespoke P Zeros and titanic braking power from the Akebono rotors - yes, the same people who worked with McLaren to make sure the P1 stopped. Once up to your chosen velocity it'll sit there calmly, assuredly until there's a decision to go even faster, which it's only too happy to oblige. For covering ground there can't be many better - 'twas ever thus with a big Volvo, a tradition ably continued here.

The Polestar's problem is the compromise. Because it's easy to imagine a regular T8 Twin Engine doing the job of all-season, all-weather performance, if lacking the additional dynamism of this car. The Polestar, even with the brakes and the suspension and the forged wheels, then can't quite muster the nous required to compete with the very best fast estates out there - and it would be the very best, too, given this car's £61,000 as-tested price tag.

Polestar's fettling of various V60 elements display an aptitude and finesse that make it more than agreeable company, but working with a base in excess of 2,000kg inevitably means at least one arm was tied behind its back, resulting in a Polestar Volvo that's neither fish nor fowl. Immensely likeable, certainly, and a hybrid twist on the fast Volvo formula that will appeal to traditional tastes, though not quite impressive or exciting enough to justify its billing or cost - particularly in a very talented sector. Another cult contender, then.


SPECIFICATION - VOLVO V60 POLESTAR ENGINEERED
Engine:
1,969cc, turbocharged and supercharged, plus electric motor
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 405@6,000rpm (combined)
Torque (lb ft): 474@2,050rpm (combined)
0-62mph: 4.4 secs
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 2,079kg (in running order)
MPG: 104.5 WLTP
CO2: 48g/km
Price: £57,205 (as standard; price as tested £61,505 comprised of Crystal White premium metallic paint for £975, charge cable for £50, 20-inch alloy wheels for £850, Intellisafe Surround pack for £625 and Xenium Pack (Power Glass Tilt and Slide Panoramic Sunroof with Sun Curtain, Parking Camera 360° Surround View and Park Assist Pilot (includes Front Park Assist) for £1,800)

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