MAY 21st 2014

Volvo V60 Polestar: Volvo continues the fast estate tradition

Hmmm, a fast Volvo eh? Anthony Reid looks dubious. There’s history…

For many people ‘Reid’ and ‘Volvo’ in the same sentence can refer only to one thing. It was 1998, the British Touring Car Championship race at Brands Hatch. Rickard Rydell (in the Volvo S40) and Anthony (in the Nissan Primera) were leading the field, as well as the championship. After a ‘slight tap’ coming into Druids, Anthony slipped past the Swede and took the win – and he thought that year’s title.

But Rickard was not a happy Volvo driver and some argy bargy ensued between the two drivers in parc fermé, Anthony still strapped in his car. Volvo’s complaint was upheld. Anthony was penalised, and lost the win. And the championship. If you want you can see the clip here.

So, 16 years on, is it inspired or crazy to let the Scot loose in the hottest Volvo road car ever sold here, the V60 Polestar? Anthony has raced against Volvos often enough, what would he make of a fiery new Swede from the driving seat? And on the Goodwood Motor Circuit? See the video here…

 

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Meanwhile, what of our ‘first impressions’? Well it’s quiet, comfy, spacious, well equipped, Scandinavian minimalist inside, has back seats that drop flat at the tug of a lever, and is complete with flashing lights that tell you when there’s a car beside you or a pedestrian is about to walk out in front. All very Volvo.

So much so that if you didn’t know what lay underneath you would think you were in a regular V60. Even the body isn’t too shouty, with its subtle front splitter and rear spoiler. And if you don’t like eye-piercing blue? You can have your Polestar in black, white or silver.

So, what’s a Polestar?

Err, so why the name Polestar? It’s a Swedish race car constructor, the reigning Scandinavian Touring Car champions with the Volvo S60 and, a little more unlikely perhaps, a growing force in Australian V8 Supercars. In fact the Aussie S60 racer, complete with obligatory V8, won its first race in Perth last weekend. Volvo is impressed: so much so it commissioned Polestar to build its first serious performance car since the R versions a decade ago.

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Every Polestar is officially sanctioned and factory warranted. Both S and V (estate) versions of the 60 model get the Polestar treatment but in the UK our allotment of 125 – more than any other market in the world interestingly – will be made up only of V60 wagons, all right-hand drive (unlike the test car).

The suspicion then is that Polestar knows what it is doing and for confirmation you need only look at the changes wrought.

The important bits are: 345bhp from turbocharged straight six, 500Nm (369lb ft) of torque, six-pot Brembo stoppers, 80 per cent stiffer springs, Öhlins adjustable dampers all round, 20in wheels shod with 245/35 Michelin Pilot Super Sport rubber, Haldex all-wheel drive, six-speed auto with paddleshift, and various chassis braces and stiffer suspension mounts. Yikes, it’s even a Volvo with launch control.

Despite that, Volvo and Polestar say they have tailored the car to road use rather than circuit driving (or setting spurious records at the ‘Ring), and I am sure any owner will be jolly pleased they did. First impressions are correct: it’s an immensely useable fast estate. And with its distinct Volvo character, it’s also most definitely not the archetypal fast estate from Ingolstadt.

Serious performance

It is also a serious performance machine, with 0-62mph in 5.0secs and 0-120mph in 16.7. Not bad for something that weighs in at 1834kg and comes with Labrador room. In Sport mode, valves in the full-flow exhaust open to add just the right amount of fruitiness (and rather over-eager manual gears), while dry road traction and grip are truly impressive.

You would never expect a (primarily front-drive) car like this to be transformed into a sideways drift champion. And it never is, but the really god news is that it never feels nose-heavy and isn’t excessively understeery.

Jobs for the facelift? A slightly smaller, more special steering wheel would be nice, as would a quicker rack and more steering feel. It’s a torque converter auto so gearchanges are never going to be lightning quick, but even so… The option is to go manual but you will have to be quick to keep up with the free-revving engine if you want to avoid the abrupt rev limiter at 6500rpm. A compromise setting between Sport and Normal is needed, one that combines fruity exhaust, less ESC and full rev range with some degree of auto control for when you get bored with the paddles.

We only had a brief drive but enough to tell us this is Volvo’s best fast estate ever, a likeable car in its own right and a very complete, well rounded package without rough edges – not necessarily what you would expect from a race car company doing its first road car.

The hot Volvo estate lives, and it’s far better than you may think. When it gets its first dynamic public airing in the UK, blasting up the hill at the Festival of Speed at the end of June, you can be sure you will be watching Volvo’s fastest and most rewarding car ever sold here.

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