Polestar, the Swedish race team behind last year’s 450bhp C30 hatch, have turned their attention to the mild-mannered S60, changing it into a 500bhp M3 eater
A 500bhp S60!? Is Volvo having a midlife crisis?
If it is, it ought to have them more often. Taking the S60 T6 as a base, Polestar stuck with the transversely-mounted straight six, but ported the head, fitted an uprated turbo and swapped the cams for spikier ones from a naturally aspirated engine. That pushes power up by around 200bhp, which, together with 424lb ft of torque, is delivered through a six-speed manual gearbox to all four wheels. This S60 runs Haldex 5, a brand new generation of Haldex four-wheel drive transmissions, and there’s an electro-mechanical limited slip diff in the back end.
The track is 20mm wider at the front and 40mm at the rear, there are some hideously expensive Ohlins dampers under each corner, the Michelin Pilot Super sport tyres are the same spec as those fitted to the front end of a Koenigsegg supercar, and a whole load of mushy rubber bushing has been removed from the suspension. Swapping the auto box for a manual saved around 40kg and the car’s balance has been improved by relocating the battery to the boot.
What’s it like to drive?
Naturally, it’s hugely quick, boost building steadily from 2500rpm and in one sustained push flinging the rev needle right into the 7100rpm limiter, whose approach is signalled by a series of shift lights built into the dashtop. It sounds superb too, a real gutsy straight six sound, seemingly unfettered by the presence of a turbo.
But the chassis is the big surprise. The electric steering feels tight, responsive, well weighted and offers much better feedback and accuracy than any other Volvo’s. And those trick Ohlins dampers, built to Polestar’s specs, are superb, giving tight body control, and no doubt contributing to that excellent front-end feel.
There is some throttle adjustability, and in theory the Haldex system could be configured to provide a heavy rear bias, but to retain an element of its Volvo character, the setup is very neutral, stable and will never bite back.
One unexpected downside is some pretty manic torque steer when the boost arrives in second and third gears. And that was on Volvo’s smooth test track. The car’s chassis is still a work in progress but you can imagine it being a bit of a handful on a wet Welsh B-road.
Any other downsides?
Well, this one-off cost its American owner nearly $300,000, reflecting the man hours and special parts involved. For the same money he could have bought a standard S60 T6 and then blown the change on a Lamborghini Gallardo.
Polestar may do a limited run of similar cars, perhaps around 15, for silly money, but the car’s project manager, Henrik Fries, says you could achieve much of the car’s feel on a regular production car with a price tag close to the £60k an M3 or C63 costs.
We have to admit, we were a bit skeptical about the Polestar S60, and of course the bloke who spent $300k commissioning it is clearly insane. But it’s a genuinely good super-saloon. It looks mean without going all cartoonish, it sounds great and the handling is a big surprise.