The Volvo V60 Polestar is the most badass estate to grace UK roads since the 850 rocked up to the British Touring Car Championship in 1994 and started barging Vauxhalls and Renaults off the track. It’s a £50k version of the top-spec V60, made by the race team that’s been working with Volvo for almost two decades.
So what exactly is it?
It’s the now defunct V60 T6 R-Design that’s had every option box ticked. So, there is literally no extras list, your only decision being the colour – blue, black, silver or white. In terms of kit, you get sat-nav, black and blue-stitched suede and leather seats and steering wheel, as well touches like the Polestar gearlever and doorsills. Yet that’s a sideshow to the main event.
There’s a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six under the bonnet that’s been wound up to 19bhp to 346bhp with a new turbo, a faster-shifting six-speed auto and tweaked Haldex all-wheel drive system. Yet the key to the changes begins with those sharp looking 20in alloys. To accommodate the larger wheels, which both break up the flat side of the V60 and allow the six-pot Brembo brakes to fit, Polestar has worked with Ohlins, suppliers of its racing shocks, to develop them specifically for the V60.
It’s all about chassis set up, then?
Absolutely. Often, a car has more power than its chassis can handle. In the Polestar’s case, the changes mean it can easily cope with the 500bhp on tap. The Ohlins shocks have a ‘DFV’ – that’s Dual Flow Valve – that basically settles the shock faster over bumps. The increased compliance means that shocks do the work instead of the Michelin tyres, and it’s also enabled a reworking of the suspension, with more metal bushings and tweaks. The front springs are a massive 80 per cent stiffer than the already battle-hardened R-Design. Take this away from this car: Polestar is not a flag-waving sticker pack like Renault’s latest Gordini models, nor is it like putting an AMG pack on a C-class: this is a thoroughly engineered machine.
How does it drive?
That’s this car’s strong point: its balance and poise. For an 1834kg estate, it’s agile and fun to throw into corners. Off the mark, its 5.0 sec 0-62mph time doesn’t feel neck-snapping, but the launch control means you can lay rubber (well, not lay rubber, in fact) with such ease. You grandma could get the most out of this car’s takeoff ability while doing here knitting.
It’s on the move that the large amount of torque (up 15lb ft, for a 369 total) can be mined as the chassis set-up comes into its own. This is an exceptional motorway car, which will be soul-destroying for many German car owners. There’s not so much going on at less than 3000rpm, but above this the V60 has a full head of steam and the in-gear flexibility. The throttle needs only small inputs for large chucks of torque, but the gearbox can’t quite keep up, so it’s best to flick it into the Sport mode and change gears using the paddles on the steering wheel. Even here, it’s not in the realm of dual-clutch ’boxes from rivals.
Yet it’s a mightily fast estate, and, despite a bit of wind and tyre noise, you won’t realise just how quick you’re going until you glance at the speedo. That’s because of the refinement and lateral grip: even with the ESC off, which sees the Polestar’s transmission hold the chosen gear where the regular T6 changes up, the roadholding and traction is brilliant.
There’s still some torque-steer when you nail it, and kickback through the steering wheel, but the super-sharp turn in and that well-executed suspension mean it sits impressively flat, with little body roll while it sticks to the tarmac. With the super strong brakes – which could benefit from a firmer pedal – you can dive into a corner at blinding pace, simply place the nose and power on out. It just holds on!
That’s partly thanks to the changes to the all-wheel driver, which send more drive to the rear than in the regular T6 R-Design. You’ll find yourself putting sets of curves together and using the brakes less and less before corner entry, as the Polestar’s composure means you can push on and on with increasing confidence and a larger grin.
What about the ride – is it a chore around town?
The ride is amazingly good, another benefit of the Ohlins shocks which took two months of development work for the Polestar V60. Granted, we did drive it mainly on smooth Swedish roads, and you’ll still feel the larger bumps through the chassis and the steering wheel, but they won’t upset the Volvo mid-corner. It feels livable, but UK roads may prove otherwise.
Oddly, the steering hasn’t been changed at all, with Soft, Medium and Hard settings like any regular T6. While it weighs up well, with Hard the best choice, it doesn’t feel as sharp as the rest of the set-up: it’s slightly out of synch, with loads of lock needed on tighter corners, even if it is responsive to inputs. Sharper steering would make it easier to place the V60 with pinpoint precision, although that’s not difficult the way it’s been set-up.
Can I buy one at a Volvo dealer?
You can order the Polestar V60 at any Volvo dealer, but of 750 to be built, there’s only 125 locked in for the UK. Every Polestar will have the same factory warranty and service intervals as any other T6, and the added performance takes nothing away from the cabin quality, the safety features or practicality of the V60. The downside is that it’s an expensive car, and is built on a vehicle that’s at the end of its lifespan. One thing is certain: it’s the best Volvo estate ever built.
>> Is the V60 Polestar the thinking man’s performance estate? Let us know in the comments section below