- Genuinely quick
- Attractive and distinctive, particularly in Rebel Blue
- Superb interior comfort and ergonomics
- Torque arrives too late
- Expensive – this is a $120k Volvo!
- Complex adaptive damper system
The Volvo S60 Polestar is the most sophisticated Swedish car ever. It may not be an M3-killer, but it is very quick, and seriously good.
Volvo are best known for their safe, but conservative vehicles like the S60 sedan. But, behind the scenes for several decades, Volvo has been honing an interest in performance cars, fronting modified road cars for European—and recently Australian V8 Supercar—racing events. Recently, Volvo’s performance arm, Polestar, turned its attention to producing roadgoing (or ‘take home’, in their parlance) cars.
This effort started with the first-generation S60 Polestar, of which fifty were produced exclusively for the Australian market. The second-generation version of that car is now complete—a car that responds to feedback on the unrefined prototype, and a car that fronts as a genuine, though offbeat, alternative to the BMW 335i, the Audi S4, and the forthcoming Mercedes-Benz C450 Sport. The Volvo S60 Polestar is genuinely quick, corners with swift surety, and rides with purpose. It isn’t as sharp as a BMW M3, or as monstrous as a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG: but what it is, is an incredibly impressive executive sedan. It is expensive. But it is the best car that Volvo has ever made, and one of the best sports sedans this side of $120,000.
ChasingCars.com.au borrowed this vehicle for our Volvo S60 Polestar review:
- 2014 Volvo S60 Polestar (top trim), with the 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder and six-speed automatic, in Rebel Blue with black leather, priced at $99,990 before on-road costs.
The S60 Polestar drives like the second-fastest, and much more reasonably priced S60, the T6 R-Design, should. The slightly soft T6 has been honed, both practically and electronically, into a car with serious sporting credentials. The sole engine is a petrol Polestar-engineered three-litre turbo six producing 257kW of power at 5700 rpm, and capable of immense pulling power, with 500Nm of torque between 3000 and 4750 rpm. The turbocharger is twin-scroll, but the Swedes have not yet refined power delivery to be as linear as the Germans. The torque, which at peak pushes you firmly back into the superb racing seats, comes on a little too late, at 3000 rpm—surprisingly late given the turbos. However, the Volvo S60 Polestar can complete the 0-100 sprint in just 4.9 seconds.
The six-speed Polestar automatic is conservative and economical in ‘Drive’, meaning the Polestar feels like a regular T6, and not mean enough, around town. However, in ‘Sports’—or when being operated manually—the transmission unlocks the true character of the S60 Polestar: maniacally fast and focussed. The growl from the inline six is subdued, but just enough—we wish it was bled into the cabin more.
The handling is where the Polestar feels too much like its $40,000-cheaper T6 sibling: it’s a little too soft, with the steering lacking the depth and directness of Mercedes-AMG. On the open road, though, it is more willing, with the taut chassis providing swift direction changes and a moderate amount of feedback through the perforated steering wheel.
The ride quality is variable—sadly, not through an electronic setting in the cabin, but through manual adjustment of the dampers on all four corners, which can be set to a hardness from 1 to 20. On the ‘10’ setting, the suspension is about right: relatively comfortable over imperfections, but with virtually zero roll when cornering with some speed. Refinement remains a Volvo strong suit, even for the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing Polestar: road noise is hushed, engine noise is (unfortunately) minimal, save for a loud growl on ignition, and comfort levels are very high.
Volvo’s seats are the industry benchmark. The sports seats in the S60 Polestar are the best seats in the maker’s range. They are exceptionally comfortable. The Polestar is upholstered in charcoal leather and nubuck, which is the ‘rough’ side of the hide, to stop you from moving about through the corners. Also serving this purpose is aggressive side and shoulder bolstering. The softness of the materials and supportive driving position create a cockpit, not a cabin, and demonstrate Volvo’s seriousness in creating a sensual performance interior.
The dashboard layout is shared with the donor S60, and while the basic structure of Volvo cabins now dates back to the early 2000s, the design continues to work well. The Scandinavian logic differs from the much more contemporary cabins of the BMW, Audi, or the Mercedes-Benz, with a floating stack in the centre topped with a sharp, seven-inch infotainment screen controlled through various knobs. It is not as intuitive as the systems the Germans use—but drivers should have little difficulty in learning its methods. The S60 Polestar includes a ten-speaker sound system that is incredibly luxurious. Music is ‘felt’ rather than listened to—deep base is rich, while mid and high tones are crisp and true.
The materials used throughout the Polestar feel worthy of the price, with soft-touch plastics, soft leather, coarse nubuck, and cold metal creating a premium environment.
Finding a comfortable driving position is possible, if not perfect. The drivers’ seat does not fall low enough to be as sporty as possible, and the steering wheel feels a little too large—and it is round, eschewing the fashion for flat-bottomed wheels in performance models.
Accommodation in the rear is surprisingly comfortable for the two outboard passengers. Things are cramped in the middle given the high transmission tunnel and perch-like seat, but the main rear passengers are treated to well-bolstered, bucket-like seats with the same leather-and-nubuck treatment as up front. Legroom is good, and headroom is adequate even for taller people.
As a four-door sedan, the Polestar is among the more practical of performance Europeans. The cabin, thankfully, doesn’t feel too spacious—it feels cosseting, like it should. That said, there is an array of cubby spaces, including a deep central bin and acceptable door pockets, to store clutter. The boot, which is already small on regular S60s, is significantly impacted by the large spare wheel that sits in, not under, the boot—depressing if you were hoping to carry a family’s worth of overnight bags, or a couple of large suitcases.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
Like most Volvos, the S60 Polestar is built in Sweden. This particular car is built at the firm’s Torslanda plant. The perception of quality is immense—it feels rock solid, even when driven hard and with the punchy, bass-heavy stereo working hard to trigger vibrations. The doors thump with sincerity. The car drives with a comforting heaviness. Actual quality is also slated to be good, with regular S60s faring well in reliability scores and owner satisfaction.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Volvo S60 Polestar price is $99,990 before on-road costs, after a recent $10,000 price cut that made it much more attractive. The Polestar isn’t particularly efficient, so it is ineligible to avoid the luxury car tax, meaning on the road, a more realistic price is in the $120,000 range—making this an astoundingly expensive Volvo. Once you’ve experienced the Polestar, though, you begin to understand the depth of additional engineering that has been poured lovingly into the car, and the gaps between this and the circa-$85,000 T6 R-Design are clear. The sole option is an available sunroof.
Audi S4 ($105,000 RRP) – now cheaper thanks to a price cut that countered Volvo's $10,000 discount on the Polestar. These cars are similar in the way they approach performance without losing all sense of refinement – but in some ways, the Audi offers more convincing driving dynamics, if a little less soul.
BMW 335i ($93,900 RRP) – certainly not as quick or as focussed as the Polestar, but the 335i is probably the closest 3-Series in capability to the hottest S60, which doesn't (yet) punch to the heights of BMW's legendary M3.
Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG Sport (forthcoming) – the latest generation of C-Class will set a new benchmark for this class in terms of quality, and similarly to the 335i, it will represent the closest option from Stuttgart to the Polestar, as opposed to the storming V8 C63 AMG.
|Power||257kW @ 5700rpm|
|Torque||500Nm @ 3000–4750rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||153kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||10.2L / 100km|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||All wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Cargo space (seats up)||380L|
|Cargo space (seats down)||Not applicable|