The BMW M3 is faster. The Mercedes-AMG C63 has over 150 more horsepower. And yet, all I would ever really want is a big, bright blue, absurdly wonderful Volvo S60 Polestar. It’s the car that left every racing pretension back at the track, and finally remembered what fun is.
(Full Disclosure: Volvo wanted me to drive the S60 Polestar so bad... you know what? This is the same car we used for the fun little video we did a couple of months ago, and this review is based on the week that I had it then. I talked a little bit about it when I solicited all of your burning questions about this ice-blue grej, and you can read what happened there.)
Yeah, fun. You insufferable jokers out there, who think you’ve all been saying original things these past 25 years, are probably dribbling out something about “Volvo, fun? Hibbledybibble box flork boring beige Swedish box honklonk BLORT!” but the truth of the matter is that while they are very much a company in transition, Volvo happens to be firing on all cylinders right now. All five of them.
Seriously. It really is amazing that they’ve been able to do it, despite all that the company’s been through. After a decade and change of Ford ownership, no one really knew what would happen to Volvo after their sale in 2010 to Chinese firm Geely.
But then the floodgates opened. First a new XC90 dropped, and it’s pretty much the hottest SUV there is right now. Then Volvo announced it was doubling its marketing dollars, and it was opening up an entire factory, right here in America to help it build the nine new models we’re supposed to get by 2019, including what looks to be the gorgeous 2017 Volvo S90.
Like Lazarus, Volvo is rising from the near-dead. But this time around, Lazarus is still a bit sleepy, so these things take time. Because the company’s been focused on the new XC90 and the new S90, an entirely-new-from-the-ground-up S60 (and it’s wagon stablemate, the V60) is going to take a little longer.
But the S60 is very much Volvo’s sedan bread-and-butter, so something had to be done to keep it in the running.
And that something was to funkify it. First we got the Volvo S60 Cross Country, which is hilarious and fantastic and wonderful because it looks like someone but hiking boots on a regular car. But then, we got another S60. A good S60. A great S60.
The 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar, and I mean it when I say it’s one of my favorite cars this year.
I will say, from the get-go, that it’s not like most performance cars. It doesn’t have some sort of special nuclear device for an engine. It has 345 HP from its twin-scroll turbo inline six-cylinder engine, a bump of only 20 from the regular S60 T6 R-Design, and it pumps its 369 pound-feet of torque through the same automatic transmission you find in the run-of-the-mill Volvo.
It even puts that power down with the same all-wheel-drive system you find available in most Volvos, albeit with a touch more rear-bias. It doesn’t have an extra 114 horsepower like the Cadillac ATS-V does, or the choice of a six-speed manual or a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission like a BMW M3 does.
And you know what? I don’t care. And I don’t think the Volvo does, either. Because it’s not about wagging your genitals about, or screaming “TRACK DAY BRO!” until your lungs burst. It’s about fun, and that’s something too many automakers have forgotten in the pursuit of top numbers above all else.
Let’s start with that paint, because it’s impossible to avoid.
I mean it’s just so, so, so blue. Really, really blue. Bluer than blue can be. The sort of blue which only the unhinged and the deranged demand. Which is exactly how seriously a car like this should be. Deride it as “smurfish,” or, if you’re being very obtuse, “a skittle,” but the truth of the matter is that it immediately sets itself apart. It turns heads, if for nothing else than it’s just the bluest Volvo anyone’s ever seen.
Yes, it signifies it’s a Polestar, but since very few of the people that freaked out about it seemed to know what that is, it doesn’t matter very much. It’s not some hellacious, menacing shade of red. It’s not a Very Serious Maroon.
It’s just, well, blue. Like the guy who shows up to your party wearing a LET’S PARTY shirt, you know it’s not there because it’s idea of a good time is a rousing debate on the greater merits of affine geometry. It’s there because it loves you, and wants you to have the time of your life.
Not that there’s anything wrong, per se, with affine geometry, and not that the Volvo is by any stretch of the word a bit dim. It’s just that there’s a time and place for everything, and right now everyone seems to be enamored with it at parties.
But even if you don’t like the blue – or “Rebel Blue,” as Volvo calls it, the car was available in black as well, if you really wanted it, for 2015, and for 2016 word on the street is that the company might deign a silver or two appropriate as well.
The interior is pretty standard Volvo fare, and though it’s a bit dated, the S60 is aging nicely. There’s blue stitching on the suede-like seats to match your blue paint, and the front-and-center tach glows an angry red to provide some contrast, and the paddle shifters are a bit slow on the uptake.
The brakes, while they are big and swaddled by six-piston calipers and are made by Brembo, aren’t festooned in Brembo logos everywhere. Everyone and their mother has a Brembo logo on the brakes now.
No, these simply say Polestar, because this car is different.
But while the brakes will stop you, and I never encountered any sort of fade, and the Michelin Pilot Super Sports are ridiculously grippy and will break into inevitable understeer far past any point at which you’d be willing to push it on a public road, it’s the way this thing moves that’s genuinely the most fun of all.
It growls, it snarls, it pops at you like you’ve made the world’s angriest Swedish golem mad. It sounds like an absolute beast, and if you’ve got a hard time believing that then you’ve never cut the exhaust pipes off of a Volvo. And since cutting the exhaust pipes is what it sounds like Volvo did, it’s really the most wonderful sound a car can make.
Truly, the noise of the turbo I6 is underrated. And if you still have a hard time believing because you’ve never cut the exhaust pipes off a video, watch this quick little video I found of someone who just recorded the butt of it:
Oh, sorry, I wrote “quick little video,” but it turns out it’s over eight and a half minutes of pure, glorious noise. And I bet you didn’t even notice.
It goes like the stink of lutefisk, too, as Volvo claims a definitely believable 0-60 time of 4.7 seconds, and a 0-120 time of 16.6 seconds. For comparison, the brand new screaming fast Ford Focus RS records roughly the same acceleration times. It may not be as blistering as some, but it can move.
But again, it’s not that it does these things, it’s how it does these things. You’re in a Volvo. A safe, stolid Volvo. It shouldn’t turn heads at all. But now it’s bright blue and it’s got enormous wheels that look like spider webs.
It’s got customizable (CUSTOMIZABLE!) Öhlins suspension, complete with blowoff valves for large impacts, like a Lamborghini has. And sure, the default setting is a bit stiff, but most people rarely take their cars on the track anyway so you can make it softer. And if you actually do want to take it to the track, the car is definitely capable of giving you all the jollies you want while you tune the suspension back up.
On the inside, it’s got the famous Volvo seats. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Volvo makes the best seats you can get in a car right now, bar none. You sit down, and you are healed, even though you were not broken.
I dunno, I think they use extra-cushy foam or something. It might really be that simple.
And the infotainment system is on the terrible side, as these things go.
But buried within the infotainment system, nestled within submenus upon submenus, if you press just the right combination of buttons, and press just the right combination of pedals, you’ll find that the Volvo – the Volvo! – has a secret launch control mode.
And there’s nothing more amusing than a secret launch control mode.
But that’s the thing about this weird Swedish meatball. And whereas all of its competitors were concerned about lap times, and who has the highest numbers, and who has the largest shoe size, Volvo was forced to be small. It was forced to be creative. It feels as if it knew it couldn’t win all of those silly, meaningless competitions when it came to day-to-day driving.
It could sit back, relax, and worry about simply making you happy. Making you enjoy the drive. Making people turn heads wherever you went, because it didn’t make sense, because making sense is boring. Making you find new things about it constantly that seem like they exist for no other reason besides the fact that they bring you joy. Like a secret launch control mode.
It’s too bad Volvo only brought in 40 Polestar sedans last year and 80 wagons. Next year it’ll be bringing in more, but really, a bright blue Volvo that’s different from everything else, with silly power and an even sillier sound, with adjustable suspension, secret submenus, and the beast seats in the world?
It’s only more fun when it’s rare.
Photos credit Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik