Polestar did much more to the bluest Volvos for 2017 than just cutting off two cylinders and bolting on a supercharger. While the V60 and S60 Polestar look similar, they get more than 50 upgrades over a T6 R-Design, making for a completely different driving experience.
And as Polestar goes global, America is set to get at least 200 of the more than 1,500 cars they’ll build. How badly do you want this fast Swedish wagon?
(Full disclosure: Volvo needed me to drive the upgraded Polestars so badly they sent me to France, put me up in a four star golf resort, gave me a VIP pass to the WTCC race and even let me waste some of their Michelins on the track myself. Kind of them.)
The 2017 Polestars are all-wheel drive cars that can send up to 50 percent of their 347 pound feet to the rear wheels, and even hold the gears mid-corner when it’s go time for those 362 horses under the hood.
That’s because the people at Polestar are proper motorsport experts, and they expect their latest to put a smile on your face. There’s a good chance they will, because thanks to the 260+ new part numbers involved, the Polestar S60 sedan and V60 wagon are just fantastic on the road.
But the biggest news of course is the engine, which essentially turns Volvo’s latest into Lancia Delta S4s.
This new 2.0-liter four-cylinder sports both a turbo and a supercharger. It also ended up having a lower compression, a different cam profile, a bigger turbo, a redesigned air inlet system, a bigger downpipe, a high-pressure fuel pump and a 3-inch full-flow active exhaust.
The software telling it what to do is Polestar’s own, and the result is 362 HP at 6,000 RPM and 347 lb-ft between 3,100 RPM-5,100 RPM, with a max boost of 2.0 bar and the rev-limit set to 7,000. This motor replaces the old 3.0-liter turbo inline six, which was rated at 345 HP and 369 lb-ft of torque. Impressive that the numbers are so similar despite the much smaller size.
As we were getting ready for Volvo/Cyan Racing’s first (and as it turned out, quite successful) WTCC race, the Polestar guys pointed out that they are the only ones in the series using a production-based engine.
In fact, they used to race with the second ever engine off the Drive-E production line, and that’s why the road car engines come with heavy duty bearings, springs, connecting rods and bigger injectors the racing team could get at any Volvo dealer.
It might not have the mid-range torque of the previous inline six, but what you get in return is efficiency, more power, and a highly entertaining whining noise coming from the supercharger between 2,000 RPM-3,000 RPM, exactly where you’ll use it the most. I just couldn’t get enough of that. With the shifter pushed to manual mode, the turbo will also do all the pops and bangs I got familiar with in the Audi TT, although as you would expect, Volvo’s firecrackers are much more restrained.
This twin-charged four banger suits the Polestar well, and that’s partly down to the re-programmed eight-speed gearbox, which not only will shift faster while remaining as smooth as ever, but also hold gears in a curve and when you momentarily lift off the throttle in order to make it to the next one.
The Polestars will even let you hit the rev-limiter as long as you wish without interfering, because they expect you to know what you’re doing. There’s launch control, and with half of the torque sent to the back and the ESC (mostly) off, this setup means the Polestars are capable of hitting the track as well.
Helping with that are the brakes, which are massive six-piston Brembos at the front with 371 mm ventilated and floating discs. I was in love with them. They are very linear with all the stopping power such a car can need.
If you don’t want to deal with the shifting yourself, there’s a slightly hidden mode the engineers originally created without planning to put it in the final product. Sport+ comes alive if you push the lever into Sport and forward, while pulling the downshift paddle twice. Blinking on the dash will let you know the function is on, and from that moment, the revs stay above 4,000 and the car gets as sharp as possible until the moment you shift again yourself. That disengages the + and puts you back into Sport.
All this, plus the added downforce, the grip of those 20-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sports, the ten-way adjustable Öhlins shocks accompanied by 80 percent stiffer springs and the reduced weight over the front axle makes the 2017 Polestar handle significantly better than I expected.
The car is also idiot-proof, only going into a controlled understeer in you went into a corner way too hot. With all the rest of Volvo’s safety systems in place, this has to be one of the safest performance cars on the market.
In case you like numbers, I can also reveal that the wagon is slightly heavier than the sedan with its curb weight of 3960 pounds, making it to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds compared to the S60 Polestar’s 4.7. Top speed is limited at 155 mph in both cars.
Three things I would change? The steering rack should be faster, the cars should be louder in Sport, and the infotainment should have a single button for “all nannies off”, because the traction control is hardly needed in this all-wheel drive machine, and getting there in the menu can be a pain.
Other than that, I’m sold on this package. As a road car, it’s just spot on. As a track car, it’s soft in many respects, but still very well balanced and fast enough in talented hands. Not that it matters, because it’s a road car, and how they managed to make it ride this nicely with those stiff springs is beyond me. It’s a very good chassis.
The new S60 and V60 will come in 2018, but in the meantime, Volvo will sell you a 2017 Polestar for the same price as the 2016 car, fully loaded. The only option will be the sunroof in certain markets, and you can pick between blue, black, silver and white.
As Polestar expands from 13 to 47 markets, production volume will be doubled from last year’s 750.
The S60 is made in Belgium, while the V60 is a Swedish product. If you turn out to be really keen on them, rumor has it that America can get as much as 250 units.
Just be brave and get a blue wagon.