First drive: Volvo S60 Polestar

This car looks like a Volvo, but it certainly doesn’t drive like one. Those small blue Polestar badges give the game away.

This band of Swedish petrol-heads has been Volvo’s motorsport partner since the 1990s when Polestar was known as Flash Engineering. There’s also been some dabbling in road car performance parts, but only in the last couple of years has the next step been taken to a stand alone model.

That car is the S60 Polestar, a development of the S60 T6 R-Design, which arrived in Australia in June 2013 as a limited edition of 50. For 2014, it receives a small bucket of upgrades and joins the local line-up full-time.

Amazingly, this car is exclusive to Australia, a reflection of the deeply felt desire within the local distributor to lift Volvo’s dowdy image. It also ties into the partnerships between Polestar, Volvo and Garry Rogers Motorsport to race an S60 (well, something that looks like an S60) in the V8 Supercar Championship.

Only with the 2015 model year will Polestar start a small expansion beyond Australia, also applying its tuning skills to the V60 wagon and offering the cars in seven other markets. We should see that update in about October.

By far the most important mechanical change for MY14 is swapping the Volvo brakes for Brembo six-pot front calipers, 370mm discs and ancillaries. The addition of gearshift paddles is also a step forward, but that – like the front-end graphic changes and equipment updates – flows from the latest edition of the donor car rather than being unique to the Polestar.

So the 257kW and 500Nm version of the 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder engine stays, as does the six-speed auto and the rear-biased Haldex coupling that drives all four wheels. The Swedish Ohlins dampers and struts are also unchanged, including the ability to manually click the compression and rebound through 20 positions.

This is one Volvo you will enjoy driving. There’s grip, there’s feedback, there’s punch and, now, there is terrific stoping power to go with it.

Whipping through a series of tightening-radius curves is to believe. The front-end clamps down hard on the way in and hangs tough mid-corner. On exit, the rear hunkers down and the engine drives it out even harder.

There are drawbacks, of course. The price is the most obvious; specifically what you get for it apart from a top-quality tuning job. Most notably, the interior lacks a separate identity from the donor car.

But the core achievement can’t be underestimated. Here’s a modern Volvo that is involving, communicative and exciting. All power to Polestar for tapping a potential few others suspected existed.

Volvo S60 Polestar

Plus: Great chassis, strong engine, interior space
Minus: Price, not upgraded enough from donor car inside, noisy
Engine: 2953cc, inline 6-cylinder, dohc, turbo-petrol
Max power: 257kW @ 5700rpm
Max torque: 500Nm @ 3000-4750rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Weight: 1770kg
0-100km/h: 4.9sec (claimed)
Price: From $109,950
On sale: Now

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