First Drive review: Volvo S60 Polestar

It's not likely the name Polestar will ring a bell, not unless you've been a fan of the Scandinavian Touring Car Championship at least. Polestar has been exclusively tuning and racing Volvos in the STCC since the 90s and they've been quite successful at it too. It was only natural that Polestar became Volvo's official performance tuner - the fruits of the union being the V60 and S60 Polestar models. We get the latter in India, serving as one of Volvo's halo cars in the range alongside the XC0 T8 Hybrid.

Picture Credit - Kingshuk Dutta

We mention the XC90 T8 since it shares the basic heart with this here Polestar. Cause under that Rebel Blue skin is the 2-litre, four-cylinder T6 engine that's been getting engine of the year awards the last few years. As is, the T6 engine is twin-charged, with one turbo and a supercharger thrown in to negate any off-boost lag the turbo produces. But Polestar, being the race outfit they are, have fiddled with it to up power output to 367bhp and 470Nm torque, up considerably from the output in non-Polestar cars. They've done everything from putting in a new, larger turbo to more aggressive valve timing to revising the intake and exhaust completely. In all, over 260 changes have been made to the base S60 to make it worthy of the Polestar tag. The focus, as per the Polestar ethos, is still on everyday usability and that explains a lot about the dynamics of the car but we'll get to that.

Picture Credit - Kingshuk Dutta

As far as the exteriors go, nothing that's been added to the car is fluff - the front splitter actually produces 21kg of downforce at the car's electronically limited top speed of 250kmph, same with the rear spoiler and diffuser that contribute towards 33kg of downforce at the same speed. The highlight has to be the 20-inch rims though - the classic snowflake pattern is technical, aggressive and classy all at once. Just like the rest of the car really, we really like the shape of the S60 even though it's a generation older than the competition. Where this does seem uncomfortably apparent is inside the car. The infotainment system is old-school but not painful to use but you still get the modernities of a full digital instrumentation. Polestar additions here include carbon fibre inlaid on the centre console and nubuck inserts all around the cabin, coupled with blue double-stitched detailing. The seats are expansive, comfortable and supportive - a mix of adjectives we don't usually have the chance to use together when it comes to performance cars.

Picture Credit - Kingshuk Dutta

Ironically, the driving experience is similarly comfortable and the car never makes you feel like you've bitten off more than you can chew. That in part is down to the BorgWarner all-wheel drive system, that though is rear biased, helps the inside tyres hook up without drama. Handling that power is an eight-speed automatic box, a torque converter, which offers quick upshifts but is too conservative on the downshift. Putting the box into Sport lets it hold revs longer (Polestar has retuned the software to allow this), through corners too, so you can get back on the throttle and be in the meat of the power which seems to be between 3,000rpm and 6,000rpm.

Picture Credit - Kingshuk Dutta

We don't doubt Volvo's 0-100kmph time of 4.7 seconds, the S60 Polestar is quick. But it never feels explosively so. Power delivery, especially out of the tight corners at Kari Motor Speedway is underwhelming until you realise you're carrying a surprising amount of speed. The experience is helped somewhat by the supercharger whine.

Picture Credit - Kingshuk Dutta

We saw a top speed of 187kmph on the straight and the Brembo-Polestar developed brakes shed speed astoundingly well. Running high-spec Ohlins was a good move since they offer great compliance, smoothing out the really bumpy track surface while keeping body roll in check. We did feel the rear of the car go a little lighter than we would've liked under heavy braking but we're told the suspension was in its median setting and can be made stiffer for track use. Unfortunately, the damping can't be adjusted electronically, making changing settings on the go next to impossible unless you like getting your hands dirty - you have to get under the car to adjust the front dampers and drop the seats and remove the carpeting to get to the rear adjustment knobs. The steering has been software tuned by Polestar too, to offer the feeling of a tighter rack and the steering feels communicative and well-weighted.

Picture Credit - Kingshuk Dutta

Coming to the clinchers - the price, equipment offered and exclusivity. At Rs 52.5 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, the S60 Polestar has a whole list of radar based active safety systems including dynamic cruise control, auto emergency braking, blind spot assist and more, including six airbags. There's also just going to be 30 of these cars for the Indian market this year, which will make it a rare sight on Indian roads - the place where, we suspect, the S60 Polestar will be right at home, with its emphasis on usable performance.

Picture Credit - Kingshuk Dutta

Picture Credit - Kingshuk Dutta