STRANGE and wonderful things are happening at Volvo. In its first season it Aussie V8 Supercars, its blue S60 is grabbing oodles of pole positions and winning races.
The tradies and CUBs like the street version, too. The sneers have gone. The Volvo S60, track star, is fashionable. Admired. Loved.
Australia, a demanding and discerning place for performance cars, has been a pilot market for two punchy, limited-run road versions of the Polestar-tuned S60 since June 2013.
Starting as a Volvo racing team, privately owned and Sweden-based Polestar has evolved to now engineering production versions of the Volvo S60 and (as from October) the Volvo V60, lavishing them with special go-faster touches.
The taste testing is done and Australia and the world (well, seven other markets including the UK and USA) are getting the sizzling new, further improved S60 and V60 Polestar.
Make no mistake, these are spirited, carefully created cars for the new breed of punters.
Power and torque was never an issue. The turbo straight six lays down numbers to worry any competitors, with a pleasing, active exhaust sound accompanying any serious urgency with the throttle.
Torque range and transmission have been optimised for driveability. In Sport and Manual modes, the six-speed auto gives minimal “interference” meaning it holds gears longer and won’t change unprompted mid-corner.
With stability control turned off and sensors measuring lateral forces and throttle position, the Haldex AWD concedes more wheel slip and gives more rear-drive bias. The throttle can be picked up oh so early and firmly exiting corners, and if you nail the sweet spot there’s even a touch of oversteer.
But like most autos, there is a slight delay between tapping the upshift paddle and the ‘box grabbing the next gear. This isn’t dual-clutch speedy….
Suspension has been tweaked since the MY14 iteration, increasing chassis control. Settings are 80 per cent stiffer than the regular S60 R Design model, but still splendidly compliant. Anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control have been recalibrated around the revised suspension tune and tyre/wheel package.
Low-profile 245/35 ZR20 Michelin Pilot Super Sports instead of 19-inch Bridgestones have helped lift corner pace and accuracy, along with comfort (noise), albeit with some light roar on secondary roads. Better than before, though.
Resulting grip levels are notable and corners can be tackled confidently at rocket-like speeds with the added knowledge that any modest understeer can be eliminated with subtle throttle adjustment, without unsettling the rig.
On the race track, stopping performance of the big Brembo brakes, with new main cylinder and brake booster, remained consistent.
Enthusiast owners may climb underneath with a spanner for personal rebound and compression tuning of the bespoke Ohlins shockers anywhere from fully firm (0) to the softest setting (20) to suit conditions and road surface. Takes just a few minutes. We were more than happy with the factory setting which nods to a mix of poise and ride comfort.
The S60 and V60 are loaded with safety, comfort and convenience goodies. Hero colour is the same blue as the two V8 Supercars, but other hues are available – white, silver, black…
The important improvements to the seating and introduction of paddle shifting earlier in 2014 help deliver an impression of this being a fine, cleverly sorted all-round driver’s car.
Polestar’s MD Hans Baath emphasises that the S60/V60 Polestars are civilised, full factory Volvos, with the usual warranty and quality.
Polestar and Volvo also reveal the S60 and V70 are the forerunners to more like products, at a time the car maker is poised to move to efficient new platforms and a versatile range of turbo fours.
Bring ‘em on. We’re loving the new-age Volvo Polestars.