It’s fair to say the original S60 Polestar didn’t blow us away. The bright blue Swede finished dead last at last year’s PCOTY, impressing with its straight-line speed but little else. “Proves that fast isn’t, of itself, enough,” was Morley’s neat summation.
To its credit, Volvo didn’t throw a tantrum and chuck its leksaker out of the pram; it took the criticism on the chin, made some mods and now we have Polestar v2.0. Cleverly, Volvo resisted the urge to make wholesale changes, instead tweaking the areas that needed it most, such as the brakes, gearbox and those awful seats that left the driver hanging on to the too-big steering wheel like a Viking about to be thrown overboard into the North Atlantic.
The over-sized steering wheel remains, but the flat front pews have been replaced by shapely buckets. It’s a case of ‘as you were’ for the rest of the interior, bar the cool sci-fi digital instruments introduced as part of the S60’s recent facelift. You can even change them from red (Performance) to blue (Elegant) to green (Eco) – red it is, then.
Under the bonnet was one place the Polestar needed no improvement. Having a turbo’d 3.0-litre six slung transversely over the front axle mightn’t do wonders for weight distribution, but there’s no doubting the efficacy of the engine itself. With 257kW and more than 500Nm, the Polestar hits 100km/h in about 5.0sec, with power everywhere and brilliant throttle response for a turbo engine.
It is thirsty, averaging around 15L/100km during our tenure, and despite the welcome addition of gearshift paddles, the six-speed auto is still too keen to act of its own accord, upshifting automatically at redline and downshifting to the lowest possible gear under full throttle. Frustrating.
Thankfully, the S60 Polestar now stops as well as it goes, with six-pot Brembo front calipers clasping 370mm discs and high performance pads at both ends. The pedal needs a firm shove but there’s ample retardation; almost too much, as it’s remarkably easy to trigger the ABS.
Attack a few corners and the Polestar is stable and surefooted, though trail the brakes and the rear pivots nicely. Greater rear bias to the all-wheel drive system would help matters, though possibly not as much as improving the ride.
Calling it harsh would be too, erm, harsh, but you feel every bump and a poor road can leave occupants feeling a bit battered. The expensive Öhlins dampers are adjustable, so it would be interesting to spend a day fiddling to see if a softer compromise could be found.
The best change Volvo’s made to the new Polestar, however, is lopping $10K off the price. At $99,950, this puts it within spitting distance of the more accomplished HSV GTS, but we suspect a potential Polestar buyer would no more consider the GTS than an HSV buyer would a Volvo.
Still, improved though it is, we can’t help but feel this is what the regular T6 R-Design should be like.
Engine: 2953cc inline-6, DOHC, 24v, turbo
Power: 257kW @ 5700rpm
Torque: 500Nm+ @ 2800-4750rpm
0-100km/h: 4.9sec (claimed)
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