A fast Volvo. I have no memories of the S80 V8. It was a rare car and I hear it was fast, but going by how the non-V8 S80 handled, you couldn’t call it a driver’s car. Eight cylinders became six and I’ll give you a cookie if you find me a S60 T6. That was a rare breed too. When the T6 faded out, came the Drive-E four cylinder engines, new powertrains that were cutting edge, smooth and refined but far from fast. Every new Volvo has them, and in the peak of their performance, they can be found in the XC90 T8 with a supercharger and a turbocharger bolted on. It’s a heavy breather and also gets an electric motor to push out about 400 horsepower. This beautifully blue S60 Polestar houses a close relative of this engine. And we had a few hot laps in the ‘mad’ Volvo at the Kari Speedway in Coimbatore. How did it all go? Read on.
Get the gear selector to drive, yank it left to engage sport mode and turn the ESC off. Good lord, in a Volvo! I’m already starting to like the influence of Polestar on the guys who always play safe, not fast. So ESC off is important because Volvos and famously electronically restrained cars. Once you get that done, you can engage Sport Plus too with a long procedure that involves a sequence of paddle shift movements but its best to avoid it. Sport is good. Once there, drive the S60 Polestar out of the pits and a long nice supercharger whine will surprise you as you get on the gas. The S60 Polestar comes across instantly as a quick car. It builds speed well and just as you are through with the first gear into turn one, you have got to brake for the next sequence of corners.
The S60 Polestar gets a Borg Warner all-wheel drive system with a slight rear bias when you are exiting corners while throttling out. It’s enough to indicate a push over a pull. But go aggressive over the steering and get the S60’s weight to its sides and you will notice the weight of the car making it understeer. The trick is to be gentle on the throttle till you make the corner and power out as you bleed in to the exit. Slow in fast out is the oldest trick in the book for a fast lap around a racetrack. You have got to stick to that rule in the S60 Polestar and stay away from being too aggressive on the throttle.
That said, the grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport 245/35ZR20 tyres is simply superb, and the mega 370mm front Brembos and 302mm rear discs can shed speed well. The S60 however dives in under heavy braking. That I suppose can be curbed by making the suspension stiffer. The cars on the track seemed to be set up a little softer than I would have liked, keeping in mind the bumpy surface of the Kari Speedway and the big media contingent driving the cars with varying track experience levels. It would do with a stiffer setting for the suspension but that isn’t easy.
Unlike dynamic dampers you get in all cars that get an electronic switch on the centre console, the S60 Polestar goes oldschool. The Ohlins dampers are manually adjustable, which could be cumbersome, but if you want to get it just right, there’s no better way since it can be adjusted up to ten counts. Are Volvo drivers that focused though is the question? Would someone jack up the front of the car, change the front damping settings, go to the boot to flip open the rear seats, get under the insulation material and adjust the rear dampers, and just in case one didn’t get it right, do the whole procedure again? I would grudgingly, just because I rate ride quality over everything else, but I’m not sure everyone would.
Polestar takes their cars very seriously, maybe a little too much for halfway enthusiasts. An S60 Polestar is for someone who wants a daily driver that can go fast once in a while. A daily driver can’t be set up stiff and every time you want to carve a few corners, you have got to set it up first manually. That’s too much of an effort. Nevertheless, there’s plenty more besides the suspension set up that you’d like. Pop the bonnet and a carbon fibre strut brace boasts of the S60’s tight body control, the chassis itself is eighty per cent stiffer, the front seats are the best pair of buckets you will find in a sedan of this price and the Alcantara lined seats and steering wheel feel quite special.
The S60 Polestar has a strong engine and does 0-100kmph in a claimed 4.7 seconds and will get to 250kmph on a long enough straight. The power delivery from the supercharged and turbocharged in-line four-cylinder Drive-E engine is robust in the midrange and delivers a healthy dose of power all the way to 6000rpm. If you stay pinned, it will redline at 7000rpm and even hold gear. So yes, the S60 polestar is quick, and in Sport Plus when the active exhausts working, you get a nice burble at an upshift. The S60 however lacks the connect you get in many sportscars, things like feedback from the steering, the precision at turn in or the pressure through the pedals.
On the styling front, the S60 Polestar gets interesting aero bits like a front splitter, a rear bootlip spoiler and a rear diffuser. Compared to the base S60, the front splitter and rear spoiler contribute to an extra 54kg of downforce at max speed. It’s got beautiful 20 inch wheels too, and it all looks fantastic with the unique Rebel Blue paint.
The S60 Polestar is a fast car but lacks the involvement that you get in a C 43 AMG. The latter feels more balanced and lighter in direction changes than the Polestar, so in that sense, if you have to buy a car that has more agility, it’s the C 43 AMG all the way. But when you weigh in the price, which at Rs 52.5 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi is an absolute steal for a sport sedan, the S60 Polestar makes a strong case for itself. It’s for the discerning car buyer who wants a dollop of performance every once in a while but doesn’t want to break the bank for it.