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Updated Volvo S60 Polestar
Volvo S60 Polestar.
Think of this as the Volvo S60 Polestar - version 1.5.
After a successful pilot program of 50 cars in 2013 Volvo has released an updated version of its S60 Polestar. It has returned with another limited run of 50 examples based on the 2014 model S60 but has learnt the lessons of the first attempt and tried to improve its weaknesses.
Although praised for its flexible engine and engaging ride, two areas were singled out by critics and customers in need of attention. Firstly, the brakes which suffered from fade after a couple of big stops. Secondly, the interior, that lacked sporty flair to match the sporty intent of car.
So the engineers at Polestar started by ditching the previous braking hardware. The old Polestar relied on the discs sourced from the next generation of Volvo models and the callipers from the superseded XC90 V8.
For the update, new 370mm/302mm ventilated front/rear discs paired with six-piston Brembo front callipers for improved stopping performance.
“I would be impressed if you killed these brakes,” was Polestar managing director Hans Baath’s challenge before the test drive began.
But he was right to be confident because a day of hard driving through the Adelaide hills couldn’t hurt the performance of the new hardware.
There is plenty of bite when you hit the pedal and no sign of fade after repeated big stops. The pedal feel is also good for a performance car, with firm pressure but good feel allowing you to modulate just how much stopping power you use.
As for the interior the news isn’t quite so good. It still lacks the flair you expect from a car that costs more than $100k and is the flagship sports model in the range. The steering wheel, dashboard and infotainment systems are all straight from the regular S60. They aren’t bad - quite the contrary - but they don’t give the Polestar anything special.
Where Polestar was able to combat criticism of the previous model was with its flat, unsupportive seats. The new model gets a new Volvo-developed sports seat that offers great side bolstering which hugs you tighter and keeps you more stable when pressing on.
The seats are finished in leather and Nubuck (faux suede) and get unique Polestar blue contrasting stitching to give them a little touch of something special.
Also new are the changes to the regular S60 for 2014 which include a new Sensus infotainment system, LED driving lights, adaptive digital display and active high beam lights.
Those updates aside, the 2014 S60 Polestar remains unchanged from the 2013 model that won praise for its un-Volvo-like performance.
The 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged engine continues to impress with its healthy dose of power and flexibility across the rev range.
The gearbox is smooth and another 2014 S60 change that carries over to the Polestar are the new paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Polestar has optimised the shifts to make them faster and sharper and having the paddle shifters allows the driver to get more involved in the driving experience.
Polestar is justifiably proud of the suspension set-up on the S60 and hasn’t altered it for this updated model. It offers up an impressive amount of grip but can also soak up most bumps relatively comfortably. Certainly on some of the Adelaide hill’s rougher roads the Polestar never felt uncomfortable.
The extended test yesterday allowed time to play with the 20-way adjustable Ohlins dampers (the same brand Polestar works with on all its racing programs). Although adjusting the dampers requires getting on the ground to access underneath the front wheel wells and temporarily removing the boot lining at the rear, the adjustments are relatively easy and takes less than five minutes to do.
Volvo and Polestar don’t expect customers to fiddle around with the dampers on a daily basis but our test highlighted the difference it can make.
All local cars come with the suspension set at 10 out of 20 – what Polestar believes to be the best balance between grip and comfort. Drive changed all four dampers to 20 and the change in the ride was immediately noticeable; softer and more compliant at the expensive of some responsiveness.
In truth, the mid setting is spot on for most conditions but if you ever took the S60 Polestar onto a track or if you enjoy a softer ride then you’ll love the adjustability.
Such V8 Supercar-style options sum up what the S60 Polestar is all about. It takes Volvo to a place it has never been before, and while it isn’t a match for a BMW M3 or Mercedes AMG C63 it is a more-than-competent sports sedan.
The updates for 2014 also demonstrate just how determined Volvo Australia (which has been the catalyst for this project) and Polestar are to getting it right. They’ve taken a good car and made it better.
Volvo S60 Polestar pricing and specifications
Price: $109,950 plus on-road and dealer costs
On sale: April
Engine: 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol
Power: 257kW at 5700rpm
Torque: 500Nm at 3000-4750rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto, AWD
Fuel consumption: 10.2L/100km