Volvo reinforces its status with Polestar (re)Engineered models
All prestige, upmarket car brands need a halo tuning arm, states Iain Robertson, and while Polestar has been on Volvo’s side-lines for a few years now, its strength of purpose is now being realised in competently upgraded S60, V60 and XC60 variants.
In a slightly mad world of conflicting environmental information, small children joining the ranks of naysaying snowflakes and political uncertainty exceeding antipathetic levels and stretching our saint-like patience to snapping point, there exists a teensy shaft of light. If you are ‘into cars’, as I am, it is worth highlighting that our new car scene is currently in a parlous position, however much the industry might try to deny it.
Yet, make and model choices have never been greater, even though prices are on an ‘up’ escalator that shows zero signs of winding back, unless you argue heartily that the individual marques need sales like never before, just to keep their heads above the rising water level. These are strange days indeed. However, there is no cessation of sales in the upper segments, probably because of the demands of the company car sector, which predominates in the UK, even though many companies have drawn-in their horns and are watching their finances carefully.
The ‘tuner’ market has seldom been busier. It is, in volume terms, relatively small but it is also one reliant on satisfying end-user dictates; probably more so than for the volume end of the scene. When I say ‘tuner’, I do not mean the back street ‘Johnny’ whacking out ECU upgrades and fatter tyres. Instead, this elite group consists of some of the most honoured names in the motor and motorsport industries.
Merc has AMG, BMW applies M Power, Audi uses its RS prowess and Volvo (the aforementioned ‘shaft of light’) has Polestar, the first iterations of which (as noted above) are centred on the T8 TwinPower engine designation. The potency hike of 15bhp, which is an expectation, is not massive but, when the ‘standard’ factory offering is 390bhp, possessing an ‘adequacy’ of power remains eminently satisfying and as conservative as Volvo needs it to be.
Volvo’s outstanding 2.0-litre turbo-petrol modular engine technology is a 303bhp marvel in its own right; strongly engineered, with a wide range of power outputs and model applications. Mated to a self-charging and plug-in electric power unit gifts the cars a stunning performance spread, supported by a massive torque figure of 494lbs ft. In raw terms (V60 and XC60 in respective brackets), the S60 Polestar Engineered model blitzes the 0-60mph sprint in a mere 4.1s (4.3s; 5.1s), returning 104.5mpg (104.5mpg; 88.2mpg), emitting CO2 at a rate of 48g/km (48g/km; 56g/km), allied to an EV range of 27.3 miles (27.3 miles; 22.4 miles). Okay. It is still glugging fossil fuels but at a significantly reduced level, as such, it is literally, the best of both worlds.
While Polestar is a brand dedicated to maximising the impact of Electric Vehicles, with its own product launch programme to deal with, the engineering arm of the company is little different to that of Porsche. In fact, prior to becoming owned by Volvo, it was involved independently but specifically with tuning Volvo cars. Funded by the giant Chinese carmaker, Geely, its involvement now includes reprogramming the automatic transmission for speedier up and downshifts and ‘fuzzy logic’ that manages the shift quality and settings. Notably attractive are the signature gold brake callipers (Brembo on S/V60; Akebono on the XC60), visible through the spokes of 19.0-inch diameter, black-finished, forged alloy wheels for both saloon and estate car versions, with the XC60 wearing 21.0-inch alternatives.
While abundant grip comes from the tyres, their efforts are helped by the adoption of adjustable Ohlins bespoke damper and spring set-ups, reinforced by an under-bonnet strut brace that ensures taut control, fine handling balance, ace road-holding and refined ride quality. Steering responses, which are always good on a Volvo, are raised to an even higher level with these changes and the overall dynamic balance is simply on another plane. At no stage do they make any of the 60-Series models less than resilient for daily use. Of course, set the mode to ‘Sport’ and the cars will behave accordingly, although the annoying jostling of occupants is not part of the equation. In ‘Comfort’, the cars’ ride quality is sublime, even with the huge alloys fitted to the XC60 in Polestar enhanced form.
Apart from the addition of (signature) gold seatbelts and the standardisation of Volvo’s sporty and supportively bolstered seats, clad in hide, with Alcantara suede elements for added occupant grip, it is only the subtle Polestar badging, black chrome exhaust tailpipes and trim strips that add the finishing flourishes. Unsurprisingly, the list prices take an upwards stride but not to the point of inaccessibility, or unaffordability, with the S60 model tagged at £56,105 (£57,205; £64,545), they are all available to order now, with first deliveries taking place before the end of the year.
Volvo is riding the crest of an international wave at present, helped immeasurably by its status as a middle-American transport idyll and sales in the UK confounding the downturned state of the market by setting new records consistently. The Polestar Engineered details will be applied to other Volvo ranges in due course, simultaneously raising brand expectations, while enhancing a vibrantly refreshed image for a current model line-up that has never been held in such high esteem. As the company continues its futureproofing in both performance and eco-friendly realms, Volvo is looking unstoppable.
Conclusion: Helped by plug-in hybrid technology and outstanding fuel economy and emissions figures, Volvo is safeguarding its reputation in the company car sector (where the money is), with Polestar factoring-in an essential sporting appeal. It is an easy match for any of its European rivals and can knock spots off them in many ways.