Even the Swedes get angry. Sometimes.
A flash of blue whizzes by, followed by a loud cackle of the exhaust and the squealin' begging of tyres and suddenly an old veteran dressed in a dapper blue suit welcomes me to the pit garage. As if to reaffirm the arctic promise, the Rebel Blue shade of the S60 Polestar matches the hue of this suit to the tee. Or is it the other way around? What is beyond doubt is that Volvo has taken this modification job seriously.
The S60 has been around for a few years in India and while the European market has had Polestar versions of the earlier generation car, this is the first time that we are seeing this performance variant make it to our shores. So, school bus no more. Volvo wants a bite from the Fast and the Furious.
Volvo S60 Polestar: Re-Engineered inside out
At first glance, it's evident what they're trying to do. Take a perfectly innocent family sedan and pump it with steroids until the marketing execs can't tame their spreadsheets anymore. But dig deeper and you realise that the Polestar version has undergone radical changes under the skin to make it a true-blue sports car, no pun intended.
Overall, there more than 250 new parts compared to the standard car. Starting with the engine, which has gone under the knife to cut off two cylinders from the previous Polestar model, it now bears a larger turbocharger to squeeze out an insane 367bhp from a 4cyl motor. Mate that to 470Nm of torque and suddenly the spec sheet looks like a Porsche Boxster! The Polestar development head goes on to highlight that everything from the pistons to the camshafts to the air intakes have been upsized to make more power, breathe more air and cool better, all in the name of speed. The active exhaust system now opens up the valves to emulate the sound of thunder quite easily and heighten the amusement factor. That's if the 0-100 time of 4.7 secs hasn't already proved what this family car can do when it's whipped.
The subtle aerodynamic add ons on the front and rear like the lip and the diffuser/spoiler, both add around 50kg of downforce to the car at 250km/hr. That's useless info unless you know a friend who knows a friend who knows the owners the Buddh International Circuit. But what should be more of interest to you while making a trip down to the local Shiv Sagar is that it will garner enough attention from onlookers and a lot will even be going for their phone cams. It is a stunning looking sedan with almost perfect dimensions, sculpted bonnet and tightly skinned shoulders that blend into trademark inverted L shaped Volvo tail lights.
Thor has been given a break with his hammer for this model and it doesn't get the latest Volvo design language as seen on the S90 and XC90. But in its defense, it is a different beast that has been bred with love over two years of development time by the best crop of engineers in the Polestar team. Volvo is so keen to prove its mettle that even the dampers can be controlled if you really want to get into the DIY game and remove the carpeting from the boot that gives you access to a porthole for the shocks. The spring rate is already a massive 80% stiffer than the normal car and out on the Kari Motor Speedway, it was futile to try and test its suppleness but we will give it another go on the cobbled streets of Mumbai.
A curious discussion led me to the knowledge that even the tyres were developed specifically for the S60 Polestar by Michelin, after Volvo rejected four other brands. Coupled with the 6-pot Brembo brakes, stopping power isn't in short supply and even out on the track after four hot laps, pedal feel and travel wasn't diminished. A feat not many performance cars can lay claim to. It only helps that the gorgeous 20in wheels fill out the arches better than anything we've seen since the lady lifeguards of Baywatch. Inside, sculpted seats, blue stitching all around, special Polestar gearknob and genuine carbon Fibre inlay on the Centre console make it stand out from the poor man’s S60.
Volvo S60 Polestar: Top of the tech
It's a Volvo so safety can't be far behind. The S60 comes specced with the latest Radar guided anti-collision system, blind-spot assist, lane departure warning, park pilot assist and adaptive cruise control. This is the point where most Indians would smirk and dismiss the intervening of computers on our God-guided roads but the S60 will take matter into its own hands and even brake if you are too busy offering prayers to a pavement dwelling temple.
HI-FI has taken a different approach too and you no longer get the high-end Bowers & Wilkins system as on the S90 or the XC90 but the 12-speaker Harman Kardon system on offer isn’t bad at all and with the DIRAC processing, it makes the cabin sound like a much larger space than it actually is. The structural integrity isn't the finest as you pump up the bass, the door panels add to the sound experience, something we aren't big fans of.
The inclusion of Dolby ProLogic II however is interesting and gives your the control over the level of surround-ness you like in your music. Fancy listening to Daft Punk in a stadium-sized aural experience? Knock yourself out. The usual ambient lighting, sunroof, powered seats, digital speedo and engine start/stop prevail but don’t excite hardcore fanatics anymore. We though, aren’t complaining.
Volvo S60 Polestar: The Early Verdict
Out on the track, the car feels stable, eager and agile. Thanks to less cylinders and less weight, the nose is darty and wisely, Volvo has set up the 4WD system to work with a rear-wheel bias most of the time, including at launch, to give you the shove in the back you deserve for shelling out close to 60 lacs of Rupees. What is perhaps the most entertaining bit of the car is that in Sport+ mode, the engine won't drop revs to below 4000rpm (woohoo!) and the Curve Hold system in the 8-speed auto transmission won't automatically shift to a higher gear in the middle of a corner (woohoo!).
It's evident that the Polestar team wanted customers to have fun with this car and fun it is. Even with the traction control off, it progressively understeers, giving you enough time to shed speed and get it back in line. There are paddle shifts to enhance the boy racer feeling and it has a best friend too...the scintillating exhaust note is always pushing you go faster and thankfully, the throttle response and shift times don't disappoint. The steering though, could do with more feel and directness. Most of the time, I just felt like it was weighty but not communicating anything back from the track to me and the Kari Motor Speedway has a section of broken tarmac. But that would be nitpicking really. As would be the lackluster interiors that reek of older-generation Volvo's.
For its asking price of ₹52.5lacs (ex-showroom, Delhi), there is no other car that offers this level of excitement. Well, the Mini Cooper S with the John Cooper Works kit comes close but it isn't a car your family will thank you for on a trip. The S60 Polestar is a family man’s hooligan that will change character and colour faster than a chameleon. And speaking of colour, please buy it in Blue and call us when you do!