Volvo is taking aim at the sports sedan segment of the market with its latest S60 Polestar, writes Lerato Matebese
Taking a stab at the competitive sports sedan segment requires a sound package that not only ticks the practicality box but, more importantly, the performance one, which includes items such as a fairly powerful engine, tweaked suspension, beefed-up brakes and a responsive gearbox that can cope with the rigours of daily driving.
Volvo is aiming to play in this segment with more punch this time in the form of its new S60 Polestar. The last generation featured a 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder, but it was an old powerplant and the last of the company’s non-Driv-e engines.
Polestar, which is the Swedish car manufacturers’ performance arm, wants to establish itself as a brand to be spoken of in the same breath as Audi’s S/RS, BMW’s M and Merc’s AMG models.
We have previously sampled Polestar-enhanced models from the range, which had some software enhancements, but were never built as Polestar models from the ground up. The S60 Polestar, then, is the first fully-fledged model to come from the go-faster nomenclature and with it comes some model specific items — both cosmetically and mechanically — that include new 20-inch wheels wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport 2 rubber, Ohlins tuned and adjustable suspension, beefed-up engine conrods, twin charged engine (super and turbocharged), 24kg weight saving over the older vehicle, and an active sports exhaust. The interior, too, has been made to feel special thanks to the liberal use of leather and Alcantara festooned with blue stitching that is also evident on the steering wheel, and gear lever boot. The gear lever has a translucent knob that glows a cool blue hue.
The rest of the cabin features the high quality materials we have come to appreciate from Volvo, although the faux carbon fibre trim looks out of place in an otherwise pleasing interior.
Under the bonnet sits the new 2.0-litre super and turbocharged unit that thumps out 270kW and 470Nm via an eight-speed automatic gearbox to the Haldex four-wheel drive system. The result is a fairly brisk, if a little heavy, family saloon that can be driven quite confidently under most conditions. In normal drive mode, it slushes through the gears as you would expect of a family sedan and makes for a consummate cruiser on the open road, which is its best habitat.
However, should you feel a bit like Thed Bjork or Robert Dahlgren, Volvo’s WTCC (World Touring Car Championship) racers, then simply flick the gear lever from drive to Sport. This liberates the exhaust flap for a throatier and more assertive sound, while the gearbox assumes a sportier shifting mode. The steering wheel, too, takes on a much heavier demeanour in the interests of better feedback when changing direction. That exhaust sounds cheeky at low revs before rising to a whooshing, turbo-induced pitch at higher revs.
It is, in the grand scheme of things, an entertaining sedan to pilot quickly, but there are a few things that could be improved further. For starters, the vehicle does feel rather hefty when flicked into corners and under braking and the transmission is not particularly responsive, even when taking command of the steering mounted paddles. Thankfully, those six-piston Brembo-sourced brakes measuring 371mm at the front do a sterling job of shaving off speed and offer good brake pedal feel.
That aside, the S60 Polestar is easily one of the most comprehensively specified models in the segment and comes with a host of standard safety and convenience equipment.
Where does the model fit into the grand scheme of things? For starters it aims squarely at the BMW 340i and the forthcoming Audi S4 in the performance stakes. Mercedes is yet to confirm its C43 AMG saloon, as that will be its rival to the S60 Polestar.
As its first attempt at the genre, the S60 Polestar is a laudable effort. Things can only get better from here on should the company address the few concerns mentioned.
In isolation, the model is a well put together, comprehensively specified and a consummate long-distance cruiser. Also, because of the combination of the super and turbocharger, there is negligible lag as the former works at lower speed, thanks to its lower inertia, while the latter takes over proceedings at the upper echelons of the rev range. With a limited number coming to SA, it will be a rare sight and that, if nothing else, will remain the model’s main draw card when it becomes available for sale next month. – Lerato Matebese
Fast Facts: Volvo S60 Polestar
Engine: 1 969cc four-cylinder turbo and supercharged
Power: 270kW at 6000rpm
Torque: 470Nm @ 3100rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 4.7-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 250 km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 7.8l/100km (claimed combined)
CO2: 179g/km (claimed)
Price: From R749 500