It’s a Volvo renaissance proper now however, although the XC90 and S90 could also be flying off sellers’ heaps with their high-tech cabins and minimalistic model, true aficionados understand it’s Polestar the place the Swedish spirit lies. Whether or not that spirit is akvavit or high-octane gasoline is questionable – the uncharitable would possibly recommend they each style the identical – however the 2017 Volvo V60 Polestar and S60 Polestar are unmistakable. Peak loopy comes within the form of a vibrant blue wagon.
The present S60 and V60 – sedan and wagon, respectively – are on borrowed time. The success of Volvo’s most up-to-date launches, the XC90, S90, and just-arriving V90 Cross Nation could also be cutting-edge, however the 60 Collection dates again to 2010. It’ll get replaced over the subsequent couple of years, first with the XC60 simply unveiled on the Geneva Auto Present, however which means we’ll have to attend just a little longer for an all-new Polestar.
Nonetheless, with a staff that – even grown from its 15 staff when Volvo acquired it 18 months in the past – numbers beneath 100, the Polestar engineers are used to weaving particular issues from humble beginnings. The 2017 S60 and V60 Polestar are primarily based on the respective R-Design variants of every automotive, however with vital modifications throughout the board. As Henrik Fries, Vice President of R&D at Polestar, says, “it’s not only a huge turbo doing the job.”
All the identical, the most important change is certainly discovered beneath the hood. The outdated 60 Collection Polestar automobiles used a brief inline 6-cylinder engine, a turbocharged three.Zero-liter good for 345 horsepower and 369 lb-ft. of torque, paired with a 6-speed transmission. Even final 12 months, once I examined the 2016 V60 Polestar, it was an outlier in Volvo’s line-up, which has seen even its largest automobiles shift to a punchy Four-cylinder.
So, gone is the outdated engine and in comes a brand new Drive-E T6 for the 2017 automobiles. Capability is down, at 2.Zero-liters, however even with that and two fewer cylinders, horsepower is up. Actually, the brand new Polestars handle 362 HP, although torque dips to 347 lb-ft.
It’s all because of a mix of supercharging and turbocharging. Superchargers, you see, excel at low-end energy however not high-end; turbochargers, in distinction, take time to spool up – the so-called “turbo lag” – thus ship energy increased within the engine velocity vary. Within the case of Volvo’s T6, the supercharger kicks issues off after which begins handy over to the turbocharger at round three,000 rpm.
The consequence isn’t fairly as sonorous in its tone because the 6-cylinder was, nevertheless it’s a powertrain with its personal particular soundtrack. The supercharger’s whine can get fairly addictive, whereas the pops, burps, and gurgles from the turbocharger and three.Zero-inch exhaust system give the T6 an enthusiasm of its personal.
In the meantime, the outdated gearbox is changed with a brand new, Eight-speed Geartronix system. That guarantees quicker shifting in sport and guide modes, together with increased RPMs at off-throttle in order to extend the responsiveness of the automotive. Polestar additionally provides Curve Maintain, which tracks lateral G-force when cornering laborious, and prevents pointless gearshifts in order to keep away from unsettling the stability of the automotive.
In all, Polestar’s Fries says, there are greater than 260 new half numbers on the automobiles, and so they’re all “the bits that matter.” The staff is especially proud at how a lot of the racing has made it to the street automotive, and vice-versa. The 2017 V60 and S60 Polestar, for example, have adjustable shock absorbers together with the 80-percent elevated springs versus the R-Sport automotive, and 15-percent stiffer stabilizers.
I believe few homeowners will truly change the settings, nevertheless. Not like with lively dampers, which may be tweaked with the contact of a button on the dashboard, Polestar’s Öhlins shock absorbers require a wrench in an effort to be adjusted by means of their ten ranges. That may not be a difficulty when you could have a pit crew available to your racing staff, however even fanatics drawn to the Polestar idea may not be inclined to get their fingers soiled, and positively not frequently.
What you do get easy accessibility to are three settings for the ability steering. That’s switched to fully-electric, reasonably than electric-hydraulic as on the outdated automotive; Volvo says that, whereas fanatics would possibly protest, it’s truly allowed the engineers to refine the entire system extra. You possibly can select between three ranges of firmness, although I discovered all however the “excessive” setting to be just a little on the sunshine aspect when driving in earnest.
Along with the Sport mode, accessed by pushing the gearstick over to the left and which makes for quicker shifts, a extra full-throated exhaust, much less intrusive ESC, and extra rear-wheel bias for the AWD system, there’s a secret Sport+ mode. Like a cheat code for a basic console, it’s not one thing you’d come across by accident: after choosing Sport mode, you maintain the gearstick ahead after which double-click the downshift paddle. Two temporary flashes of the “S” icon on the motive force’s show are all of the affirmation you get that you simply’ve accomplished it accurately.
The thriller is as a result of Volvo by no means actually supposed it to make it to manufacturing. In Sport+ mode, the transmission by no means permits the engine to dip beneath Four,000 rpm from second gear up. Meant as a growth device for the Polestar staff, it was so well-liked that they left it in.
It’s Sport+ mode that I chosen when Volvo took me to the monitor to see the Polestar in its pure habitat. With the adjustable shocks stiffened up on the entrance, tire pressures adjusted, and ESC off, the automotive surges ahead with an eagerness to climb by means of the revs. Zero-60 is available in Four.Four seconds within the S60 – the V60 is Zero.1 seconds slower – and the transition between turbocharging and supercharging is virtually invisible, giving the Polestar rather more of a naturally-aspirated character because it sails as much as 7,000 rpm.
With out the large, heavy 6-cylinder on the entrance, the automotive feels way more balanced front-to-rear. There’s far much less dive in heavy braking, and the entrance finish feels much less inclined to interrupt out throughout aggressive cornering. The BorgWarner all-wheel drive system telegraphs the ability extra cleanly, too; certain, you get loads of squeal from the 245/35 ZR 20 Michelin Pilot Tremendous Sport tires, however the Polestar stays settled.
Out on the street, in the meantime, it’s the brand new transmission that makes the most important distinction. Shifts are snappier in guide mode, and there’s far much less searching and lag when the automated is left to its personal gadgets. The outdated Polestar could possibly be left wrong-footed in the event you instantly referred to as upon its energy; the brand new automotive is way extra responsive.
It’s additionally noticeably extra compliant even when street surfaces aren’t at their greatest. The outdated automotive appeared decided to not solely shake any free tooth free, however liquidize a lot of the bones in your physique with its unforgivingly stiff suspension. With the 2017 S60 and V60 Polestar, although they’re nonetheless agency – as a cattle grid taken at velocity demonstrated – they’d undoubtedly be simpler to reside with.
And sure, there’s part of me which misses the uncouth excesses of the outdated 6-cylinder Polestar. It was, undoubtedly, a flawed automotive in some ways: too laborious and noisy in on a regular basis driving; nose-heavy and missing gearbox alacrity when pushed laborious. Whereas on paper which may have made it a poor competitor to extra refined efficiency automobiles, in apply its allure gained you over. It was like a Labrador pet, all outsized paws and limitless enthusiasm, and whereas it might need been clumsy at occasions it was charming with it.
However the 2017 V60 and S60 Polestar are undoubtedly extra refined expressions of Volvo’s sporting capabilities. Energy arrives extra easily; the front-to-rear stability is healthier; it’s simpler to drive each quick and sluggish. On paper and on the street, you may’t fault any of Polestar’s choices, particularly given Volvo’s willpower to make a 365-day automotive, not only a track-day particular.
I can hear your criticisms already. At $60,000 for a fully-loaded S60 Polestar, or $62,600 for the V60 Polestar wagon – which, when you have any sense or honor in your physique and soul, you have to be selecting of the 2 – these aren’t low cost automobiles. They’ve robust, succesful competitors from huge names like Mercedes-AMG and BMW M Sport, and growing old infotainment programs in a dashboard that already regarded fussy three years in the past.
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Look, although. Polestar will solely make 1,500 of those automobiles for 2017; only a couple hundred of these will land within the US. Most shall be within the superb Cyan Racing Blue; two of each three bought will in all probability be a wagon. You may purchase a V60 Polestar and drive it on daily basis that’s left on this 12 months, and never see one other automotive prefer it. That makes it far rarer than a Ferrari and, although Bugatti is making 3 times as many Chiron, you’d need to pay $2.7m for that.
Actually, in terms of exclusivity-per-dollar spent, it’s laborious to think about one thing higher than this curio in “Swedish Racing Inexperienced”. That you just’re getting a automotive that’s a hoot to drive with actual character too, effectively, that’s simply gravy in your meatballs.