Wednesday, 31 August 2016

REVIEW – Volvo V60 Polestar


The Volvo V60 is a practical, sensible family car. It has space for the family, the dogs and the shopping. Generally it doesn’t appeal to the keen drivers amongst us. Sure there are R-Design models with nice body kits and sporty seats, but they never really pack the substance to go with it. Until now. You see Volvo have gone a bit mad. They’ve handed the V60 over to their tuning company, Polestar, and basically told them to work their magic. So they have. And the result? Well it’s just plain bonkers… I couldn’t wait to have a go!

Looks – 10/10

I like the styling of the standard V60. It’s well-proportioned, sleek and executive looking. So how do you modify this to show that this is a rather special estate car? Well apparently it’s simple. You finish the car in a striking colour, which for Volvo is easy given that you can order any R-Design in “Rebel Blue”. Then you combine this with some stunning alloy wheels, which the 20-inch snowflake numbers certainly are. Then you add some subtle touches, such as changing the chrome window surround for gloss black, painting the mirrors gloss black, and likewise with the rear diffuser. Look closely and you will spot the Polestar logo on the exhaust tips, the huge front brakes and the shark fin aerial. You could quite easily mistake this for a standard R-Design, which makes the Polestar a master of disguise.

Inside it’s a case of subtle touches again. The seats are the same as you would find in an R-Design, which means they are sculpted and heavily bolstered. But they are finished in leather and alcantara, have blue stitching and have the Polestar logo embossed on the back. The steering wheel is half leather and half alcantara, again with blue stitching, and you can spy the aluminium gear shift paddles hiding behind. The 3D, glow-in-the-dark gear selector features a Polestar logo and, you guessed it, blue stitching. The centre console is finished with a carbon-effect trim and is slightly angled toward the driver, which is a stylish touch. As with all Volvo’s the materials are top quality and the cabin has a premium look and feel to it.


Handling/Performance – 10/10

The engine in my test car was a 3.0-litre, turbocharged straight six petrol unit. And it’s a gem. Power is 350PS and 500Nm, which is sent to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic gearbox. That results in a 0-62mph sprint of 5.0 seconds, and an electronically-limited top speed of 155mph. The 6-cylinder unit feels powerful and
torquey, and has a lovely noise. Move the gear selector into ‘S’ mode and flaps in the exhaust open, to reveal an absolutely beautiful soundtrack. The Polestar howls through the rev range to a rasp as you reach the limit. It makes you go tingly, and want to down-change before going through any bridge or tunnel.

With 4WD grip, the V60 Polestar can handle its power comfortably. Standard kit includes a full Ohlins setup, which is fantastic. In everyday driving it is noticeably firm at lower speeds, but just about on the right side of comfortable for me. At motorway speeds it’s as good a cruiser as any. Yet once you’re in attack mode it comes into its own. Never before have I driven such a large car that is so composed through the bends. There is no lean. No roll. You are held in place by the bucketed seats and find yourself going rather quickly. Which is when you will be reassured to find 371mm, 6-piston front brakes. Stamp on the big pedal and your face will be imprinted on the windscreen; the Polestar has serious stopping power. The steering is sharp and weighty but, if I’m being uber-critical, lacks a little feel.

Economy – 8/10

Now you would expect a big, 3.0-litre car to be rather poor when it comes to running costs. And if you drive enthusiastically then you may be right. Quoted combined fuel consumption is 27.7mpg which is probably around the level you thought. But the V60 Polestar must have something magical going on under the bonnet. You see I took it on a motorway slog, and returned 36.3mpg, which for a car like this is remarkable. CO2 emissions are 237g/km, which puts the Polestar in VED band L. That’s £500 a year and £885 in the first year, which is expensive. The new Polestar has a 4-cylinder engine and boasts better economy, so it will be interesting to try that in the real world.

Practicality – 10/10

Whilst the V60 Polestar doesn’t drive like an estate car, it does have the practical side of one. The cabin is spacious front and back, with a sizeable boot for the dogs. The rear load cover even has a built-in dog guard which is a nice touch. And there are no option boxes here; the V60 Polestar comes fully loaded as standard. Satellite navigation, Sensus Connect with sound by Harmon Kardon, reversing camera, keyless entry and go, heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, lane-keeping assist, blind spot information system and adaptive cruise control are all on the equipment list. That all means that owning a V60 Polestar isn’t a compromise. The performance may be electric but in ‘D’ mode it can be a civilised cruiser too, making it a car for all occasions; from the motorway hauls to those blasts round the countryside.

Fun – 10/10

Any car that drives like this is heaps of fun. Throw in the soundtrack of that Polestar exhaust and the sensory effect is gratifying. Call me childish, but I wanted to drive everywhere with it bellowing on full song. But what really makes you smile is the element of surprise. People hear it coming down the street and turn around to find out what is making the racket. It is a look of bewilderment and disbelief that it’s a bright blue Volvo estate. And a fair few BMW drivers in their 320d’s were left a bit red faced when they tried to take on what they thought was another diesel family wagon. Should you wish to make the soundtrack more musical the Sensus Connect system is one of the best out there, and the Harmon Kardon stereo is crisp and clear. I wanted to grab the keys to the Polestar at every opportunity. I wanted to take the more interesting route home, and it reminded me why I love driving. I’m sold.

Concluding Remarks

So that just about concludes my week with the V60 Polestar. This is a car designed by people who love driving, for people who love driving. From the way it looks, to the way it sounds, it fills you with adrenaline. This is a throwback to the golden days of touring cars, with people having to double-take at the sight of a Volvo estate flying past. I really love this car, because it is justifiable to the other half as a sensible family car. And then, when no-ones looking, you feel like you’re at Oulton Park. Prices for the Polestar are £49,785, and if you want to find out more see a dealer or the Volvo website. The final thought is that the newest V60 Polestar has a 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, and I have to try this. If it sounds as good as the 6-cylinder version, I’ll have one!

Total Score – 48/50


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