Volvo S60 Polestar: First Drive Review
The S60 Polestar is now the quickest Volvo in India. What else does it offer? We find out!
Volvo is undergoing an image makeover in India, and the incredibly stylish and even more luxurious new offerings like the XC90 SUV and the S90 sedan have made brand Volvo more desirable to the buyers. Now the Swedish marque is bringing a whole dose of youthfulness to its showrooms with their sporty sedan, the S60 Polestar. The S60 Polestar also marks Volvo's entry into the entry-level performance zone in India, where it competes with cars like the Mercedes-AMG C 43 and Audi S5.
The S60 Polestar is built on the S60 sedan which is yet to get Volvo’s modern flair. We're at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore to find out just how tempting the S60 Polestar is at first sight, and whether it has the charisma to be the standout product for Volvo or not.
The Polestar performance division is to Volvo what AMG is to Mercedes-Benz. So, the S60 Polestar is basically the stock S60 T6 with more horses, and the reins to control those horses. The idea is simple; the execution is not.
At first sight, like a real sleeper car, the S60 Polestar appears just like the stock S60. Closer inspection reveals changes to the bumpers, upsized wheels, contrast ORVMs and Polestar badging on the front grille, alloy wheels and the boot. The rear spoiler too, subtly makes its presence felt. There's nothing loud in the S60 Polestar, apart from the distinctive Rebel blue exterior colour that you'll find mostly on the cars belonging to Volvo's performance division.
Get into the nitty-gritty, and you'll discover that the corner splitters on the front bumper and the rear spoiler serve the purpose to develop serious downforce. So, while the 2.0-litre 367PS engine is capable of taking the S60 Polestar to its electronically limited speed of 250kmph, what keeps it from getting flighty at that speed is the additional 21kg and 33kg downforce produced by the corner splitters and the spoiler respectively. The 20-inch alloys are also shod with 245/35 R20 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres specially developed keeping the performance of the S60 Polestar in mind.
But it boils down to whether the S60 Polestar can garner attention or not, after all, that's the one purpose for which it is here. Purists will love the minimal flash that the S60 Polestar exhibits, but it's this very sleeper-car virtue of the S60 Polestar that may not grab as many eyeballs as Volvo wants. Time to give it the Thor's Hammer treatment, I believe.
The Volvo S60 Polestar inherits the basic dashboard layout and instrument cluster from the S60. So, the only changes in the cabin are limited to the use of different materials that go with the overall sporty theme of the car.
Step inside, and you are welcomed by the warm hug of the sports seats. The seats are comfortable, and there's adequate support from all sides. However, the seats don't vary the bolstering with the change in g-forces as effectively as in some of the competitors. Nevertheless, you do get into a commanding driving position easily, and the all-black interior with a driver centric information display matches the sporty nature of the S60 Polestar.
The slight skew in the infotainment system towards the driver, the use of carbon fibre finish on the floating centre console, extensive usage of nubuck/leather throughout the cabin, blue stitching, aluminium sports pedals and Polestar emblem on the gear lever, door sills and the seat backs are the visual highlights. I, however, would have loved to see a smaller dia or a flat bottom steering wheel to complement the overall performance-car theme of the cabin.
Fortunately, I also had the chance to get a rear seat taxi lap of the Kari Motor Speedway. Since this car is derived from the S60, the rear legroom feels adequate although the rear bench is best for two people only.
Overall, while the interior quality and fit-and-finish are likeable, you do feel that this cabin needs a revamp. We've seen the newer Volvos getting a more elegant and minimalist interior theme, and it'd be interesting to see how Volvo incorporates the new theme inside its sportier vehicles.
Engine and Transmission
The 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder engine that you get in the Polestar is the same that powers the Volvo S60 T6. However, Polestar has added a bigger turbo, supercharged the engine, added new conrods, new camshafts and slapped a larger air intake for a power boost of 61PS which takes the grand total to 367PS. The redline has also shifted from 5700 revs to 7000 revs while the torque figure surges 70Nm to 470Nm. The engine is mated to the same 8-speed automatic gearbox as on the S60 T6, but on the Polestar, the gearbox is also optimised for better acceleration.
In real, the changes result in making the Polestar quicker than the S60 T6 from nought to 100kmph by 1.2s, that is 0-100kmph in 4.7s! We didn't get to spend a lot of time behind the S60 Polestar on the Kari Motor Speedway, but it looked quick off the mark.
The S60 Polestar also gets launch control, and Sport+ mode which doesn't let the revs go below 4000rpm and improves gear shift speed as well. It ensures that the engine remains on a constant boil keeping it within its max torque range of 3100-5100rpm.
The S60 Polestar displays sleeper genes in the engine-transmission department as well. Shift the transmission into the D mode from S, and you instantly notice the exhaust note getting muted. Switching it back makes it growl again thanks to electronically controlled exhaust valves that open in the Sport+ mode allowing better air flow (and delivering a better punch) and resulting in a louder exhaust note.
Ride and Handling
The S60 Polestar gets the same chassis as the S60, but gets adjustable Polestar & Ohlins shock absorbers. The ride is stiffer in comparison to the standard S60; however, it's not too hard to be rendered useless for city rides. The S60 Polestar is heavy (over 1700kg kerb weight) and the increased angular momentum over sharp turns makes you work harder on the steering wheel. However, it gets special Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (245/35 R20) that stick to the tarmac diligently, and not once did they squeal on our short stint with the S60 Polestar at the Kari, even under hard braking.
The S60 Polestar also gets an AWD setup which helps you stick to the best lines on the track more often than not. However, you do get the option of switching the ESP off, which is when the setup goes rear bias, and tail-wagging can be induced.
The S60 Polestar ticks all the features that the S60 gets, be it creature comfort or safety. Some of the key features that you'd get standard on the S60 Polestar are:
- Adaptive cruise control
- Lane departure warning
- Collision Warning with full auto-braking for Pedestrians, Cyclists, other vehicles and large animals
- Blind-spot detection with Cross Traffic Alert
- City Safety
- Park Pilot Assist
- Automatic Climate Control
- Sport leather Polestar seats
- Front and rear heated seats
- Memory for seat and exterior mirrors
- LED DRLs
- Rain sensing wipers
The S60 Polestar has its work cut out for Volvo India, and that requires it to be the showstopper of the portfolio. Honestly, the S60 Polestar doesn't get the flash that, for example, you get in the Ford Mustang. It's also based on the S60 sedan which is again a design that is well past its age now.
However, the S60 Polestar has a price advantage that makes the package unbelievably desirable. At Rs 52.5 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the S60 Polestar not only undercuts its chief rival by almost 40 percent but is only Rs 13-odd lakh expensive than next most expensive S60 (R-Design) you get in India.
The S60 Polestar is also one of the quickest cars you can get around the Rs 50 lakh mark, and it has in it to perform equally well in your city commute as it is on track. Its ride, the rear bench, the features on offer and elegance make it a car that is as pleasing to the mind, as it is to the senses. So, the S60 Polestar may not be able to set the floor on fire, but it does have in it to do that to the sales charts.