2017 Volvo V60 Polestar Review and Road Test

2017 Volvo V60 T6 Polestar

We preside over Volvo’s properly pissed off (but practical) perambulator

Words by: Adam Allen

 

Anyone who thinks that wagons aren’t cool ought to have a look at this.

Sitting tautly on its handsome 20” wheels barely contained by ultra low profile Michelin Pilot Sport tires, the V60 has undeniable curb appeal and not just for enthusiasts- wherever we went, it drew a significant number of admiring glances. The fact that our tester was enrobed with Volvo’s Rebel Blue (or Swedish Racing Green as the internet has fittingly dubbed it) the paint probably helped up the visual wattage. This is no ordinary grocery getting wagon, however. It’s been massaged thoroughly by Polestar, Volvo’s in-house tuner tasked with breathing some attitude into their products. Station wagons are a rarity these days in their own right, but if you crave one that is decidedly more churlish than its more placid counterparts your choices are few. After this hotter Volvo (now making a staggering 184 horsepower per litre!) your only choices are the Mercedes Benz E63 wagon or the upcoming and even more bonkers 680 horsepower Porsche Panamera Sport Tourismo Turbo S e-Hybrid which will also offer a steroidal twin turbo V8 augmented by electricity. Both of those promise to be about as rare as our Polestar- Volvo says only a couple hundred will be coming to Canada- yet they are considerably more expensive than the swashbuckling Swede you see here.

You guys loved the old Polestar V60 with that sweet inline six. What’s different this time around?

When Volvo decided to put 4-cylinder engines in everything they make, that effectively spelled the end of the wonderfully brutish yet mellifluous inline-six that used to power the outgoing Polestar models. Enthusiasts will pout and whine about its absence, and we admit to feeling slighted somewhat by Volvo’s decision to turf that wonderful engine. After spending some time in the newest V60 Polestar, we feel as though the engineers were seeking vindication whilst trying to make us feel better with the new mill-  the 2.0 litre 4-cylinder under the hood is both supercharged (for low rpm grunt) and turbocharged (for top end power) and it also musters the stratospheric horsepower per litre we mentioned earlier. Even the soundtrack sounds properly racy, especially when you slot the gear level to the left which calls on Sport mode and allows the exhausts to speak with a satisfying bark. It is faster that it’s predecessor, and gets better fuel economy to boot. Volvo also got rid of the sluggish and aging 6-speed automatic in favor of one with two extra ratios and a whole lot more athleticism, shuffling through its gears with gumption and responding to inputs from the paddle shifters with pleasing alacrity. Left to its own devices, it exhibits an almost telepathic ability to predict which gear is right for whatever situation you find yourself in, like when it bangs down through the gears as you stand on the brakes for an approaching corner. Volvo’s tweaking didn’t end there- they also rejigged the all-wheel drive system to be faster when reacting to changes to torque demands at each wheel. Power oversteer isn’t on the menu, however you can feel the smarter hardware and software working together to give you better feel and control. Oh, and the massive rotors and calipers up front are not only a pleasure to behold, but they’re also a pleasure to use; they haul this wagon down from speed with authority and deliver a satisfying bite through an easily modulated pedal.

 The crisped-up suspension and fancy Ohlins dampers must deliver a pretty cushy ride, right?

Erm, not exactly. Those expecting to glide over road imperfections as they would in an S90 sedan will be disappointed- the Polestar is far less coddling than its luxurious stablemate. Hey, that’s the price you pay for such astute handling- the Polestar positively devours corners in a way you’ll not expect from relatively staid Volvo, yet with it’s zestier all-wheel drive you can negotiate them at surprisingly high rates of speed. We’d stop short at calling the ride harsh- this is still a Volvo, after all- but on anything other than smooth roads, there is no doubt you will notice the extra starch the engineers baked into the suspension.

When will it get the same beguiling interior we’ve seen in the XC90?

That is a work in progress. Because the Polestar is built on a platform that’s beginning to get a little grey around the temples, it has roughly the same interior as the one we tested back in 2014. That’s not a bad thing- ergonomically, it’s well sorted and the seats border on perfection in terms of lateral support and comfort- but compared to its more cosmopolitan stablemates, it admittedly falls short. Volvo tells us that the next generation of these models should have the intricate detailing and sublime materials we have become accustomed to from the brand, including the wholly intuitive iPad-like Sensus interface. In the meantime, we have no complaints about the unique Polestar flourishes in our tester like blue contrast stitching, liberal use of Alcantara and the gear lever with its trademark glass cap to keep things interesting.

What might go wrong?

Like we were just talking about, some buyers might be miffed that the Polestar doesn’t look like an Inscription-trimmed S90, even if the interior is still nicely finished. After taking a test drive, especially here in Toronto where the roads look like they’ve been shelled by an overzealous military campaign, they may find the ride a little too stiff for their liking- there are no adjustable drive modes and while you are able to futz with the dampers, you’ll have to get out of the car to do so and employ some tools as well- something we suspect 99.9% of buyers to avoid. Lastly, the stop/start system is pretty intrusive when it shuts down the blown 2.0 litre and fires it back up again with an ungainly shudder to the point that we turned it off at the beginning of every journey.

Should I buy a V60 Polestar?

If this review hasn’t already convinced you that you should, consider this: if it’s exclusivity you covet, Volvo has only committed to making 1,500 of these things worldwide, split evenly between wagon and sedan. Here in Canada we’ll likely only get a couple of hundred of each at best. If your intentions are putting a family hauler in your driveway that is infinitely more interesting than the torrent of crossover drudgery, look no further. And for those poking around in the sparsely populated high performance wagon genre will find sanctuary in the Volvo’s cockpit as well, indulging their fantasies of pretending to be Rikard Rydell from the days when Volvo wagons ruled the British Touring Car series. The S60 Polestar is plenty nice, but if you’re like us, it must be the V60. Trust us, you will not be disappointed.

2017 Volvo V60 T6 Polestar – Specifications

  • Price as tested: $69,000
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5-passenger wagon
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
  • Engine: 2.0-litre inline-four, supercharged and turbocharged DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower: 367 @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 347 @ 3,100-6,100 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Curb weight: 2,270 kg (5,004 lbs)
  • Observed fuel economy: 12.1L/100 km (19 mpg)