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Driven: Volvo S60 Polestar blasts in at $109,950

Blue flash: Say hello to Volvo's hottest road car - an S60 developed with official tuning arm Polestar.

Limited-run 257kW S60 Polestar to test the waters for Volvo tuner in Australia

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18 Jun 2013

VOLVO’S hottest road car ever, the BMW M3-chasing all-wheel-drive S60 Polestar sedan, is on sale from $109,950 plus on-road costs.

As we reported at our first drive in Sweden earlier this year, the car is a collaboration between Volvo and its official racing partner and tuning arm – independently owned entity Polestar.

The road car builds on the regular S60 flagship, the $75,490 S60 T6 R-Design, with a host of upgrades designed to banish forever the lingering idea that Volvo is no match for other European prestige brands when it comes to performance models.

These include new racing dampers, bigger brakes, a stiffer chassis, a better aero package and a boosted turbocharger that takes the familiar T6 turbocharged six-cylinder engine out to 257kW of power and in excess of 500Nm of torque.

It is the most input Polestar has ever had into a production road car – although it has made performance kits sold through Volvo dealers for several years – and, significantly, Australia has been chosen to host the global pilot program.

For now, it’s the very definition of a toe-in-the-water exercise, since only 50 units have been commissioned. The decision on whether to build more is wholly dependent on how Australia reacts to the first batch, both critically and commercially.

The limited-run S60 was launched in Australia this week, the same day Volvo Car Australia (VCA) and Polestar announced a factory-backed venture into V8 Supercars that will see ex-Holden privateer Garry Rogers Motorsport operate a pair of race-modified S60s.

Volvo Australia hopes the special-edition road car, helped by the racecars, will also give the wider S60 range a halo, something the company sees as crucial to gaining a level of public respect akin to that of BMW with the 3 Series.

According to Volvo, the very fact that a halo variant such as the Polestar is so potentially valuable sums up why fledgling Polestar – a company with just 35 dedicated staff but full access to Volvo’s Swedish facilities – would look to our far-flung shores for its pilot case to start with.

Simply put, Australia’s appetite for performance cars is disproportionate, with many companies selling far more hot variants as a proportion of overall sales here than any other market.

If the S60 is a hit, Polestar says it may rush out more models wearing its distinctive blue badge, although the target vehicles remain undisclosed for now, according to managing director Haans Baath.

It is understood a hot AWD V40 hatch is more than 50 per cent complete, but is now on ice pending a decision based on the S60 Polestar’s reception in Australia.

VCA pitches the limited-run S60 flagship as a rival to the likes of the Audi S4 (from $119,900), and the more powerful BMW M3 ($155,100), Lexus IS F ($126,300) and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG ($154,900).

Volvo even calls it the “quickest point-to-point European luxury sedan – in any weather”, presumably in reference to its AWD grip, even though it trails most named rivals in the power stakes.

To that end, the car builds on the warmed-up T6 R-Design luxury grand tourer with a host of race-inspired upgrades.

These include 20-stage manually adjustable Ohlins dampers (the brand that makes dampers for Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus F1 car), upgraded 336mm-diamater front/302mm rear ventilated brakes and an “extensively developed, highly tuned chassis”.

Chassis changes include new stabilisers, a carbon-fibre-reinforced front strut brace, new tie blade bushings, new rear toe arms and new springs that are a whopping 80 per cent stiffer than the regular S60 T6.

Suspension remains MacPherson struts up front and multilink independent at the rear. The electric steering system has not been modified.

A new aerodynamic package has also been developed, incorporating a front splitter, rear wing and diffuser – all having been tweaked and modified in the Volvo Car Group wind tunnel in Sweden.

The turbo-six T6 has been given a bigger Borg Warner turbo, new intercooler, revised engine mapping and racing exhaust to produce 257kW at 5700rpm and in excess of 500Nm between 2800 and 4750rpm. Volvo has not specified the exact amount of peak torque.

This is not quite as bonkers as the original S60 Polestar 373kW concept racer, but is up 33kW and more than 60Nm on the regular T6 engine.

Tipping the scales at 1684kg, the blue-badged S60 is claimed to accelerate from zero to 100km/h in just 4.9 seconds – matching the IS F and shading the S4, according to Volvo – via a Polestar-tuned six-speed automatic transmission with a newly added launch control system (but no paddle shifters).

Power is sent from the transmission to all four special 19-inch graphite alloy rims via a Polestar-tuned Haldex 4WD system. Turning down the stability control also sends more torque to the rear wheels.

The equipment list is extensive but basically the same as the T6 R-Design, so the extra $35K buys you the performance mods and the exclusivity. The only option is a $2650 sunroof.

Standard fare includes a 10-speaker sound system with a seven-inch colour screen, voice control, bi-Xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights and black leather-lined comfort seats (no extra bolstering).

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