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First drive: Volvo unshackles S60 Polestar

Red hot: Just 50 examples of the heated up Volvo S60 Polestar have been produced.

Tuned and toned S60 Polestar sedan is an initiative of Volvo Car Australia

13 Dec 2011

VOLVO Australia has released a limited production run of the powered-up S60 Performance Project that debuted at the Melbourne motor show in July.

Just 50 examples of the image-building sports sedan – dubbed S60 Polestar after the Swedish brand’s motorsport partner that helped develop it – have been commissioned, priced from $82,990 plus on-road costs.

This represents a premium of $10,000 over the all-wheel-drive S60 T6 R-Design model on which it is based, in line with Volvo’s projections when it confirmed the car in October.

The special-edition S60 is an initiative of Volvo Car Australia (VCA) and is not yet sold in any other market, although other Polestar packages are available in the United States priced from around $1300.

The car is chiefly differentiated from the S60 R-Design by a more powerful engine, special alloy wheels, lowered suspension and a unique quad exhaust system.

VCA managing director Matt Braid said a high level customer interest in the Performance Project following its AIMS debut led to the brand’s local subsidiary giving the car the green light for production.

The marque received more than 100 serious expressions of interest from Melbourne alone following the Australian International Motor Show, with four orders locked in the day after the car was confirmed for limited production.

“This project came out of the fact that we are getting customer feedback asking what is Volvo going to do next and can we have some more performance,” said Mr Braid.

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“Australia is a performance market. It is very clear - you look at the share of AMG sales versus total Mercedes-Benz sales, M sales versus total BMW sales, S sales versus total Audi sales, HSV versus Holden, Golf GTI, Renault Sport Megane… “You compare all those sports models against their base cars and Australia has one of the highest proportions of sports model penetration of any market.

“That got the project going and when the timing was right we tapped into Polestar. Their project to support some equipment for production models coincided with our desire to do this, so it was great timing.” Mr Braid was quick to point out that the brand had more conservative sales aspirations for the Polestar S60 than the more hardcore versions of rival German luxury sedans.

“This is not an M3, this is not a C63,” he said. “This is purely an optimised, limited-edition car that is heavily biased towards road use. This is not meant to be a track special. We’re not looking to out-drag an M3 or a C63 - they are a different kettle of fish.” The power boost comes courtesy of a Polestar software upgrade which, unlike most aftermarket upgrades, is fully integrated with all of the car’s systems with the blessing of the car manufacturer.

As a result, the Polestar version retains the same annual/15,000km service intervals and the same three-year/unlimited km warranty including three years of roadside assist as the rest of the S60 range.

While Polestar is not part of Volvo, its collaboration with the Swedish company went up a notch when it became the brand’s official performance partner for road vehicles in 2009.

The organisation was founded in 1996 in collaboration with Volvo Car Corporation, and since then has competed with the 850, S40 and S60, and has also created a ballistic 300kW baby-blue prototype version of the C30 compact hatchback.

This tuning package boosts the regular T6’s turbocharged 3.0-litre inline six-cylinder petrol engine’s power output from 224kW to 242kW, while torque jumps from 440Nm to a beefy 480Nm.

Compared to the standard T6, the extra power kicks in from 2250rpm and the gap between the two continues to grow right through the power band, with peak power arriving between 5400 and 6500rpm.

The extra torque over the normal T6 arrives in earnest from just over 2000rpm, with all 480Nm available from between 3000 and 3600rpm.

Volvo says these improvements are enough to give the S60 Polestar a zero to 100km/h sprint time of just 5.8 seconds – 0.3 seconds quicker than the T6 R-Design.

Despite these improvements, the Scandinavian brand claims the Polestar returns the same fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions as the car on which it is based, at 10.2 litres per 100km and 243 grams per kilometre respectively.

This is because the extra dose of performance is mostly generated above half throttle and the majority of fuel consumption testing is not done at wide throttle openings.

The standard Geartronic six-speed automatic transmission from the R-Design is unchanged, along with the Haldex part-time all-wheel-drive system.

The Polestar is further differentiated from its siblings by unique 19-inch alloy wheels -sourced from German company Heico - shod with Pirelli P-Zero rubber, and a special Heico quad exhaust system with a unique rear air diffuser.

The car also gets sports suspension that includes monotube damping at the rear, 15 per cent stiffer springs and 20 per cent stiffer bushings. The ride height has also been lowered by 15mm compared to the standard S60 T6.

Each car also gets an individually numbered badge on the floating centre console, plus a distinctive blue badge on the boot.

Australia’s Polestar Volvo begins life as an S60 R-Design and gets the upgrades and extra equipment once it arrives in Australia from Sweden, before the completed car is sent out to the dealer network.

Mr Braid said that dealers swiftly snapped up the first allocation of 25 cars and are likely to do the same when the second batch arrives in January.

While the production run is not officially sold out, the high level of interest means it is unlikely that any will have time to collect dust on the floor of Volvo showrooms.

Mr Braid said VCA is unlikely to commission any more than the initial 50 cars, since the brand wants to maintain the exclusivity and resale value of the limited-edition model.

The S60 Polestar could, however, be just beginning of a wider partnership between Polestar and Volvo in Australia.

While nothing is confirmed, Mr Braid said the brand has not ruled out expanding its collaboration with Polestar on other members of its model range – such as the V60 – in the near future.

“It (the S60 Polestar) will be a good indicator of what we can do and where we go next,” he said. “Do we do it on another model, do we look at doing another iteration, do we look at doing something special again? “We haven’t circled anything but there is scope to do it on pretty much anything. Really, this is a toe in the water to test how it goes with the brand, see that it provides the results that customers are asking for.

“We can assess it and go from there and we have the flexibility to do that, which is great. We are quite excited that this could be the start of something bigger,” said Mr Braid.

Click on the yellow button to read our first drive impressions.
Volvo S60 Polestar pricing (before on-roads):
S60 Polestar (a) $82,990

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