Volvo S60 T6 R-Design: $75,140 (plus on-roads) | 242kW/480Nm
Volvo Polestar: $99,950 (plus on-roads), down from $109,950 | 257kW/500Nm
VOLVO S60 POLESTAR
When it comes to motorsport in Australia, it’s been a long time between drinks for Volvo.
Until last Saturday, the last Australian race win to be claimed by the Swedish company was back in 1986.
Back then it was Kiwi Robbie Francevic running a Volvo 240 Turbo, flanked by fellow Volvo driver John Bowe. Francevic went on to win the Australian Touring Car Championship that year.
This time, it was another young Kiwi, Scott McLaughlin, who piloted his S60 Polestar V8 Supercar to a race win at Perth's Barbagallo Raceway.
He’d already proved his worth at the Melbourne F1 support race with a podium finish, but he took the top step on the V8 Supercars' dias in Race 1 at the Perth 400.
Coming off the back of this historic race win, the first in 28 years, Volvo held a drive day at the RAC Driver Training Centre in Perth and invited TMR along to experience the 2014 S60 Polestar.
While the V8 Supercar didn’t make an appearance (it was already loaded on a truck heading east), an impressive array of turbocharged six-cylinder models was on hand. Oh, and a few Polestar S60s thrown in for good measure.
Of course, Volvo being Volvo, there was a demonstration of its revised City Safety auto-braking system which now works at speeds up to 50kmh, up from the previous 30kmh.
Above that speed, it reduces the severity of the impact, while below it, the car will come to a complete stop without driver intervention.
More impressive, however, is Volvo’s pedestrian detection. Using an amazing array of sensors and cameras, the system can differentiate between objects to determine if what it sees is a car, truck, pedestrian or even a cyclist.
In our demo, the car alerted us to the dummy with plenty of flashing and bleeping, and started to apply the brakes. But, as we steered away from the “pedestrian”, it relinquished full control. Just as it should.
More, if a cyclist veers out in front of the car, it will auto-brake if necessary.
So… yep, the cars are safe. Now let’s get on with the good stuff.
First up was a track session in the S60 T6 R-Design.
We’ve always been a fan of the S60 here at TMR, and putting it through its paces on the track further cements that view.
The S60 is no track car, but, when pushed to its limits, it handles and responds exceptionally well.
That noted, it has been built with a safety margin for the average driver; something you'll discover should you 'brake late and turn in hard'.
Then you'll notice that the stability control doesn’t clamp down too hard if it starts to get out of shape, but it also lets go gradually. We'd prefer control returning to the driver a little more quickly.
It’s worth noting too that punishing the brakes on track sees them softening up - but there’s never the serious fade that you’d expect from stringing lots of full-blooded laps together.
It’s a theme that continues in the Polestar S60. Except the brakes are bigger. A lot bigger.
That means that the initial bite is greater and the sponginess that comes from a lot of heat just doesn’t present an issue. The brakes and their feel at all temperatures really is a highlight.
For MY14, there are several changes.
The first thing you notice is how the newly-designed seats hug your hips much more than the initial batch of 50 cars.
If the exterior didn’t offer a hint, the Polestar’s thick seat-bolstering broadcasts the car’s purpose before you’ve even settled in.
Secondly, there are now metal paddles to take manual control, and the response time is very good. It’s no dual-clutch, but for a conventional sports auto, the $109,950 Polestar is an engaging drive.
It helps that there is no less than 500Nm and 257kW at work.
More noticeable, however, is the suspension work. When thrown into a corner, there’s less roll and a little more precision feel from the front-end. The stability control has a more track-focused tune and is a lot friendlier at the limit.
That said, it’ll still clamp down on the fun if you’re hustling it around the bends with too much enthusiasm. It’s just that its tolerance for some tomfoolery is a little greater than its T6 stablemate.
But the real eye-opener came shortly afterward.
When put up against a someone who races cars for a living, it kind of puts your lack of skill into perspective.
We've discovered it many times before in this gig: when you get beside a really good driver on a hotlap of a track you know well (and think you're pretty quick on), it can be quite humbling.
This time, I took the seat beside Robert Dahlgren, Swedish V8 Supercar driver. We went out first in the S60 T6, but with the DTSC off. It was time to see how far the 480Nm and 242kW S60 could be pushed.
Volvo had committed several sets of tyres to this session, so there was no hanging around.
Late on the brakes, flicking into turns, getting onto the power nice and early while the back is coming around - the S60 can really hustle in Dahlgren's expert hands.
Its nose-heavy stance still causes it to understeer and you can feel the Haldex all-wheel-drive system shuffling the power around. Ultimately, though it's quick, you're reminded that this is a premium mid-size sedan which has been stiffened a little.
But the Polestar S60, that’s another story.
While Scott McLaughlin ferried other journos around, Dahlgren took to the wheel of the Polestar and showed us why it’s making people sit up and take notice.
With the bigger brakes and tuned suspension, it was a lot harder to upset the car’s balance.
When opened up on the long sweepers, you can really feel its resistance to roll, while braking hard and turning in early doesn’t unload the rear like the standard S60.
With the tyres howling in protest, and the Haldex system working superbly, this Polestar acquitted itself brilliantly.
The extra power has it picking up speed quicker and firing out of the corners earlier thanks to the fat torque band of the meaty east-west turbo six under the snout. For its point-to-point balance and outright speed, the Polestar is something of an eye-opener.
There was only one problem: it didn’t rain. While the clouds loomed the whole time we were on the track, it was only after we left that the rain set in. The team was really hoping to demonstrate the Polestar’s prowess in the wet.
Matt Braid, Volvo Cars Australia’s managing director, explains why.
“Our ultimate aim with the Polestar was not to be the fastest quarter mile or top speed, but to be the quickest point A to point B car on any road, in any conditions.”
“There are cars that in an optimum environment will be quicker, but as a road car, as a daily driver, our car can perform better than others in any situation.”
It’s one of the few times you’ll be seeing a bunch of Volvo employees doing a rain dance.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- S60 T4 Kinetic - $49,990 (+$500)
- S60 T4 Luxury - $54,990 (+$500)
- S60 D4 Kinetic - $55,990 (+$500)
- S60 T5 Luxury - $58,990 (+$1500)
- S60 D4 Luxury - $60,990 (+$1000)
- S60 T5 R-Design - $60,190
- S60 T6 R-Design - $75,140
- V60 T5 Kinetic - $54,990 (-$500)
- V60 D4 Kinetic - $56,990 (-$1500)
- V60 T5 Luxury - $59,990 (-$200)
- V60 D4 Luxury - $61,990 (-$1000)
- V60 T5 R-Design - $63,140
- V60 T6 R-Design - $78,140
Pricing for the S60 Polestar is now priced at $99,950, down from $109,950.