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2015 Volvo S60 And V60 Polestar Review: Australian First Drive Photo:
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Tony O'Kane | Nov, 01 2014 | 2 Comments

What’s Hot: Genuine performance capability, sheer grip, stonkin' straight six.
What’s Not: Firm ride, road noise can be a little instrusive.
X-FACTOR: Stunning performance for those willing to think outside the (German) box.

Vehicle Style: Midsize luxury performance sedan
Price: $99,990 (S60 Polestar), $102,990 (V60 Polestar)

Engine/trans: 258kW/500Nm 3.0 turbo petrol 6cyl | 6sp auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 10.2 l/100km(S60), 10.3 l/100km (V60)

 

OVERVIEW

It’s the third 'generation' of the S60 Polestar in as many years, but Volvo’s performance division has finally nailed it.

Using Australia as the test market, two iterations of the S60 Polestar were released to high acclaim in 2013 and 2014, but also criticism that the car wasn’t quite up to the lofty standards of its predominantly German competition.

That’s been rectified with this, the MY2015 Volvo S60 Polestar.

Now on sale in a total of eight markets (including Australia) and twinned with the V60 Polestar wagon, it’s got the right stuff.

Volvo fanatics will still love it to bits, but, for the rest of us, it’s now a genuine alternative if you’re in the market for something fast, European, and big enough for the whole family.

 

THE INTERIOR

  • Standard equipment: Leather/Nubuck upholstery, power-adjustable heated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, reversing camera, parking sensors, dusk-sensing bi-xenon headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, trip computer, heated steering wheel.
  • Infotainment: 7-inch colour display with sat-nav, internet connectivity, Harman-Kardon premium audio system, Bluetooth audio and phone integration, USB audio input.
  • Storage: 380 litres in S60, 692 litres in V60.

Interior changes are minor for MY15, largely confined to trim revisions, a big slab of carbon fibre on the centre stack and a part-leather, part-microfibre steering wheel.

Features like Volvo’s reconfigurable LCD instrument cluster carry over, as does the infotainment suite that incorporates sat-nav with, among other things, an internet browser.

The rest of the S60 Polestar’s interior more or less carries over.

The best news with the new model is that the V60 Polestar is finally available.

As a wagon-bodied version of the S60, the V60 Polestar carries a little more weight (around 30kg) in its rump, but gains a huge amount of usable cargo space.

With 692 litres of seats-up storage capacity, the V60 makes for a versatile family wagon. The space-robbing full-size spare tyre in the S60, denies the sedan the same level of practicality, but a space saver is also available.

Comfort-wise, both Polestar variants get well-bolstered front seats (the suede-like Nubuck inserts also helping to hold you in place) as well as power adjustment.

They’re mounted relatively high though, so if you favour a low-slung driving position you may feel a little uncomfortable in the Polestar.

 

ON THE ROAD

  • 258kW/500Nm 3.0 litre turbocharged petrol inline six
  • Six-speed automatic with paddle shifters and sport mode
  • Haldex all-wheel drive
  • 20x8” lightweight alloy wheels, 245/35R20 Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres
  • Six-piston calipers and 371mm rotors (front), single-piston sliding calipers and 302mm rotors (rear)

The engine gets no changes for the 2015 model year, but with 258kW of power and a surging 500Nm of torque, the turbocharged 3.0 litre straight six arguably didn’t need to be tweaked anyhow.

What has been fiddled with, however, is the transmission mapping, suspension settings and vehicle stability programme, as well as the code that runs the Polestar’s Haldex AWD drivetrain.

When Mick the Magpie heard there'd be some Polestars in town, this wasn't what he'd been expecting...
When Mick the Magpie heard there'd be some Polestars in town, this wasn't what he'd been expecting...

There’s also a new wheel and tyre package, with last year’s 19-inch alloys and Bridgestone tyres being turfed in favour of a grippier set of 20x8-inch alloys and Michelin Pilot Super Sports.

Combined, these changes make the 2015 Polestar feel a different animal to last year’s model.

The new rolling stock gives the MY15 Polestar a much firmer ride and more immediate turn-in response, though road noise also rises substantially.

Ohlins continues to supply the suspension hardware for Polestar, and its adjustable dampers allow owners to fiddle with suspension settings via manually-adjusted knobs on the damper bodies.

With 20 settings to choose from, there’s plenty of adjustability for track-day junkies and the like. For road use, however, we’d recommend setting the dampers to their softest setting.

The ride is simply too firm otherwise, especially if you live in an area with substandard roads.

But on the RIGHT kind of road, the suspension shines.

On gigantic 20-inch wheels, the Ohlins dampers in their middle setting provide enough compliance to absorb corner bumps and hollows and highway imperfections - provided the surface isn't too ratty.

The springs and swaybars are firm, which keeps things flat for performance driving, but you'll be aware you're in a focussed perfromance drive on rougher tarmac.

The steering is alert; there is a slightly vague feel around dead centre and it tends to want to follow the road’s contours, but good feel and feedback once you tip the nose in.

For such a heavy car (1834kg for the V60!) with a big engine stuffed into its snout, the S60 and V60 Polestar display impressive cornering ability.

Turn in too quickly and you’ll encounter the beginnings of understeer, but stay with it, squeeze the accelerator and the Haldex centre differential shuffles more power to the rear wheels and restores some chassis neutrality.

In Sport mode with ESC off the front/rear torque split becomes even more rear-biased. The system can take as much as 100 percent of torque to the back wheels if needed.

If Volvo was looking to equal Audi’s quattro AWD hardware, they’ve achieved exactly that.

The brakes are still the same Brembo-sourced six-piston front calipers and 371mm front rotors, paired with 302mm rear rotors and sliding calipers.

However changes to the master cylinder sizing sees an improvement in brake feel, and the extra grip afforded by the Michelin rubber delivers more confident braking.

 

SAFETY

ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - this model scored 36.34 out of 37 possible points.

Safety features: ABS, EBD, brake assist, traction control, stability control (switchable), six airbags (front, front side, full-length curtain) and anti-whiplash front headrests are standard.

 

RIVALS TO CONSIDER

Rivals are few, but Audi’s S4 sedan and wagon are the closest in terms of mechanical layout and price (though still more expensive than the Volvos). BMW’s 335i is more affordable at $93,430, but isn’t as well equipped as standard and doesn’t come in wagon flavour - at least, not yet.

 

TMR VERDICT | OVERALL

Volvo’s goal for the S60 and V60 Polestar wasn’t to create a head-kicking sports sedan to compete with the BMW M3, Mercedes-AMG C 63 or Audi RS 4, but rather to make a well-rounded and accessible performance car.

For the most part, Volvo (or more correctly, Polestar) has succeeded. It might be a touch too stiff for some tastes, but keen drivers will appreciate its finely-honed chassis and grunty engine.

And while it might not be able to keep up with the likes of an M3, it doesn’t trail far behind. In the context of its price, it offers tremendous bang-for-buck.

The previous two generations were close to the mark, but this third-gen MY15 Polestar scores a bona-fide bullseye as a sports sedan - or wagon. Get one.

 

Pricing (excludes on-roads)

Deliveries of the 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar and V60 Polestar will commence in January, with retail pricing as follows:

  • Volvo S60 Polestar - $99,990
  • Volvo V60 Polestar - $102,990

MORE: Volvo News & Reviews

 
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