Volvo has some track record when it comes to fast estates. The V60 Polestar is what happens when the Swedes goes all-out. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
There's something enormously appealing about an estate car, that most doughty of automotive companions, being able to accelerate to 62mph in just 4.8 seconds. If you like the idea of an Audi S4 but prefer something a bit less predictable, the V60 Polestar could be just the ticket.
There's a time for talking about emissions, economy and environmental responsibility. Lately, that time seems to be virtually all of the time, but just occasionally we stumble upon a car that's defined around more old-school virtues. A car like this Volvo V60 Polestar. I must admit to being a bit confused about this one, chatting to a Swedish engineer on the phone some time back and coming away wondering why Volvo were calling their performance line of cars 'Polyester', but at least it seemed to be different to the M, R or S lettering used by other brands, so I figured why not? More than any other company, Volvo is synonymous with the fast estate, those fantastic BTCC-winning 850 T5s pre-dating Audi's very first super quick load lugger, the RS2, by at least two years. Since then, Volvo has ceded this section of the market to Audi and then Mercedes. Now it's back, with an all-wheel drive, turbocharged weapon of its own.
The hardware under the bonnet is reassuringly brawny. Unlike the engine that this model previously used (an inline 350bhp petrol six-cylinder donated by Ford), this one gets one of Volvo's own powerplants, a 367bhp version of the brand's four cylinder 'Drive-E' 2.0-litre turbo unit. This can't quite match the 500Nm torque figure of the old 'six', but with 470Nm, it's not far off. Drive is deployed via an eight-speed paddle-shift Geartronic automatic gearbox and then to a Borg/Warner four wheel drive system that splits torque between both axles with a more rearward bias than in other Volvo products. Stopping duties are performed by massive Brembo brakes, there are Ohlins shock absorbers all round and 20-inch alloy wheels shrink-wrapped with 245/35R20 tyres. It's all very serious indeed. The results speak for themselves. The Polestar will rocket from zero to 62mph in a scant 4.8 seconds on the way to an electronically limited 155mph maximum. It'll cover 0-124mph (200km/h) in under 18 seconds which is quick, but not quite rapid enough to leave proper sports cars like the Porsche Cayman S floundering. But then the Cayman can't seat five and carry their luggage. That's the beauty of the V60 Polestar.
Design and Build
The V60 Polestar isn't one of those estates that looks outwardly benign and then blows you into the undergrowth. Those 20" alloy wheels are a big clue that this isn't just a normal Volvo estate with a loud paint finish. Then there's the tarmac-worrying front splitter which cuts lift under the car and the rear spoiler and diffuser that help glue the back to the road. There's not a whole lot of fresh air atop the tyres either, the Polestar hunkering down onto its suspension like something about to pounce. The interior has come in for a bit of budgetary indulgence too. There are revised details, materials and Polestar colours, with the steering wheel and seats all made that bit more extrovert, at the same time increasing driver support and control. The focus has been to create a car that you could conceivably use every day and yet still feel excited by when the opportunity arises. It remains resolutely practical too, seating five and offering a hefty 430-litres, which is almost 100-litres up on the S60 saloon. The V60 load area has been designed with a wide aperture of 1,095mm and a uniform shape, so all of the available capacity can be used. The rear bench splits 40/20/40 and drops down flat to the floor.
Market and Model
There's only one model being imported and it's only offered in strictly limited numbers, so you'll need to be quick to get your name on a dotted line. You'll need a budget that'll be not far off £45,000 after you've considered a few well chosen extras. This being a Volvo, it's festooned with safety equipment. The excellent City Safety technology automatically warns the driver and, ultimately, applies the brakes if it detects an imminent collision. There's also an optional Pedestrian Detection function that keeps an eye out for people stepping in front of the vehicle. Seatbelt pretensioners are fitted to all seats and a full array of airbags is standard. Technology features available on the V60 include the ACC Adaptive Cruise Control system that can maintain a set gap to the vehicle in front, a parking assist camera with front and rear sensors and a further camera on the front grille to help the driver see out of blind junctions. The specially developed infotainment system brings the various functions together on a screen mounted high on the dashboard, ensuring your eyes are never far from the road ahead.
Cost of Ownership
One thing's for certain though: a 367bhp all-wheel drive petrol-powered estate car that tips the scales at a big-boned 1796kg isn't going to be a fuel sipper. That makes it heavier than an Audi S4, the German car's greater use of lightweight aluminium body and suspension structures working in its favour. Having said that, you should still get about 35mpg on the combined cycle and you can expect CO2 emissions of 186g/km. Residuals? These will very much depend upon whether this V60 Polestar will be remembered as a hit, miss or maybe and there are a number of variables that Volvo can control in the meantime to decide this verdict.
For similar money to Audi's S4 Avant, you might expect this V60 Polestar model to have its work cut out in the high performance compact estate market. But it's that little bit different to the ubiquitous German car, is undeniably better equipped and in many ways, a little more interesting. Which means that if you don't like to make the obvious choice and you're shopping in this segment, this Swedish contender could yet appeal. There's certainly not too much that's wrong with the basics. The Polestar trim looks great, the engineering is bombproof and although this car could have been subjected to a bit of a weight-loss programme, 367bhp and 470Nm provide some very enjoyable get out of jail free cards. It's good seeing Volvo express the more extrovert side of its otherwise buttoned-down corporate persona. More companies need to follow its example. Think of the Polestar as the company's pressure release valve.