2016 Volvo S60 Polestar Quick Take
When you review cars for a living, it's common for strangers to gawk or excitedly approach and ask, "What IS that?!" Not surprisingly, this is usually the case with vehicles that cost over six figures or otherwise seem unattainable for the everyman.
But that happening for a Volvo sedan? Yes. And it was constant during a recent multi-day romp. Then again, this isn’t just any Volvo. This is a S60 Polestar. Polestar's roots go back two decades, starting as a racing outfit to run the factory Volvo team. Over the years the company tuned more of the Swedish cars, and recently starting injecting serious performance into consumer models. Last year, Volvo purchased the performance division of Polestar, similar to what Mercedes-Benz did with AMG. Think of Polestar as the AMG or the BMW's M performance nameplate, but for Volvo.
Volvo S60's Alter-ego
Compared to an AMG or BMW M, however, a Polestar is far, far rarer. In fact, less than 300 are available in the United States for the 2016 model year. If you're getting the impression the S60 Polestar is a way different animal than the also-praiseworthy standard S60, you're right. This is that sedan's alter-ego.
For 2016, the transformation from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde comes courtesy of a twin-scroll turbocharged 6-cylinder engine stoked to make 345 horsepower, 6-piston Polestar/Brembo brakes, a sport chassis and Polestar-calibrated 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. Specially calibrated all-wheel-drive and torque vectoring make sure this Volvo's prodigious performance is translated to the road.
Indeed, compared to a standard Volvo S60, the Polestar is a different animal. Throttle response is unbelievable, especially considering its turbocharged engine. Acceleration is instantaneous, and this modified S60's grip is awesome. In fact, the Polestar's standard all-wheel-drive could be reason enough for those living in traction-compromised cold-weather states to choose it over a BMW M3 or Mercedes-AMG C63, whose rear-drive layouts can be a handful on slick roads.
The Volvo S60 Polestar feels like a shot of adrenaline into your cortex. Impulses can't help but quicken as you sink into the well-sculpted driver's seat, grab the suede-like steering wheel and hear the hiss and growl of the engine and exhaust. With springs that are significantly stiffer than a standard S60, the Polestar's ride can be harsh. And the standard 20-inch summer tires don't exactly soften things. But boy do they stick. It's one of the common tradeoffs of a performance car.
The S60 Polestar may be the bad-boy Volvo, but it doesn't neglect the automaker's safety-first mandates. In that respect, it includes the S60's standard City Safety automatic braking system, plus blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control. One feature I would have liked to see, though, is a power trunk.
But it isn't the Polestar's blistering performance or high-tech safety features that make neighbors and strangers smile and stare or give a thumbs-up. It was the color and style. Dubbed "Rebel Blue" by Volvo and "Angry Smurf" by me, the S60 Polestar can't help but stand out. The S60 is already a beautiful car to behold, and the Polestar in this exclusive color only emboldens that beauty. Unique black-gloss-finished grille, rear spoiler and blacked-out side mirrors add to this S60's appeal.
As a limited, mono-spec model, the S60 Polestar isn't cheap. At over $60,000 including destination, it's $25,000 above a base S60, but still below a Mercedes AMG C63 and BMW M3.
More power on the way
While you may be out of luck if you want a 2016 Volvo S60 Polestar, more are on the way for 2017, and they'll pack even more power. As we previously reported here, the 2017 Volvo Polestar S60 sedan and V60 wagon will put out 367 horsepower -- extracted from a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, no less -- and an 8-speed automatic transmission that should be even smoother than the outgoing 6-speed auto shifter.
For the 2017 models that are set to arrive in showrooms soon, Volvo says it will double global output of the Polestar models from 750 to 1,500 units, but just how many will be allocated to the U.S. is still uncertain. Our suggestion: If you want one, be like this performance Volvo and grab it quick.