The Polestar Treatment – What is it?
There something exciting about when the skunkworks division of a manufacturer gets their hands on a vehicle. Some 10 or 15 years ago, these events were few and far between and for car enthusiasts, they marked a truly momentous occasion. Nowadays, the likes of M Division and AMG produce copious variations of the regular run of the mill versions. Quite often, the modifications are only cosmetic and have very little to do with the mechanics of the car. For the aforementioned special divisions, we now wait for competition packages or CSL versions or S/R variations and Black Editions to get real, soul churning, engineering upgrades.
I believe the excitement stems from the subtle way that almost all special division vehicles are created; slightly larger and aggressive wheel and tire packages, larger and revised grille, front and rear end design treatments, different exhaust designs and notes, revised sportier seating and interior upgrades. The most notable change is usually drivetrain related, which results in more power. It’s the combination of these subtle or small changes that result in a vehicle, when seen, instantly makes you say that, “yes this car is familiar, but…hold on, there’s something more here, something unique and special.”
Volvo is a manufacturer whose hyper division does not make appearance only upgraded versions and then appearance and mechanically upgraded versions and various other amalgamations in-between. These are properly homologated performance versions of their more tame brethren. They go by the name of Polestar Engineered.
Now, a small history lesson is necessary. Polestar Engineering Division of Volvo’s should not be confused with Polestar as the electric brand that gave us the Polestar 1 and soon to be released Polestar 2. Before Polestar the brand came to be as a high-performance electric car manufacturer, it existed as Polestar Racing (Volvo’s touring car team) and eventually was taken under the Volvo umbrella as Polestar Performance as we still know it today.
Polestar Engineering’s newest Volvo offering come in three forms at this time, the Volvo S60 (sedan), V60 (wagon) and XC60 (SUV – with emphasis on the sport). All three are powered by a hybrid Volvo’s T8 Twin Engine with plug-in hybrid technology producing 415 bhp and a whopping 494 lb-ft of torque. This is another 15 bhp over the standard T8 and 23 lb-ft more of grunt. All this power is directed to all four wheels, with the Turbo/Supercharged gas motor directing power to the front two and the electric hybrid power to the rear wheels.
The system is all managed by a silky-smooth 8-speed Greartronic transmission. In the Polestar Engineered models, the transmission is not the quickest in the industry but gets the job done. It should be noted in Polestar driving mode the transmission sometimes seems to get confused in deciding when to shift or engage (note this is under aggressive driving conditions and day to day would be imperceptible). Unique to the Polestar models is the aforementioned Polestar Optimization Powertrain setting. It optimizes the AWD system for maximum acceleration and increased throttle response, and midrange torque.
Now for the coolest aspect of Polestar’s modification. What more screams upgrades than adjustable Öhlins dampers. Yes that’s right; each of the Polestar altered Volvo’s come with adjustable dampers on each of the four corners. The result is an extremely planted driving dynamic. You will find that each version of the 60 will dart in the direction you indicate. Combine this with 21-inch or 22-inch wheels and summer tires and massive front brace, and the Polestar XC60, S60 and V60 will carve up a track with the best race-bred machines money can buy. Beyond the hidden gem’s Polestar has installed massive cross-drilled or slotted rotors surrounded by gold callipers (courtesy of Japan’s Akebono) and gold seatbelts, not that tack gold but a warm, rich gold.
Overall ride quality when adjusted property takes on road imperfections fluidly, with only the most serious of abnormalities causing upset. The interiors are Swedish perfection, and only the seatbelts hint of the Polestar modifications. The seats provide proper lumbar support and side bolstering and eat up miles without fatiguing. The Sonos media and Nav system is clean and fluid but occasionally lacks speed. It also controls almost all vehicle functionality, with only minimal switchgear for basic volume control and tuning.
Although all three variations are mechanically similar they deliver there joy in slightly different ways. The most exciting in my opinion is the sedan. Classis proportions and balanced driving manners. Performance is delivered decisively. Seating in the rear comes at slight premium. The V60 wagon is arguably the prettiest of the three. Giving you best of all worlds.
Performance is still better than the XC60 but the compromise on space negligible. However, XC60 will be the Polestar Gem that is going to attract the most attention. When compared to the likes of the Audi SQ5, Mercedes AMG GLC or BMW X3 M the XC60 Polestar is dramatically prettier. It provides for a level of sophistication in the interior that only Sweden can produce and has a cache that makes the XC60 a more unique choice when compared with the others.
The Polestar Volvo family embraces a long standing history of Volvo vehicles that captured the hearts of their owners as the Volvo 240 Turbo, 740 Turbo and 850R did from generations before. They have always been specials machines. However, I fear that like their predecessors, the modern day Polestars are going have a limited following, and only their unique owners will truly know how specials these vehicles actually are, or those who have the unfortunate luck of pulling up next to one, asking for that old school green light run.