Monday, 18 June 2012

Volvo Polestar S60 Sets Us Up For Disappointment

Polestar S60 Concept
So a couple of years ago, Polestar, Volvo's in-house tuning and racing company who builds the C30-based STCC entrant, made an odd-looking but otherwise unspectacular C30 into a 400bhp, All-Wheel-Drive super hatch and then said that Volvo weren't going to build it. Everyone got all excited at just how awesome the blue bombshell was, and how great a car it was, before being disappointed that it would never be produced. Well now, they've made a new car, the Polestar S60 (based, as it happens, on the odd-looking but otherwise unspectacular Volvo S60). I would like to think that this time, buoyed by how well received their C30 was, they would consider at least limited production to take on established performance saloons. Alas, they've said that the car you see here is a one-off made "for a special client", so I'm not even going to hope for it. You can if you want though. I might be wrong.

At any rate, the new blue bullet uses a 3.0-litre straight-six from the normal S60, but with modified cylinder heads, combustion chambers, inlet manifold and intake, strengthened connecting rods, a 3.5" Ferrita stainless-steel exhaust system and a Garret 3171 turbocharger, which I assume is better than the turbo it already had in many important and I'm sure very interesting ways. The result of all these words is a pair of very exciting numbers; the Mondeo-sized Volvo is now packing a serious 508bhp (515PS) and 424lb/ft of torque (up by 208bhp and 99lb/ft). Over five-hundred horsepower in a Volvo saloon! Thanks goodness it has all those clever safety features.

To make sure that immense grunt doesn't put you head-first into a tree, the Front-Wheel-Drive has been unceremoniously ditched for a Haldex Gen4 "Cross-Wheel-Drive" (XWD) system, which I assume is a clever way of saying torque-vectoring All-Wheel-Drive. Meanwhile, it's got new boots, brakes and ankles to make sure it actually goes round corners well. Polestar lowered this S60 30mm over 19" wheels (shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sport tyres) thanks to Öhlins sport suspension with three-way adjustable springs and dampers, with said wheels being further apart by 20mm up front and 40mm out back for a mean stance and better cornering grip. Bringing proceedings to a halt are 380mm six-piston Brembo brakes. 380mm is big in brake world, the kind of disc size you get on a Porsche Cayenne Turbo or a McLaren-Mercedes SLR. However, there's nothing to suggest they're carbon ceramic affairs. Perhaps this is good, as they need time to get up to temperature before they work properly and feel right. Well, I say "feel right", but my Punto doesn't exactly have a set of carbon ceramic Brembos, so I can only pass on opinions of luckier people here.

It's important that they work, those big brakes, because despite being a Volvo, the Polestar S60 (or Volvo S60 Polestar Performance Concept, to give it its full name) can get from 0-60 in 3.9 seconds. Three point nine! That's a tenth off a Ferrari F40! The excitement doesn't stop there by any means, as the top speed is officially "over 300km/h", or in other words an Aston Martin DBS-matching 190mph. Aiming it at the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG might actually be aiming a little bit too low, as those figures would trouble an M5. Of course, the "XWD" system has a lot to do with that 0-60 time, as four driven wheels mean twice the bite when you dump the clutch - which is connected to a six-speed manual gearbox, thank goodness - but a top speed like that is hard to argue with. The chassis has also been stiffened to ensure it's not bent out of shape by all that brute force.

Indoors, the seats are body-hugging grey alcantara affairs, to match the grey alcantara gear stick and, if it's anything like the C30 PPC, a grey alcantara dashboard too. Perhaps deliberately making the interior dull will force you to look outside at the scenery hurling towards you faster than it typically would in a Volvo, not least because it's 90kg lighter than the US-spec S60 T6 it's based on. But will you be able to find out for yourself? Well, the official line is that if Volvo gets enough interest, or "market response", they'll seriously consider series production (numbered limited edition). Unfortunately, if that's more than just a line to calm down excited journalists and bloggers, they'll still need more than words of excitement and recognition. The Polestar C30 got that much and never appeared. That said, the M3-grade market is pretty big and who's to say that there aren't enough people out there who want to stand out from the crowd? Koenigsegg employees might want to drive them to work when it's snowing, for example. Plus there are just some people out there who think a bloody fast Volvo is one of the coolest things ever. A stealth car of sorts (loud blue and 19" wheels aside), without a showy badge on it or any chrome and just going Fezza-fast in any direction you tell it to. In fact, Volvo is probably the least sporting brand you can think of right now. Go on, think of one. Toyota? They're racing at Le Mans and were in F1 for a while. They also make a RWD sports coupé now. Dacia? 850bhp Pikes Peak car. SAAB? Dead, aside from maybe some electric 9-3s in a year or two. Lexus? LFA. Volvo? This. Well, STCC as well, but that's it.

Normal Volvos are uncool safety-laden school buses. This isn't. This is a prime example of Swedish awesomeness, the likes of which only Koenigsegg is putting into (albeit small) production. If Volvo started up the Polestar performance brand akin to AMG or NISMO that they're considering, launching it with this would be a brilliant way to put Volvo on the map as something more interesting than a five-cylinder box. They've even stopped making them boxes! They looks pretty cool now, in their own way, particularly the C30 shooting brake of sorts and the S60, which has a cool "night time signature" when you follow it at night (with LEDs, which this one doesn't appear to have). At any rate, it would be so cool of Volvo to make this. Alas, that doesn't necessarily mean that the bean-counters will let them......

UPDATE - This very car has been sold for a whopping $300,000 to someone who can only be described as A Person. Pistonheads kept the seats warm in the meantime.

More photos here: WorldCarFans

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