Volvo asked the company that runs their official motorsport efforts to make a sportier V60. This is what they came up with.
Day one: The Polestar is here. It is the colour of a Smurf. After the strident paint there’s another shock in store when you start the engine for the first time. It fires with an unexpectedly loud GRRRRRRAH! and then settles to a fast and noisy idle. I suspect it’s to get the cats nice and hot. Not actual cats. They’d have been scared off by the GRRRRRRAH. Volvo has announced its intention to bin bigger engines and work exclusively with three or four cylinders. I wasn’t paying attention and assumed that this car had a hyper-tuned 2-litre four. It’s doesn’t. This is a last hurrah for their Austin Princess-tastic transverse six. On first acquaintance, the engine feels strong and grunty. The ride is very bumpy.
Day two: It’s a frosty morning. A good time to have a Scandinavian car. The heater is fast and strong. The heated seat gets hot enough to griddle elk. In fact, the seats generally are tremendous. As they usually are in Volvos. Mmm, toasty.
Day three: Stuck in traffic this morning it occurs to me that, unlike the seats, the dashboard in the V60 is quite unVolvo-like. By which I mean, it’s a bit fiddly. The design is quite good, what with its symmetrical knobbery and the big single centre vent like Leela’s eye, but it’s actually quite annoying to use. All the buttons in the middle are too small and too close together, and the roto-dial for accessing menus and setting the nav is so slow your buttocks have been cooked by the heated seat before you’ve put in the street name and set off. It’s strange, Volvo used to be brilliant at simple, logical controls. Now they’ve tried to be stylish and spoilt everything. On the plus side, it still has the unusually long and reassuringly stout column stalks Volvos have had for years.
Day four: A day at home writing. The Polecat sits outside looking bright blue and actually quite mean. It’s got what I think car designers call ‘a good stance’. This in no small part because the wheels are 20-inchers and look huge on this car. They also seem a bit aftermarket. Maybe bystanders would look at this car, see the Volvo badge, assume no such thing could come out their factory and think that you’d taken it upon yourself to spray your sensible estate car bright blue and then fit some chunky TSWs.
Day five: It’s no use pretending otherwise; the ride of this car really is firm. The huge alloys can’t help, and nor can springs which are 80 percent stiffer than those of the next sportiest V60. That sounds like a lot. Conversely, it’s not one of those cars that makes a horrible crashing sound into every rut and divot. It thuds expensively, as if it has really high quality dampers. In the blurb Volvo boasts about how they’ve come from Öhlins. Still, 80 percent more stiffnessosity in the springs. Was that really necessary?
Day six: Out this evening and then a late night run home. The Poletax is one of those cars that you steer not with your wrists but with your whole arms. There’s nothing wrong with that, it suits the character of the whole thing, which is big and hefty and pleasantly meaty. It’s not a nimble car but you can sling it around, and it has four-wheel-drive so it digs in nicely even though it’s damp out. The engine makes a good noise under pressure too. On the downside, the six-speed automatic ‘box is a moderately hopeless. In normal driving it can be dithery in D. Take control with the paddle shifters and it’s a mixed bag, sometimes changing gear crisply on command, other times pausing or slurring or generally acting like it can’t be arsed. The state-of-the-art is quite far from this.
Goodbye: The Poledancer is being taken away. It’s a strange car. The ride is too firm. The gearbox is too lazy. It likes a drink and it’s expensive to buy. Yet despite this, it’s likeable in a barrel chested, affable sort of way. I’m not sure who’s going to buy one. They’re not intending to import that many so perhaps it doesn’t matter. But I do wonder how it would feel if it was a bit more like an old 850 T5 with a less aggressive chassis and less strident looks. Or, to put it another way, a bit less Audi-ish and a bit more Volvo-ish. If it wasn’t trying so hard, maybe it could be a delightful street sleeper.
The car talked about here is a Volvo V60 Polestar. It has a 3-litre turbocharged straight six engine which makes 345 horsepower. Volvo says it can go from 0-62 in 4.9 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 155mph. It costs £49,775.