I recently had the chance to drive the new Volvo S60 Polestar, which is a high-performance sedan from … Volvo. Which seems a bit odd, as high-performance sedans typically come from brands like BMW and Mercedes-Benz and occasionally the Americans, but rarely safety-conscious, family-SUV-making Volvo.
But the S60 Polestar is, indeed, exactly that: a high-performance Volvo sedan. The Polestar model has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s not just turbocharged, but also supercharged — and it’s a plug-in hybrid. This is not a vehicle I’d want to own out of warranty. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a vehicle I’d want to own, as it has an impressive 416 horsepower and 494 lb-ft of torque, both of which are substantial numbers.
Before I get into the way it drives, a little of the S60 Polestar’s story. The S60 Polestar is based on the brand-new Volvo S60 sedan, which came out only recently. The Polestar is the high-performance, plug-in hybrid model, but it’s ultra limited: Volvo only sold 20 of them. No, that’s not an exaggeration: it offered 20 of them, only available online, and they sold out in 39 minutes. So you can’t buy this vehicle.
Or, at least, you can’t buy it right now, as I suspect Volvo will eventually make more in future model years. Either way, when it came time to review the S60, I wanted to check out the best one with the most power and the best available performance, and so it only made sense that the Polestar was the one on my list. So I borrowed it from Volvo, and off I went.
Here’s what I discovered: the S60 Polestar is a great car in a lot of ways. Technology is one of those ways, as Volvo’s infotainment system is still among the very best in the car industry, with excellent responsiveness and a tremendously intuitive layout that roughly mimics a smartphone — right down to the home button we’ve all gotten so used to. I really think it’s one of the best systems in the car industry, and Volvo puts it in everything — which is a very, very good thing.
As for the rest of the car, everything looks great. The S60’s styling is fantastic, as is the styling of all recent Volvo models — and the interior is tremendously high quality, boasting excellent leather and handsome stitching. The Polestar model’s "signature" accent color is gold, inexplicably, so there’s gold trim in a lot of places where you wouldn’t normally expect it — like the valve stems, the brake calipers and, for some reason, the seat belts. That part is odd. The rest is nice.
The drive, too, is nice, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it especially thrilling. That comment doesn’t apply to the acceleration, it should be noted, as the Polestar really moves quickly and excitingly thanks to low-end torque from electric motors and an abundance of power due to multiple methods of forced induction. I loved the acceleration, and the car really feels like a thrill ride when you put down your foot — more than any other Volvo by far.
But the S60 Polestar doesn’t really approach rivals in terms of the rest of the driving experience — items like steering feel and handling, especially around sharp corners. The steering is lighter and more vague than cars like the BMW M3, and the body roll is a bit more pronounced. To be clear, it’s totally acceptable, and better than most traditional luxury vehicles — but it isn’t what I’d call especially exciting, as performance cars go.
But I don’t see that as a problem. My take on the S60 Polestar is this: it’s the perfect car for someone who wants performance, but doesn’t want their life to be uprooted by it. You get one of these and you go fast, and you get big wheels, and you have a limited-edition vehicle with lots of power — but you can also go to the grocery store in comfort, and you have all the safety tech for when you’re carting around your kids, and you have a great infotainment system to rely on. It’s a compromised car, but I think there are many people out there looking to make such a compromise.
And, so, the S60 Polestar is good for precisely those people. It’s no M3, but I suspect the people who get one of these aren’t quite looking for that. Instead, they get the occasional burst of acceleration to put a smile on their face — and then they go about the rest of their day in a subtle, luxurious, handsome, high-tech new Volvo sedan. Find a Volvo S60 for sale
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