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2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Performance Sedan Review

Benjamin Hunting
by Benjamin Hunting
December 9, 2014
8 min. Reading Time
2015 Volvo S60 Polestar ・  Photo by Benjamin Hunting

2015 Volvo S60 Polestar ・ Photo by Benjamin Hunting

The 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar represents the culmination of the Swedish automaker's flirtations with performance car credibility.  Although Volvo's history is littered with limited-production, scarcely-noticed go-fast variants such as the V70 R wagon and the 850 T-5R, the S60 Polestar sedan (and its V60 Polestar wagon sibling) are aimed squarely at the mainstream European car fan's sensibilities. 

All of the necessary buzzwords are present and accounted for: a turbocharged engine, standard all-wheel drive, and the association with an (albeit obscure) competition heritage by way of the automaker's long-time motorsports partner, Polestar Performance.  Taken together, the Volvo S60 Polestar impresses by pairing day-to-day comfort with startlingly quick acceleration and respectable dynamics.  In a perfect world, this would be the model finally grants Volvo a place at the continental sport sedan table that has been crowded for so long by RS, AMG, and M-badged luminaries.  In the real world, we may have to wait for the next-generation Polestar before such a chair is offered without reservation.

2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review: Models and Prices

The 2015 Volvo S60 line-up is not a simple one to parse, and it includes a long list of variants loosely organized around engine choice, with the Volvo S60 Polestar being the range-topper.  Less than 150 of this special edition model are making it to U.S. shores for the current model year (Volvo claims 120 in total), which perhaps explains why you can't actually build you own example on the Volvo website, merely view a gallery of beauty shots of the sedan and wagon.

For an MSRP of $60,225 - a jump of nearly $17,000 compared to the next-step-down S60 T6 R-Design's pricing - you get a vehicle that's equipped very much like the more affordable R-Design model, albeit one with a full load of options (which narrows the gap between the two cars to $10,000).  Shared between the two S60 models are a long list of interior luxuries, including a heated windshield, dual automatic climate control, a sport steering wheel, a power sunroof, heated leather sport seats, keyless entry and ignition, Bluetooth connectivity, an LCD infotainment screen on the dashboard, an LCD gauge cluster that can be configured by the driver, power folding rear headrests, power adjustments for the first two seating positions, HID headlights, cornering lights, and a variety of active safety features. 

What the Polestar edition adds to the equation includes a specially-tuned all-wheel drive system (versus the more basic R-Design AWD settings), enormous 6-piston Brembo brakes up front and four-piston clampers at the rear, seat and steering wheel stitching that is matched to the body color, a sport exhaust system, a more powerful edition of the R-Design's six-cylinder engine, a completely revised suspension system (that can be manually adjusted), 20-inch rims, sport pedals, special door inlays, and unique interior trim throughout the cabin.  There isn't any optional equipment available with the 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar, as the car comes with every bell and whistle in the book.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review: Design

  • The 2015 Volvo S60 adds an aggressive flair to the standard S60 sedan's styling.
  • Only two colors are available: Rebel Blue or Black Sapphire.
  • Interior trim is also unique to the Polestar model.

The 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar immediately stands out from the rest of the offerings in the Volvo showroom, especially if it's wearing Rebel Blue paint - one of only two available colors from the factory.  The S60 Polestar has been given the full aero treatment, which means a special front bumper that features a two-part splitter, a honeycomb lower grille, and a Polestar badge beside the diagonal Volvo logo that bisects the upper grille.  There's also a matching Polestar badge on the trunk, a spoiler integrated into the trunk lid, 3.5-inch dual exhaust tips peeking out from under the rear bumper/splitter, and 20-inch rims finished in dark powdered pewter.  It's an extroverted statement if ever there was one from Volvo, and it's a good match for the style-first philosophy that has been guiding the brand for the past several years.

Open the S60 Polestar's driver's door and you're greeted with a somewhat less cohesive set of cues.  The Polestar shares the same general cabin layout as the lesser T6 R-Design edition of the S60 sedan, which means a dated-looking center stack capped by a small LCD screen, an unusually-minimalist dash, and large expanses of empty black plastic.  There are several special-to-the-Polestar touches to be found, of course, including Rebel Blue stitching on the steering wheel and sport seats, custom door panel inlays, carbon fiber-look trim on the center console, and an illuminated, Polestar-badged shift knob, but I couldn't help feeling as though the S60's interior had me stuck in a bit of a time warp.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review: Comfort and Cargo

  • The 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar does not introduce any new comfort or cargo features as compared to last year's S60 T6 R-Design model.

The 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar's sport seats immediately attract the eye, what with their heavy bolstering and bright stitching, and I'm happy to say that up front they also do a good job of balancing comfort with the need to keep you supported and level when thrashing the sedan through a corner.  For a performance car, the stock suspension settings (there are 10 in total, but you have to manually adjust them from outside the car) were also sufficiently supple even over rough pavement.  The rear of the S60 Polestar isn't quite as accommodating as the front, with Volvo giving up legroom to the likes of the surprisingly roomy BMW 3 Series, but it'll be fine for most passengers over the short haul.  Trunk space checks in at a useful 12 cubic feet - not overwhelming in the face of the competition, but far from cramped for its class.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review: Features and Controls

  • The 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar does not introduce any new features or controls as compared to last year's S60 T6 R-Design model.

My least favorite aspect of the 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar was its implementation of what felt like outdated technology features.  It starts with the small seven-inch LCD screen buried deep into the dashboard, which was functional but certainly not on-par with the displays offered by rivals BMW or Mercedes-Benz.  Then there's the decision to group the climate, entertainment, and communications controls in a small rectangle framing a dial pad and a button-graphic representation of the HVAC vents, surrounded by four dials that also housed buttons of their own linked to features as diverse as on-screen navigation and seat heater activation.  It's crowded, feels very 90s, and the huge amount of empty space surrounding the design merely drives home the fact that the center stack real estate could have been better managed.

I did like aspects of the S60 Polestar's LCD gauge display, which can be set to one of three different modes (although you're mostly choosing from different fonts and colors to decorate its large central binnacle).  I found it a bit confusing to navigate through the vehicle data presented to the left and right of the speedometer/tachometer, and the 'Power' gauge seemed to double the tach's functionality.  Altogether, the Polestar's feature set doesn't offer the same premium feel as one would find in the BMW M3 or the Audi S4 / RS4, and it detracts from the car's ability to offer a truly special experience to owners.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review: Safety and Ratings

  • The 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar does not introduce any new safety features as compared to last year's T6 R-Design model.

For a very long time safety was Volvo's bag, and while the rest of the industry has by now caught up to what were once innovative passenger protection features, the 2015 Volvo S60 does come with a wide array of crash-avoidance and mitigation technologies.  In addition to the standard complement of airbags, the S60 Polestar also features Volvo's City Safety collision prevention system that can automatically brake the car at speeds of below 19-mph should a potential impact be detected.  The Polestar also includes a pedestrian detection system that will slam the brakes on at higher speeds if someone steps - or cycles - out in front of the sedan.  Additional active safety systems included with the S60 Polestar: lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, all-speed collision warning, and a driver attention monitor.

A word about what happens to your nerves when this many safety systems are constantly vying for your attention.  Volvo's default setting for its collision detection feature is to illuminate a series of red LED lights that reflect into the windshield as soon as you start following another vehicle from a certain distance, which means these lights are on almost constantly when driving through urban traffic.  This makes the feature more of an annoyance than anything else, and I turned it off after becoming completely desensitized to any helpful function it might have presented.  There's a bit too much going on from a safety perspective when so many of these active technologies start to overlap, and it distracts you from driving and creates exactly the kind of dangerous situation that the car is trying to protect you from.

The NHTSA has awarded the Volvo S60 Polestar with a five star overall crash protection rating, while the IIHS gives the sedan a rating of 'Good' in every single crash test category, making it a Top Safety Pick from that organization.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review: Engines and Fuel Economy

  • The 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar introduces the most powerful Volvo engine ever offered in a street car.

The 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar's 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine started out life as the same unit found under the hood of the T6 R-Design, but after a round of tuning from the engineers at Polestar Performance - including the swapping of its stock turbo for a twin-scroll design - the unit boasts 20 additional ponies and 15 extra lb-ft of torque.  This brings total output to 345 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, managed by a six-speed automatic transmission and a standard all-wheel drive system.  Fuel mileage for the revised drivetrain checks in at 18-mpg in city driving and 27-mpg during highway cruising, which is only a single mile per gallon less for each respective measure compared to the R-Design model.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review: Driving Impressions

You might be scratching your head a bit regarding the 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar's modest increase in power over the T6 R-Design, a model that asks for a hefty $10,000 less at buying time.  Although it's somewhat of a cliché to say so, focusing exclusively on the Polestar's dyno numbers misses the total-system improvement that has been made by the Performance team to the S60 sedan.  Sure, 20 horsepower might not seem like much, but when your foot is to the floor they are summoned like a pack of wild arctic wolves rushing across the frozen tundra to nip at the heels of the unlucky driver ahead of you on the highway access ramp. 

Not only does the six-cylinder turbo mill express a brutal willingness to surge off of the line, but its forward-focused mission is aided and abetted by an all-wheel drive system that is capable of sending 100 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels in order to preserve pleasing driving dynamics while cornering.  Then there's the car's exhaust note - best experienced with the six-speed automatic transmission set to sport mode - which roars from the S60 Polestar's twin tailpipes with a savage authority that alludes to the engine's motorsports roots.

Although Polestar Performance has a strong history building exceptionally competent touring cars for a variety of series, you probably wouldn't want to take the Volvo S60 Polestar to the race track.  It would definitely hold its own - after all, those Brembo six-pots are overkill for the street, and the ability to (get under the car on a lift with a wrench and) make 10 different adjustments to its Ohlin-sourced shock absorbers does hint at a level of customization that most time trial fiends would appreciate.  Unfortunately, the S60 Polestar is somewhat hamstrung by its transmission, which is respectably comfortable when left in Drive but unpredictably erratic when cruising around in Sport mode.  Paddle shifters are provided, of course, and they do offer good, if not lightning-quick access to the next ratio while at speed, but I never found myself feeling the urge to chuck the Polestar around in a fit of red mist.

Rather, I was much more impressed by the car's demeanor on the street, and in particular, its BMW-slaying acceleration.  Access the car's launch control feature by sidestepping the brake pedal and holding engine revs up for five seconds or less, and you'll be rewarded with a surge to 60-mph that takes a mere 4.7 seconds.  Even if you ignore launch control, as I did 90 percent of the time, the S60 Polestar still feels ultra-rapid off of the line.  Although it might lack the explosiveness of BMW's 425 horsepower M3, especially above 65-mph, in day-to-day driving (and when facing slippery winter conditions, as I did during my time with the car), it feels very much its equal.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review: Final Thoughts

Comparing the 2015 Volvo S60 Polestar to the BMW M3 or the Mercedes-AMG C63 isn't really fair, of course, as the power deficit between the models points to a more accurate contrast with the BMW 335i xDrive and Audi S4.  For Volvo to have built a vehicle that is in the same conversation as those two class-leading examples of Teutonic sporting fortitude, however, is impressive achievement for the brand, and an indication that the sleeping Scandinavian giant has awakened (and is hungry for autobahn bragging rights.) 

Fortunately for Volvo, the S60 Polestar's primary deficits - a dull interior, old-school technology, and a bit of a pricing problem (a base M3 costs a mere $2,000 more) probably won't be much of a hindrance for the first-generation car and its limited production destiny.  With some more tweaking under the hood and another round of investment in the sedan's interior, the Volvo S60 Polestar very well could evolve into the northern phalanx of Europe's top-tier high performance sedan stable.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting

2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review: Pros and Cons


  • Striking looks
  • Very fast in a straight line
  • Handles better than any other Volvo
  • Comfortable ride on a day-to-day basis
  • Great exhaust note


  • Dated technologies found throughout the interior
  • Somewhat plain cabin design
  • Rear seat a bit tight
  • Automatic transmission can be balky in Sport mode
  • Priced too high to be competitive as a mass-market model

Volvo Canada supplied the vehicle for this review.

 Photo by Benjamin Hunting

Photo by Benjamin Hunting


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