Expert Reviews

The Quick and the Dad: 2015 Volvo V60 Polestar

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This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car

The Ferrari F40: common. The Lamborghini Aventador: ubiquitous. The Bentley Continental: might as well buy a Volkswagen Golf.

If exclusivity and rarity are your bag, then this is your baby: the Volvo V60 Polestar. With just 750 produced worldwide (and another 750 on the way) and only a dozen or so bound for Canada's shores, it's a rare beast, a sort of mythical unicorn-moose hybrid. Call it the unimoose.

Regrettable, that, because a lot of people are going to want to buy this thing. It's borking amazing.

Frankly, I'm impressed they were able to get the whole thing together with just an Allen key and a set of pictogram-based instructions. Well done.

Aside from the unique Rebel Blue colour (there'll also be a Sapphire Black version sold here), the Polestar-engineered version of Volvo's handsome little V60 wagon has a few signature touches. Polestar is Volvo's racing team and provides engine tuning; as the company's first fully engineered road car, the V60's Polestar badge is slightly larger than that found on cars equipped merely with a power-boosting software upgrade. The front fascia and rear spoiler are unique. You get lovely multi-spoke 20-inch alloys that fill out the wheel wells nicely, the whole car hunkering down aggressively.

Frankly, I'm impressed they were able to get the whole thing together with just an Allen key and a set of pictogram-based instructions. Well done.

If it weren't the colour of Papa Smurf's backside, you'd almost call the Polestar subtle. Volvo reworked the exterior of all their cars last year, and they managed to create something beautiful without the need for stab-in-the-eye aggression. The best part about it is still out back, with those lamb's-leg taillights and upright hatch. Handy that, as this is the only view many cars will get of this particular Swedish meatball.

Take a peek behind those rims and there are six-piston Brembo brakes up front in a massive 371-mm sizing. The suspension features Öhlins dampers and firmed up springs and sway bars. Under the hood, the venerable 3.0L turbocharged straight-six gets a new Borg-Warner turbocharger and now huffs out 345 hp at 5,250 rpm and 369 lb-ft between 3,000–4,750 rpm. That's more beef than you'll find in an entire crate of Ikea hot dogs.

Inside, the V60 benefits from a whole host of Polestar upgrades that echo the features of some of the best hot Volvos of the past. The seats are flat-out excellent. The steering wheel has a blend of leather and Alcantara that's both pleasant to the touch and looks like it'll wear better than all-suede offerings found elsewhere. Naturally, it's heated.

However, there are a few bones in this particular herring-bus. Just as with the standard S60 and V60, the cabin isn't quite roomy enough to charm those who remember the carrying capacity of the old V70R. Then there's the infotainment and navigation system, which works, but is outclassed by anything other than a Jaguar (and at least Jaguar has a touchscreen). Turning the traction control off is a multi-step annoyance.

“But Brendan,” I hear you ask, “Why would you possibly want to turn the traction off? It's a Volvo.”

Well, I'll tell you. Yes, Sweden is the country responsible for ABBA – for which I feel the United Nations should enforce economic and military sanctions – but it is also the home of bands like Dissection, and Nihilist, and Necrophobic. Everything might be all well-scrubbed Scandinavian progressive society on the outside, but the gene pool is straight Viking.

As a result, the Polestar V60 looks like the sort of thing for picking up little Elsa and Viktor from school, but it's basically a blue-painted Mjölnir on wheels. Find the sub-menu with the ESC Off option, flick the shifter to the left to activate sport mode, and bring on Valhalla.

In this setup, the Polestar pushes more power to the rear via its tuned Haldex all-wheel drive to help deal with the understeer inherent in having such a large engine with its mid-point ahead of the front axles. The sport mode steps up the speed of shifts, and also opens up baffles in the exhaust, letting the Polestar bark out its barbaric battle cry.

By Odin's beard does this thing ever whoosh and howl. It's like a turbocharged Fenrir wolf, with an outstanding bellowing coming out the back and the surging holler of ingested air getting fired into the engine. It sounds absolutely berserk.

It also drives like a berserker too, and if you engage manual mode and don't upshift, the engine will charge into the redline and bounce right off it with a dent in its horned helmet. Get snappy with the shifts and Volvo claims the V60 will run to 100 km/h in under five seconds – but I think it's actually quicker.

Never mind the Bimmer-bashing straight-line stuff, the V60's real charm is in just how good it is at handling crappy weather and crappy roads. It's stiff, certainly less comfortable than the normal V60, but the way you can just, well, smite a backroad with total confidence is wonderful. The entire week was as wet as a haddock's bathing suit, but the Polestar blasted through it with surefooted Swedish speed.

Turn-in is sharp, but tending to push, so you've got a decent safety net. The well-tuned Öhlins dampers do a great job of ironing out ruts and the Haldex all-wheel drive prevents any slippage. Need to blast into traffic while turning right out of a side street? You'll bounce your passengers' heads right off the windows, so immediate is the acceleration.

Slow down and start acting like a parent, and the V60 Polestar is relatively civilized. It's very safe, of course, with blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning, a lane departure system, and adaptive cruise control. The suspension's a tad jouncy thanks to the stiffer springs, but the ride is a quiet one. Through the week, I had zero complaints from my toddler co-pilot, who would not stop talking about how much she liked the blue.

It's a great drive, but there are still things touched by Loki to be spotted. The turning circle is that of a longboat. The fuel economy isn't horrible, but returned around 13.5 L/100 km in mixed usage, which ain't gonna’ be cheap in the long run. Also, for some inexplicable reason, they got rid of the flip-up cargo holder in the rear, which was one of the best features in the R-Design V60. Trust me, in a car like this you need something to strap down your cargo.

I also feel like this isn't really going to be a track-day enthusiast's best friend. The V60's pretty heavy at over 1,700 kg, and that means it's going to eat brakes and tires.

However, if the regular T6 V60 feels like a Swedish luxury WRX, then consider this thing the Swedish STI. It's fast, secure, engaging, and practical. They absolutely haven't built enough of them.

4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 12 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance 24-hour roadside assistance

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Model Tested 2015 Volvo V60 Polestar
Base Price $66,895
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,715
Price as Tested $68,710
Optional Equipment