Review: The Six-Cylinder Volvo S60 Polestar Won’t Go Quietly

Displacement, contrary to the saying, can be replaced.

Six-cylinder cars have always held a special place in the company’s heart, even if they were never the meatball-and-potatoes cars. And a performance-minded Volvo has long been fun, even if it’s never given performance-minded Audis or BMWs much to worry about. The 2016 Volvo S60 Polestar is the last of its kind for Volvo.

This Polestar is an unusual car, destined to be an oddball classic. It manages to be exciting, while also carrying that classic feeling of brute force that is growing rare in cars today, and runs counter to the efficiency song engineers up in Sweden are singing these days.

Which is why you need to pick one up.



At last, an irrational reason to buy a Volvo

You buy a Polestar because it’s freaking blue. Rebel Blue. The highway patrol sees a streak of it go by and then doesn’t pursue you because that can’t be a Volvo. Oh, but it is.

The basic S60 is an attractive-enough car, but most versions have anonymous detailing. Not so with the Polestar. Fat 20-inch wheels and skirts and spoilers look out of place, but in a good way. It’s your parents dressing up for a charity ’80s throwback dance. I swear it works. Parked in the suburbs of Los Angeles one evening, I return to the car only to be greeted by a man standing next to the car.

“This is the Polestar, right? You know, I never thought much of Volvo until I saw this.”

Backhanded compliment, yes. Flattering? You betcha, if you’re Volvo.

Volvo isn’t new to sleeper cars. The 850 T-5R, 850 R, V70 R, all had what about cars – the ability for someone to walk by and second guess what they saw, and then examine closer and closer. That’s why we should thank the Swedish performance gods every day for the Polestars.
   

It’s a shame the interior isn’t more ridiculous, but in true Volvo fashion, it is functional. The massively bolstered and padded front seats explain why people buy Volvos in the first place. Six-hour runs up the highway are no problem for your back or butt in these things, even if they’re a little more confining than Volvo’s typical comfort seats. At least they hold you firmly in place should you decide to explore the Polestar’s limits.

And despite the S60’s relatively small dimensions on paper, there is a lot of useable space for four adults. Two six-footers in the back seat didn’t complain and the trunk is squarely shaped for suitcases. Of course, this is the part where I mention the wagon sibling, the V60 Polestar, has more rear headroom and usable cargo space and you should just get that.

Time has not been kind to the technology, however. Get into an XC90 or new S90 and the thin fonts, 3G connection and internet browser lifted from the circa-1999 iMac in your school’s computer lab.

But no one complains about the interface in a Ferrari, so why should you here?



Until Ferrari builds a $60,000 four-door sedan, this is it

One of my neighbor’s has an early 2010s Ford Mustang GT with a 5.0-liter V8 that wakes me up around 5:30 every morning. I hope I woke him up one of the mornings with the Polestar.

In addition to wondering what that bright blue thing was that just passed, they also want to know why it sounds so angry. What was historically a powerful but restrained engine in the heavy XC60 and XC70 family haulers, the Polestar treatment made this old 3.0-liter turbocharged straight-six sound like it wanted to leap out from under the hood of this car. Knock the shifter to the six-speed automatic into sport, and the growly Volvo starts to bark, even when you’re just parking it. Heads turn, and for the right reasons.

Blues are still blue #Volvo #Polestar #carsofsb

A photo posted by Zac Estrada (@zacestrada) on May 22, 2016 at 12:06pm PDT

Despite a claim of 4.7 seconds from a standstill to 60 mph, it doesn’t feel especially quick off the line. Chalk that up to the all-the-time all-wheel drive and nearly two tons of car to move around. However, the Polestar pulls easily and rapidly up past freeway speeds.

Volvo makes hefty cars well. The Polestar, therefore, never betrays its weight and somehow feels larger than it really is. But it also feels incredibly safe to drive quickly. And better still, the 20-inch wheels and Ohlins shocks haven’t disturbed the S60’s normally soft ride that much, aside from some kicks when running over badly broken pavement. It actually encourages you to speed up a bit, which is welcome from this company.

Lessons learned from this Polestar bode well for the future.
 

Old Volvos never die, they pass on

A recent Cars.com inventory search showed just several dozen S60 and V60 Polestars at U.S. dealerships. But many had several thousands of dollars on the hood, which sweetens the deal considerably. Not only are you getting a performance bargain relative to anything the German brands can offer, but you’re getting a car that feels special – a 2016 model that actually feels special.

Sure, it’s flawed in numerous ways, but it oozes charm. It isn’t the last word on outright handling or performance, but it’s a safe quick drive. Maybe it won’t clobber a BMW M3 on a track, but it’s fun in a different way in everyday driving.

Efficiency is important. The environment is important. But boosting fuel economy and reducing emissions can be a bitch, and the death of the straight-six, turbocharged, howling Polestar is prime example. I have no doubt the 2017 S60 and V60 Polestar with their ultra-boosted 2.0-liter engines are better cars, but they are different cars.

Savor these final moments.

Photos: Keith Moore/Carscoops

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