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Volvo V60 Polestar

Click to view picture gallery“With 345bhp under the bonnet,
  all-wheel drive, zero to 62mph
  acceleration in five seconds dead
  and a price just a handful of tenners
  shy of £50,000, the V60 Polestar
  is no ordinary Volvo...

BUT WHILE IT CAN AND DOES GO LIKE A BLUE BAT OUT OF HELL, it can also be as docile as an Andrex puppy when your family's on board. Given the two performance extremes it so deftly delivers, perhaps there should be a 'Q' somewhere in the name... because, signature Rebel Blue paint job (Black Sapphire, Ice White, and Bright Silver are alternatives) and stand-out 20-inch alloys aside, it exemplifies the best stealthy characteristics of the true Q-car.

Looks-wise it could be a regular V60: it's got the same thrusting nose fronting an aerodynamically clean five-door bodystyle, the same wedge-bordering-on-coupe profile, an elegantly sloping greenhouse, and the same distinctively sporty rear hatch smartly framed by tall LED tail lights that snake skywards.

Drop your gaze back to earth and you'll spot the give-aways: small square, vivid blue Polestar badges; front corner splitters to reduce high-speed lift; a roof spoiler and black rear diffuser to perform the same task at the tail; bespoke Polestar Motorsport 20-inch alloy wheels; and two barely protruding tailpipes that remind you of a fighter jet's cannons.

“Telltales include small
vivid blue Polestar
badges, front corner
splitters, rear diffuser
and custom 20-inch
alloys — and two barely
protruding tailpipes that
remind you of a fighter
jet’s cannons...
At this point we should mention that this particular V60 has been fettled by Polestar Volvo's long-time motorsport partner (and now also owned by Volvo) to create an unashamed driver's car that can be enjoyed 365 days a year on all roads and in all weathers.

Confirming and endorsing that is the V60 Polestar's premium grade cabin. Swing open the driver's door and you'll find plenty of tactile and visual features to satisfy your senses. The heart of every Volvo cabin is its seats and those fitted to the Polestar top the lot. Purposefully sporty-looking, strongly bolstered and upholstered in striking charcoal leather and Nubuck suede with contrasting Polestar Blue threads, they're complemented by some tasteful carbon-fibre effect trim.

The 'trackday-feel' steering wheel is equally gorgeous: perforated black leather wraps around the outer rim with a blue Alcantara inner section that's über-grippy and very suave and it's heated, too. Naturally there are wheel-mounted paddle-shifters and remote infotainment controls on its spokes.

Needless to say the driving position is absolutely spot-on: there's generous room for your head, shoulders, elbows, knees and feet and from the driver's seat visibility is all-round good. So good, in fact, that you could manage reversing without the standard-fit reversing camera and parking sensors better yet, suspend your macho ego and simply let the Polestar park itself for you (as it can and will).

The driver gets a three-memory seat-and-mirror settings recall; both front seats are fully power-operated with lumbar adjustment and three-stage heating. Be warned: once settled in, you really won't want to get out!

An active TFT crystal display provides the instrumentation pack and offers a choice of three themes Performance, Economy, Elegance all easily switched on the move. The signature Volvo 'floating' centre stack houses virtually all of the switchgear along with controls for the comprehensive infotainment system; major shortcut buttons flank the crisp and clear 7-inch colour screen and are easy to operate while driving without taking your eyes off the road.

The most annoying words are no longer "Are we there yet?" but "Please make a U-turn" fortunately the Polestar's spoken SatNav directions are given in plenty of time so this won't be something you hear very often, if at all!

“There’s something
about a performance
estate that reels in
your interest even if you
firmly believe a slinky
sports coupe is ‘more
you’. But spend even a
short spell behind the
wheel of this hard-
charging Volvo wagon
and you'll be hooked...
The very efficient climate control system automatically keeps out 'bad' air while keeping you penguin-chilled or hothouse-snug in accordance with the temperature you dialled up; and for those who not only like to see the sky but get a fix of 'real' air, there's a one-shot electric tilt 'n' slide glass sunroof. On those days you'd prefer otherwise, just close the 'blackout' inner sunblind.

For those who love their sounds there's a 650W, 12-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound hi-fi; for those who need to stay in touch there's Bluetooth hands-free and for additional multimedia entertainment you get a DAB tuner, Bluetooth media streaming, hard drive music storage and DVD playback, Internet browser.

To be honest, we'd be amazed if any owner will want for anything because this range-topping V60 Polestar comes fully kitted out with every possible factory option already fitted.

Other kit not already detailed (and this is just the tip of the iceberg) includes full voice-activated control, active bending Xenon lights, powerfold auto-dimming and heated door mirrors, stylish frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated windscreen and washer nozzles, front and rear park assist and camera, and keyless entry and start, and a no-hassle electric parking brake.

Travel in the back cabin and you still travel first class the outer rear seats match the front seats for shapeliness, support and three-stage heating; and while it's wide enough for three adults to ride side-by-side, two can really savour their surroundings.

This wouldn't be a Volvo without comprehensive safety features and this one has got the lot: City Safety (includes Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection and Collision Warning with full auto braking), Adaptive Cruise with Queue Assist and Distance Alert, lane departure warning, active main beam system, Road Sign Information Display, Blind Spot with CTA (Cross Traffic Alert); Airbags comprise of dual-stage front plus dual-chamber side-impact bags and inflatable curtains.

There's something about a performance estate that reels in your interest even if you firmly believe a slinky sports coupe is 'more you'. Perhaps it's that innate conservatism that lurks at the core of most people; or the apparent irrationality of having something so practical that will beat the pants off most sports cars that colour themselves 'fit'... Whatever your personal rationale, once you've spent even a short spell behind the wheel of this hard-charging Volvo estate you'll be hooked.

“Despite the ‘hard
running’ chassis mods —
lowered ride height,
Öhlins shocks, wide
lo-pro rubber —
the Polestar, even when
tracking over the
shoddiest British
blacktop, still rides well
within the comfort
And what a delicious hook… Starting audibly with the deliciously growly deep-throated battle-song from the Polestar's active exhaust system. Governed by the drive mode engaged, the sounds vary from just a hint of burble in Drive when the exhaust's internal valves are mostly closed to keep emissions and decibels low. The more actively you drive, the raunchier is the exhaust note.

In Sport (and also in Manual mode) both exhaust valves are open at all times so the engine can breathe as freely as possible for better back pressure and consequently better performance. Aided and abetted by the 3.0-litre six-cylinder's 345bhp and 368lb ft of torque, the Polestar talks the talk.

Officially it returns 27.7mpg in the combined cycle and 37.7mpg touring. After a few full-throttle runs we expected to struggle to stay on the green side of 20mpg in fact, our week-long test recorded an impressive 26.4mpg average which bears out Volvo's 27.7mpg combined cycle figure.

Just because the Polestar comes with launch control doesn't mean you're obligated to use it at every green light. In fact you really don't need to as the Polestar puts its power down well and just a firm press on the accelerator in Sport mode will do the trick.

The Haldex four-wheel drive system can send up to 100% of power to either axle when called for and the Polestar feels comfortingly trustworthy serving up maximum acceleration even on slippery surfaces.

The six-speed Geartronic torque converter auto 'box is equally nonchalant as to how brutal its owner is with the throttle gear changes, both going up or coming down, are seamless at either end of the performance scale.

Normal everyday driving is peachy but the vivid shove of that 345bhp is always on call, palpably simmering just below the surface. Amazingly, in spite of its 'hell for leather' alter ego, the Polestar only requires the same service and maintenance attention as one of the all-wheel drive R Design models on which it's based.

And regardless of all the 'hard running' chassis mods lowered ride height, Öhlins shocks, wide lo-pro rubber (245/35 Michelin Pilot Sport) the Polestar, even when tracking over the shoddiest British blacktop, still rides well within the comfort zone.

“Adventurous drivers
keen to explore the limits
will be pleased to hear
that the four-wheel drive
system automatically
adjusts to be more rear-
wheel biased when
the ESC system
is switched off...
An enthusiastic drive quickly confirms the dynamic effectiveness of Polestar Motorsport's chassis 'makeover'. Body control is fine; the speed-sensitive steering offers three weightings and turn-in is sharp and up to speed with the chassis, so you always know where your nose is headed. And for spearing through corners the rule is strictly simple: slow in; fast (very) out. Another plus: when cornering in Sport mode the current gear will be held unless a change of gear is absolutely necessary to maintain proper engine speeds.

A fast car demands fast brakes. The Polestar comes with an upgraded braking system headed-up by six-piston Polestar/Brembo front callipers and they deliver committed stopping power modulated through a pedal that's notable for its progressive feel.

More adventurous drivers eager to explore their Polestar's limits will be pleased to know that the four-wheel drive system automatically adjusts to be more rear-wheel biased when the ESC system is switched off. The shock absorbers are already optimised for 'spirited street driving' but if you click your way to polestar you'll find plenty of professional tips on how to take things to the max.

With the focus on the hardcore performance taking centre stage it's all to easy to take the V60 Polestar's boot for granted yet it's this very aspect that adds to its overall appeal. Lift the high-opening tailgate and you'll find 557 litres ready to service all your load needs; fold the rear seats and this expands to 1,241 litres.

Especially-long items can easily be accommodated thanks to the forward-folding front passenger seatback, while more versatility is provided by the 40:20:40 split-folding rear seats that genuinely fold flat. And yes, grocery bag holders are included. Dog-owning Polestar drivers will also appreciate the built-in mesh dog-guard. Nearly forgot… under the boot floor is a full-width multi-section tray that's handy for storing all manner of things.

In spite of its extensive 'fettling' by Polestar, Volvo's indulgently hard 'n' fast, road-sticky shooting-brake offers high-end quality and comfort and spades of practicality plus cosseting everyday driveability. All made deliciously more addictive by the well-cloaked shooting star thrust that your right foot can unleash whenever and wherever you fancy. Splash the cash you won't be disappointed!

Volvo V60 Polestar | £49,775
Maximum speed: 155mph | 0-62mph: 5 seconds | Test Average: 26.4mpg
Power: 345bhp | Torque: 368lb ft | CO2 237g/km