This V60 Polestar may look like the 2015 model that we tested two years ago, but this one is slightly different underneath its skin, and it has to do with the engine. Whereas the 2015 model adorned a silky smooth 3.0L turbo inline-six, this refreshed 2017 Polestar adopts Volvo’s new Drive-E engine, namely the 2.0-litre turbo- and supercharged four-cylinder. It’s the same one used in the highly praised XC90 but with new connecting rods, camshafts, a larger air intake, high capacity fuel pump, and a three-inch full flow active exhaust. This changes the game.
The new engine produces 367 hp and 347 lb-ft and for those of you keeping track, that is 22 hp more than the outgoing model but 22 lb-ft of torque less. Not a bad trade-off considering the new Drive-E engine has two less cylinders and a bolted on supercharger. It actually sprints from 0-100 km/h one-tenths of a second quicker too, but does it drive the same?
I’m happy to report that the revised Polestar is just as lively and feels more linear than the one it replaces. This twin-charged unit doesn’t run out of breath as quickly at the top-end of the powerband, and having two types of forced induction allows Volvo to nearly eliminate turbo lag.
The supercharger kicks in immediately at low rpms and lets the turbo build up boost and once it has, the supercharger tags out and the turbo steps in. Volvo marries this art together into a very smooth powertrain, one that is lighter than the inline-six. A lighter engine means a slender front end, and the new Polestar definitely feels more agile and lighter on its feet. Its nose points more eagerly than before and though the Polestar could use a quicker steering rack for faster driver inputs, it works well in this application as a daily road car.
One aspect that the new four-pot does not replace however is the engine noise. The 2015 Polestar with the inline-six was soulful, bellicose, and there was something special (and ironic) about a performance wagon being built by an automaker known for making the safest cars on this planet.
But with two less cylinders and the same exhaust system, the soundtrack is tamer. The notes are thin, the beats are hollow, and there isn’t as much grunt as before. The whine from the supercharger is quite entertaining at first, though it gets annoying rather quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, the new 2017 Polestar still emits a wonderful noise, and flicking the gear lever into Sport mode opens the valves in the full-flow active exhaust system to create one hell of a ruckus. The exhaust burbles when shifting from first into second are especially entertaining as well.
We have to give Volvo props to making a four-cylinder sound this good, but it’s hard to give it full marks when we experienced what the inline-six can deliver. If we never drove the 2015 Polestar, we would have been head over heels for the noise but because we have, we’re yearning for it once more. Like they say, there really is no replacement for displacement.
Be that as it may, exhaust noise is only one tiny fish in a pond of goodies. Ten-way adjustable Öhlins shock absorbers (which are some of the most highly sought-after parts in the world), front strut brace with carbon fibre reinforcement, recalibrated steering for performance, 80% stiffer springs and 15% stiffer anti-roll bars than the standard V60, and a clever Haldex all-wheel drive system gives the new Polestar the tune it really needs to knock the socks off any buyer prospectively looking at an Audi Allroad or BMW 328i Touring.
The transmission has also been upgraded, from a six- to an eight-speed automatic. We heavily criticized the six-speed before, as it was the outgoing Polestar’s fly in the ointment. It was slow, jerky, and dim-witted in a field of buttery 8-speeds and intelligent 9-speeds. This new eight-speed slightly remedies that problem with smoother and quicker shifts, but it still doesn’t rev match and would greatly benefit from that to level the gear changes.
Remember those cheat codes you used to punch into your Playstation controller to gain secret items? Well Volvo has snuck in a cheat code of their own for a hidden “Sport+ Mode.” Simply flip the gear shifter into Sport, push the lever forward to the + position, hold it there, and flick the downshift paddle twice. The orange S marker on the gauges will blink confirming the “cheat code” has been entered correctly.
All it really does is keep the revs above 4,000 rpm, nullifying the use of the supercharger and keeping the turbo constantly spooled and on tap. I found that Sport+ was too alert and sensitive for daily road use, but it certainly might come in handy when ripping up a circuit.
Other than the powertrain, there really are no upgrades to the exterior sheetmetal or interior cabin from the 2015 model. The same reworked front splitters and diffuser are present, as are the unique 19-inch winter wheels on our tester (20-inch Michelin Pilot Super Sports summer tires are standard), and who doesn’t love this stunning Rebel Blue paint?
The interior also has great atmosphere with a sense of occasion. The seats and even the steering wheel are delicately wrapped in both leather and suede, and the gear shifter is also given the unique Polestar treatment. While the rest of the interior may feel dated to those who have seen what modern cars are made of, it’s nevertheless difficult to call it cheap or boring.
Aside from the uber-comfortable seats, my favourite feature is the steering wheel’s ability to telescope a huge distance towards the driver. This lets drivers with long legs sit far back but not have to stretch their hands just to reach the wheel. Very handy.
The Polestars used to only come to Canada in incredibly limited numbers, but now there are more allocations due to popular demand. While it may not be as rare as before, there are only 1,000 units being made this year globally, costing $69,000 a piece in Canada. The just-as-bonkers S60 Polestar sedan variant will set you back a cool $67,050 itself. And of note: there are no options available, just the selection of paints.
Still, it’s not bad for an automaker best known for its safety tech to conjure up something this competitive in the performance market. Let’s not forget that Volvo and Polestar race cars in competitions as well, and have motorsport experts ready at the helm. And having just a piece of that excitement in your everyday wagon is a win. Powerful engine, potent exhaust, functional seats and a family-friendly cabin – the Polestar is one of the most well rounded road cars on the market today.