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Volvo Cars is in the midst of dramatically expanding the influence of its now in-house Polestar performance division, with an array of new road cars driven by high-performance plug-in hybrid powertrains and all-wheel drive on the way. 

We spoke recently with Volvo Cars CEO and board representative Hakan Samuelsson in Detroit, and the news for fans of hottedup Swedish sports cars was entirely positive.

It’s not enough, he said, to tackle the Germans with solid luxury-focused offerings from its new model lines. It has to offer a genuine performance alternative as well.

“I think even if Volvo stands for safety and design, why can’t you have a high performance version still? And we have done that,” he said.

“But of course if we’re going to invest in that and have that as a concept more-or-less on all of our cars – Polestar as top of the line – we want to own that brand as well, that’s why we bought it.”

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Above: the new S90 R-Design sports styling pack, spied this week. Read more here.

It’s about one year on from the announcement that Volvo had bought the Polestar company’s parts and tuning operations, which previously developed road and race cars for the brand as an independent entity.

Volvo says you can expect to see flagship Polestar derivatives of numerous model lines in future, as new-generation versions of each launch, all using a version of its powerful T8 plug-in hybrid drivetrain.

As we know, Volvo is embarking on a wholesale makeover of its model range, with its entire line-up to be turned over by 2019, and its global sales forecast to double.

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The first car to get the Polestar treatment would logically be the newly launched S90 and its V90 wagon sibling (BMW 5 Series/Mercedes-Benz E-Class rivals), which both sit on the same modular SPA architecture as the XC90

The flagship four-cylinder petrol-electric T8 plug-in hybrid system in this car offers 235kW and 400Nm in its SUV application, sent to the ground through an all-wheel-drive system. There’s ability to upscale this for a Polestar derivative.

“It will be high performance developed on electrification, we will use electrification as a booster, we will not start diluting our brand with big engines and extra cylinders, V8s,” he said. On a side note, this can’t be good news for Volvo’s V8 Supercars future.

“The combustion unit will be Volvo but we will use electrifications to create a modern high performance car.”

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It’s not clear when the S90 Polestar will emerge, but you’d have to expect Volvo to capitalise and deliver it relatively soon.

Beyond this, Volvo will spin off a new S60/V60/XC60 family from the same SPA architecture soon, as well as a new V40/XC40 and potentially S40 from a new platform shared with its Chinese owner Geely.

Samuelsson was not definitive on which of these model lines would get the Polestar treatment, but a BMW M3-baiting S60/V60 Polestar surely makes sense.

It’s less likely that Volvo’s family friendly SUVs will get the treatment, and don’t expect an M4-rivalling coupe, either: the car maker has already confirmed that two-door offerings are not in its immediate future

As Samuelsson recently told us, Volvo understands its recent sedans didn’t match up to the Germans, despite earlier contentions. Naturally, a great way to change this picture is to focus on high performance powerhouse derivatives.

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Beyond this, a V40 Polestar could make a nice alternative to the Audi S3/RS3 and Mercedes-Benz A250/Mercedes-AMG A45.

“We can use it where there is a market or interest for that, probably not every model, but models that are suited to a high performance variant”

MORE: Volvo news, reviews, pricing and specs




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