Trent Nikolic finds Volvo's revised sports sedan is a big improvement on the original
The Volvo S60 Polestar launched last year as a 50-unit limited edition for Australia only, designed to showcase the capabilities of Swedish tuning outfit Polestar and gauge local reception with a view to selling it in other markets.
Fast forward less than 12 months and the S60 Polestar has clearly been a success for Volvo as this facelifted version is now going on sale in Europe. Even better news for those considering the muscular $100,000-plus sports sedan is the improvements made with this facelift.
While impressed with the first edition of the Volvo S60 Polestar, three of the gripes we had with it have now been addressed - paddle shifters have been added to the revised automatic gearbox, the front seats have been given added side support, and the brakes have been significantly upgraded.
Exterior changes are minor, with the new single-piece LED headlights coming into line with the rest of the facelifted S60 range. The deeper front spoiler is noticeable immediately, while active high beams add to the impressive list of standard equipment. That list needs to be impressive too, given the 2014 S60 Polestar is no lightweight with a starting price of $109,950.
The cabin is a significantly better place to be now thanks to the new seats but it still doesn’t feel quite as special as a six-figure interior should. The quality is there and the fit and finish is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Volvo. We’d just like to see an important flagship model like the S60 Polestar with an interior that better reflects the premium nature of the high-end variant. That said, the interior is comfortable, insulated and has a real quality feel to it.
The standard Meridian audio system is quite exceptional and once set to your personal liking is as clear, crisp and powerful as any high-end audio system. There’s also plenty of standout premium technology as you’d expect from a Volvo such as active cruise control, lane keeping assistance, a forward collision warning and what the brand calls City Safety (which if a driver fails to react to an imminent collision will automatically brake the car at low speeds).
The revised seats deliver solid side bolstering, which addresses the main issue from the original S60 Polestar. There’s no more sliding from side to side through rapid corners, with the sports seats keeping you in position comfortably and firmly. Trimmed in a mix of leather and nubuck (a fake suede material), they look the part too thanks to contrasting blue stitching. The nubuck inserts play a vital part in ensuring you don’t move from side to side given their suede-like feel.
On road, the new brake package provides the most obvious upgrade from the outgoing model, with 370mm front rotors and 302mm rear rotors part of an impressive Brembo system. The pedal still lacks some feel though, and you need to use more force than you initially expect to pull the S60 up from speed. That’s not a criticism, though, more a subtle nuance in the driving style required and the new system showed no signs of fade after sections of repeated cornering on test. The steering system is as good as it always was with sharp, direct turn in, and plenty of feedback to let you know what the front of the car is doing.
The 3.0-litre turbocharged six-cylinder engine remains unchanged from the original and continues to impress with its hefty and smooth power delivery. Willing to deliver a surge of acceleration from any point in the rev range, it encourages enthusiastic driving. The 257kW max power figure is reached at 5700rpm while peak torque is 500Nm and is reached between 3000 and 4750rpm. Those numbers translate to real world drivability, a genuine surfeit of power and a serious punch out of corners at speed. The 2014 S60 Polestar is never left wanting for more grunt.
Couple the enthusiastic engine to a revised automatic gearbox and you have the kind of combination the S60 Polestar should always have offered. Shifts were always smooth, but never quite snappy, and the good news is that this has been addressed. Factor in the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles and Volvo has definitely rounded out the sporty driving experience thanks to these much-needed additions.
After our test drive of the first model last year, we thought the suspension setup was excellent but the 20-way adjustable Ohlins system requires owners to get underneath each corner of the car to adjust it. The general theory being that owners would find the setting they liked and leave it that way, though it isn’t exactly a premium solution for a six-figure sports sedan. That said, it can be adjusted from super stiff to super comfort should owners wish to finesse the set up, and our tip after driving the S60 Polestar on some below average back roads would be to err on the side of comfort.
The 19-inch Bridgestone Potenza RE050 tyres grip superbly, but they also throw up a sizeable racket on the coarse-chip that covered a good majority of our test loop.
The original S60 Polestar was a real step out of Volvo’s comfort zone and was embraced by Volvo loyalists and new fans alike. Continued success in its V8 Supercar venture has ensured that the spotlight remains on the brand in Australia. Whether this revised 2014 S60 Polestar goes quite far enough to harden the edges of the S60 R Design given the $30K pricing premium is the only question that remains, because with a lower price tag it could be an outstanding proposition. One thing is for sure though: the new S60 Polestar is a better vehicle than the one it replaces and Volvo deserves credit for its constant rate of improvement.