2017 Volvo S60 Polestar review, track drive
Apr 14, 2017 by Gavin D'Souza
WHAT'S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?
Those who have heard of Polestar will remember that the S60 was launched globally with a 3.0-litre in-line six. However, in the new version, as part of Volvo’s commitment to using only four-cylinder engines in its cars, is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine. However, it is supercharged and turbocharged, and so it produces 367hp and 470Nm of torque, which Volvo says makes it good for 0-100kph in 4.7sec with launch control. Power gets through all four wheels via an eight-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox. Though it’s generally front-wheel biased on the road, engaging Sport mode via the gear lever shifts it to 50:50 and can then split more to either the front or rear as the conditions (including your throttle and steering inputs) demand.
As with most of these ‘twin-charged’ motors, the supercharger is there to eliminate lag at low revs, and the turbocharger takes over thereafter, once it’s spooled up. It’s a similar setup to what Volvo used in the 306hp S60 T6 (which this car replaces in the India model range, incidentally), except with a larger fixed-geometry turbocharger. It’s very effective, even when you aren’t doing full-bore starts, with very little hesitation off the line. Of course, the true test will come when pottering around with traffic out on the public road. And it has to be said, this motor makes a nice, unique sound. In Sport mode, flaps in the exhaust open up for a much louder rumble, and you always have the shrill shriek of the supercharger somewhere in the mix.
On our brief drive around Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore, power felt ample but not excessive, and we did get the sense that the four-cylinder motor was working hard to deliver the goods. For driving flat out, a highly strung four-cylinder simply can’t match the effortlessness of a higher-displacement six-cylinder motor, even though similar power outputs have been achieved. Still, it had to be said that power was on hand when required, especially while pulling out of corners.
The suspension is a very interesting thing indeed. The regular car’s entire setup has been scrapped for a set of high-performance adjustable Ohlins springs and dampers. However, unlike most modern cars, you can’t just switch from Comfort to Sport at the press of a button. These are manually, not electronically, adjustable, which means you have to open the bonnet to access the front struts, jack the car up to access the rear struts, and then twist a knob at each corner. This seems like a lot of tedium for most Indian buyers, but Polestar engineers assured us that the ‘comfort’ setup would be fine for most situations, and only hardcore track users need ever adjust them; and these are the types of owners that wouldn’t mind doing so. The reason for this setup, they say, is because Ohlins offered the ideal package for the car, but they also admit that cost, complexity and weight were added factors.
Again, a full road drive will be necessary to give you a proper verdict; on Kari’s bumpy surface, I was certainly being tossed about on the S60 Polestar’s stiffest ‘track’ suspension setup, with the 20-inch wheels certainly having played their part too. Body control in this setup is incredible and – going by the regular S60 – I even have a hunch that, in the comfort setup, it will not roll around like a boat. The other incredible thing is the steering. It’s electrically assisted, but for all the weight and feedback it gives you, at least in Sport mode, you’d swear it was hydraulic. The only dynamic drawback in the mix is that the car always feels heavy, both when you’re accelerating, and when you’re going through corners. But again, a drive on the road will validate this better.
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