Last week was hectic week, but I’m not complaining because one of the busy days took place at Redstar Raceway, a perfect venue to introduce the limited edition Volvo S60 Polestar to local motoring media. A trio of S60 Polestar Volvos was on hand for us to have a good look over, inside and out. More importantly, we would be able to give them a go around Redstar so we could feel just how good the cars are. Just in case we screwed it up, Swedish touring car champion Thed Björk was on hand to take us around the track the right way.
In case you aren’t familiar with the Polestar name, time for a lesson… Polestar is Volvo’s performance division, founded in 1996. First called Flash Engineering after founder and Swedish Touring Car driver Jan ”Flash” Nilsson, the company has had a long and successful run in the Swedish Touring Car Championship with Volvo. In 2001 a new Chief Mechanic joined the team, Christian Dahl, and the success continued under his instruction. The first Volvo S60 that was used by Flash Engineering was in 2003 under the then new FIA S2000 regulations and it was the start of a new technical development project - the “Made in Sweden” Volvo S60 S2000 - for racing in Sweden. In 2004 Christian Dahl bought out Jan Nilsson to become the sole owner, and in 2005 he changed the name to Polestar. A strange name, but it was chosen to represent the dual meanings of the frozen north of Sweden and pole position on a racetrack and being a star in the racing game.
In 2006 Polestar relocated to Gothenburg and now included an engine development facility, allowing for independent racecar development. At the same time Polestar took over parts of Volvo’s educational activities for mechanics that included design, manufacture and sale of training stations to schools that offered motoring mechanic courses. A year later the educational activities were expanded with the Volvo Training Car Program whereby Polestar supplied Volvo cars to high schools for educational purposes. Polestar also started getting more involved with Volvo when they became part of the Volvo Customer Service Concept.
It was in 2009 that Polestar became the official Performance Partner of Volvo Cars and Polestar Performance Optimisation was made available for turbocharged Volvo road cars. The following year Polestar’s first ever road car concept, the Volvo C30 Polestar Concept, was released and it quickly received praise from the world’s motoring press. By 2011 the Polestar Performance Optimisation programme saw Polestar expand into the world market with an optimisation for the T6 model – the result being the most powerful Volvo to date with 245kW. In September of 2012 Polestar launched another concept car, Volvo S60 Polestar Concept, it produced a whopping 378kW and again the world’s motoring media sung it’s praises. The brand was also now available in more countries including Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Hungary, Turkey, the Czech Republic and Mexico. This concept lead to Polestar’s first production car – the Volvo S60 Polestar. A hundred of them were released to the Australian market as an evaluation for future expansion – results were great and this in turn lead to the Volvo S60 and V60 Polestars being launched in eight markets around the world – this saw Polestar being the first independent partner to be included in a Volvo’s production process.
Volvo Cars bought the performance division of Polestar in 2015, making it the new performance brand of Volvo Cars. The racing division wasn’t included in the sale, but it still runs under the watchful eye of Christian Dahl and operates under the banner of Cyan Racing, which has stayed on as the official motorsport partner to Volvo Cars. Production of the Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar was then extended to 13 countries and the count rose to a total of 750 new cars for worldwide release.
The Volvo S60 Polestar made it to SA and became an instant success. Most of the 25 units assigned to us were pre-sold arriving in the country, and by the time this launch took place, they were all accounted for. That’s pretty impressive, especially considering how the Rand has been battered around resulting in a sales price of R735 000, a full R164 000 more than the range-topping Volvo S60 T6 Geartronic FWD R-Design. I reckon this car will be able to maintain a high value thanks to exclusivity, and also because it’s a damn good car. But what makes it special besides having a Polestar badge on it?
The final piece to the Polestar treatment is a stainless steel, twin exit exhaust system in a 63.5mm diameter. It sounds really good! Power is transferred to the wheels via a 6-speed automatic ‘box that features a new paddle shift system developed by Polestar and well-known 4-wheel drive component manufacturer Haldex. This setup and an intelligent four-wheel drive system can propel the Polestar S60 to 0-100 km/h in a claimed 4.9-seconds (top speed has been electronically limited to 250km/h). The car goes well and sounds good, but when you click the shifter over to Sport mode all controls become a lot more sensitive and the exhaust note becomes a growl. I’m comfortable on track but I didn’t push the car as hard as some of the other journos so I found the handling to be really good, but the old guard managed to get the car to understeer a little. If the power bias sent a little more power to the rear then the S60 Polestar would be able to drift through the bend and make for a more exciting drive. But that’s at 10/10ths where most drivers will never take a car. With my lap with Thed at the wheel I didn’t notice the possible understeer and if anyone could get it to do that it would be a touring car champion. Then again a professional driver knows how to get the most out of a car while still making it behave.
Those people who snapped up the Volvo S60 Polestar before even seeing it in the metal, let alone driving it, will be happy with their limited edition car I’m sure. I am half expecting to see a few of them hit the market at a premium by those chaps who buy new cars with the sole intention of selling to make a quick buck, but those who are Volvo enthusiasts will be keeping them for an age if the Volvo owners I know are anything to go by. The Volvo S60 Polestar doesn’t really have a competitor seeing as they’re all already sold but pricing puts it near the Jaguar XE 2.0 Sport Portfolio (R703 200), Audi S4 sedan (R760 000) and the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe (R749 000). Of course when you add options to them those prices skyrocket.
I’ll be keen to see if I can spot any of these cars on the roads with them being in such limited numbers. I do expect to see at least one at an open track day though because this car deserves to be pushed to its limits. As mentioned all 25 are sold, but if you really have to have one, keep an eye out for the three we used on track. Who knows, after their marketing run is over they may just go up for sale at a bargain price.
For more info head on over to www.nextpolestar.com.