2017 Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar first drive review: the 365-day sports cars

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Everyone has a parent or friend's parent who owned a Volvo. Why? Because the cars are known for being sensible and safe, and that's what you buy when you have a family.

But today, there are Volvos available in Cyan Racing Blue with a little blue badge, and these aren't the sensible Volvos you remember from your youth.

Instead, Volvo used a simple formula sure to please most enthusiasts for the 2017 S60 and V60 Polestar models: make them lighter, give them more power, and make them go faster.

READ: 2017 Bugatti Chiron first drive review: the king of the exotics

2017 Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar

2017 Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar

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Background

Up until about two years ago Polestar was a standalone motorsport and engineering firm that worked its magic touch on Volvos. Then, something happened.

Volvo made its performance intentions crystal clear by acquiring the tuning firm and turning it into the official in-house performance division. Promises were made that full-fledged Polestar models would be coming down the pipe and bolt-on parts would also be part of the menu.

ALSO SEE: Polestar's future will be electrified, and it's nearly here

Of course, Volvo had already been working with Polestar to create performance versions of its cars. The first Polestar S60 was a 2014 model. It had 350-horsepower turbocharged inline-6.

Polestar vehicle sales have grown at a steady rate, with only 100 cars sold globally for that 2014 model year. Sales jumped to 750 cars for 2015, and stayed at that level for 2016. For 2017, they are projected to be 1,500 cars worldwide. Of all those sales, 545 have been in the U.S. with 123 making their way to Canada.

Polestar says it does not want a full-range lineup like you would find at Mercedes with AMG. Rather, it wants performance models that make sense.

Yes, that means Polestars are quite rare, like unicorns.

2017 Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar

2017 Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar

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Down on cylinders, up on power

For the 2017 model year, Volvo's dropped the old turbocharged inline-6 in favor of a new turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter inline-4. The result? A healthy 362 horsepower and 347 pound-feet of torque, which is sent to all four wheels via a BorgWarner all-wheel-drive system. Despite the cylinder count going down, the new powertrain produces 12 horsepower more than before, though 2 pound-feet less in the torque department.

What the new Polestars are down on cylinder count they are up on gears, as the old, balky 6-speed automatic has been swapped for a faster-shifting 8-speed automatic with specific Polestar tuning.

The result of all this? A substantial 53 fewer pounds hanging over the front axle thanks to the engine being lighter, 9 more pounds near the middle of the car thanks to the heavier 8-speed, and a net loss of 44 pounds for a curb weight for both the 3,860-pound S60 and 3,960-pound V60.

In case you are wondering if Volvo's Polestar team simply cranked up the boost on the T6 engine offered in the S60 and V60, the answer is no. There's a larger turbo, new connecting rods, new camshafts, a larger air intake, and a higher capacity fuel pump to feed the engine.

The performance numbers show that Volvo made some wise choices. The Polestars are faster than ever, with the S60 jaunting from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds--down from 4.6 seconds with the 6-cylinder--and the V60 doing the deed in 4.5 seconds. Top speed? A very German 155 mph, which is of course electronically limited.


 
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