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2012 Volvo S60 Polestar limited edition review (video)

Unlike the Polestar tune you can option on various Volvos from the showroom, the 2012 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar is available as a bespoke, limited edition model that goes a bit further than an engine computer retune. Just 50 of these bad boys are on sale, all in S60 sedan form.

2012 VOLVO S60 T6 POLESTAR – PROS AND CONS

PROS:

  • Silky smooth 242kW engine turns into a raspy beast when pushed
  • Feels and looks like a true sports sedan, inside and out
  • All-wheel drive grip rips you around corners
  • Black 19-inch wheels and Heico Sportiv exhaust are a nice touch

CONS:

  • Brakes; ABS tends to kick in rather early
  • Transmission can be sluggish and indecisive
  • Suspension is firm; choppy on country roads

2012 VOLVO S60 T6 POLESTAR – OVERVIEW

The Volvo S60 is a mid-sized luxury sports sedan. It’s based on the current Ford Mondeo EUCD platform, like the XC60 SUV, and it’s available in S60 sedan and V60 wagon form. It’s also available in either turbo petrol or fuel-efficient turbo diesel form, with a front- or all-wheel drive layout.

For the ultimate in performance though there’s this limited edition S60 T6 Polestar. Basically, it’s Volvo’s answer to cars like the BMW 335i Sport and the Lexus IS 350 F Sport. It takes the traditional and somewhat conservative Volvo personality and throws a dirty martini in its face.

Straight away you’ll notice the gob-smacking 19-inch machined alloy wheels with sexy black spokes. These set it apart from the rest of the S60 range. It also gets a crisp Heico Sportiv diff-back exhaust system, as well as all the usual fruit you get with the T6 R-Design package such as sports suspension, and a focused interior.

Power comes from a 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six engine (also starts life as a Ford) producing 242kW of power and 480Nm of torque. It’s only available matched up to a six-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive.

Prices start at $82,990 for the limited edition S60 T6 Polestar sedan, or $75,490 for the S60 T6 R-Design with just the Polestar tune (not including the limited edition treatment; Heico Sportiv exhaust and 19-inch alloy wheels).

All this makes the S60 Polestar the second least expensive sports sedan out of the top rivals; the BMW 335i Sport Line ($91,900), the Audi A4 3.2 FSI quattro ($91,000), and the Lexus IS 350 F Sport ($71,800).

2012 VOLVO S60 T6 POLESTAR – START UP, REV, AND ACCELERATION VIDEO

2012 VOLVO S60 T6 POLESTAR – ACCOMMODATION AND EQUIPMENT

Being a special edition, you might expect a bespoke interior. Instead, a little build number plaque sitting on the lower dash is the only thing that let’s passengers know this is a special model.

That’s not to say it’s boring though. The Polestar gets the full R-Design package. This includes sports bucket seats – electrically adjustable in the front – with ‘R-Design’ embossed into the back rests. These come covered in a soft textile and neoprene-style material, which is quite refreshing over the more usual leather. Leather is also available at no cost.

Heated seats are optional, which is a tad surprising for a top-spec European sedan. These will only set you back $325 though, and they can be optioned for the rear as well.

The dash consists of a centre display screen with all the functions you’d expect on a modern European sports sedan, including satellite navigation, climate control, voice-activated Bluetooth for your phone with music streaming, as well as USB support and a Premium audio system with Pro Logic (usually a $1425 option on other S60s).

Standard features include parking sensors, auto wipers and headlights, a reverse-parking camera, Adaptive Cruise Control with Full Auto Brake, as well as a sporty R-Design steering wheel and aluminium rubber-studded pedals.

Unlike the other Polestar models available from Volvo, the S60 Polestar comes standard with the ‘Sports’ chassis – usually an $800 option on other models – as opposed to the ‘Dynamic’ chassis. (The Dynamic chassis is standard on the non-Polestar T6.)

The Sports chassis brings firmer, more focused sports suspension over the Dynamic setup, maximising the S60’s handling, steering response, and overall agility.

2012 VOLVO S60 T6 POLESTAR – DESIGN AND SAFETY

The S60 has been around since 2010, and it still looks just as stunning today as it did when it was first unveiled. It showcases Volvo’s current design language which first debuted on the XC60 in 2007, with the pointed front end, soft front corners with an aggressive tail, and pouncing headlights and taillights.

There are a lot of very cool leading edge safety devices with the S60, some of which are optional extras. The Polestar special edition comes with almost all of them though, including Active Bending Headlights and the Blind-Spot Information System (BLIS).

The S60 also gets side-impact protection (SIPS) and whiplash protection (WHIPS), and a multitude of airbags. As you would expect, ANCAP has given the S60 and V60 wagon five stars.

A lot of premium luxury vehicles are coming out with radar-guided cruise control systems these days. The S60 T6 Polestar gets a version as well (a $4175 option on lower-spec models), however, for the first time that we’ve seen, the S60 has an adjustable distance button on the steering wheel. This is a lot more useful – and less boring – than it might sound.

When you’re driving along the highway with these systems engaged, the radar leaves a safety buffer zone between you and the vehicle in front. As soon as the vehicle in front slows, your car is automatically braked to keep that safe distance in place.

This sounds good, at first. The problem is that more often than not, that safety buffer zone is rather large, so when you’re cruising along the highway you find yourself inadvertently leaving a biggish gap in front. Other motorists soon come along and fill that gap. Once this happens, of course, your car sees this and brakes – hard – to distance itself back to that buffer zone.

With the Volvo, having the ability to adjust this buffer zone is very handy as you can set it so there is still a safe distance between you and the car in front without leaving so much gap that another motorists come in and stuff up your smooth and efficient cruising. It’s especially good when you’re travelling along freeways with some traffic.

As for the Full Auto Brake function, we found it to behave very well. The S60 will brake itself with complete confidence and without awkward hesitation. It will also sound a warning buzzer and beam some orange and red lights on a head-up display if things are getting real close.

2012 VOLVO S60 T6 POLESTAR – ON THE ROAD

So, what you probably want to know is is this a proper performance sedan? Is it something special and not simply a Volvo with a bit more straight-line speed?

From the moment you hit the start button the engine fires into life with a low, bass-like burble, like a performance car. This instantly gives you an indication that this is not your typical sedan.

After a few corners and a few normal take-offs, you feel the well-weighted steering and the firm suspension is again, not like what is found on your typical sedan.

Let’s just cut to the chase here, this is certainly not your typical sedan. It is a genuine performance car. Nail the throttle off the mark (with the stability/traction control switched off) and the wheels will bite and even break traction on some surfaces.

We timed 0-100km/h in a dashingly quick 5.66 seconds, which puts it in direct competition with our old friend, the Lexus IS 350 F Sport (5.4 seconds).

Around corners the S60 Polestar really holds on and swings around like a kid on a clothesline. The Haldex all-wheel drive system does tend to let the front wheels free spin slightly under heavy acceleration through slow bends, but if anything this allows the revs to build to peak performance. At this stage, the S60 Polestar flings you along with gut-wrenching g-force.

It’s an exciting car out in the twisty stuff. It might not have the absolute precision of a BMW or the solidness of a Mercedes-Benz, but it’s still very capable and lots of fun.

Perhaps the only let down for us is there is no flappy paddles. Flappy paddles on a base model hatch is not something we really think is necessary, but for a proper sports sedan like this we feel it could have heightened driver enjoyment even more. There is a plus-minus function with the gear selector though. Even simply leaving it in auto sport mode is satisfying.

In traffic and more usual driving conditions, the transmission has a tendency to be indecisive, especially at slow speeds when first and second gear is called upon. There is also some delay between forward and reverse gears. This could be due to our test vehicle possibly needing a transmission service.

2012 VOLVO S60 T6 POLESTAR – VERDICT

This is a great car. We wish more companies would release properly tantalising special editions like this. The raspy exhaust gives you joyous goose bumps, while the acceleration and low-down torque is brilliant.

The overall interior layout and comfort provides a cool, calm and collected environment, but with those striking looks on the outside, especially in red, it’s not fooling anyone.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, this is a proper performance sedan by Volvo. With just 50 available on the market at a relatively low price – in regards to its rivals – these should sell very quickly indeed. If they haven’t already.

(After speaking with a Volvo dealer recently, we learned that apparently a large chunk of new Volvo buyers are opting for the regular Polestar tune. Maybe we’ll see another special edition like this further down the track?)

2012 VOLVO S60 T6 POLESTAR – THE COMPETITORS

Lexus IS 350 F Sport – 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6, 233kW/378Nm – 1645kg – $71,800
Excellent all-round sports sedan. It’s very quick, offers solid rear-wheel drive handling, loaded with luxuries and safety tech. One of our favourites. It is starting to age now though.

BMW 335i Sport – 3.0-litre turbocharged inline six, 225kW/400Nm – 1585kg – $91,900
The new 3 Series is regarded as the most complete sports sedan on the market, with great acceleration and fuel economy; 0-100km/h 5.5 seconds, 7.2L/100km.

Audi A4 3.2 FSI – 3.2-litre petrol V6, 195kW/330Nm – 1610kg – $91,000
The A4 is the third best-selling premium sedan in Australia. With those neat looks, all-wheel drive, and a powerful V6 engine, it’s easy to see why it’s popular.

2012 VOLVO S60 T6 POLESTAR – SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL
2012 Volvo S60 Polestar T6 R-Design

ENGINE
3.0-litre turbocharged petrol straight six

ENGINE SIZE  / COMPRESSION RATIO
2953cc / 9.3:1

BORE X STROKE
82mm x 93.2mm

POWER
242kW@5400rpm-6500rpm, 480Nm@3000rpm-3600rpm

POWER TO WEIGHT RATIO
6.96: 1 (kg:kW)

KERB WEIGHT
1684kg

HEIGHT / WIDTH / LENGTH
1484mm / 1865mm / 4628mm

DRIVETRAIN
Six-speed Geartronic auto transmission, all-wheel drive

BRAKES
F: Ventilated discs, two-piston calipers
R: Ventilated discs

WHEELS / TYRES
F and R: 19-inch, 245/35 R20

FUEL TANK CAPACITY
67.5 litres

FUEL TYPE
Unleaded

FUEL CONSUMPTION
Tested average: 10.8L/100km
Official average: 10.2L/100km

PERFORMANCE
0-100km/h: 5.66 seconds (tested)

PRICED FROM
$82,990

WARRANTY
Three-year/Unlimited kilometre

Brett is the editor and founder of PerformanceDrive. He's obsessed with driving, having played with Matchbox cars until he was tall enough to drive a real one. After initially working as a mechanic, Brett earned a degree in journalism and entered media as an editorial assistant at Top Gear Australia magazine. He then worked at CarAdvice.com.au. His dream is to live next door to the Nurburgring in Germany.

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