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2012 Volvo XC60 T6 Polestar review (video)

Volvo Australia is really pushing the Polestar performance range, and has introduced the 2012 Volvo XC60 T6 Polestar. A high performance Volvo SUV? Who would have thought?

Volvo announced the release of more Polestar-tuned models earlier this year, including spanning out to include the C30, S60 and V60, and the XC60 D5 and T6 SUV. The expansion to the range was introduced after the local arm experienced high demand for the original S60 Polestar editions. Just 50 of the S60s were introduced.

2012 VOLVO XC60 T6 POLESTAR – PROS AND CONS

PROS:

  • Very smooth and powerful turbo six
  • Excellent visibility and safety
  • Stylish looks, especially with the R-Design kit and 20-inch alloys
  • Great cabin functionality/flexibility with plenty of innovative highlights that make life easier

CONS:

  • Suspension doesn’t feel like it’s matched to the optional 20-inch alloys
  • Brakes don’t feel up to the performance of the engine
  • Six-speed can be sluggish
  • Minor cabin quality issues; rattles and creaks (could be subject to our test model only)

2012 VOLVO XC60 T6 POLESTAR – START UP, REV, AND ACCELERATION VIDEO

2012 VOLVO XC60 T6 POLESTAR – OVERVIEW

The XC60 T6 Polestar is based on the already athletic XC60 T6 R-Design; the sportiest and quickest XC60 you can buy. It features a 3.0-litre straight-six turbocharged engine – also seen in the S60/V60 – paired with full-time all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission.

With help from Polestar, Volvo’s official performance partner, power is boosted from the standard T6’s rating of 224kW and 440Nm to a hefty 242kW and 480Nm. As you can imagine, this makes it a lot quicker than the normal T6. (We’ll get to more on that later on.)

The R-Design kit (Polestar optimisation is only available with the R-Design kit) adds various performance highlights to the interior and exterior, such as a full bodykit with silver side mirrors, skirts, and rear diffuser section, and 90mm exhaust tips.

You also get a Dynamic Chassis with sports suspension, a sporty little R-Design steering wheel and leather seats, aluminium pedals, special floor mats and gear knob, and cool navy blue speedo and tacho dials. To top it off, 18-inch alloy wheels are standard, while 20 inch items are optional (as tested).

Prices start at $78,490 for this T6 petrol (up $2500 over the normal T6 R-Design), while the Polestar D5 turbo-diesel variant is also available from $72,490. The D5 Polestar version is boosted from 158kW/440Nm to 169kW/470Nm.

In terms of its place in the market, the XC60 is the second-best selling Medium SUV in the over $60,000 category. In May Volvo sold 236 of them, following the popular new Range Rover Evoque (321), ahead of the Audi Q5 (207) and BMW X3 (165).

2012 VOLVO XC60 T6 POLESTAR – ACCOMMODATION AND EQUIPMENT

Being the top of the line XC60, there’s heaps of standard equipment on the Polestar special, and plenty of tasty options. Standard features include a Premium Pro-Logic audio system, providing clear and crisp beats, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, three 12V outlets, and electrically adjustable front seats.

Some optional features fitted to this test model include a panoramic electric sunroof ($2990), 20-inch CRATUS alloy wheels ($1600), satellite navigation ($4175), and very handy Active Bending headlights (ABL – $2650) which spray light in the direction you steer.

On all variants, you can also opt for the Teknik Pack ($5000) which includes the ABL headlights, a power passenger seat, BLIS blind-spot warning, and the sat-nav system all in one.

As you can imagine, there are quite a few options for the XC60, and once you tick a few boxes, that reasonable $78,490 price tag could potentially get quite ugly, penetrating through the $100,000 mark.

2012 VOLVO XC60 T6 POLESTAR – DESIGN AND SAFETY

The XC60 is quite a striking SUV, with sharp angular profiles, a rising waistline, and an aggressive front end. It all falls into Volvo’s latest design language which actually debuted with the XC60’s unveiling in 2007. The new styling DNA was formed to step away from the company’s more traditional design roots, and to win over new buyers. The highlight of the styling is the large V-shaped front end, which is incorporated on many other new Volvo vehicles.

We think the Swedish company has done a great job with the design as it certainly stands out on the road as something a bit classy and different. Even though the XC60 has been on sale since 2008, it still looks modern and well proportioned by today’s standards too.

Inside is where the traditional Volvo elements can be found. Not in the aesthetics though, but in the design and functionality. The rear seats, for example, feature their own integrated booster seats, while in the cargo area there is a separator panel that can be flipped up to stop objects flying around. The rear seats can also be folded completely flat to offer a generous 1455 litres of cargo space, or 495 litres with them left upright.

The angular design not only looks pouncing, Volvo has purposely raised the rear end to help with the loading and unloading of the cargo area. And you can tell the first time you load something in there. There’s no bending your back to pop things into place. The width of the cargo area entrance is also the widest in this class, making it even easier for transporting goods.

The cabin is designed around the user, with excellent visibility. Peering out over the bonnet provides a very clear view, noticeably more than what you get in your typical SUV. Volvo is all about safety, so by having a clear view, you often have a higher confidence in judging the vehicles’ proportions and understanding its whereabouts on the road.

To understand the levels of safety of the Volvo XC60, we really need to write a separate review on it all. The standout is the City Safety technology. The system constantly scans the road ahead while you’re driving along, using various sensors, and can help to reduce slow speed accidents (below 30km/h) by first warning the driver in hazardous situations, and also applying the brakes if need be.

If this, and the usual array of electronic driving aids and five-star ANCAP safety, isn’t enough, there’s also an optional safety pack including Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake (CWAB), and Queue Assist with Pedestrian Detection.

Basically, the XC60 presents the forefront in automotive safety technology, easily surpassing today’s industry standards.

2012 VOLVO XC60 T6 POLESTAR – ON THE ROAD

We timed 0-100km/h in just 6.5 seconds. This is a very quick time for an SUV and it explains a lot about Polestar’s pedigree. The power delivery is so linear, it’s like a train departing from the station in fast forward. There’s practically zero turbo-lag, while the wall of 480Nm feels as if it is available the instant you hit the throttle. It’s all very lovely and smooth.

The Haldex all-wheel drive system is set up to send around 95 per cent of the power to the front wheels in normal driving conditions. Under heavy acceleration, or when the system detects any slip, more power is sent to the rear wheels.

We noticed some tugging at the steering wheel under heavy power off the mark during our drives, as the system sorts itself out, with some gentle torque steer reminding you of that 242kW. It does tend to add to the occasion however, and make the drive more interactive.

The engine note won’t have you grinning like a school boy, which is a bit of a shame we think. Instead, the Ford-derived engine gives off a subdued yet angry hum and rasp. You can hear a faint turbo whistle when you back off the power as the turbo wastegate dumps overboost.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the corners, the XC T6 R-Design doesn’t feel as comfortable on its toes as you might expect in a top-notch performance model. The initial turn-in is great, but the higher speed bends and switchbacks do feel a little uneasy for the suspension.

We get the impression this could be down to the optional 20-inch alloy wheels. The suspension and chassis don’t feel like they have been engineered to suit the large wheels. You end up with a ride that does crash over bumps, and when you push it through some corners, the tyres beg for mercy fairly early on.

The brakes also, unfortunately, aren’t upgraded for the Polestar despite the extra power. We did experience some softening of the pedal under hard driving conditions. They still perform well even when hot, don’t worry about that, it just comes back to that mouthful of a title and the expectations it portrays. ‘T6 R-Design Polestar’; it seems like there should be a bit more artillery behind it all if you get what we mean.

As for the off-road performance, we didn’t try anything too advanced as those large wheels and low-profile tyres don’t look as if they’d be too happy getting dirty. The XC60 does offer good approach (22 degrees) and departure (27 degrees) angles though, and decent ground clearance (220mm).

2012 VOLVO XC60 T6 POLESTAR – VERDICT

The XC60 T6 Polestar is a quick, stylish and very safe SUV. It’s also relatively inexpensive when you consider some of its rivals, and when you match up the next-best equivalent in terms of performance.

The only pitfall for us is the fact that Polestar stops at the engine computer. Some sportier suspension and brakes could have transformed the XC into an absolute family-haulin’ sleeper. For us, the 20-inch alloys are also an option worth leaving out, unless you just can’t step away from their visual impact.

2012 VOLVO XC60 T6 POLESTAR – THE COMPETITORS

Audi Q5 3.2 FSI – 3.2-litre V6 petrol, 195kW/330Nm – 1795kg – $73,500
The Audi Q5 3.2 is capable of 0-100km/h in 6.9 seconds. Fuel economy of 9.3L/100km is not bad. Typical modern Audi styling.

BMW X3 xDrive28i – 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder, 190kW/310Nm – $71,900
Great handling, and good power and fuel efficiency. A turbo-diesel xDrive30d is also available with 190kW and 560Nm capable of 0-100km/h in 6.2 seconds.

Range Rover Evoque Prestige Si4 – 2.0-litre turbo petrol four cylinder, 177kW/340Nm – $75,895
The most stylish SUV on sale? The Evoque is Range Rover’s new baby. It’s available in turbo petrol and diesel form, and in two-door coupe and five-door wagon.

2012 VOLVO XC60 T6 POLESTAR – SPECIFICATIONS

MODEL
2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design with Polestar optimisation

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
7.6: 1 (kg:kW)

KERB WEIGHT
1846kg

HEIGHT / WIDTH / LENGTH
1713mm / 1891mm / 4628mm

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

BRAKES
F: Ventilated discs
R: Ventilated discs

WHEELS / TYRES
F and R: 20-inch, 255/45 R20

FUEL TANK CAPACITY
70 litres

FUEL TYPE
Premium, E10 suitable

FUEL CONSUMPTION
Tested average: 12.5L/100km
Official average: 10.5L/100km (same as non-Polestar T6)

PERFORMANCE
0-100km/h: 6.5 seconds (tested)

PRICED FROM
$78,490 (non-Polestar T6 R-Design $75,990)

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.

  • 850T5Rfan

    It’s about time Volvo returned to the performance scene. Great move I say!