Want to see Volvo's new performance car? Check out the limited edition Volvo V60 Polestar in our first drive
Set up a few years back, Polestar is a company all about high performance cars. To date it's created a number of one-off, very high-performance Volvos, one of which made a cameo appearance on Top Gear.
That was the tipping point: since then there has been a clamour for Volvo and Polestar to get together and build something mere mortals like us could actually buy and drive on the road. Which is exactly what the Volvo V60 Polestar is all about. It's still a limited series car, of course, with just 750 set to leave the Swedish company's plant to sell in different markets, including the UK.
Remember when Volvo went British Touring Car racing with those Volvo 850 T5R Estates in the 90s and everyone thought they were nuts - until they won? Well, the Polestar is the modern-day equivalent.
Volvo and Polestar won't openly say they're gunning for the likes of Audi's S and RS or BMW's M models, but a three-litre turbo-charged straight six producing 350 horsepower, four-wheel drive and bespoke Öhlins dampers tell their own story. Say hello to a properly fast Volvo once again; one that will leave even the UK's police force spec V70s.
The Polestar V60 is visually arresting just like those earlier 850 R models too. Back in the day we remember the signature colour of those cars was a kind of custard yellow; Polestar is all about the "Rebel blue" finish - although you can go for white, silver or red if you fancy being more discrete. We love the fact the colour's crept inside to the detailing, including as a kind of hologram effect within the see-through finish gearstick. You get a bespoke exhaust system too, with socking 3.5-inch diameter tailpipes along with 20-inch wheel rims to let you know that this Polestar means business.
To drive we stepped into the Polestar and took it around a high-speed bowl and an Alpine hill circuit to get an impression of what it's like to drive. From that short test it's hard to give a definitive verdict, but our first impression is that it's bruisingly fast - that turbo engine with its great wad of torque means mid-range shove really grabs you when you pin the throttle. It makes a decent noise too, which is likely to be one of the last hurrah's for Volvo's straight six petrol engine before the company moves on to a new platform and all four-cylinder engines.
Sadly, the automatic gearbox still gets slightly in the way of the fun. Polestar has recalibrated it from the standard six-speed unit of the S60/V60, but it's still the standard six-speed unit underneath and no amount of software tweaks can turn it into a VW DSG or ZF 8-speed auto in-terms of either shift speed or smoothness.
The biggest surprise is the way the Polestar flows and rides. The fusion of 20-inch wheels and the standard V60 chassis might sound like a marriage made in an osteopath's clinic, but those Öhlins dampers and 80 per cent stiffer springs, plus numerous other suspension changes mean that the V60 Polestar has body control no other Volvo possesses.
Yet, due to some clever tech, it rides really nicely at the same time. The dampers have a special function which allows them to effectively disengage their firmer response rate if they detect a sharp vertical impact (such as striking hitting a pothole) which means the ride never gets jarringly sharp.
And while it's still a Volvo - which means safety first and no funny business in the bends - the haldex four-wheel drive system likes to send much of its power to the rear wheels when ESP is disengaged (as the man from Polestar amusing encouraged us to try). The Polestar V60 doesn't drift like a BMW M, but nor does it just understeer, understeer or understeer like certain Audis we could mention.
All this is wrapped up in the usual Volvo package of decent materials and plenty of kit. In fact, the Polestar comes as standard with Volvo's entire myriad collision avoidance safety kit - virtually every option you would ever put on a V60 is fitted as standard and a there's all of that unique Polestar detailing and design to go with it.
Of the 750 models total, 125 cars are coming to the UK and they'll cost just £225 shy of £50K. That sounds like a lot, but this is a bespoke article in many ways. It makes for a leftfield alternative to the obvious German high-performance machinery in this space and it'll be a lot more standout than anything German.
All told, we really enjoyed our time in the Volvo V60 Polestar and think it's a treat to have a slightly mental, high-performance Volvo estate back in the room. Not only that, it's also a show of hand for what's to come - and we can't wait to see what the performance Swedish division has planned next.