VOLVO S60 POLESTAR Swe­den’s hy­brid hot­tie sedan

Cu­ri­ous blend of Swedish style and per­for­mance

Motor (Australia) - - JUST LAUNCHED - BY • RICHARD LANE

VOLVO NEEDS THIS CAR to be good. More than good, in fact, be­cause it doesn’t mat­ter how many SUVs you can flog, if you choose to op­er­ate at the premium end of the mass mar­ket with­out a fight­ing-fit mid-size sedan, you’re head­lin­ing with­out a front man. The third-gen­er­a­tion S60 – the first Amer­i­can-built Volvo – is fresh, ex­cit­ing and in­stantly de­sir­able to be­hold, but nev­er­the­less feels fa­mil­iar, be­ing built on the same plat­form as the S90 and the XC60 and XC90 SUVs. Miss­ing is diesel power. In line with plans to elec­trify ev­ery new car it launches from 2019, the brand’s Scandi-pure aura is in­creas­ingly built on its eco­log­i­cal con­sci­en­tious­ness, so the S60 is the first mod­ern Volvo of­fered ex­clu­sively with petrol en­gines. None dis­places more than two litres via any­thing other than four cylin­ders, and if that sounds a bit dry, per­haps that’s be­cause it is. T4 and T5 mod­els are tur­bocharged alone, with no less than about 140kW on of­fer, while the ‘Twin En­gine’ T6 and T8 mod­els will have that first level of forced in­duc­tion re­spec­tively sup­ple­mented by an Ea­ton-built su­per­charger and that same su­per­charger plus an elec­tric mo­tor. The tasty T8 makes 287kW and hits 100km/h in un­der five sec­onds, so nip­ping at the heels of BMW’s M3. The S60 is broad-shoul­dered and, frankly, rather thug­gish, yet there’s a sub­tle el­e­gance. It is prob­a­bly the pret­ti­est sedan money can buy, and pret­tier still if you go for the T8 Polestar En­gi­neered driven here. The flag­ship is dis­tin­guished from the stan­dard T8 by gold brake calipers, a 12mm ride-height squat and a set of daz­zling 20-inch Y-spoke al­loys shod with 245-sec­tion Pirelli P Zero tyres. Power in­creases to 302kW, with roughly 67kW of that de­liv­ered by the rear-mounted elec­tric mo­tor. And it gen­uinely im­presses, so long as you don’t pi­geon-hole it as an M3 ri­val, tempt­ing as that may be. With two dis­tinct meth­ods of propul­sion and a 200kg bat­tery pack, it weighs the thick end of two tonnes, so it never leaps for­ward with quite the ur­gency you’d like. Or the au­ral plea­sure. The eight-speed au­to­matic can also feel lazy by com­par­i­son to the BMW’s DCT, and it de­liv­ers most of its power to the front axle. And yet there are things this Polestar-tick­led S60 does su­perbly well. The man­ner in which the beefy body re­mains cush­ioned and con­trolled over al­most any kind of un­du­la­tion, re­sist­ing sig­nif­i­cant float but ab­sorb­ing road rip­ples and the like, is con­spic­u­ously good. Breath­tak­ingly so, in fact – as well it might be with Oh­lins DFV dampers at each cor­ner, which lend the S60 a com­po­sure un­matched in any car this re­fined. Rarely will you push the T8 Polestar hard enough to call on the full force of the stan­dard-fit six-pis­ton Brem­bos and big discs, but do so and they’re ef­fec­tive to the ex­tent you’ll in­stantly for­give their low-speed grab­bi­ness. But to drive the T8 ev­ery­where in Power mode – with the EPAS steer­ing weighted up, the throt­tle re­sponse sharp­ened, the gearshifts quick­ened and the elec­tric mo­tor per­ma­nently en­gaged – would be to tell only half this car’s story. The other half be­gins with a car that steps off the mark in crisp si­lence thanks to 45km of pure elec­tric range and then cruises with lux­u­ri­ous de­tach­ment. It’s that Oh­lins witch­craft at work again, this time sup­ple­mented by min­i­mal wind or tyre roar and the high-sided com­fort, el­e­gance and se­cu­rity of Volvo’s in­te­rior de­sign. The S60 T8 Polestar En­gi­neered won’t ar­rive here un­til at least late 2019, and when it does it’ll cost over $100,000. Depend­ing on how you look at it, that’s rather a lot for an over­weight, un­der-en­gined per­for­mance sedan, or ab­so­lutely fair cop for a broad-bat­ted plug-in hy­brid that’s en­vi­ably re­fined, sat­is­fy­ing to drive and dis­tinc­tive. Were the pow­er­train as in­spir­ing to ex­er­cise as the body­work is to be­hold and the han­dling more ex­pres­sive, this car would be knock­ing on the door of five stars. As it is, the T8 Polestar En­gi­neered sits com­fort­ably among the ranks of its Ger­man peers and de­serves to be re­garded as more than a cu­rio. In fact Audi, BMW and Mer­cedes could all learn a thing or two from Volvo about fus­ing com­fort with con­trol. De­sign, too. Not a bad mix of tal­ents, is it?

TOP Oh­lins dampers lend the S60 a com­po­sure un­matched in any car this re­fined. Oddly, the shocks are man­u­ally ad­justable, through 22 clicks ABOVE Daz­zling 20-inch Y-spoke al­loys are shod with 245-sec­tion Pirelli P Zero tyres. Brembo calipers grab 371mm discs

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