I'm driving flat-out in the new Volvo Polestar S60, and I've badly—I mean badly—missed the racing line. The car and I aren't pointed anywhere near the inside of the corner, but directly at a rapidly approaching tire barrier. I think in most cars, I'd have met that barrier head-on and would've had a whole lot of explaining to do. Instead, the car's racing lineage shines through and the front wheels grip the pavement tighter than my hands grip the wheel.
The standard S60 and V60 are no sports sedans. Yes, Polestar has spent years winning races across the globe as the primary racing team for Volvo. But it's just now that it has its eyes set on doing for Volvo what AMG does for Mercedes.
Can Polestar really compete with AMG? To help find out, Volvo invited me out to a road course and let me run wild with their two newest models.
The Polestars are more or less designed for someone that wants the excitement of an M3, the comfort of an E-Class, and a presence that's far more unique than either.
The company's racing history shows, and both have a hard racing edge that's lacking from the more refined offerings found at AMG, BMW M Sport, and Audi Quattro.
That edge begins with the completely worked-over engine: out on track, the acceleration is so savage all the way past 100 mph, that it feels like the laws of physics have been suspended. The car's specs—350 hp, all wheel drive—suggest the car can hit 60 mph in 4.7 seconds. Though Polestar's rather frustrated American rep claims it's faster. And I have to agree with him.
Normally, the car sends equal power to all four wheels, but Polestar injected Volvo's all-wheel drive system with a healthy dose of black magic. On the track, you can actually break the tail end loose for some drifting, which is doubly awesome because it's all happening in a Volvo station wagon.
This same tail-happiness makes the car sharper and more responsive through the corners. I was shocked to learn that the V60's handle like the very best Subarus. Out on the track it's purely a demon, one that first grants me my wish of feeling like Mario Andretti, then catches me when I get in trouble.
Such handling detail is also down to an advanced active suspension like you'd find on a supercar. Sensors are constantly reading the road, comparing it to what I'm asking the car to do, and adjusting settings on the fly to keep the tires on the pavement at all times...
Unless it's being piloted by an insane Swedish touring car racer.
Thed Bjork (above) is just that. An insane Swedish touring car racer who drives for Polestar. He takes the S60 out for some hot laps and I ride shotgun, still fully cognizant of my close encounter with the tire barrier. Fully in control, he intentionally hits the inside kerb at one of the corners, jumping the fastest production Volvo in history into the air at over 90 mph.
“This is my favorite corner,” he says. With him driving, we're pointing the right way.
As much as the Polestar is a hard and aggressive racer, it's also a Volvo. That means comfort. The same shocks and struts that make the car handle like a demon also make the ride remarkably cushy.
Throw in some of the nicest seats in its class and Volvo's seductive Scandinavian design, and the Polestar is a very appealing option for everyday driving.
Volvo decided to bring just 120 Polestars to the United States, and unfortunately nearly all of them are spoken for. That's truly a shame, because, frankly, this is one of the most surprising things I have driven in the last few years.