Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered review: a 400bhp sports saloon?

By topgear, 13 January 2020

Did I read that correctly? A 400bhp Volvo saloon?

Click… click… click…


Hello? Is anyone there?
…click… click- sorry, got a little carried away playing with the suspension settings on this Volvo S60. Or rather, the Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered T8 Twin Engine which nobody in their right minds would ever say twice.

Sure, it looks just like any other Volvo S60 – that is to say, handsome and understated – but unlike any other Volvo S60 it has a very fancy set of toys. Four of them, in fact. Four dampers from Ohlins, which offer up 22 different levels of, well, damping.

So, for posterity, let us run that past you again: very posh adjustable dampers from Ohlins with twenty-two settings, in a Volvo saloon. A 400bhp Volvo saloon.

S60 Polestar
S60 Polestar

Woah. That’s BMW M3 territory. Does this mean this Polestar-tuned S60 is a-


Not even a bit?
Well, the stats certainly line up, on paper at least. The M3’s got a straight-six with 425bhp, and does 0-100kph in 4.3secs. This has a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine up front (Volvo won’t make any bigger engines than that), an eight-speed automatic gearbox in the middle, and a small electric motor at the back. So it’s a hybrid.

With everything combined and in full ‘watch this’ mode (Official Title: ‘Polestar Engineered’ mode), you’re looking at the enjoyable end of 400bhp and 640Nm of torque. Volvo reckons on 0-100kph in just 4.4secs.

So it’s quick. And yet. And yet… Where the M3 is a lairy so-and-so, the S60 is a more dependable friend that occasionally has a bit of fun, in very prescribed measures. 22 prescribed measures, if we’re being specific.


How much difference do those dampers actually make?
Some reference: setting 1 is like a sitting on a pile of rocks, while 22 is… sitting on the squishier, thicker moss that sits on top of the rock. The factory setting is 6 up front, and 9 at the back, and though it is firm, the S60’s body movement is well controlled. String a few corners together and it’s all executed neatly, tidily, satisfactorily and with great speed. It’s good.

Any closer to 1 and it’s super-hard – with a noticeable uplift in the control you feel – but higher up in the teens feels more naturally suited for the UK, because while still quite taut, there’s a bit more give, and that’s welcome.

The brakes are mighty, too, those massive Brembos earning their crust by stopping some two-tonne of fast-moving Volvo.

I can sense a ‘but’ coming.
It all feels a bit safe and never shakes its front-wheel-drive base. The noise from the four-pot never really excites, either, and the gearbox can be a little slow to react sometimes. So while the chassis is actually really sound, the drivetrain doesn’t fully let it flourish.

S60 Polestar
S60 Polestar
S60 Polestar
S60 Polestar

I was kinda hoping for an M3 rival.
Well, the M3 is a thoroughbred sports saloon, and it is a load of fun. The Volvo however, is a ‘premium’ saloon with a very cool party trick. In any case, it’s certainly better looking than a 3er, has a really lovely cabin with great infotainment and connectivity, lovely seats front and back, a generous boot and lots of driver aids.

Plus, there’s nothing wrong with ‘not-being-an-M3’, because this S60 has a character all of its own. In some respects it doesn’t make any sense at all – an essentially front-driven saloon with a hybrid drivetrain designed to safely cover ground, but with track-honed dampers and a really quite expensive price tag.

On the other hand, it’s rare, it’s plenty fast enough for today’s world and looks the part. A really left, left-field choice, then.

Score: 7/10

Words: Vijay Pattni