Buoyed by two successive years of double digit growth in the country, premium car maker Volvo Cars recently introduced its performance brand – Polestar – to the Indian market. In essence, Polestar is what the 'M' badge is to BMW. 'Sport' is to Audi and 'AMG' is to Mercedes-Benz. While there are two products in the Polestar line-up – the S60 sedan and the V60 estate – Volvo Car India recently launched the sedan at a price of ' 52.5 lakh. We were there at the launch, and also got a chance to take a few laps at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore.
It was less than two years ago – in July 2015, to be precise – that Volvo Cars acquired Polestar Performance. The ambition, as has been stated, is to be a stand-alone brand, separate from its parent company, and be able to rival its competitors from Germany. Polestar's association with Volvo is over two decades old, starting with the birth of the Swedish Touring Car Championship in 1996. In 2009, Polestar was appointed the official performance partner of Volvo, when the Polestar Performance Optimisation for Volvo road cars was introduced. It was in 2014 that the first production cars from Polestar were introduced, together with Volvo – the S60 sedan and the V60 estate.
The product launched in India is the 2017 edition fitted with a 2 l four-cylinder inline petrol engine with turbo and supercharger that delivers 376 hp of peak power and 470 Nm of torque. In all, Volvo claims the S60 Polestar has over 260 new parts across the powertrain, chassis, brakes, exteriors and interiors.
The S60 polestar was developed using all Volvo R&D facilities – wind tunnel, engine lab, test track and methods as well as expeditions. Engineers ensured the vehicle was tested in all conditions. While winter testing on the car was done at Jokkmokk (Sweden), heat testing was done in extreme conditions of Australia, South Africa and the US. Wet handling tests on the hand were done in Germany.
Now, Volvo has always been known for the safe cars that they build. Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO, Volvo Cars had stated earlier the company's vision of ensuring that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car.
On the 2017 S60 Polestar, Volvo Cars India has introduced certain safety features enabled by radar. These safety features were always available to Volvo for introduction, but the lack of dedicated radio frequencies in the country delayed its potential launch. However, the recent de-licensing of certain frequencies of radar has helped the company add to the S60's safety quotient. With inputs received from the camera, the radar system on the S60 Polestar activates pre-emptive safety functions such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind-spot detection with cross traffic alert and park pilot assist. Also on offer is a collision warning function with full auto-braking for pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles and large animals. Volvo claims it is the safest sedan in its segment with a 5-Star Euro NCAP rating. Aiding that are features such as a strong safety cage, seat-belt pre-tensioners, side impact and whiplash protection.
Powering the S60 Polestar is a brand new 2 l Drive-E powertrain, with several mechanical changes. To augment the engine, Polestar has added a bigger turbo (64 mm compared to the earlier 60 mm), new connecting rods (2.2 mm shorter that allows for lower compression), new camshafts, a larger air intake and a higher capacity fuel pump. To add to the performance parameter of the vehicle, a 3-inch stainless full-flow active exhaust system with twin 3.5-inch tail pipes has also introduced. The engine also gets electronically-controlled flaps that get activated, once the Sport mode is turned on.
The engine is matched with a BorgWarner four-wheel drive system with better rear torque dynamic distribution as well as stability control system, claims the company. The eight-speed Geartronic torque convertor transmission unit is mated to the AWD system, which is front-biased. The paddle shifters assist in faster gearshifts, although we didn't quite use them that during the two laps we got to do at the speedway. Having said that, it was enough to give us a sense of what the S60 Polestar is capable of. The engine overall seemed all enthusiastic to respond to driver inputs. While the initial inputs resulted in very quick responses, there is a bit of lag going over 3,500 rpm levels. But that should in no way be deterrence to an enthusiastic driver.
For the chassis, the S60 Polestar gets adjustable Polestar and Öhlins shock absorbers that come with Öhlins' patented DFV (dual flow valve) technology. Compared to the base car, this allows for an 80 % increased spring rate, claims the company. The stabilisers too are 15 % stiffer compared to the regular S60 sedan. These, along with the fact that the S60 Polestar is about 20 kg lighter than the regular sedan, ensure good overall handling. However, we'll need to drive and test the car for a longer period to give you actual feedback on its ride and handling characteristics.
The brakes have been optimised for ESC and ABS, with a new brake booster and new main cylinder. In the front, the S60 Polestar has Polestar/Brembo 6-piston brake calipers with ventilated and floating Brembo discs, while the rear gets 302 x 22 mm ventilated discs.
The car also features launch control, which essentially allows one to achieve the 0-100 km/h in 4.7 s, as per company claims. To use this feature, one first needs to deactivate ESC, put the gear lever in Sport mode, push the brake pedal and accelerator fully down and then release the brake pedal. Aiding the S60's performance also are the various changes Polestar engineers have made to the aerodynamics of the car. Front splitters are claimed to lead to a 21 kg downforce compared to the base car @ speeds of 250 km/h, while rear spoiler reduced downforce by 33 kg compared to the base car at the same speed.
As a new entrant to the luxury performance segment, Volvo seems to have made a strong entry with the S60 polestar. The price is competitive, and the product seems compelling. We would soon get to you a detailed review of the product, but should this product interest you, we suggest you pay an immediate visit to your nearest Volvo showroom. India is slotted to get only about 30 of these cars, but Volvo Car India officials ensured, every demand of the Indian customer would be met.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah