Eric's Autos: 2018 Volvo V60 Polestar
The thing that Volvo used to sell, safety, is something everyone sells now. Which is why it's smart for Volvo to start selling something else.
How about a high-performance compact wagon with a turbo and supercharged engine -- and almost 400 horsepower -- that can go from zero to 60 mph in just over four seconds?
P.S. It's perfectly safe, too.
What It Is
The V60 Polestar is a heavily modified limited-production version of Volvo's V60 wagon.
It comes standard with a unique turbo/supercharged engine, a sport-calibrated transmission and a heavy-duty all-wheel-drive system, as a well as a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brakes and numerous cosmetic/trim upgrades over the standard V60 wagon.
Base price is $61,600.
For 2018, the Polestar package includes an aero package that increases downforce at high speed by 30 percent. The package consists of side skirts, an air diffuser and a rear spoiler -- all made of real carbon fiber.
In addition, there are new glossy 20-inch black wheels shod with Michelin Pilot Super Sport summer tires and carbon-fiber end caps for the side mirrors, along with blue-contrast stitching for the interior.
Wagon speed and wagon practicality.
There's almost four times as much room for cargo (43.8 cubic feet) versus a similarly sized compact sedan, such as Volvo's S60 (12 cubic feet).
Speed is discreet.
What's Not So Good
The back seat is tight.
The center stack is busy -- lots of small buttons.
Production is limited - only 1,500 copies will be made.
Under the Hood
All V60s are powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, but the Polestar version of the engine is unusually powerful.
And the source of its power is unusual, too.
It has 367 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 347 foot-pounds of torque at 5,100 rpm. That's a 122 horsepower upgrade from the standard V60s's version of the 2.0-liter four-cylinder and comparable to the power of V-8s twice its size.
The Polestar four-cylinder's spectacular power is made by a double dose of force-feeding: The incoming air is compressed by both a supercharger and a turbocharger -- a one-two punch no other car offers, wagon or not.
Also unique is the Polestar's "active" exhaust that, under full throttle, becomes an open exhaust. An actuator opens a flap that bypasses sound-quieting restrictions in the muffler, allowing the engine to exhale freely through the twin 3.5-inch tips.
When you back off the accelerator, the sound backs down, too. Not that you'll want to do that often.
Gas mileage -- if you're interested -- is 20 mpg city and 27 highway.
On the Road
The wagon lunges forward like an angry rottweiler, the supercharger delivering immediate boost without the usual slight lag you get with turbocharged-only performance cars. Once rolling, the turbo continues building boost, so the engine feels immensely powerful all the time.
It's hard to believe Volvo got almost 400 horsepower out of just 2 liters, but it did. And few people will ever believe a wagon can be this quick -- until they watch you disappearing into the distance.
The ride is a little stiff, but that goes with the car, and the excellent seats serve as effective countermeasures. They manage to be supportive without being stiff. Usually, you get one or the other. Almost never will you get both.
At the Curb
What's weird about wagons is for reasons that don't make sense, they don't sell well in this country. Notwithstanding that they make a lot of sense, especially in relation to sedans.
The V60 wagon, which serves as the basis for the V60 Polestar, is based on the S60 sedan; they are basically the same cars, except the additional cargo space you get with the wagon. And that's a lot of additional space: 43.8 cubic feet versus just 12 in the sedan -- really, it's even less than that in material terms because it's isolated space, separate from the rest of the car's interior. The V60 not only has the additional space but is also connected to the rest of the car's interior, which makes it feasible to make maximum uses of every bit of it.
The Polestar enhancements are functionally comprehensive, but the entry level shows through in areas such as the dashpad and door panels, which use the same material as the regular V60. These aren't cheesy materials. But there is a big difference in look and feel between an entry-level Volvo like the V60 and a higher-up-the-food-chain Volvo like the V60's bigger brother, the V90 wagon.
The other thing is the Polestar wagon's center stack controls. They are small and tightly bunched. On the other hand, there is something to be said for buttons -- individual and visually otherwise accessible - versus an endless Byzantine series of menus that one must scroll through to find what they're after.
The Bottom Line
Volvo still sells safety, of course. But it's no longer the only thing it sells.
Eric's new book, "Don't Get Taken for a Ride!" will be available soon. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.Copyright 2018 Creators Syndicate, Inc.