Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

Officially tweaked Volvo gets 200bhp from a 1.6 Turbo

By Fraser Martin

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

When I drove the new Volvo V40 in Italy towards the end of the summer last year, I was struck by how agile the car was. It felt like a 2-litre turbo and I was quite surprised to learn later in the first day of the trip, after thrashing it over the hills to Lake Como, that it was in fact a 1.6! It was a very mature car, handled crisply and was very well put together.

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

Fast forward to this weekend, and I find myself in the V40’s bigger sibling, the S60. Now the Volvo S60 T4 shares the same 1.6 turbo engine as the V40, so you would expect, with a bit more to lug around in terms of size and weight, that it might be a tad sluggish. Not a bit of it in this case!

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

The pillar-box red (it probably has a proper name!) S60 I picked up from sole distributor Trading Enterprises has been tweaked with the Polestar modification to the R-Design specification. The Polestar software upgrade is a worthwhile AED5000 option as it boosts the output to 200bhp without doing anything more than fiddling with the otherwise competent electronic wizardry in the car, and coming from a recognised source, does not affect warranty arrangements.

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

Being the weekend, and in the last throes of the winter weather, the track at Autodrome is busy, so I took the opportunity of running a track day on Friday to use the Volvo as my Course Car, doing track inspections, visiting posts and fetching those who ran out of petrol (you know who you are, Rob Nicholas!).

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

The Volvo is hardly the first thing you’d choose for a track weapon but it was really keen, and in a turn-up for the books, was able to keep pace with some rather well turned out cars of considerably greater power. The R-Design chassis modifications – essentially a stiffening of the whole unit – along with the Polestar chip combined to restore the edge to the S60 that would otherwise leave you wanting more. It was a very comfortable and entertaining drive, and no slouch it has to be admitted.

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

More mundanely, Saturday is usually a running around, sorting paperwork and loose ends day for me, so I was quite happy to be trundling about in the S60. At a road-going level, the 1.6 turbo is surprisingly economical given its ability to get up and go when required.

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

The six speed powershift autobox is quick to reach its most fluid gears, whilst still being able to amuse in sport mode: you have to stickshift if you want manual over-ride though as there are no paddles, but that is not really a bad thing. There’s something quite satisfying about changing gear where you should be changing gear and not having to remember which way to twitch your fingers!

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

The R-Design car is nicely appointed inside too. Two-tone finishes on all seats and trims and with power assistance to the driver’s side as well as the ‘usual offices’ of electric pretty much everything else, the car in this spec is quite a selfish build – very driver-centric even if the passengers are not exactly suffering. Dash and other interior appointments are classy too, with turned finish rather than a silly decal to the centre console and leather bits where you need them.

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

The car is wired for navigation but does not have it – a kind of weird specification, I thought, until I went back to my own car. The problem with most if not all factory navigation systems in this region is that they are out of date the moment they are installed, so many of us, including me, rely on the tiny Garmin units that can be bought so cheaply here.

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

Why would you want to pay through the nose for a nav setup that has some of the roads missing or out of date, when you can have a little unit for a tenth of the cost? Good move then – you have the display for the radio, the cameras, the personal setup of the car and the information and your money has not been wasted on a navigation system that will maybe get you lost anyway!

Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review

Of course there’s a sound system and of course there are safety systems – it’s a Volvo, so obviously they are going to be best quality and state of the art. You might switch some of them off, especially if you prefer to drive without being told what to do all the time, but it is nice to know that when you lend your car to someone, the chances of getting it back in one piece are immeasurably improved.

The S60 T4 R-Design is a handsome looking car too. The R-Design accessories, such as the 18-inch alloys, the exhaust trims and the exclusive yet subtle grille design all help to set the car sufficiently apart from the cooking models for the difference to be noted, and yet it is not too ‘in-your-face’ for the wrong sort of attention to be gained. It’s a bit of a Q-car, this one – like a thinly disguised plainclothes-police car. I like it for its subtlety (apart from the colour) and for its ability to respond, and the fact that it is different.

We used to think of Volvos and Saabs as thinking-man’s purchases. It is easy to buy something with a propeller or a star on it, but this Volvo should have a few people rethinking the easy route to a quick, comfortable, safe and interesting four door sedan.

At a shade under AED145,000, with the R-Design and the Polestar tweakery, the Volvo S60 T4 certainly has me reconsidering.

Spec
2013 Volvo S60 Polestar T4 R-Design
Price: AED144,900 ($38,500)
Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder Turbo, 200bhp @ 5750rpm, 210lb ft @ 2000-4250rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 8.7seconds, 225kph, 7.4L/100km
Transmission: six-speed auto, front-wheel drive
Weight: 1529kg

Let us know what you think of the Polestar T4 below

One response to “Volvo S60 T4 R-Design Polestar review”

  1. Denis Bastas says:

    I own a 2011 Volvo S60 T4 powershift with a stock engine upgraded by DTS from 180 to 219 PS (according to DTS but unmeasured by me). For its price the car is state of the art. Comfort, design and luxury combined with low fuel consumption, power and of course security. Some of its features aren’t provided even with cars like the BMW 745. All rates from 8 to 10 out of 10 for sucj a reasonable price. I installed a K&N air filter and a spint booster on the accelerator pedal and replaced the stock tires with Continental Conti Seal ones for safety and duration (since the car doesn’t have a spare tyre) and the results are stunning. If I could name one or two cons : powershift gear shifts not so smooth especially when reving up fast and a bit harsh and noisy when you run over road bumps and pits (but then again it has 19” rims).

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