It is that time of year again, when auto journalists and car enthusiasts flock to the mostly ignored city of Detroit, Michigan (U.S.A.) to attend the North American International Auto Show.
I have been making this trek every year since 1998, and while the show has been through some ups and downs, it is still standing and it still manages to convince car companies to use this show to launch their new models.
The current S60 has been around for a few years already, but it is hardly a common sight. Problem is, many people don’t automatically think of Volvo when they are shopping for a new car. Those who like cars or have owned a Volvo in the past, do gravitate towards their newer models, but that is not a large group.
To attract more buyers, for 2013, Volvo has launched a new all-wheel drive (AWD) version of the S60 sedan. While the AWD system was previously only available on the S60 with the turbo-charged six-cylinder motor called the T6, now you can have the AWD traction with the smaller motor also. So under the hood of my press car was a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder, turbo-charged motor (T5), that produces 250-hp and 266-lb/ft of torque.
That power is sent to the wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox that features a manual override feature (and the nicest looking gear-shift lever in the business). The latest version of the Haldex all-wheel drive system sends power to the wheel that can make best use of it. Trust me, this car won’t get grounded no matter what the weather is like.
As you can imagine, a 3,702-lb car with 250-hp is not going to be slow, but at the same time, not blisteringly fast either. However, a 0-100 km/h time of just 6.6 seconds is very respectable.
Figures are one thing, how the car feels can be quite another. No disappointment here though. The T5 AWD sits very squarely on the road, very stable and composed. The ride quality is excellent and irritants like road noise and wind noise are at a minimum, which makes this an ideal car for long trips.
What makes it really ideal for the trips are its seats. While they might not look special, the instant you sit in them, you realize that the seat is not only supportive, but the angle is just perfect. Also, the angle of the steering wheel in correlation to the seat is also perfect. It’s very easy to find the perfect driving position in this car and this just makes me think that Volvo uses actual humans to fine tune the interior, not just crash test dummy’s.
Speaking of crashes, you can be assured that this car is among the safest in its class. It even has systems to help you avoid crashing in the first place. Volvo’s ‘City Safe’ system uses cameras and laser scanners to look out for stopped vehicles and pedestrians and will stop the car automatically from speeds up to 50 km/h – if the car thinks you’ll hit someone. This system is not perfect, and its best to pay attention while driving, but it’s good to know that the car is looking out for you too.
So a capable car with a good interior, good safety features and impressive performance. Sounds like it’s perfect, right?
Not quite. As with any car, there are some issues. My first complaint is with its center dashboard. It has too many tiny buttons and they are not the easiest to make sense of when you are trying to use them while driving. Then, on a car like this and of this price range, I expected it to have a reversing camera as standard, but it doesn’t. And then there is Volvo’s reluctance to feature a heated steering wheel. Sweden, where Volvo’s are made, is a very cold country, even more so than Canada, so why have they stayed away from this feature is beyond me! Thankfully it does have heated seats though.
In the scheme of things, these niggles are tiny, and should not put anyone off from buying this car. One complaint people used to have of Volvo’s, especially of their AWD models, was terrible fuel economy; but they have nicked that too. My week’s average was just 10.4-liters/100 km, which is fantastic. On my highway trek, it was averaging under 8.0-liters/100km, which makes it as economical as some compacts. Combine the excellent fuel economy with its comfort and traction, and it really turned out to be a wonderful car for my trip to Detroit.
It is competitively priced also. At $41,150 – it is more affordable than its German rivals. So a good car with an attractive price; still it can be improved upon, and I went to the auto show in Detroit to meet this cars alter ego, the 508-hp, S60 Polestar.
Polestar is in the business of making race cars out of Volvo’s, and they have done quite a successful job of it by winning some races. However, Polestar is not just interested in going racing, they want to be Volvo’s performance arm for their road cars also. Their first effort was a 400-hp, AWD version of the C30 hatchback. While this model didn’t go into production with this spec, a Polestar body-kit version did go on sale in the U.S.A.
For the last few months, Polestar has been showing their version of the S60. This version takes the 3.0-liter, T6 motor and tweaks it to produce 508-hp and 424-lb/ft of torque. Power is fed to all-wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.
Together with the body kit and suspension tweaks, this looks like a true hot rod Volvo that can go about everyday, scaring Audi S7’s and BMW M3’s.
Will this version be put into production?
While there is a customer in Europe who has one, and Polestar has built a few show cars, sadly there are no plans to put this model into series or limited production.
Andreas Naeslund (that’s him in the picture, with the car), who is the Sales Manager of Polestar in North America took time out to talk to me at the show. He is a truly enthusiastic car guy who loves performance cars. He is quite pleased that Volvo has given Polestar such great access and publicity by showing off their car at motor shows. He hopes the positive reaction that this car has been generating will convince Volvo to turn this amazing concept into production. I hope so too.
The S60, in any trim is a nice car and should be on your shopping list. If they decide to put the Polestar version into production with the same spec motor, it will be on the shopping list of customers who currently go elsewhere to find fast family cars.