First taste: Volvo S60 Polestar
You may have read over the weekend that AOL Cars' James Batchelor was amongst the first to get a taste of Skoda's brand new Octavia VRS in a fabulous (but understandably tense) run up the hill at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The sporty Skoda is not the only car we managed to sample in the balmy heat at Lord March's estate, as Volvo kindly offered a passenger ride in one of its most eyebrow-raising creations to date: the S60 Polestar.> Now, at the risk of sounding spoilt, passenger rides at Goodwood can be a somewhat hectic affair. Sat trying to listen to a racing driver mumbling through his helmet, before being blasted up the 1.16-mile course in a matter of seconds, you're left blown away by the talents of the man sat next to you, but with little real appreciation of the car itself.
However, so keen were we to sample the S60 Polestar that we jumped at the chance to ride shotgun. Built to show off the skills of Volvo's new Polestar performance arm, the car aims to give the safety-first Swedish marque a shot of sporty appeal for those too young to remember Volvo's forays into British Touring Cars in the 1990s.
With a 500bhp 3.0-litre turbocharged straight six under the bonnet, the Polestar is also a shot across the bows of the established performance saloon players AMG and BMW M Division, reminding them that they could very soon be facing some very unlikely competition.
Our racing nutter for the day was Swedish touring car driver Alexander Storckenfeldt. Strapped in next to him, waiting for our run up the hill, the first thing that struck about this Skunkworks special was, well, just how much like a Volvo it is. Quiet and refined, the cabin is completely standard S60, with just some subtle 'Polestar' stitching on the lowered seats giving the game away.
The exterior looks near standard too, though such is the extent of the work carried out, only the bonnet, roof and boot-lid are carried over from the standard model, with the rest made wider to accommodate the weapons grade running gear. Aside from the gorgeous Rebel Blue paintwork, the S60 Polestar would make quite a Q-car.
That is until Alexander gives the throttle a blip at the request of the crowd that has gathered. Beefy and boosty, the hard-edged exhaust note sets the tone for what is about to unfurl: a mad dash up the hill at the hands of a maniacal Swede.
Maniacal and on it, as it turns out. Given the all-clear by the starting-line marshal, Alexander gives the Polestar everything. After a little hesitation as the four-wheel drive system shuffles power around, the bright blue saloon is off, attacking my kidneys with the sort of shove you can only get from huge a turbo.
And it is that turbo which dominates the Polestar experience. Where BMW and Mercedes have gone to great lengths to hide the forced induction at work, the Volvo is deliciously old-school. There is nothing below 3,000rpm, after which the S60 erupts forward, all the while accompanied by a pleasing soundtrack of chuffs and hisses.
Also unlike its German rivals, the S60's four-wheel drive system keeps us on a unwaveringly tidy line up the narrow hill-climb course, something I'm grateful for as the immovable dry-stone wall that lines Pheasantry Hill comes into view.
With nary a squeak from the tyres or a wobble from the rear end, we are through, and all too soon have reached the top of the hill, with nothing more than a deep appreciation of how well sorted this car really is, to show for it.
If, like me, you like the idea of owning a giant-slaying Volvo, you're going to need deep pockets. Two have been built to order and sold for "around £200,000" according to a Volvo spokesman. Feeling flush? Polestar is open to commissions.
What we'd really like to see, however, is the S60 Polestar to make series production. It proves that the company certainly has the talent – and the minerals – to take the fight to the power-mongers from Munich and Affalterbach, and it's a rivalry we'd love to see happen. Make it, Volvo. Just make it.
Volvo S60 Polestar
First taste: Volvo S60 Polestar
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