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To anybody who grew up with badass vampire movies of the Dracula variety, the watered-down teenage bloodsuckers in the Twilight series are a bit of a shocker. I mean, their skin sparkles in the sun and they drive Volvos, for Pete’s sake.
While this might cause old-school vampire buffs to bite their lips in horror, we have to move with the times and accept that vampires (which used to be scary) and Volvos (which used to be boring) have both become somewhat hip.
Volvo’s ploy to have its cars appear prominently in the popular teen flick franchise has been a clever bit of product-placement marketing. While teenagers worldwide drool over the coolest looking vampires ever, they’ve also noticed the wheels their sharp-fanged heartthrobs are driving. It’s led to increased sales for Volvo and the once stodgy Swedish brand being increasingly perceived by youngsters as “cool”.
To give this perception some bite, as it were, Volvo has introduced high-performance Polestar upgrades to its cars. Polestar is the performance and motorsport arm of Volvo and recently became available in South Africa as an aftermarket performance-enhancing upgrade. It’s simply a software tweak that raises power and torque by around ten percent, and there’s no fiddling with engine internals. The intention is to offer some extra grunt without affecting fuel consumption, and all Polestar cars come with Volvo’s full factory warranty.
The Polestar performance package costs R10 420 including fitment, can be installed by any Volvo dealer in less than a day, and can be carried out in conjunction with a regular service. Should you want some show to match the go, Volvo also offers R-Design sports packages which includes (depending on model) a sporty styling kit and adjustments to the suspension for sharper roadholding. Inside, R-Design sports leather upholstery jazzes up the cabin as do blue instrument panels, unique aluminium interior trim and R-Design leather steering wheel.
On test here is the V60 T6 all-wheel drive station wagon fitted with the Polestar conversion, and an R-Design package for R13 000 which also adds niceties like heated front seats and a rain sensor. The Polestar software boosts power in the 3-litre turbo petrol engine from 224kW and 440Nm to 242kW and 480Nm. This has seen a significant performance improvement over the standard T6, and in our Vbox tests the Polestar car scooted from 0-100km/h in a very brisk 6.3 seconds versus 7.1 for the regular T6, and a quarter-mile time of 14.4 seconds compared to 15.1.
That’s very quick indeed and will cause some embarrassment to the boy racer brigade, but it’s also the easy and responsive nature of that engine that makes the Polestar V60 T6 such a pleasure to drive.
There’s no turbo lag to speak of, simply a smooth and instant surge of pace, all delivered very efficiently through the six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel consumption is a little high at 12.1 litres per 100km, compared to Volvo’s 10.2 litre claim.
The driving experience is quite understated.
The engine’s very punchy but everything’s quiet and smooth and clinical. There’s no raunchy engine war cry, either.
The straightline performance is matched by neat handling and great all-wheel drive grip, but once again it’s of a clinical sort with little steering feedback to prickle the adrenal gland of an enthusiast driver. That said, the handling’s very clean. It’s very neat and settled through mountain passes, and especially over a bumpy road where the not-too-firm suspension filters out the nasty stuff and keeps your teeth fillings intact.
This clinical and squeaky-clean nature carries over into the cabin which, despite the R-Design flavouring, is still pathologically understated in that typical Scandinavian style. While it’s very ergonomically user-friendly, the Volvo’s interior somehow lacks the classy sense of occasion you get in most rival cars from Germany and Britain.
All the bells and whistles are there though.
They include a high performance multimedia system with AUX/USB/Bluetooth and a 180mm colour display screen.
And, being a Volvo, the safety package really goes to town with a feature that automatically brakes the car if the driver fails to react when the vehicle in front slows down, or a pedestrian steps into the road. This in addition to ABS brakes, Advanced Stability Control, and a raft of airbags.
I like the practicality of the V60’s huge loading area, which swallows an impressive amount of gear. The relative unpopularity of station wagons in South Africa is a mystery, as they’re more practical than sedans without any drawbacks in terms of handling – unlike SUVs which are so popular.
If Volvo was intending for its Polestar cars to go head-to-head with M, AMG or RS cars then it’s failed, but to be fair I don’t think that was its intention. Rather, the Polestar is a soft performance upgrade that gives a little more engine oomph without affecting fuel consumption.
It’s quick, slick and smooth, but without any real badass character. Much like the Twilight vampires. - Star Motoring