2020 Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered assessment: Little tweaks yield huge enhancements

Polestar or not, the S60 is one sharp-dressed sedan.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

Within the two years since I first drove the Polestar Engineered S60, Volvo’s actually solely modified one factor: the brakes. However this seemingly small tweak truly makes an enormous distinction. With this vital piece of the efficiency puzzle sorted, the S60 Polestar Engineered is lastly the totally realized sport sedan it all the time meant to be.

LikePotent hybrid performanceThe brakes aren’t terrible anymoreGorgeous design, inside and outside

Do not LikeMore costly base value than rivalsT8 powertrain sounds wheezySensus infotainment continues to be a bit of buggy

The {hardware} was by no means the problem; the massive, six-piston Brembo entrance brakes supplied plenty of stopping energy. However the digital brake-by-wire software program — the place the brake pedal sends a sign to a pc, which then tells the brakes what to do — was poorly tuned. Volvo tweaked the software program and made just a few minor {hardware} modifications, leading to a braking expertise that not solely supplies higher suggestions to the motive force, however vastly smooths out the transition between the S60’s regenerative and mechanical braking. 

The outdated brakes have been so laborious to gauge that you simply’d unknowingly apply an excessive amount of stress, the nostril of the automotive would dive and the S60’s rear finish would unsettle — proper earlier than a flip, no much less. Even worse, these grabby attributes made the S60 Polestar Engineered sort of a problem to drive within the metropolis or in stop-and-go site visitors. I am blissful to report that in any respect speeds, the brand new setup is means, means higher.

I’m 100% right here for gold calipers.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

That is an incredible factor, as a result of the remainder of the Polestar Engineered remedy makes the S60 an actual hoot. The two.0-liter I4 engine is identical one you will discover in Volvo’s different T8-badged automobiles. It is turbocharged, supercharged and works together with an electrical motor mounted on the rear axle for a wholesome whole of 415 horsepower and 494 pound-feet of torque. The eight-speed computerized transmission largely fades into the background, a lot in order that I do not even hassle with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. And with the electrical motor a-hummin’, the S60 Polestar Engineered has through-the-road all-wheel drive to boost grip, particularly should you dwell in a spot with awful climate.

The Polestar-specific upgrades work a deal with. The adjustable Öhlins dampers can rework the experience from beautiful and plush to agency and taut, although it is not one thing you are able to do on the push of a button. As an alternative, there are handbook knobs on both aspect of the engine bay — painted in a rad shade of gold — the place you possibly can agency up or loosen the dampers to your coronary heart’s content material. I am going to admit, there’s one thing oddly satisfying about altering the dampers manually and it is neat to attempt one setting, drive just a few miles, make changes, do one other run, rinse and repeat. However I’ve to marvel what number of house owners will truly take the time to get below the hood and tinker with these knobs on the common. (Professional tip: Convey some gloves or a rag if you are going to flip the knobs after operating the engine for some time. They get very, highly regarded. Ask me how I do know.)

With the dampers tuned someplace between medium and medium-well, the S60 Polestar Engineered delivers a compliant experience. The steering has good weight to its motion however feels a bit of numb on heart, however at the very least the wheel itself is a pleasure to carry, wrapped in leather-based and simply the correct quantity of girthy. The 235/40-series Continental Premium Contact 6 tires provide plenty of grip, however have simply sufficient sidewall to maintain the 19-inch wheels from being too punishing. And hey, for the reason that brakes are now not a washy-then-grabby affair, you possibly can carry extra pace into corners, figuring out the stress you placed on the cease pedal might be precisely and easily translated to these huge, daring Brembos.

Most individuals will most likely go away the S60 in its default Hybrid mode, the place the engine and battery work collectively to ship acceptable energy with out killing total effectivity. A Maintain setting can maintain the battery’s state of cost as-is and if you wish to add extra juice on the go, push a button for Cost mode, which sends supplemental engine energy into the 10.4-kilowatt-hour pack. A model-specific efficiency mode — unimaginatively referred to as Polestar Engineered — places every thing on full boil. And you may even drive the S60 below totally electrical energy if you want, although just for quick distances (22 miles, based on the EPA).

Entertaining because the S60 is while you’re actually on it, what’s nice is that it is also completely blissful to take a chill capsule and simmer down while you simply aren’t within the temper. I truly suppose the added breadth of the hybrid package deal — the flexibility to go from silent and docile to full-blast rocket — will increase the Polestar’s enchantment. Some sport sedans work too laborious to get together on a regular basis, whether or not it is with a super-stiff experience (Mercedes-AMG C43) or go-go-go throttle tuning (BMW M340i). Combining that with the S60’s cabin — which is so quiet it borders on serene — and what are completely among the finest entrance seats in any automotive at any value, makes this Volvo a automotive I might like to have as a every day driver. It is as a lot at dwelling operating to CVS for some rest room paper as it’s blasting down my favourite canyon highway.

Matte paint is a $7,000 possibility. Woof.

Steven Ewing/Roadshow

The opposite professionals and cons are much like different S60 fashions. The outside is good-looking as heck and I like all of the gold accents inside and outside. The inside is equally stately, with nice supplies in every single place. There is a boatload of driver-assistance tech customary, together with all the trendy facilities like adaptive cruise management, lane-keeping help, blind-spot monitoring and extra. The Sensus infotainment system is gorgeous and feature-rich, although the 9-inch touchscreen’s responsiveness continues to be a hit-or-miss affair. Actually, if there’s one main grievance to register, it is that the hybrid powertrain sounds sort of wheezy and coarse, which is especially disgraceful given the extra aggressive mission of the Polestar Engineered trim.

I’ve all the time thought the S60 was sort of underappreciated amongst compact luxurious sedans and that is true of this Polestar trim, too. There’s quite a bit to love about an Audi S4, BMW M340i or Mercedes-AMG C43, however none of them actually stand out as actually higher choices. Some have higher cabin tech. Some are a bit of extra luxurious. However I’ve little doubt the S60 Polestar Engineered may stand toe-to-toe with these heavy-hitters so far as dynamics are involved, although it is price noting the Volvo is a little more highly effective than these core rivals.

At $65,795 to start out (together with $995 for vacation spot), the S60 Polestar is dearer than its aforementioned rivals, however provided that you evaluate the bottom MSRPs. Load up an Audi S4 or Mercedes-AMG C43 with all the good things — like what’s customary on this S60 — and also you’re roughly $65,000. In the long run, it evens out. And now that the Polestar’s huge efficiency caveat is fortunately a factor of the previous, there’s much more cause to contemplate the S60 as a substitute for one of many German go-tos.

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