2017 Volvo V60
Review of: 2017 Volvo V60 4dr Wgn T6 Polestar AWD
2017 Volvo V60 Polestar: The performance wagon takes a stand
Feb. 15, 2017
The words “compact performance wagon” are almost never seen together, and this car’s enthusiasts will decry that fact to anyone who will listen. And with sales industry-wide swinging ever further in favour of crossovers, it’s heartening to see companies like Volvo keep the concept clinging to life.
Being a few years now into its tenure, the V60 Polestar has largely aged well. But a couple of changes for the 2017 model year have taken just a touch of the sheen off the car’s performance cred.
Pros & Cons
- + Sharp handling
- + Comfortable front seats
- + Lots of standard kit
- - Technology
- - Engine less peppy than the old six-cylinder
- - Busy centre stack
Although it’s been three years since this car last had a significant refresh – Volvo representatives are on record as saying there’s a new V60 on tap for 2018 – there’s nothing about the outside of this car that looks dated. No one’s heart is going to be left racing over the look of it, but that’s part of its subtle beauty.
With its sleek and long lines and signature ultra-tall tail lights, this is one performance vehicle people would never see coming were it not decked out in eye-popping Polestar-exclusive Rebel Blue and custom tack-ons such as the gloss black grille, rear spoiler, and rear diffuser with enlarged twin tailpipes. It still makes a great statement for those who prefer the understated.
The comfort of Volvo’s seats is legendary, and the V60 Polestar’s sport seats are no exception: their supportiveness, quality materials, and heat function (present in both the front and rear) kept me going strong through several straight hours of nasty winter driving. (The heated windshield was an especially nice feature for this, too.) The wagon body makes roominess a winner all around, though much of it has gone to the passengers – the 430-litre cargo space isn’t especially impressive, even relative to some compact hatchback competition.
If there’s one area where the V60 shows its age, it’s in usability. The centre stack has a whole lot of buttons and dials to wade through to find a single function, which can be distracting while the car is at speed. There is a USB port accessible from the front row, but once plugged in there’s absolutely nowhere to put a phone down where it isn’t in the way.
The V60 Polestar is offered in a single trim with no available options, which means its $69,000 price tag includes plenty of safety features: Active cruise control with full auto braking, active high beams, lane departure warning and lane keep assist, rear-view camera with front and rear park assist, blind spot information system with lane change merge aid, rear cross-traffic alert, and driver alertness control are among the highlights.
While the Volvo infotainment system in this car is fine, it doesn’t hold a candle to the large tablet-style systems found in the marque’s newest vehicles. Still, this one comes with a stout navigation system and otherwise does what it needs to do – for the most part, unless you really enjoy Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
When a car is carrying a Polestar badge, performance expectations are understandably high. That said, this car lives up to them, for the most part.
The hesitation there comes from two things, the engine being the primary one. Last year’s model was the last available with Volvo’s 3.0-litre twin-turbo inline-six; the 2017 model comes with one of Volvo’s Drive-E engines, a 2.0-litre turbo- and supercharged I4. This gives the car a power boost of 22 horsepower to a total of 367, but it also drops some torque, down by 23 lb-ft. to 347, although that stays fully available for a little longer in the rev range, from 3,100 to 5,100 rpm in total.
The other is the new electrically assisted power steering system. The differences are subtle, but this system provides just a touch less feedback than the previous one did. It’s good enough that it wouldn’t earn so much as a mention in most cars, but it warrants pointing out here.
Otherwise, in practice the car feels great to drive. Together with the eight-speed automatic transmission and the BorgWarner four-wheel drive system, Öhlins shock absorbers, Brembo ventilated front and rear brakes, and 20-inch alloy wheels, handling and stopping are all extremely on point. And it’s not even that the going part doesn’t live up to the car’s promise exactly – there’s undeniably some oomph under the right pedal, especially in sport mode. It’s just that the previous powertrain was better: It was a little more peppy, and a lot more raucous – more Polestar.
Of course, the payoff of the new engine is better fuel economy. This model year’s version is rated at 10.3 L/100 km combined. I only achieved 9.2 over my week of testing. A significant portion of that was on highways, but I also spent most of a day barreling head-first into one of the worst ice storms of the year.
Buyers looking for an attractive and energetic small wagon with comfortable seats and Volvo’s storied safety record will be happy with what’s on offer with the V60 Polestar’s no-fuss $69,000 price tag. But for those without serious performance priorities, a Golf Sportwagen might also work at less than half the price. The true enthusiast seeking out Polestar performance may find the engine swap to be just enough of a change to turn them off.
A less torquey engine and a lack of the latest infotainment features might push the enthusiasts this car is meant for into one of the many newer performance hatchbacks that have hit the market in the last couple of years. And that’s a shame – the performance compact wagon must take a stand. With a new V60 in the pipeline, let’s hope the answer isn’t far away.