If you hadn’t noticed from Volvo’s “naughty” S60 ad campaign from last year, the company wanted you to know that its midsized sedan, with its turbocharged six and all-wheel drive, could hang with ultimate driving machines and made progress through technology. In a series of commercials featuring the new S60 in full-on hoonage mode, complete with a hard-driving guitar soundtrack, Top Gear-esque quick edits and the sound of tires begging for mercy, you’ll eventually get the message that, no, this is not your father’s Volvo.
At the end of the commercial titled, “The Slalom Test—Naughty Level 2,” the question is posed: “Want it even naughtier?”
Yes, we do, Volvo, because we’re a little jaded.
Well then, say hello to Polestar. Unfortunately, Polestar isn’t what you get when you combine a pole dancer with a porn star. (Sometimes they do both, don’t they?) Polestar Racing is essentially Volvo’s equivalent to AMG or BMW M and, according to the literature, is known more formally as Volvo’s “Official Racing and Performance Partner.” Since 1996, Polestar has raced Volvo 850s, S40s and S60s in regional and worldwide Touring Car racing series, with titles in both the Swedish and Scandinavian Touring Car Championships in 2009 and 2010.
They’ve been racing the C30 since 2008, so they know it inside and out. This one was built to showcase Polestar’s expertise and promote their line of Performance Power Optimization products. Volvo gave them free rein to create a vision of the ideal roadgoing C30.
And instead of just building something naughty, Polestar got raunchy. They took a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder and replaced the pistons and con rods with beefier pieces. Then they added a KKK 26 turbo and put in a bigger intake cam and larger intercooler to create an engine that puts out 400 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque.
That much power would be useless going through just the front wheels, so Polestar also took the Haldex all-wheel-drive system from a V50 and then adjusted the power distribution to get it to handle the way they wanted. Thinking even that wouldn’t be enough to keep things under control, Quaife differentials are used front and rear. A reinforced Sachs clutch sends power through the six-speed manual gearbox, and the exhaust is a 3.0-inch stainless steel custom piece of work.
Stepping into the stiff clutch is like doing your last rep on the leg press machine with just one leg. Pressing the starter button is a lot easier and fills the interior with the booming, unfiltered, worble-n-woofle of the inline five. The shifter is light and gears are easy to find, but engagement with the clutch is either on or off.
Once on the move, it’s easy to modulate the power. As you feel your way around the throttle’s travel, you’re rewarded in kind. It’s more than willing to knock your head back and plaster you to the seat, if that’s how you get off. Or you can play the sadist by punishing the tarmac and scaring your passenger. Master or servant, giver or receiver, it doesn’t matter.
The turbo comes on shortly after 2000 rpm and its power curve is fatter than a deep-fried, triple-bacon-and-cream cheeseburger. It’s juiciest at mid revs and sets the car up perfectly to explode out of corners using all four of its tires. For this, Polestar set up the suspension with Ohlins coilovers, ultra lightweight 8.75x19 BBS Forged Individual wheels and the new Michelin Super Sports in 235/35. It’s a combo that produces astonishing levels of grip and stability, letting you dive hard and fast into turns without protest. After the apex, it’s just a matter of pointing and shooting.
For brakes, Polestar went with Brembo six-piston calipers and 15-inch discs in front and four-piston calipers and 13-inch discs in rear. They’re classic Brembo: firm pedal, hard-biting and fade-free. Polestar also put in a faster steering rack. It was direct and quick, but there were times, especially mid-corner, when I was trying to hold the line, the steering went light and lifeless when it should’ve been resistant. On a production car that’s a no-no, but on a concept car it’s an idiosyncrasy.