“I can’t believe they think we’re all porn stars!” laughed Andreas Naeslund, Polestar’s North American Sales Manager as he looked back at european car’s first encounter with its 450hp, AWD C30 back in the ec 11/11 issue.

The story was entitled “Pole Dance” and it was introduced as “Deviant behavior from the land of blue movies”, so we guess he had a point!

We were standing on the main straight at Streets of Willow; one of Southern California’s more technical race tracks on a surprisingly mild day. We were there on the promise of laps in the C30 Polestar (a car so blue our cameras fail to do it justice). However, the real purpose of our adventure was to test Polestar’s factory-approved software for the latest C30 R Design hot hatch.

While the blue C30 was built by Polestar to showcase its talents as both a race team and OE performance partner to Volvo, the regular C30s represent what we can buy from the showroom floor and are, therefore, more relevant to us all.

At our disposal were two cars – one totally stock C30 R Design and a second with Polestar software. Currently, the C30 is the only R Design model from Volvo not offered with Polestar software as standard equipment. That said, anybody could walk into a Volvo dealer and have their 2008-12 C30 T5 ECU flashed. It’s claimed to optimize power and torque without increasing fuel consumption.

C30 R Design
The C30 flies under the hot hatch radar, making it a great alternative to the regular GTI or A3 options. It boasts a strong 227hp, 236 lb-ft from its 2.5L five-cylinder turbo engine. With a starting price of $24950 for the C30 T5 and $27450 for the R Design, it’s a little pricier than the VW but you probably won’t see two on the way home!

Driving to the track in the stock car, we were surprised by the suspension – it was very compliant, far more forgiving than a GTI or most German offerings. This didn’t bode well for the track session, especially when the car seemed to wander slightly in high-speed freeway turns, and we decided it would benefit from aftermarket suspension to give it a tauter ride.

Fortunately, its track manners weren’t as unruly as we’d expected. The compliance allowed it to ride the curbs and, provided you didn’t ask too many things at once, the chassis coped well under track conditions. While the brakes never felt particularly firm, neither did they coem close to overheating despite countless laps.

In stock trim, we saw a best lap time of 1:38.05", which is certainly respectable. However, we were pushing the car hard and wondered what improvement the software could bring.

On the street, the Polestar flash certainly made a significant difference to throttle response. Sixth gear acceleration was effortless from any speed, making the stock car feel slightly pedestrian in comparison.

Neither car could be described as slow. The stock T5 hits 60mph in 6.2sec while returning 21/30mpg. However, the Polestar version has it licked by a country mile while still returning the same MPG, and without voiding your dealer warranty.

Polestar’s factory seal of approval is well deserved. The power delivery was smooth and uninterrupted. It was undoubtedly as good as anything we’ve sampled.

On Track
With its extra urge, we were glad of the no-cost option Volvo-approved Pirelli P Zero Rosso tires fitted on both cars. They would have been a handful on all-seasons!

As it was, we were experiencing excessive wheelspin (DSTC off) in the slower corners, highlighting the need for a diff. With traction control on, even the stock car was hindered around the tight track, but the penalty for deactivation was a flurry of wheelspin exiting each turn before the tires finally hooked up.

We had a chance to run laps in the tuned C30 with the stock car in pursuit. It was fun to watch it disappear in the rear-view as we exited each corner. By the end of the lap we were almost 2sec ahead, recording a best time of 1:36.1".

That’s a considerable margin for software that “only” adds 23hp and 37 lb-ft. Where else could you find that sort of improvement for the $1295 a dealer will charge you? And without sacrificing your warranty or MPG…

As we previously stated, we’d look for aftermarket suspension and possibly a brake upgrade to make the 250hp C30 R Design with Polestar software an even more capable track car. This would definitely bring the shy Swede into the limelight.

The new software makes the C30 an even more engaging car to drive, creating a better experience for the enthusiast driver; although anybody would appreciate the effortless power delivery, especially on the freeway.

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