2015 Volvo S60 Polestar Review

Sami Haj-Assaad
by Sami Haj-Assaad


Fast Facts:
Engine: 3.0L turbocharged six-cylinder with 345 HP, 369 lb-ft.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
Fuel economy: 18 MPG city, 27 MPG highway. 20 MPG observed.
Price: $60,225 after destination charges
Price (CAD): $64,895

Ask a BMW owner what their brand represents and they’ll probably go on about sporty dynamic vehicles with a handsome design and exclusive quality. Go to an Audi driver and you get this idea of high-class fashion combined with passionate engineering. Mercedes, on the other hand, has an air of sophistication and class. But what about Volvo?

People tend to associate Volvo with safety and that’s a fair assessment; one of the brand’s engineers patented the first three-point safety belt in 1959 and since then the company has continued to innovate in automotive safety. Compare that mentality to the prestige, confidence and sexiness of the German brands and it’s clear that Volvo lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

But just this year, the Swedish company released the gorgeous and exclusive Polestar models. The S60 Polestar doesn’t feel like a safe, nerdy Volvo sedan. With one push of the ignition, you will leave all previous notions of the brand on the curb.

Tune In

The S60 Polestar shares many of its components with the V60 Polestar we recently reviewed and this is a very similar, albeit less practical, car. The basics are the same: a turbocharged straight-six making 345 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque sends power through a rear-biased all-wheel drive system and a quick shifting six-speed transmission. Tuned by Polestar, Volvo’s racing partner, the powertrain is an absolute treat and easily on par with products from the German giants.

See Also: 2015 Volvo V60 Polestar Review

But is that enough? The Audi S4 is a bonefide star in this segment, while the BMW 335i is a rear-wheel drive sport-sedan legend when equipped with M-Sport goodies. Can the S60 Polestar even compete against this kind of competition?

Absolutely! Especially if driving exhilaration is at the top of your list.

There’s a small spoiler that only hints at the performance potential this car has along with a set of 20-inch alloy wheels. But those who have a sharp eye for the details will notice a few key things that hint at what this S60 is designed for. Those 20-inch wheels hide 14.6-inch vented rotors up front accompanied by six-piston calipers. The rear rotors are also vented and slightly smaller at 11.8 inches.

Volvo that can GO!

Cars that have serious stopping power like the S60 Polestar typically have an equal ability to go fast and take it from me, you won’t have any complaints with how this thing accelerates.

From a standstill, the 60 MPH mark arrives in less than five seconds but the mid-range torque makes it intoxicating to drive. The powertrain exudes a confidence and will that empowers you to make any pass you please. The Polestar’s turbocharged six makes 345 HP, which might not sound like much in this world of 400 to 500 horsepower M3s and C63 AMGs but it is plenty compared to the S4’s 333-hp and the BMW 335i’s 300-hp.

Shifting Perceptions

There’s only a six-speed automatic available in the S60 Polestar, but the transmission has been retuned and delivers very quick shifts. When left to its own devices, it seems eager to show you just how fast it can shift. This can get a bit annoying as the slightest adjustment to throttle position triggers the transmission to change a gear. The alternative is to switch to the sport mode but then the car stays out of its highest gear. Using the paddle shifters in addition to the sport mode gives you total control of the car’s gear changes.

Selecting the sport mode has an additional benefit: noise, and lots of it. The snarl of the turbocharged straight-six is addictive to listen to and the active exhaust allows the car to really speak up. This is an extra edge that makes the S60 a little more enticing to those considering the more ‘mainstream’ 335i M-Sport or S4.

Sharp but Stiff

But forget about power for a second because handling is how the Polestar makes its mark. If you’re looking for a sharp handling and responsive car, this hits the mark.

Unfortunately, its direct and engaging feel on the road comes with a compromise: comfort. There’s no doubt that this car is stiff. After a week of commuting to and from the AutoGuide.com offices, I grew tired of constantly thumping and bouncing down the road.

Helping to get your mind off the rough ride, the S60 Polestar comes with a number of driver assistance systems and safety features. The adaptive cruise control is very good at matching the speeds of cars in front of you and can bring the car to a complete stop in a comfortable way. In my experience, the Volvo adaptive cruise control is a polished system and a stand-out feature against its German rivals.

Also present on our car was the front collision warning system, blind spot indicator, rear-view camera, lane departure warning and a system that can read the speed limits of the road you’re on – a handy feature when you have 345 ponies at the beck and call of your right foot.

Inside Story

The interior is a warm and inviting fortress of Swedish sensibility. You’ll melt into the Volvo’s accommodating front seats which are very supportive. The mix of the Nubuck materials on the seats and luxurious leather gives the cabin a high quality feel. The switchgear is also satisfyingly tactile to use but there are a lot of buttons and knobs found in the car making it look a little dated. The infotainment system, with its tiny screen is also pretty uninteresting to use but on the flipside, the large vibrant digital gauge cluster is very attractive.

With 33.5 inches of rear legroom and 37.6 inches of rear headroom, backseat space is a little limited when compared to the S4 and 335i. There’s also only 12 cubic feet of storage space in the trunk, which is also less than those two cars.

At $60,225, the Volvo S60 Polestar might seem expensive. But load up a 335i xDrive with all the performance, technology and safety features and it comes to $59,550. A loaded up Audi S4 costs $60,550. With that in mind, the S60 Polestar is right on the money. It was announced that Volvo will increase the number of Polestar models coming to the US after the original run of 80 sold out rather quickly.

The Verdict:

This car stands out in the crowd of German sport-sedans and gives Volvo an exciting option of its own. The Polestar models are fun, quick and loaded with the safety technology that Volvo is known for. If you can get over the harsh ride, outdated looking infotainment system and the Volvo badge, then try to get in line for the next batch of models coming to our roads.


  • Excellent Acceleration
  • Sharp Handling
  • Comfortable and Supportive Interior
  • Exhaust Note


  • Stiff
  • Outdated Interior
  • Cramped Rear Seats
Sami Haj-Assaad
Sami Haj-Assaad

Sami has an unquenchable thirst for car knowledge and has been at AutoGuide for the past six years. He has a degree in journalism and media studies from the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto and has won multiple journalism awards from the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada. Sami is also on the jury for the World Car Awards.

More by Sami Haj-Assaad

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3 of 7 comments
  • Tex Tex on Jan 29, 2015

    $60 k for a compact car with meh brand cache is a sales recipe for failure.

    • Jeff T Jeff T on Feb 02, 2015

      Plenty of people want to own something that isn't a black or silver Audi/BMW. Also it wasn't a failure, Volvo is doing a second production run.

  • Alex Kozovski Alex Kozovski on Jan 29, 2015

    Looks like Volvo is on the up-and-up.