Racing its way to the top

| | in Automobile
Racing its way to the top

Volvo India does not want to be left behind in the performance stakes and with the S60 Polestar, they have a car that merges performance and practicality in a package that will leave some money in the bank after you buy it

The Kari Motor Speedway is named after S. Karivardhan, one of India’s racing pioneers who tragically passed away in a private plane crash some 20 years ago. Kari, as he was known, is one of the reasons Coimbatore has a racetrack today and also partially responsible for the fact that Tamil Nadu has bequeathed India most of her racing drivers. The track itself is a short, sweet and twisty road, a sort of place you would love to put down some rubber, particularly on a go-kart and you wonder whether more of such tracks should have been built across India instead of a gigantic Formula 1 certified racetrack.

But that is another story. The story in this column is about the Volvo S60 Polestar. The “Polestar” brand was inherited when Volvo Cars bought out the Polestar racing team which raced in the Swedish Touring Car Championships and other series with modified Volvos. Much like the AMG division of Mercedes or the “M” division of BMW, the “Polestar” brand means that engineers have tinkered around and spread their magic glitter in the innards of the car. So it has a tauter suspension, bigger tyres and most importantly a bigger turbocharger.

The bigger turbocharger coupled with a bigger air intake which has been tuned extremely well to ensure a lot of low-end power means that the S60 can produce a claimed 367PS from its two-litre turbo. And on the short Kari Speedway, that is a lot. Yes, down the (very small) straight, you do notice that the car does start losing some grunt up the range and because it uses a traditional torque-converter automatic transmission, there are times you think that maybe it could have done with a faster upshift or downshift. These are frankly very minor quibbles for the car overall.

The Polestar is an All-Wheel Drive car with a slight forward bias, which is par for the course in this segment. That said, when you throw the car into the tight sequences at Kari, it stays incredibly steady and because the turbo spools up quickly the car races between corners like an excitable Labrador. And even when you make a mistake by braking too late, the car is very forgiving. Of course, you do remember that you are inside a Volvo, which means that you really don’t need to worry about your personal safety.

Volvo has also worked towards making the Polestar a bit more refined inside but on this respect the S60 is showing its age. While the model launched was the 2017 model, it does not have the new Volvo architecture or interiors you see on the XC90 and S90. Compared to the cars the Polestar will compete against — the Mercedes C43 AMG and Audi S5 — this could be seen as an issue, fancy leather upholstery and carbon-fibre inserts notwithstanding.

So what has Volvo done to deal with that? Short answer. Price. The Polestar will cost just Rs52.5 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi (with a final on-road price of around 60 lakhs). The reason I use the term “just” is because nothing else with 300+horsepower costs so little in this country, nothing else that gets you from 0-100 kilometres per hour in under five seconds costs less than 70 lakhs. Sure, Audi will possibly have the S3, S4 and the new S5 out by late 2017, but it is unlikely to price their cars at such “affordable” levels. And frankly, the S60 Polestar is a good-looking car, especially in the “Rebel Blue” colour. By being a great deal in the surprisingly thin 350-horsepower segment in India, the 30-odd cars that Volvo is due to bring to India should get sold out soon. Volvo India should look at getting a few more Polestars to India. The Swedish carmaker is boosting their game in India and the introduction of the Polestar is clear evidence of that. With some more exciting cars, based on Volvo’s modern design language such as the V90 Cross Country and the second-generation XC60 coming by the end of the year, Volvo could be a big player in the market. So there is little wonder they’re looking up.

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