Did I read that correctly? A 400hp Volvo sedan?
Hello? Is anyone there?
...click...click—sorry, got a little carried away playing with the suspension settings on this Volvo S60. Or rather, the Volvo S60 Polestar Engineered T8 Twin Engine, which nobody in their right minds would ever say twice.
Sure, it looks just like any other S60—that is to say, handsome and understated—but unlike any other S60 it has a very fancy set of toys. Four of them, in fact: Four dampers from Öhlins, which offer up 22 different levels of, well, damping.
So, for posterity, let us run that past you again: Very posh adjustable dampers from Öhlins with 22 settings, in a Volvo sedan. A 400hp Volvo sedan.
Woah. That’s BMW M3 territory. Does this mean this Polestar-tuned S60 is a—
Not even a bit?
Well, the stats certainly line up—on paper, at least. The M3’s got a straight-six with 425hp, and does 0-100kph in 4.3sec. This has a 2.0-liter turbo-four gasoline engine up front (Volvo won’t make any bigger engines than that), an eight-speed automatic gearbox in the middle, and a small electric motor at the back. So, it’s a hybrid.
With everything combined and in full ‘watch this’ mode (official title: ‘Polestar Engineered’ mode), you’re looking at the enjoyable end of 400hp and 639Nm of torque. Volvo reckons on 0-100kph in just 4.4sec.
Which means it’s quick. And yet. And yet...where the M3 is a lairy so-and-so, the S60 is a more dependable friend that occasionally has a bit of fun, in very prescribed measures. Twenty-two prescribed measures, if we’re being specific.
How much difference do those dampers actually make?
Some reference: Setting 1 is like a sitting on a pile of rocks, while 22 is...sitting on the squishier, thicker moss that sits on top of the rock. The factory setting is 6 up front and 9 at the back, and though it’s firm, the S60’s body movement is well-controlled. String a few corners together and it’s all executed neatly, tidily, satisfactorily, and with great speed. It’s good.
Any closer to 1 and it’s super-hard—with a noticeable uplift in the control you feel—but higher up in the teens feels more naturally suited for rougher patches, because while still quite taut, there’s a bit more give, and that’s welcome.
The brakes are mighty, too, those massive Brembos earning their crust by stopping some two tons of fast-moving Volvo.
I can sense a ‘but’ coming.
It all feels a bit safe and never shakes its front-wheel-drive base. The noise from the four-pot never really excites, either, and the gearbox can be a little slow to react sometimes. So, while the chassis is actually really sound, the drivetrain doesn’t fully let it flourish.
I was kinda hoping for an M3 rival.
Well, the M3 is a thoroughbred sports sedan, and it’s a load of fun. The Volvo, however, is a ‘premium’ sedan with a very cool party trick. In any case, it’s certainly better-looking, has a really lovely cabin with great infotainment and connectivity, lovely seats front and back, a generous trunk, and lots of driver aids.
Plus, there’s nothing wrong with ‘not-being-an-M3,’ because this S60 has a character all of its own. In some respects, it doesn’t make any sense at all—an essentially front-driven sedan with a hybrid drivetrain designed to safely cover ground, but with track-honed dampers and a really quite expensive price tag.
On the other hand, it’s rare, it’s plenty fast enough for today’s world, and looks the part. A really left, left-field choice, then.
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.