I think I may have just found the perfect family car*. It’s a practical estate packed with safety gear and it satisfies all the requirements for family life. The car in question is the Volvo V60 T6 Polestar and as an added bonus it also happens to be outrageously quick, making it enormously appealing to Mums and Dads who don’t like to dawdle.
*There is one major caveat to this statement, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
You could turn to the German brands for an equally practical wagon but before you do just cast your gaze over this Swedish supermodel. To my eye the V60 is one of the best looking estates on the market. It’s svelte lines give it a smoother, less boxy appearance than its Teutonic rivals and in R-Design trim the large 18-inch alloy wheels, twin chrome exhausts and body kit complement the V60’s shape and give it a suitably pumped-up appearance.
Looking good is one thing, but looks alone don’t make it a good choice for a family car. For that you need both safety and practicality, something the V60 offers in spades.
Safe As Houses
Volvo are renowned for their obsession with safety and it continues unabated in the Volvo V60. Innovative features are installed that are not just intended to save you and your family’s skin, but also other road users and pedestrians.
If you value your no-claims bonus then you will love the City Safety system. A combination of radar and camera scans the road ahead, looking for obstructions such as stationary traffic or drunken pedestrians. If it thinks a collision is imminent and you don’t react quickly enough it automatically slams on the anchors, reducing the impact speed or even preventing an accident altogether. Fortunately I had no reason to test the system while the V60 was in my care, but I know from a demonstration at Bruntingthorpe that it works extremely well.
A glowing orange light in the corner of your vision is the BLIS system telling you that some sneaky devil is in your blind spot and trying to undertake or overtake you. An orange light reflecting in the base of the windscreen is the Distance Alert telling you that you’re driving too close to the car in front. A chiming tone will be the Lane Departure Warning system telling you that you’re drifting all over the road, while the DAC Driver Alert Control will bong at you if it thinks you’re nodding off or are distracted.
The grille-mounted radar sensor also works as part of the adaptive cruise control system. This was my first experience of such wizardry and I have to say it works exceptionally well on motorways and dual carriageways, adjusting the V60’s speed to the ebb and flow of traffic. It is a very strange feeling when the brake pedal starts moving on its own, but reassuringly the Volvo would bring itself to a halt as the traffic ahead stopped.
The bi-xenon headlights even have adaptive cornering, another first for me. After a few fast night drives in the V60 it became clear just how good the system is, giving you an important increase in vision around bends and allowing you to push on with more confidence.
Are there airbags? Yes, lots of them. Driver, passenger, side, curtain. Side impact beams? Volvo perfected their SIPS system long before anyone else. Oh, and don’t forget WHIPS, the whiplash protection system.
Toys And Gadgets
This particular V60 boasted a list of goodies that reads like a Comet stock list. You can have an AM/FM radio, a CD player, a DAB digital radio, a DVD player, a 60-inch LED screen, a Freeview television tuner, a Bluetooth telephone system, in-built satellite navigation and a USB socket with MP3/WMA compatibility (I may have lied about one of those features). A hand-held remote allows you to control these systems, or you can use the buttons on the steering wheel that work almost as well.
The crowning glory is the Premium sound system. With a Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound setup and 5x130W amplifier, this has redefined my expectations of in-car audio. Watching Clone Wars on DVD with my son while sat waiting in a supermarket car park is an experience I never thought I would enjoy so much. With all twelve speakers producing crystal clear surround sound and the bass rumbling throughout the car, I’ve not enjoyed such a cinematic experience since … well, since I last went to the cinema. Just a shame the screen couldn’t be a little bigger.
Being an estate car the V60 is perfectly suited to family life. Prams, pushchairs, suitcases, shopping, it will all fit into the V60’s boot with ease. What was surprising is that despite the external proportions the rear passenger space and boot were not as generous as I had expected. They’re certainly not cramped but are far from cavernous. The boot opening is also compromised by the gently sloping roofline so if the ability to carry Chippendale sideboards is at the top of your list you should be looking at the V70 estate instead.
The interior of the V60 is nicely laid out, with comfortable leather sports seats and quality materials throughout. The door closes with a reassuring thunk and the soundproofing is superb, shutting out the hustle and bustle of the outside world. In fact it may be too effective as I’d like to be able to hear a bit more from that 6-cylinder engine. Perhaps Polestar will release a sports exhaust so that we can hear the T6’s voice a little more clearly…
Unleash The Polestar
The standard V60 T6 is hardly lacking in performance. The turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 transmits 304bhp to all four wheels via a Haldex system and six-speed automatic gearbox but tick the Polestar box on the order form and your V60 T6 is boosted to 329bhp and 354lb/ft of torque. An additional 25bhp might not seem like a lot for £660 but there’s a significant boost across the mid-range and, more importantly, your go-faster V60 gets to keep its Volvo warranty.
Once you get the chance to unleash the full potential of the Polestar you realise just how insanely quick this is for a humble estate car. If you consider that a Porsche 996 Carrera had ‘only’ 316bhp just ten years ago you start to realise just how fast a family estate can be.
The Geartronic auto box can sometimes be a little unsure of which gear it wants to be in but stamp on the throttle and it obediently drops a couple of cogs. The six-cylinder engine wakes up with a howl and the next thing you know is that your head is pinned to the ‘R-Design’ headrests. You need to keep your wits about you at this point because the needle on the speedometer swings around very quickly and before you know it that corner that seemed such a long way off is suddenly very close.
This is where the V60 struggles to disguise its bulk and if you tip it into a corner too quickly it will run wide and the ESP systems be forced to step in. It’s better to use the incredibly effective brakes to scrub off speed early, get the Volvo settled into the bend and wait for the apex. Once you’re there you can get back onto the power, letting the Haldex system dish out the power between the front and rear wheels as it sees fit. Then you get to enjoy the rush of acceleration all over again!
Running Costs. A Lot.
Now we get to the caveat. The Volvo V60 T6 Polestar is a perfect family car until you start discussing the financial implications of owning one. For a start, a basic V60 T6 will set you back £35,410, a hefty £6,715 more than the 240bhp T5.
Then you have to factor in the extras. Some you could easily do without, such as the sunroof for £870, while other choices are more difficult. That sound system is wonderful but is it really worth £1,025?
Finally you get to the clever safety gear and discover that not all of it is standard. The Driver Support Pack adds the pedestrian detection system, adaptive cruise, BLIS and LDW but costs a disappointing £1,635. You wouldn’t expect such technology to be cheap but Volvo are hardly encouraging buyers to opt for these systems that could genuinely save lives.
If you configured a V60 T6 to the same level as this press car you would have to sign a cheque for over £44,000. Ouch. Show some restraint and you could easily keep that below £40k, but it’s still an expensive car.
With CO2 emissions of 231g/km, the Volvo falls into band L on the VED scale. In the first year you’ll be shelling out £790 for the tax disc, and £425 each year after that (at 2011/12 rates).
The addicitive performance of the T6 Polestar comes at a cost, namely the frequency of your visits to the fuel pump. Official MPG figures suggest the T6 can do 28.5mpg on the combined cycle and I came close with a figure of 25.5mpg. That included some sedate motorway driving and some enthusiastic hooning.
The Final Reckoning
There is a huge amount to love about the Volvo V60 T6 Polestar. The build quality, the power, the levels of comfort, the power, the safety equipment, the power and the elegant styling. Did I mention the power?
It might not be a nimble and light-footed car to hustle around but it is devastatingly quick on a fast road. It’s a quiet and refined cruiser when you want it to be, or a howling beast with a lovely six-cylinder song when you’re in the mood for some fun.
The V60 T6’s problems all come down to the price tag and the running costs. It’s difficult to imagine a market for cars like this when unleaded petrol is over £1.40 a litre, and unless you’re a low mileage driver it’s an issue that’s hard to ignore. All is not lost if you admire the V60 and its many features. You can have a D5-powered V60 and get it chipped by Polestar up to 230bhp, which would make it fairly quick but much more frugal.
That would be a shame, though, as the T6-powered V60 is such an amusing car. If running costs are not an issue and you want to protect your family while driving them around in style and comfort then you really should go out and buy one. If you do, drop me an email when you’re considering part exchanging it for something else. I could be tempted to make you an offer.
Volvo V60 T6 Polestar Scores
|PERFORMANCE||Making the most of the blistering pace is addictive fun||10|
|HANDLING||Lots of grip and traction but weight causes issues in corners||7|
|AFFORDABILITY||Expensive to buy, expensive to run||3|
|DESIRABILITY||Looks lovely, nice alternative to obvious German candidates||9|
|DRIVING SPIRIT||Blisteringly quick, practical, safe. What more do you need in a car?||8|
Volvo V60 T6 Polestar Specifications
|Engine:||2,953cc 6-cyl Turbo|
|Kerb Weight||1,716 kg|
|Top Speed:||155 mph (limited)|
|CO2 Emissions:||231 g/km (Band L)|
|Official MPG:||28.5 mpg|
|Actual MPG:||25.5 mpg|
|Price (as tested):||£44,125*|
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*Prices taken from Volvo website, January 2012