For a long time now, Volvo has been on the outside looking in when it comes to the American market. It’s stuck in a kind of automotive limbo: Too premium to compete against brands like Acura and Infiniti, yet not quite premium enough to compete with the German imports. But things are changing fast for the sole-surviving Swedish automaker. The all-new XC90 SUV is considered by many to be one of the best new models of the year, it’s beginning construction an all-new factory in South Carolina set to open in 2018, and by then, the company hopes to have eight new models on the market.
While we wait for this new, more competitive Volvo to take shape, next year we can expect to get an influx of the brand’s current models hotrodded Swedish style – a lot more of them, in fact. Taking a page out of the Mercedes-AMG playbook, the company has bought longtime performance partner Polestar, and to celebrate, it will increase the amount of go-fast Volvos to upwards of 1,500 cars for 2016, up from 750 this year. And of those cars, we can expect 265 of them to come our way, a healthy jump from the 120 that we got for 2015.
The Polestar cars, versions of Volvo’s S60, and V60 (sedan and wagon, respectively), will be largely unchanged from 2015. Both cars are powered by Volvo’s 345 horsepower turbocharged inline-six, and are outfitted with a number of chassis and aerodynamic upgrades that help the Rebel Blue cars scramble from zero to 60 in 4.5 seconds. The Sedan starts at $59,700 while the wagon, with extra room to bring the kids and dog along to track day will set you back at least $61,300.
Volvo has never exactly had its M5 equivalent, but that doesn’t mean that the the Polestar cars are the safety car company’s first try at performance. Early PV455 cars were an established presence in rallying throughout Europe and the U.S., there were a number of GT model cars available in the ’60s and ’70s, and the company famously compared its turbocharged 700 series models to Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris in the ’80s. In the 90’s, the company began to get serious with the 850 T-5R, a Porsche-tuned sport sedan that produced 243 horsepower and scramble from zero to 60 in under six seconds.
But while the company’s years under the Ford umbrella ensured that there was no funny business, Polestar has had a strong racing presence in Europe for decades, and since the company started building factory-backed road cars in 2010 (the same year Volvo was acquired by Chinese company Geely), things have been getting a lot more interesting around Gothenburg.
Today, nearly every automaker worth its salt has a go-fast engineering department. BMW has its M-division, Nissan has Nismo, Ford has SVT, Mercedes-Benz has AMG, and the list goes on. Try as it might, Volvo has never exactly been thought of as a performance company, and so far, the limited availability of the Polestar cars has done little to turn this around. But if its commitment to performance is as focused as the development of an all-new lineup, and growth in the U.S. market, the Swedes could become a force to be reckoned with in no time at all.
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