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Polestar Engineered peformance package debuts on the S60.

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Bye-bye Rebel Blue. Love it or loathe it, the eye-popping blue hue that distinguishes Volvo’s hot-rodded Polestar models has officially retired, as the Swedish automaker evolves Polestar from in-house speed shop to a brand in its own right – with an emphasis on electrification.

This all flows from Volvo’s announcement last summer that, starting in 2019, its entire portfolio would be electrified – either hybrid, plug-in hybrid or full electric. About the same time, it revealed Polestar Performance, a stand-alone brand of electrified high-end vehicles, starting with the plug-in hybrid Polestar 1 coupe.

Now, the unveiling of the redesigned S60 compact sport sedan reveals another facet of Polestar’s future, still within the Volvo brand: a “Polestar Engineered” performance package that will be available only on the top-of-line T8 (i.e., plug-in hybrid) model. The package debuts on the S60 but will also become available next year on the T8 versions of V60 wagon and XC60 crossover.

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Pricing isn’t set yet for the S60 T8 and Polestar, but we do know the regular S60 range will start at $42,400 for the FWD T5, which is powered by a 2.0-litre, 250-hp four-cylinder turbocharged engine; three trims of the AWD, 316-hp, turbo- and supercharged T6 will range from $47,400 to $53,900. The T5 and T6 will go on sale this fall and the T8s next year. All S60s will be built exclusively at Volvo’s new plant near Charleston, S.C.

The Polestar package will amp up the athleticism of an S60 sedan lineup that already places a strong emphasis on sportiness across the board. “It’s a big step in the dynamic direction,” project director Patrik Widerstrand said of the 2019 model. This trend acknowledges that, amidst the mania for crossovers, those buyers who remain loyal to sedans do so in large part because sedans are more athletic and engaging to drive than taller, heavier crossovers.

In the case of the S60 T8 Polestar, the straight-line performance boost is relatively modest – combined gasoline/electric power grows from 400 hp to 415 hp, which trims the 0-97-km/h time to 4.3 seconds from 4.4 seconds. The gains all come from software tweaks on the 2.0-litre gasoline engine; there are no upgrades to the 10.4-kWh battery or 65-kW electric motor which give the PHEV an electric range of about 34 km.

More significant are the chassis upgrades: Brembo brakes with 6-piston calipers and slotted rotors; special adjustable Ohlins coil-over dampers; and squat 235/40 tires on 19-inch wheels. Visible parts such as the brake calipers and dampers are now painted gold – “the new hallmark colour for Polestar Engineered components.”

The Volvo/Polestar story is a lot like the evolution of the relationship between AMG and Mercedes-Benz. Polestar began as an independent speed shop specializing in Volvo, then became a factory-approved modifier of Volvos, then was purchased by Volvo and now is also a stand-alone brand building unique cars under its own label.

The Polestar 1 halo vehicle will be priced at US$155,000 when it comes to market next year. Described as an “electric car supported by an internal combustion engine,” its combination of gas engine and electric motors will supply a claimed 600 hp and an all-electric range of 150 km. The P1 coupe will be joined in due course by Polestar 2, a compact sedan, and Polestar 3, a crossover, both pure electrics.

Polestar Performance, as the car company is called, is a direct subsidiary of Geely, the Chinese company that also owns Volvo itself, and the Polestar cars will be built in China. Adding intrigue to the whole plot, Geely also recently acquired a controlling stake in Lotus, the British sports-car maker that is renowned for its chassis-tuning sorcery, evident both on its own cars and on others that over the decades have benefitted from Lotus’s consulting engineering business.

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The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.

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