Volvo S60 test drive

The 2019 Volvo S60 Engineered by Polestar is an instant collectible

Weird name, good car. Our first drive review.

The Volvo S60 Engineered by Polestar is an instant collectible. That kind of statement warrants a lot of explanation, so we'll start with the how. Only 20 copies are being released into the United States. Yes, 20. Two-zero. And you can't own it even if you're one of the lucky score. The top version of the S60 is only available through the Care by Volvo all-inclusive lease program–which includes insurance and maintenance–at a price of $1100 per month. That kind of rarity, and at least a two-year delay until cars get into private hands, ensures that these car will always be special.

What, then, is the S60 Engineered by Polestar? We'll start with the S60, the newest form of Volvo's midsize (and entry-level) sedan and the first vehicle to be assembled in the company's new South Carolina plant. The S60 completes Volvo’s rebirth under Chinese parent company Geely, which began with the 2015 XC90 SUV. With this car, and the equivalent V60 wagon, Volvo's lineup consists of 3 SUVs, 2 sedans, and 2 wagons (plus lifted-and-clad Cross Country versions).

2019 Volvo S60 Polestar front 3/4

All U.S.-market Volvos come in one of three powertrain variations: T5 has a turbocharged inline-four; T6 is the same engine with an added supercharger; T8 throws in a plug-in hybrid system with an electric motor adding power to the rear wheels.

The S60 Engineered by Polestar takes the T8 trim, which normally makes 400 total horsepower, and adds 15 hp and 22 pound-feet to torque to the gas engine. Polestar cars also get a front tower brace, gold Brembo calipers squeezing lightweight two-piece front rotors, and non-adjustable Öhlins dampers.

2019 Volvo S60 Polestar wheel detail
2019 Volvo S60 Polestar badge
2019 Volvo S60 Polestar interior

 At first the single-setting dampers seem like as much of a mystery as the arbitrarily-low volume. Aren't extra-sporty versions of modern cars supposed to have a multitude of selectable settings? The answer according to Polestar is no. It's a bold stance when most other automakers follow each other into an endless spiral of increasing variables that offer less and less subjective improvement. To quote Ron Swanson: "Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing." 

And that's where the S60 Engineered by Polestar makes user customization look stupid, because it delivers excellence in body control and handling. Driving around the canyon roads inland of Malibu, California, the Volvo flows from corner to corner, never bouncing or coming unsettled. Pushing hard into a curve leads to understeer, as you'd expect with a nose-heavy Swedish sedan, but not so much to ruin the fun. The stopping power is impressive, especially in the blending between regenerative braking.

2019 Volvo S60 Polestar front
2019 Volvo S60 polestar rear 3/4

The T8 powertrain also eliminates the biggest drawback in new Volvos; the electric motor fills in where the engine and transmission lag in the T5 and T6. Mash the accelerator, and this S60 moves with the same linear smoothness that describes the rest of its dynamic behavior. The steering is the only place where this car is perhaps too smooth. It's an unfortunate circumstance of many modern cars, but the Volvo would be better if the steering forces built up more in proportion to cornering speed.

What the S60 Engineered by Polestar gives you is good driving without all the fussiness common to modern cars. It seem like an antiquated idea, but as many Hagerty readers know there is a distinct pleasure, luxury even, in automotive simplicity. Of course, you'd expect that from a Swede with a clean, three-box exterior design and an uncluttered interior.

2019 Volvo S60 Polestar in grey charging

The S60 isn't quite so simple as to avoid all modern trappings, but it is straightforward. Take the drive mode selector in the center console, which toggles between EV-maximized Pure, standard Hybrid, low-traction AWD, and sporty Power. If you insist, you can set an individual mode to customize the power steering assist, powertrain characteristics, and brakes setting. Dive deeper and the S60 comes with all the major electronic safety and convenience settings, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection. Everything is accessed through the center infotainment screen, which requires a short learning curve to master but follows a simple scheme: a home screen with major and recent systems arranged in four stacked tiles, driver assist systems one screen to the left, audio inputs and other functions one screen to the right, and swipe down to find the settings.

2019 Volvo S60 Polestar driving front 3/4

The S60 Engineered by Polestar is attractive, comfortable, fast, and even goes 21 miles on battery power alone. Which only makes the low volume for the 2019 model year more confusing. Volvo made a great car that essentially nobody can have. A few more people will get a crack at Polestar glory with upcoming versions of the V60 and XC60. Those not included in the lucky few will have to make do with the more obtainable S60 T8 (base price: $64,895 if you were wondering). Given the overall goodness of the Engineered by Polestar and its similarity to standard T8, you can tell yourself it's basically the same thing. Heck, there are only 20 people in the United States that can prove you wrong.