Volvo will launch high-performance versions of its new S90 saloon and forthcoming V90 estate, carrying Polestar badging and featuring hybrid powertrains, the company’s boss has revealed.
The new Volvo S90 was revealed today, with the standard Volvo V90 estates set to be revealed early next year. The Swedish brand’s new flagship saloon - which sits on the same Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) as the XC90 SUV - is designed to take on the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes E-Class and Audi A6, as well as the Jaguar XF.
All of those executive saloon rivals have hot versions, though - and the German brands in particular sell a wide range of add ons and suspension and body kits branded with their respective performance divisions. Volvo now owns its Polestar division, which grew from its involvement in the Swedish Touring Car Championship, and is seeking to expand its remit.
Volvo must follow its rivals, according to the company’s boss Håkan Samuelsson. “You could have a high-performance variant [of the S90] without leaving the brand,” he said. “You could still have a nice car with smart design and functionality, but what’s wrong with a little performance?
“Right now we have the S60 and V60 as Polestar variants, and we believe in the [Polestar] brand - that’s why we bought it. So now we’re looking at using it more on performance cars within the family.”
Samuelsson also suggested that Polestar’s future direction would include hybrid models: “How we bring the brand to market is open, but one way we are definitely looking at is for Polestar to focus on electrification.”
That comment was supported by Volvo’s R&D chief Peter Mertens, who said, “Polestar will still be sophisticated performance; it’s not just a case of doing a ‘boy racer’ by dropping a big engine in there. Hybrid power is the direction that Polestar will go in. In a way, Tesla has legitimised electric performance, although Polestar will be more sophisticated again. We want to be able to offer high performance without regrets.”
The UK market is likely to favour a V90 Polestar mega-wagon over the fast saloon variant. Indeed, the V60 Polestar is sold in the UK but the S60 is not.
“If you look at what Audi does with its fast wagons then it is an interesting proposition,” said Volvo UK managing director Nick Connor. “I’d say a wagon is more likely for us than a Polestar version of the S90, because we have the heritage there from our days with the 850 in the British Touring Car Championship, but we know we must get our core models right before we go out and play.”
Connor also highlighted the current conflict between Volvo’s current environmental-led image and its Polestar division. However, he said the growing interest in hybrid vehicles, and Volvo’s commitment to sell a plug-in hybrid version of every car it launches, could help to tie the two sides together.
“Polestar optimising the T8 hybrid powertrain would be very interesting,” he said. “That would present a very interesting technical solution, with the ultimate power being combined with an environmental powertrain.
“Look at what Tesla have done with things like Ludicrous mode. The Tesla Model S isn’t a performance car, but by adding in elements of performance they have got people talking about it as if it is.”