Volvo builds a Ford Focus RS beater - but it's only a concept for now

What is it?

The Polestar concept is either a bit of a tease from the company behind Volvo's Swedish Touring Car effort – or an early look at a new direction for the brand's faster products after the recent divorce from Ford.

The Polestar concept made its debut at the recent Gothenburg Motor Show, and was developed by the same team responsible for Volvo's entry in the Swedish Touring Car Championship.

In essence it's a fantasy hot hatch, built from an enthusiastic raid on the corporate parts bin and with performance intended to show up rivals – including that of the Focus RS.

The concept gets a mega-tweaked version of the 2.5-litre Volvo T5 engine that also powers the Ford, claimed to knock out 400bhp and – with drive delivered to all corners via a Haldex clutch and two clever diffs – the Polestar is also claimed to be capable of demolishing the 0-62mph benchmark in just 4.6 seconds.

What's it like?

In a word, quick. In two words, naffing quick. The engine's banzai ECU gives it a relatively narrow power band, but once the turbo spins up it delivers impressively forceful acceleration that feels more than a match for the brash claims made by the spec sheet.

Despite its provenance as a showcar, the Polestar has been engineered to be driven hard, with a reinforced bodyshell, race-spec suspension, monster brakes and even some aerodynamic tweaks intended to produce downforce at speed. The six-speed transmission has had its ratios rejigged, and talks to the wheels via a race-spec clutch.

On Volvo's tight, cresty test track in Gothenburg it delivered an impressively lashed-down driving experience, with massive adhesion, telepathic steering and a neutral chassis balance that makes it easy to find the sweet spot between understeer and (mild) oversteer.

Good manners are underwritten by the all-paw chassis, and the concept seems to genuinely enjoy being driven quickly. Dynamically it feels like a well-sorted Mitsubishi Evo. Even, whisper it, a junior version of the Nissan GT-R.

Flaws? Well leaving aside the Polestar's slight lack of production viability, it's fair to report that not all of it feels up to road-going standards.

The cabin feels aftermarket-downmarket, with Alcantara swathing almost every surface, the rear-biased brakes would be too extreme for everyday use and we're not really convinced the XXL chassis settings would stand up to the scrutiny of a proper British B-road...

Should I buy one?

You're very unlikely to get the chance. Polestar admits that a production version of its C30 is a long shot – not least because it would need to wear a pricetag of over £40,000 to be viable.

But what it does show is that Polestar is serious about becoming Volvo's equivalent to RenaultSport, or even BMW's M-Division. And on the evidence of this C30 – and newly-divorced Volvo's clear desire to add some excitement to its brand – that would probably be a good thing.

Mike Duff

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VX220EDDIE 22 May 2010

Re: Volvo C30 Polestar Concept

Volvo build this car i'd buy one as it looks awesome :)

mfe 22 May 2010

Re: Volvo C30 Polestar Concept

So much brand snobery on these pages ! Lets hope that Hyundai produce a hot I30 with a 2.0 turbo 4x4 and 450BHP priced at £25000 with class leading chassis that blows all this overpriced tat into the weeds and zips the mouths of all the snobs out there ! It should be about the car not who makes it ! I like all good cars ! The RS Focus is one and so would this Volvo if it ever gets made !

mikesalt13 21 May 2010

Re: Volvo C30 Polestar Concept

beachland2 wrote:

the next standard RS is going to be 4wd.. it will be better than the RS500. for sure.

Is that the hybrid with the 2.0 T driving the front wheels and motors driving the rear wheels? In theory it sounds like a good idea, particularly that you can actually use the middle rear seat since there is no transmission tunnel. However, petrol turbo engines and brushless electric motors have very different torque and power curves. I think that the front/rear torque and power biasing curves could have some very perculiar swings, which may leave the on-limit handling to be unpredictable to say the least.