Volvo wants Polestar to rival the likes of Mercedes-AMG and BMW M, so does its S60 - not available in the UK - show there is hope for the future?

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This is one of two full-fat fast cars in the Polestar range, the other being the V60. The Sweden-based tuning specialist was bought outright by Volvo in July 2015 and has outlined its ambition to be a stand-alone brand, separate from its parent company, to one day rival the likes of Mercedes-AMG, BMW's M division and Audi' Sport.

But while the S60 Polestar has been on sale on the Continent since April and will now be sold in the Middle East as well, it isn't coming to the UK, unlike its estate sibling.

The S60 Polestar ultimately doesn’t offer the same driver engagement as its AMG or M stablemates

This, though, is the first time we’ve got behind the wheel of a full production version of the S60 Polestar, and while you can’t buy it over here, it offers a taste of what’s to come from the Swedes on these shores as Polestar plots to be a major player in the ever-growing performance segment.

The S60 packs 345bhp and 369lb ft of torque from its 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine and is paired with a six-speed automatic gearbox, but this set-up; has been replaced by a more efficient 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and eight-speed gearbox which together help the S60 and V60 get its 362bhp power on the tarmac. Volvo even states that Polestar has made more than 70 modifications and upgrades to the turbocharged 2.0-litre unit.

The S60 Polestar is fairly ferocious but remarkably composed, and on this showing there’s reason to be optimistic for the future. It isn’t that sharp off the line, but keep engine revs above 3000rpm and it pulls tremendously well up to the limiter, delivering a pleasingly rorty engine tone along the way. 

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The sharpened chassis – which is some 80 per cent stiffer than that of the T6 R-Design on which it’s based – gives the car a composed high-speed ride without feeling too rigid when you carry some pace through corners.

The all-wheel drive system helps to give the car a surefooted feel, while grip at the standard 20in wheels is impressive across quick, winding roads, and the steering is weighted consistently enough to help attack corners with confidence and verve.

The gearbox doesn’t miss a beat, delivering quick changes through the paddle shifts in manual mode, or smoothly pushing you along in automatic. Downshifts, when the gearbox is left to its own devices, aren’t quite so smooth or intuitive, though, so pushing on along back roads is best done in manual mode. 

Inside the cabin, the Volvo S60 is comfortable and luxurious, without being lavish, and it's specced up to the eyeballs, with plenty of safety kit thrown in. The dash is a bit cluttered with buttons, though, and the multimedia screen could do with being a bit bigger to make it easier to read. 

On the equipment front, the S60 is certainly fully loaded with luxuries such as leather sports seats, suede interior trim, climate control, xenon headlights, rear-view camera and parking sensors all included in the package. There is also a 7.0in screen Sensus infotainment system paired to a Harman and Kardon stereo system, complete with DAB radio, sat nav, Bluetooth and a hard drive for storage.

But for all its laudable engineering, the S60 Polestar simply doesn’t offer the fun of its German rivals. On the one hand, the impressive refinement, sure handling and smooth acceleration make this a versatile saloon that’s easy to live with.

You’d have to travel to the Continent to acquire one of these hot saloons right now, and with more Polestar projects in the pipeline you’d be wise to hold off to see what happens when it delivers a full-blooded assault on the UK performance market.

The S60 Polestar's price point puts it in a no-man's land between quick executive saloons and full-blooded super-saloons. It’s considerably more expensive (and faster) than a BMW 340i, for example, but usefully cheaper than BMW an M3 or a Mercedes-AMG C63. Dynamically, it remains some distance short of its rivals, too.

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Having said that, the S60 is a valiant first effort that will appeal to those seeking an off-piste alternative to the much-praised but more commonplace top-end rivals, and Germany will no doubt be keeping a close eye on its Scandinavian counterpart.

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Volvo S60 Polestar 2014-2017 First drives