Whilst we’re waiting…..
I don’t know how much noise it’s made overseas, but here in Australia, the motoring wires have been buzzing this week due to the arrival of a limited edition Volvo S60 tuned by Volvo’s racing partners, Polestar. This package has been put together specifically for the Australian market and Volvo Cars Australia will only sell 50 of them, each of the cars individually numbered.
A quick description, from the Fairfax press here in Australia:
Under the bonnet is the same 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbocharged engine in the T6 model, albeit tweaked to deliver an extra 18kW of power (242kW or 325hp) and a torque boost of 40Nm (to 480Nm) thanks to software upgrades.
It even matches its donor car’s official fuel use and emissions figures of 10.2 litres per 100 kilometres and 243g/km CO2. We managed 11.3L/100km during our time behind the wheel, including spirited driving through tight, twisting roads around Wollemi National Park in New South Wales.
Despite the performance gains, the official numbers again fail to live up to the car’s real-world abilities. At 5.8 seconds, it might only manage a 0-100km/h time of just 0.3 seconds less than the regular S60 T6, but it’s the Polestar’s impressive rolling acceleration that is likely to have buyers hand over the extra cash.
Unlike the US version, the Australian S60 Polestar is the only one of its kind in the world to receive stiffer springs for even sharper handling over the sporty T6 R Design. The Stateside version doesn’t get the sports exhaust system, bigger wheels or lower ride height either.
It sounds to me like the other Swede might be using us far away Aussies as guinea pigs for a wider rollout. Fair enough.
So why am I writing about an admittedly impressive-sounding Volvo here at Inside Saab?
There was a time, not so long ago, when Saab were the undisputed sporting choice for the Swedish car buyer. This goes right back to the earliest days of Saab, with their lightweight, tossable chassis and high-revving stroker engines. It continued through the days of the 99Turbo, the 900T 16V and even the 9000 Aero and 9-3 Viggen. By those later stages, however, Volvo were beginning to shed their block-of-flats design language and were starting to include some performance versions of their own. I still observe some of those early ‘R’ wagons with a degree of admiration.
Saab’s most recent quasi-performance edition was the 2008 Saab 9-3 Turbo X, a car that received a sitting ovation, mostly due to tamer-than-expected performance attributes. People expected the Turbo X’s output to be significantly raised over the standard 9-3 Aero V6 due to the addition of the XWD system. The truth of the matter turned out to be that the Turbo X was much more about XWD than it was about flat-out performance.
I have a feeling that the enthusiast set – me included – will come to appreciate the Turbo X much more as time passes, because it IS a great performing car on the road, even if the numbers on paper aren’t significantly different to other models. I know whenever I see one that I stop and stare, and my guess is that others do, too.
But back to the point…..
The S60 Polestar is a factory built collaboration between Volvo and Polestar, offered by Volvo Australia with the full Volvo three-year, unlimited kilometer warranty. It’s selling here in Australia for just over A$80,000 (previous S60R models from nearly 10 years ago sold for $20K more than that). All things considered, that’s a decent package.
I’d like to send a challenge out to Saab’s engineers and marketers – let’s not let Volvo have this ground to themselves.
Saab has the perfect performance partner, Hirsch Performance, from Switzerland.
Anyone who’s driven a car enhanced with Hirsch Performance gear knows that it’s a wonderfully integrated package that looks fantastic and drives even better than it looks. I first drove a Hirsch Saab 9-5 around 5 years ago and it was wonderfully, deliciously brutal when you wanted it to be, while still retaining all of the smooth qualities of the 9-5.
Saab has had a lot to contend with in the last two years – the carve-out from General Motors, the launch of the Saab 9-5 and 9-4x, and of course there are the severe troubles that the company has faced during 2011 and the immediate threat we face to our continued existence. We need to focus on getting past these obstacles and getting back on our feet.
I can’t help but think, however, that a project like the integration of Hirsch Performance into our factory offerings would instil a bit more pride, a bit more fight, into the Saab brand once we’re back on our feet. I know there are people in the upper echelon at Saab who are interested in these thoughts, too. As mentioned, though, we’ve just had too much on our plate in recent times to take it further.
We simply can’t let the ball-bearing manufacturers from Gothenburg have the fun side of Swedish motoring all to themselves. Can we?
The good news is that Saab did start working on greater use of Hirsch products with the 9-3 Independence Edition Convertible. I know there have been problems with those being built due to our current circumstances, but it’s still a step in the right direction for greater Saab-Hirsch integration.
The Saab 9-3 Griffin, using the new direct-injected 2.0T engine would be the perfect canvas for Saab and Hirsch to collaborate and produce a feisty product that could get some tongues wagging and a price point comparable to that S60 Polestar.
Just a little food for thought……