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Volvo V40 T5 Polestar – The feistiest Volvo around

POSTED BY Amirul Hazmi ON 26 April 2017

It is common practice for automakers to put the technology used in motorsports into their passenger cars. Modern touches such as steering-mounted paddle-shifters, electronically-controlled adaptive dampers and lightweight construction are all result of racing know-how that have been adapted to the everyday car.

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While BMW and Mercedes-Benz have their respective M and AMG line of vehicles, Volvo – one of the largest producers of plug-in hybrid cars in Europe – have the Polestar brand as part of its racing arm. The Volvo-Polestar relationship started back in 1996 but the Swedish carmaker soon bought Polestar in July 2015.

Polestar is now the label for Volvo’s high performance cars and the company has been revising many of its standard models to come up with more powerful and aggressive machines.

So, how did Polestar spice up the base V40 T5 five-door hatchback? Motorme.my drove one to find out.

Appearance

At a glance, the V40 T5 Polestar does not seem to appear too loud or striking. No aggressive bumpers with large front air intakes or motorsport-derived stripes to make up for its name.

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Instead, the Polestar Performance Optimization package gives the V40 black door mirrors, a rear spoiler, rear diffuser, dual exhaust tips with Polestar lettering and unique Polestar 19-inch wheels. Volvo claims that the lightweight (and wider) wheels reduce a substantial amount of unsprung weight at each of the four corners, resulting to an increased performance in acceleration, braking and cornering.

On another note, Volvo said that despite having wheels that are two inches bigger than the standard model, the carefully-chosen low-profile tyres retain the overall perimeter of the rolling rubbers, thus ensuring precise calibration on the speedometer and other related readings.

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Overall, the Polestar exterior treatment gives the V40 T5 a sporty yet subtle look with clean, neat details all over the car.

Cabin

Polestar does not leave the interior untouched. This V40 is equipped with a Polestar-branded gear knob, aluminium sports pedals and aluminium door sills that bear the Polestar logo.

All seats and the steering wheel are leather-wrapped, and the buttons and knobs fitted to the latter have a good feel to them. There are also shiny aluminium bits on the door panels, steering wheel, air-con vents and centre console that aid in making the interior feel more luxurious and exciting.

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To me, I really like the rear seats that come with identical headrests as the front as it makes the interior appear sporty and stylish. The seating position at the rear is pretty snug and the rather high windows give an impression of sitting close to the floor event though the rear seats are actually higher than the front.

Powertrain

Opening the hood of the V40 will reveal a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine. Along with the T5 Drive-E powerplant, Polestar enhancements include a sports air filter, air box lid and a full stainless steel exhaust system. These exclusive parts bump the power output to 253hp (from 245hp) and help produce 400Nm (from 350Nm) of torque. Mated to the engine is an Aisin-sourced eight-speed automatic transmission.

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Behind the wheel

Driving the V40 T5 Polestar is a positive yet strange experience as while you know you are driving a sedate hatchback, you are constantly aware of the car’s potent capabilities.

The car is easy to drive and the engine is noticeably quiet. However, the Polestar-tuned shock absorbers and coil springs further reflect the car’s sporty chassis. The ride is far from bone-shattering but very firm.

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Cornering is the V40’s best asset. As clichéd as it may sound, the overall damping and suspension tuning provides the driver with a high level of confidence into bends. There’s barely any body roll felt when I throw the car into a hard corner. Mid-corner feels very balanced though this may be due to the aggressive 235/35 Pirelli P Zero rubbers that are more than capable of ensuring the sporty hatchback stays in check.

The steering wheel design could be sportier, in line with the other aspects of the car. However, in terms of steering feel, it is nicely-weighted and matches wonderfully with the other controls such as the throttle and brake pedals. I’m sure the settings can be adjusted via the My Car menu on the centre console (similar to the S60 T6) but I was too busy enjoying and focusing on the drive.

The 2.0-litre T5 Drive-E engine – despite being turbocharged – delivers its power pretty smoothly. The power is not explosive, but it has the punchiness to push the car when called upon. I suspect the engine has a wide torque curve, engineered to increase driveability and return decent fuel economy.

The TG-81SC eight-speeder shifts through the gears swiftly and quite engagingly. In this respect, Polestar’s comprehensive treatment improves the gearshift timing and response. This is particularly apparent when I downshift as the car reacts in no time and is ready to deliver its power while I exited corners.

Polestar’s stainless steel full exhaust system produces a wonderful throaty note, one that even managed to attract my neighbour’s attention, who then came to ask about the car.

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It is worth highlighting that despite all the sports-focused equipment, the V40 T5 Polestar comes with a coasting function. At highway speeds, when you lift the throttle pedal for more than a few seconds, the clutch will automatically disengage. This substantially improves the car’s fuel consumption as the engine revs minimally when you don’t need the power.

Speaking of fuel consumption, carefully modulate your driving style and you will get yourself a respectable figure. The Drive-E works its magic to help the engine operate as efficiently as possible. During the drive, I managed to obtain between 13km per litre to 17.2km per litre.

Verdict

In general, Polestar’s cosmetic and performance giveaways really make the V40 come alive and a blast to drive. The Rebel Blue coil-over sports springs and aggressive wheels contribute greatly to the driving experience and easily made the car one of the sportiest five-door hatchbacks I have ever driven.

The sheer performance is on par with what is available from BMW’s M Performance package or Mercedes’ AMG Line.

You tend to drive the V40 T5 Polestar fast and you will be eager to find the next corner. The driving experience is exciting and will always encourage you to look forward to the next drive.