2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design first drive review: More power by Polestar

2012n Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design

2012n Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design, power by Polestar

If comedian Tim Allen were Swedish, instead of “more power,” he would say “mer kraft.” If he were driving the 2012 Volvo XC60 and he had more power, he’d say “Polestar.”

Polestar, as we’ve noted earlier, is Volvo’s official performance partner, and in addition to racing Volvos in touring car competition in Sweden and Europe, Polestar recently has been developing performance modifications for Volvo production models. These modifications, primarily changes in vehicle control software, are designed so they don’t increase emissions or decrease fuel economy, and don’t affect the warranty on the vehicle.

In fact, Volvo is selling Polestar-equipped models right off the showroom floor, including the C30 coupe, the XC60 and XC70 crossovers and the C60 hardtop retractable convertible. We recently had the opportunity for a first drive with several of these models and this is a report on the 2012 Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design by Polestar.

The Volvo XC60 is Volvo’s most popular model, and is the vehicle that killed the Volvo V70, at least in the United States. America’s love affair with the crossover-type vehicle superseded the Volvo owner’s affection for the station wagon, which at one time had large percent of total Volvo sales. In its last year, however, V70 sales had slipped to a mere 1,816. The U.S. didn’t get the V60 either, a sport wagon based on the Volvo S60.

Instead, we get the Volvo XC60, a five-place station wagon stand-in with a raised ride height. The 2012 Volvo XC60 is offered in three basic versions, with added equipment levels within each one. The standard model is the XC60 3.2, powered by a naturally-aspirated in-line six set transversely and driving the front wheels (all-wheel drive optional). Pricing starts at $33,300, plus $875 destination fee.

Next up is the Volvo XC60 T6 AWD, which as its name suggests adds turbocharging and standard all-wheel drive. Prices start to $39,450 for the standard version and up to $43,900 for the Platinum model

That’s topped by the Volvo SC60 T6 R-Design, also turbocharged but with the screw turned up a little tighter. The price, naturally, is higher a swell, running from $43,700 to $48,215.

2012n Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design

2012n Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design, power by Polestar

The standard 2012 XC60 T6 is no slouch when it comes to performance with 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque but the Polestar modifications boost that to a peak of 325 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque.

The big thing that the Polestar tuning does is lift the cap of the torque curve. The engine control module tuning increases turbo boost, changes spark timing, fuel-mixture and “several other parameters”, and speeds throttle response by recalibrating throttle mapping.  Where the standard turbo six levels off at 2000 to 4200 rpm, the Polestar torque curves continues upwards, maxing at about 3200 rpm, at no time dropping below torque production of the standard engine at any rpm..

It’s torque that makes acceleration, of course, but the unfettered torque limit fattens the power curve beginning about 2400 rpm.

What does this mean to the driver? Volvo says the 0-60 mph acceleration time drops by 0.3 seconds over the stock T6 engine, from 6.9 to 6.3 seconds. That doesn’t sound like a great increase in performance, but the added torque can be felt around town as a more responsive engine. In fact, the turbo rush, which had been eliminated via the stock electronic tuning, returns. It makes the Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design more playful.