What is Polestar? Well, unless you’re an astronomer or a Boy Scout, it’s Volvo’s official high performance and racing partner and has been since 1996. The reason you probably have never heard of them is because (a) Polestar has raced in European touring car series that receive little coverage or attention in North America, and (b) the high performance parts made and sold in Europe have not yet been sold over here.
That’s changing. Not only will Polestar parts be available over the counter at your friendly Volvo parts department, but you’ll also be able to buy Volvos fully Polestar equipped, fully certified and warrantied, and just as clean and fuel efficient as lesser Volvos.
It’s not something that Volvo gave lightly. Volvo has a long legacy of racing, with privately owned Volvo sedans entering—and winning—races in the U.S. back into the Fifties. Polestar’s immediate history, however, dates to name change in 2005 from a racing effort that started in 1996 in the Swedish Touring Car Championship, a copy of the better know British Touring Car Championship. Jan “Flash” Nilsson, started Flash Engineering, and with Volvo support entered the STTC in a Volvo 850.
The team evolved through different owners, racers and race series, as these things often do. The team took a big step up, however, competing with a Volvo S60 the European touring car championship with it was started in 2002.
Volvo support was increased in 2004, with “Flash” leaving the company, which was then taken over by Christian Dahl. The name change to Polestar—a play on the company’s Nordic heritage and racing’s “pole position”—was followed by a move to Gothenburg in 2006 to be closer to Volvo company headquarters.
In 2007, E85 fuel was allowed in the STCC, which Polestar and Volvo had “collaborated in promoting,” and with the new ethanol engines Volvo finished second in the championship standings. The racing program was expanded the following year by adding the Volvo C30 to the effort, and in 2009, Polestar appropriately took all of the pole positions and won half of the races. Not surprisingly, Polestar took STCC team and driver championships, and there was a repeat for 2010.
Polestar produced its first concept car based on a Volvo C30 that year as well, and Polestar “power optimizations” were introduced to a number of new markets.
For 2011, racing continued in the STCC and the World Touring Car Championship. And for 2012, Polestar expands to North America, offering parts for upgrading older to current Volvo models, as well as spec’ing out new 2012 Volvo models, with special Polestar versions of the Volvo XC60, Volvo XC70, Volvo C30 and the special Volvo S60 Signature model.
The Polestar tuning kit—Volvo calls it a “performance software package”—is available now for 2011-2012 models with the above models with the T6 engine, adding 25 horsepower and 30 lb-ft of torque for a total of 325 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. Volvo says the software upgrade doesn’t affect fuel consumption, and we quote, “as the efficient tuning of the engine only increases the power output when it is needed.”
We actually doubt anyone really needs the extra power output, and we suspect the extra horsepower will be tapped into more than occasionally. So laboratory mileage may not vary, but for those who have spent $1,495 for the upgrade aren’t likely to be as feather-footed as the EPA test cycle.
And even astronomers and Boy Scouts would have trouble dealing with that kind of temptation.