2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar
2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar
2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar
2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

As a country, Sweden has given us so much. Why, there’s the music of ABBA, for instance, or perhaps Stockholm Syndrome.

Then there’s the concept of IKEA, a store where you pay through the nose to take distinctly unsturdy furniture home and assemble it yourself using a tiny metal hockey stick; a place where you can have a four-alarm marital conflagration over which colour of Flumpenflörp to buy, and then go sit in the canteen, glowering at each other over steaming plates of Penupenhammen and Hgrykûürmmen.

Hmm. On second thought, perhaps Canada should sue for reparations.

But I digress. When it comes to the automotive sector, Sweden has bestowed three gifts upon the world: the screaming insanity of Koenigsegg; the slightly milder turbocharged nuttery of the now-defunct Saab; and the no-nonsense-please Volvo.

Ah, Volvo. The very name conjures up a steaming cup of Ovaltine and a warm wooly cardigan, your feet up on a reclaimed-wood coffee table and an entire hour of pan-flute music on CBC Radio Three to look forward to. A safe car. An unchallenging car. A car designed by stacking a few leftover Ikea boxes on top of each other and slapping a “Coexist” bumper sticker out back.

It’s a persistent stereotype, despite the fact that Volvo hasn’t built a car like this for nearly two decades. Volvo stopped making the boxy 240 series in 1993, but despite cars like the turbocharged 850R, T-5R, and S60R, and despite various touring-car racing and an early history of rallying success, the public opinion of Volvo seems to echo the old Dudley Moore line: “They’re boxy, but they’re safe.”

The silver sedan you see before you is anything but boxy, but the styling could be called safe. It’s a pretty good look overall, less squinty than a BMW 3-series, and far less bulbous and badge-forward than the just-released Mercedes C-Class.

The S60’s sheet metal is mostly new for 2014, with a new hood and fenders taking shape around a wider grille, and new headlights with integrated LED daytime running lights. Out back, the exhaust pipes are now integrated – just like a Lexus or Mercedes – but at least the L-shaped Volvo taillights remain to provide a bit of Volvo originality. They remind me a bit of the old Quebec Nordiques emblem.

From the side, however, and from a distance, the S60 looks a bit anonymous, a bit like the Euro-Fords with which it shares a platform. Of course, these days a Fusion looks like an Aston-Martin, and a Focus looks like a catfish that’s just received some terrible news, and the chassis underpinning the S60 is actually only shared with the Europe-only Mondeo. My point is, the Volvo kinda’ blends into the background, especially in this colour.

2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar
2014 Volvo S60 T6 Polestar. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the S60 can boast a relaxing, comfortable interior that was award-winning several years ago. The seats are great, particularly as my tester came equipped with the sport versions that had a bit of that old fast-Volvo magic.

However, let “several years ago” be a bit of a clue here. The S60’s controls and layout aren’t as cutting edge as those found in any of the competing German sedans, and while I can’t speak to the ease of use of the navigation system – as this car, despite the $50K+ price tag, didn’t come with it – I can mention that the seven-inch non-touchscreen display took a second or two to boot up on ignition. While there was optional wood inlay and a modicum of metal finishing, it’s as reserved in here as it is outside.

Happily, that means everything pretty much works the way you’d expect. There are dials for volume and tuning on the radio and temperature control, there’s a metallic silhouette of a person instead of a sub-menu for HVAC controls, and there are actual for-real buttons instead of an easily smudged touchscreen keypad.

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