I was always told not to hold onto preconceptions, but as I’ve got older, I actually find them quite comforting. It’s good to put the world into an order, with everything in its place. You know where you stand.
Some of my favorite preconceptions are about cars. Skoda makes crappy ones,Volvo makes dull ones and I love BMWs. All was fine until I drove an Octavia RS. It was great. I was totally perplexed. Skoda was no longer where I’d put them. I started doubting my judgment. I was constantly second-guessing myself.
At least there was Volvo – dull, reliable, safe cars with a smidgen of sportiness. That would never change, right?
Then we drove the C30 with Polestar software in the 9/12 issue and found ourselves entertained. This was new. Next we drove the 450hp C30 AWD Polestar Concept and were totally blown away. Sure, it felt like a highly tuned racecar, but Polestar runs Volvo’s motorsport program, so that was inevitable. Either way, my preconception of the Swedish carmaker, fostered of years in the back of the family 164, was being undermined. It was making me anxious.
So when we were invited to Gothenburg to semi-exclusively drive the brand new S60 Polestar (only EC and Motor Trend attended from the US), I knew my world would never be the same.
To be honest, if Volvo was to build a car like this 500hp AWD monster, it would undoubtedly reposition the company globally. It would blow away everybody’s stereotypes and make it a major player in the performance market. Providing it was done right, of course.
You can read our impressions of this amazing machine in the issue, but one aspect we only touched upon was Polestar’s role in the equation. As Volvo’s official performance and motorsport partner, this group of enthusiasts wants to create a sportier brand. An M3 competitor would undoubtedly do this, but does Volvo need an outside specialist to create it? Volvo could obviously build such a car itself but would need to hire its own band of engineers to create a machine of this caliber, when Polestar could simply do it for them. And if they were to mirror Alpina’s relationship with BMW, it starts to make more sense.
In that scenario, the independent tuner (Alpina), creates a car to BMW’s OE standards. The car is then built on the factory assembly line, with only a few additional parts added afterwards by Alpina when they can’t be slotted into the line. The cars are then distributed to, and sold by, BMW dealers worldwide with full warranty. Everybody makes money, all parties are happy and reputations grow.
If this were to happen with Volvo and Polestar, the world would have another great sports sedan to play with.
Another long-held preconception was shattered when we drove the new BMW ActiveHybrid 3 recently. Again, you can find the report in this issue but we have to warn anybody who’s ever driven a Prius, this is not a conventional hybrid.
Up to now, hybrid has meant a fuzzy feeling inside but an unrewarding drive. Predictably, this wasn’t quite how BMW’s engineers saw things. So they’ve created a 335hp 3 Series, and kept it entertaining by fitting 328i all-seasons.
Amounting to a 335i with KERS, the AH3 is a hugely entertaining drive since the electric motor’s torque works in harmony with the 300hp 3.0L turbo to reach 0-60 in 5.2sec. The extra weight is tucked low in the chassis, so handling is barely affected. However, you might want to opt for either the Sport or M Sport Lines in order to get a stiffer chassis and wider tires.
Sure, you can drive in Eco Pro mode, and it will even travel the last 2.5 miles of your journey under electric power, but we have to confess to spending most of our time either bouncing off the rev limiter or speed limiter during our drive in Germany.
BMW has proved hybrids needn’t be dull, and it’ll still return 33mpg on the highway if you’re so inclined. Saving the planet never sounded so fast.