Driven: 2012 XC70 T6 AWD with Polestar Tune

Chris Stewart

Mar 18, 2012 - 10:29:14 PM

Sliding around a sharp right-hand turn on an elevated desert trail offers a passenger a moment to review his or her bucket list. The flash of life's experiences end when Volvo's stability control system engages demonstrating how the safety technology save lives. The 2012 XC70 T6 AWD with the Polestar tune provides ample excitement on and off road. The most powerful Volvo wagon to date is an understated entertainer thanks to the Polestar performance tuning.

Our 173-mile “Apache Loop” from the Scottsdale, Arizona, through the majestic Tonto National Forest began with an early morning Volvo briefing and Polestar presentation. Before departing, one auto journalist questioned the Polestar tune and the Volvo and Polestar product specialists did a respectable job explaining the torque and power curve differences compared to the stock T6 tune. Polestar began its partnership with Volvo in 1996 to develop performance-oriented products for production cars. The partnership with Volvo has enabled Polestar to meet the needs of enthusiast customers in a responsible way, reduce warranty costs, and reduce safety risks. I hope a Polestar “Stage 2” tune with enhanced hardware, such as a downpipe and exhaust system could yield even more power and maintain the factory warranty.


The fun with some sun event was underway and two-member teams departed with Twilight Bronze Metallic XC70s fitted with an attractive Espresso Brown leather interior. The first 53 miles of blacktop were very comfortable and the 325hp XC70 provided ample passing power and the 18-inch "Zephyrus" wrapped with Pirelli Scorpion tires quietly handled highway driving. The electronically controlled Haldex AWD system with instant traction worked well as we drove hard on the desert trails. The six-speed Geartronic with manual mode lacks the Sport mode found in our S60 T6 AWD. We hope Volvo adds Sport mode software to all Geartronic models with the Polestar tune. Paddle shifters would be a nice enthusiast option, especially when a driver wants to act like Ken Block and rally through the desert.

Long-time Volvo owners know the comfort Volvo seats offer and the 2012 models continue the tradition. At 53.4 miles the Apache Trail 88 East pavement ended and the XC70 revealed even more impressive characteristics. Most drivers on the East Coast do not get to enjoy spirited driving on dirt and sand, just a few inches of snow, if the weather is cold enough. The canyon roads along the Apache Trail provided many scenic views and enough cacti to last a lifetime.

Several hours of seat time offered an opportunity to enjoy the redesigned upper instrument panel housing the new standard Volvo Sensus system. This conveniently enables drivers to manage information from the audio unit, navigation system (if equipped) and other functions, displaying them onto a seven-inch high-definition color monitor. It allows the driver to explore the high-tech features of the car and personalize them to suit their needs. Audio streaming is an added functionality to the standard Bluetooth Integrated Interface. Our XC70 included the Platinum trim level adding the Volvo Premium Sound System with Dolby® Pro Logic® II Surround Sound, 12 premium speakers, and 650 watts. Sensus 1.0 is a tremendous step forward for Volvo and we hope version 2.0 provides more intuitive user interactions. We would enjoy seeing Volvo partner with a user experience leader, like Apple, to transform the Sensus experience. A little dig at Ford and Microsoft’s Sync would entertain and raise the bar for vehicle infotainment.


The base price of the 2012 XC70 is $39,100 and in stock form, 300hp/325 lb-ft of torque. Buyers selecting the Polestar tune receive 325hp/354 lb.-ft of torque for $1,495 installed. The XC70s on our test drive also included the $4,550 Platinum option package, $1,800 total climate package, $700 blind spot information system (BLIS), $550 metallic paint and the $875 destination charge setting the total window sticker price at $49,070. Government fuel economy ratings are 17 city, 23 highway for a combined 20 miles per gallon. The expected annual fuel cost is approximately $2,800 at $3.70 gallon.

I had an opportunity to drive several Volvo models over three days and I came away most impressed with the 2012 XC70 T6. The Polestar tune provides enthusiasts with optimal performance with true power, not a bolt-on solution. The tune does not affect fuel economy and the increased performance comes with full factory warranty coverage. Volvo claims the XC70 T6 AWD can sprint from 0-60 just 6.9 seconds, which is impressive for a 4,279-pound vehicle. The XC70’s 72.1 cu.ft. cargo capacity is ample for lawn and garden excursions to the local nursery or for hauling spare parts for a P1800 restoration.

The XC70 is the quintessential Volvo wagon combining all-season handling, cargo capacity, and performance. The new for 2012 Twilight Bronze Metallic paint with Espresso Brown leather could be the memorable color combination for this generation Volvo, as was the Sonic Blue with Atacama leather for the P2 V70R and S60R. If you have an opportunity to slide around a desert trail in a South Western state or a snow covered route in New England, Volvo has integrated a plethora of safety-technology, into a versatile, and fun-to-drive vehicle perfect for a modern active lifestyle.