EVER since they began in 1927, Volvo has been fascinated in keeping drivers safe in their cars.
But, recently, Volvo has been going a little mad – and all with the help of its tuning arm.
Based just outside of Gothenburg, Polestar resides in an unassuming brick-built factory with only a handful of Volvos parked outside to suggest its occupation.
Inside, however, is a different story. Polestar’s marketing chap, Hans Baath, met us at the door and showed us to a nearby office.
It was an office which overlooked the workshop which is currently home to two C30s which compete in the Swedish touring car championship, and a world touring car championship-spec C30 which is under evaluation for a possible championship programme next year.
‘We have a saying here: It’s never too late,’ says Baath. ‘We’re currently doing very well with the WTCC evaluation programme at the moment, but it’s hard with only one car. You can’t get your other car to help the other’s slipstream,’ he smirks.
A decision as to whether Polestar and Volvo will enter the WTCC with a three car team next year could be made within weeks, but it’s the firm’s range of software modifications to humdrum Volvos which is the really big news for UK dealers.
‘Tuning Volvos is nothing new – it’s been around since 1967,’ explains Baath. ‘There’s been R-Sport, Volvo In Sports and, of course, the R cars. But they were spasmodic, had short-term focuses, and were for a small number of real enthusiasts. We’re more consistent compared to those.
‘We’re also a completely independent company who works only with Volvo – that’s important because it allows Volvo to get on with their main job of building good cars, while we focus on making them more fun.
‘Let me put it like this: If Volvo had decided to make its own performance upgrades in-house five years ago, the products still wouldn’t be available. Making performance software is a side project.’
Don’t think with Polestar Volvo has replaced its sensible underwear for something a little more racy – safety is still a huge motivator.
A 10 minute drive away from Polestar is enough to realise that you’re in completely different surroundings.
Built in the year 2000, Volvo’s safety centre is perhaps the most famous centre of its type in the world. It cost around £60m and has been the crash site of thousands of Volvo and other makes of car in its 11 operational years – 50 per cent of its capacity is out-sold to firms like Aston Martin and Think.
We put seat-belt technology to the test
Two tunnels converge onto a centre point that is the evaluation point for the accidents, but one of the tunnels has a trick up its sleeve. It can be turned by almost 90 degrees, meaning any accident can be constructed.
‘We are working hard on our 2020 vision,’ explains Hans Nyth, Volvo Cars Safety Centre’s director. ‘By 2020, no-one driving a Volvo will be killed or seriously injured.’
Nyth chats to us while standing next to a C30 full-electric concept which in a matter of hours will be hurled into an 850 tonne, concrete and steel wall to examine how the car behaves in an accident.
It’s at time like this I begin to feel sorry for the dummies. The centre has 100 of these who will be exposed to high-speed accidents, but, arguably, the greatest safety feature which will help these dummies is the seat belt.