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History of Volvo R & Polestar High Performance Cars

We're looking at the history of Volvo's go-fast cars starting with their legendary 1995 850 T-5R sedan and estate, and working through the generations of Volvo R, R-Design, Polestar, and Polestar Engineered.

Our special episode of TestDrive explores the history of the Volvo R high-performance cars. Special thanks to Volvo Cars Canada for extending the loan of the 2019 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design AWD in order to accomodate our filming schedule with this episode.

Volvo launched their first high performance vehicle, the 1995 Volvo 850 T-5R. Though they didn't technically need to produce it under British Touring Car Championship homologation regulations, 5,500 units were produced globally.

Volvo followed up the success and demand for this car with a successor, the 1996 and 1997 Volvo 850 R, like the 97 sedan we have in our video. This vehicle added on the success of the 850 T-5R and offered more options for buyers.

The first generation V70 & S70 replaced the 850 wagon and sedan respectively. While largely seen as a facelift for the 850, the new V70 R added more standard features to Volvo's high performance cars with the option for AWD.

The second generation V70 and first generation S60 also received R models, like the facelift 2005 Volvo V70 R AWD we have as an example. A new engine along with tuned AWD system were some of the improvements made by Volvo to attract new customers to their top-end performance models. These were the final R vehicles produced by Volvo.

A new R-Design trim was added to most of Volvo's lineup, bringing cosmetic changes over their regular cars. The 2012 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design ended up producing more power than the current generation, but lacked some of the character of those original R cars. In 2013 Volvo released the S60 and V60 Polestar models, true successors to the R cars with more power and tuning over the regular family-friendly cars.

The 2019 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design we featured produces more power and torque than the original 850 T-5R, but shares a lot of styling queues from that original go-fast car.

The future for Volvo's high performance hybrid vehicles rests in their recently acquired Polestar division, bringing the sport-tuned nature of their Polestar engineering to the efficient yet powerful technology of hybrid engines. The 2020 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered sedan is the next generation high performance car from Volvo, and a glimpse of the future for the luxury brand.

Special thanks to the Club Volvo Québec for helping us film this episode of TestDrive:

Photo Credit: Frederik Hermann:

Historical photos and videos provided by BMW AG, Audi AG, Volvo Car Corporation.

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