Volvo has teamed up with a Scandinavian tuning firm called Polestar to offer software upgrades for some of their cars. Nothing is modified mechanically, it's all electronic.
After a download to the car's computer, horsepower goes up by 23 to 25 depending on the model. That gives this XC70 – a kind of a soccer mom-mobile -- a healthy 325. And Volvos with smaller engines like the C30 end up with 250.
The best part is that the increase in power doesn't affect fuel efficiency if you drive normally most of the time. And the factory-authorized tuning doesn't void the warranty.
Five-cylinder turbo Volvos can get the Polestar upgrade for about $1,300, installed. For six-cylinder turbo Volvos, the software costs about $1,500 installed. For a fairly significant increase in output, that's actually pretty reasonable considering the cost and bother of getting into other kinds of modifications.
The Polestar update is available on pretty much any 2012 Volvo with a turbo-five or turbo-six engine. But if you bought a Volvo with a T-five or T-six, you can get the Polestar upgrade too, like when you're in the dealership having a regular service done.
If there's one thing Volvo and Polestar are a little shy about, it's the badging on upgraded cars. You have to look for a little blue square, which contains tiny font declaring the Polestar treatment.
Volvo can give a car visual sizzle too. Their S60 R-design is fairly wild by Volvo standards, and of course it too has the more powerful polestar configuration.
But for the rest of the line, these are kind of wolves in sheep's clothing: Subtle-looking, but plenty powerful when asked to perform.