by Ian Wright
Billed by Polestar as "a driver's car in any weather," Volvo's in-house tuning department-turned-EV-manufacturer has brought an all-new, all-electric five-door fastback to market in the form of the Polestar 2. The second vehicle from the now-standalone marque, the Polestar 2 boasts an uncluttered design inside and out and a big dose of performance from a 408-horsepower two-motor all-wheel drivetrain with a range of up to 233 miles and a 0-60 mph sprint time of 4.5 seconds. It's a bold attempt to push the idea of how a car should suit the driver by stripping away nonessentials like a start/stop button and using smartphone connections to prepare things like seat positions and customized infotainment home screens for the approaching driver. The Polestar 2 is also the first car to hit the market with Google Automotive Services built-in, meaning Google is already waiting for you with voice recognition and apps like Google Maps and Music. On paper, it's the perfect practical enthusiasts' car for the 21st century, and we spent a week with it to see if it lives up to expectations. Can Sweden's answer to the Tesla Model 3 deliver?
Polestar's second vehicle is also its first battery EV. The Polestar 2 battery-electric follows in the footsteps of the high-end and much more expensive Polestar 1 hybrid. Built on the same Volvo CMA architecture as the Volvo XC40, this fastback sedan is Polestar's crack at the Tesla Model 3, bringing clean Swedish design, innovative engineering, and practicality to the table as well. The dual-motor Polestar 2 produces 408 horsepower and can reach 60 mph in under five seconds, but it's restricted somewhat by its 233-mile EPA-rated range.
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Single Speed Automatic
After the gorgeous Polestar 1, the Polestar 2 is rather ordinary to look at. While we never expected a liftback sedan to be as alluring as a glamorous coupe. There are clear Volvo influences, such as in the wraparound taillight arrangement, which is similar to the rear of an S60 or S90 sedan. To its credit, the rest of the design is clean and stylish, with sharp lines taking the place of curves and while it doesn't stand out in a crowd, it's not just another car in the crowd either. As standard, the Polestar 2 gets 19-inch alloy wheels, but buyers can spec bigger 20-inch wheels. A panoramic glass roof, retractable side mirrors, and pixel LED headlights are standard. Opting for the Performance Pack upgrades the appearance with gold brake calipers, gold valve caps, 20-inch 4-Y Spoke alloys, and a high gloss black roof segment.
While it is taller than the Tesla Model 3, the Polestar 2 is narrower and shorter in overall length. The Polestar 2's key dimensions include a length of 181.3 inches, a wheelbase measuring 107.7 inches, a width of 73.2 inches (78.1 inches including the mirrors), and a standard height of just over 58.2 inches. With the Performance package, the Polestar 2 rides a little lower, with 5.7 inches of ground clearance on Ohlins suspension compared to the stock 5.9-inch clearance, dropping the height to 58 inches on the nose. In the USA, depending on how it is configured, the Polestar 2 has a curb weight of between 4,680 and 4,750 pounds, making it over 500 lbs heavier than the base Model 3.
A choice of six colors is offered for the Polestar 2, but none are what could be termed adventurous. Only Void (Black) is standard, while every other color will cost $1,200. These include Snow, Magnesium, Thunder, Moon, and Midnight - no prizes for guessing the theme when it came to naming these colors. The lighter colors contrast nicely with the black A-pillars and the black cladding around the arches, so we'd go for one of those.
Modern electric vehicles are now inextricably linked with potent performance, and the Polestar 2 is no different. Its dual electric motors produce a combined 408 horsepower and 487 lb-ft of torque, enabling a swift 0 to 60 time of only 4.5 seconds, although some independent tests have shown that it's even quicker than this, with a benchmark sprint time closer to four seconds. Power is sent to all four corners, with this added traction helping the Polestar to deliver these quick numbers. While it's quicker than the base Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus, the Polestar will be left behind in a hurry by the Model 3 Performance, which will reach 60 mph in only 3.1 seconds. The Polestar 2 is capable of reaching a limited top speed of 127 mph. With the towbar hitch equipped, the Polestar 2 can tow up to 3,300 lbs.
In place of an internal combustion engine are two permanent-magnet synchronous electric motors positioned at opposite ends of the sedan's body. These work together to power the Polestar 2, with combined outputs of 408 hp and a strong 487 lb-ft of torque. A direct-drive transmission and a 78-kWh lithium-ion battery are used. To drive, the Polestar 2 is instantly responsive from a standstill, making it fun to drive in the city where it's all too easy to slip into gaps ahead of slower-moving traffic. It's not as breathtakingly rapid as the quicker versions of the Model 3, but relative to a typical gas-powered vehicle, it puts in a strong showing.
It doesn't take long at all to get used to just walking up to the Polestar 2, opening the door, climbing in, touching the brake pedal, putting it in drive, and pulling away without having to hit a start button. It also doesn't take long to get used to the regenerative braking system and perfectly tuned single-pedal driving. It just takes a little practice to become smooth enough for passengers not to realize you're not using the brakes. Throttle responses are sharp but smoothed out perfectly for daily driving, and smooth is a word you'll also be using a lot after driving the Polestar 2.
Mash the throttle pedal into the carpet, though, and the Polestar 2 reminds you of its maker's performance origins. It's searingly, although not violently, quick off the line. Overtaking dawdling traffic is never a problem, as the acceleration is relentless and always on tap, right up to the 127 mph limiter.
Polestar's electric car isn't just a straight line sleeper, though, and despite its weight, it has a wealth of grip to offer through corners and a balance to its handling that makes it more entertaining on a back road than its size and weight suggests. Sport mode eases up the traction control parameters and stiffens the steering, as that's all it needs to do to make the Polestar 2 even more entertaining. The center of gravity is low courtesy of cleverly packaged batteries, and there's little to no body roll; then, once it's ready to exit a corner, the all-wheel-drive Polestar 2 simply hooks up with little drama to hurl itself out the other side. The steering feel is a little synthetic but quickly forgotten about due to its accuracy and the car's balance.
As advertised, Polestar has delivered a driver's car and one that is as confident and purposeful in everyday traffic as it is hustling a back road. However, its core joy is in its simplicity for everyday driving. This is made obvious by the fact that the Performance Pack doesn't vastly improve performance with more power, but rather adds Ohlins Dual Flow Valvedampers and uprated Brembo front brakes, maximizing real-world performance rather than inflating acceleration numbers for the sake of a flex around the BBQ with your friends.
Just as we mentioned the fact that there's no 'ignition' button to get things going, once the driving is over, just selecting Park and leaving the vehicle puts it to sleep. After a week with this level of simplicity, we now have a hint of the joy that early motorists experienced with the invention of the starter motor and button to replace the hand crank.
Polestar hasn't been able to match Tesla in this aspect, and it could be a dealbreaker for some. According to the EPA, the Polestar 2 will return 96/88/92 MPGe (this provides a comparison to the mpg rating of conventionally-powered vehicles), translating into a range of just 233 miles. That's not too far off the base Model 3's 263-mile range, but the Model 3 Long Range is way ahead with a 353-mile range.
The Polestar 2 is capable of both AC and DC charging, with the latter offering up to 150 kW. Using Polestar's online calculator, home charging from zero to 100 percent (an unlikely occurrence) with 3.7 kW will take 24 hours. However, charging with 11 kW drops this time to eight hours. The best-case scenario would be charging at a public charging point at 150 kW, which will take just 40 minutes to get the battery up to 80%, equivalent to adding 186 miles of range while you grab lunch.
In our case in Southern California, the problem is still finding an available charging point, let alone one offering 150 kW. However, that's not the Polestar's fault, and in reality, 233 miles is good for the average driver for a week between charges, or a two hundred mile round trip with a stop for some range-confidence charging alongside a cup of coffee and something to eat.
Typically Swedish, the Polestar 2's interior may not feel as plush as a German luxury car's cabin, but the minimalistic design and layout is quite refreshing. Polestar has gone to great lengths to use sustainably sourced materials, such as using reconstructed birch veneer wood that would otherwise usually be discarded for minor imperfections. The portrait orientation of the infotainment screen is a feature shared with Volvo models, but it's all sensible to figure out and use. As standard, both front seats are power-adjustable and have seat cushion extensions. The Polestar 2 also comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, and an advanced collision mitigation system. A standard glass roof fills the cabin with natural light.
The Polestar 2 is a five-seater, but as usual, the ideal number in the backseat for everyone's comfort is two. The rear legroom is 33.9 inches which isn't best-in-class, but it's enough for regular use, and the rear headspace is a crossover-like 37 inches. The seats are reassuringly firm yet comfortable, and longer road trips are a breeze as a result. However, the Polestar 2 is all about the driver. Visibility all around is excellent, and the center infotainment display is set nicely in the driver's line of sight without sticking up so much to be distracting. The dash gauge display can be configured to show a widescreen map as well as data like range and speed.
The Polestar 2 has some interesting and high-quality textures in its cabin. Along with the reconstruction of irregular waste wood to create a pleasingly smooth veneer, there is also a Black Ash deco material available along the dashboard that has a modern textured look and feel. As standard, the seats are finished in an environmentally friendly WeaveTech material in either Slate or Charcoal - both with Black Ash - but ventilated 'Barley' Nappa leather seats with the aforementioned reconstructed wood deco is a $4,000 option. Some interior color schemes aren't compatible with all the exterior colors, though. For instance, the Moon exterior paint can't be paired with the Slate interior. Speccing the Performance Package gives the interior a little bling with gold seatbelts to match the accents on the brakes and wheels.
Combined, the Polestar 2 offers 15.5 cubic feet of trunk space between its rear trunk and the much smaller frunk (1.23 cubes) in front. The latter is fine for a laptop bag or perhaps one soft bag, but not much more. Overall, the trunk space is not spectacular and very similar to what you get in the Tesla Model 3. Fortunately, the rear seats can fold forward and by doing so, there are 38.7 cubes of space to work with for transporting large items.
Interior storage space is adequate rather than remarkable. There are two cupholders in the center console, but it's not possible to use both of these and the center armrest at the same time. Along with this is an average-sized glovebox, reasonable door pockets (these are smaller at the back), and small storage areas on the side of the center console. At the back, there is a fold-down center armrest with another two integrated cupholders.
The Polestar 2 electric vehicle is equipped to a high standard, just as it should be considering the price. Both front seats offer three-stage heating, as do the rear outboard seats. The front seats have cushion extensions and power-adjustability as well, along with a memory system for the driver. Other welcome amenities include dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, interior ambient lighting, a 12V power outlet in the trunk, and a power trunk lid. As expected for a performance brand from Volvo, the Polestar 2's safety specification is comprehensive. The suite includes Pilot Assist, which helps the Polestar retain its position in the middle of its lane when the adaptive cruise control system is in use. The Polestar 2 also gets a 360-degree surround-view camera system, front/rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring.
If you've ever wondered why automakers haven't simply asked Apple or Google to make their infotainment systems, well, so have we. Now we finally have an answer as to what that would look like. There's something refreshing about not having to hook up your smartphone via Android Auto or Apple CarPlay to have the infotainment system as simple to use as a phone. That's just as well for Apple users as CarPlay isn't available on the Polestar 2 yet, although it is promised. It will limit those embedded in Apple's ecosystem, but the Polestar 2's Google-based infotainment is sharp, smooth, and fast through the 11.15-inch free-floating display. Through the Google Play store, you can download your own apps on top of the supplied Google Maps. That means if you prefer using Spotify for music while getting around using Waze, that will become available. You can also go 'old-school' with a Bluetooth or USB connection from your phone. The advantage of using the baked-in Google Maps is that when you enter a destination, it will give you details on how much range you'll have left when you get there. If you don't have enough range, it will help you plan with further information like how many chargers are available at stopping points. The aim is to remove the step of having to look up information on a phone before putting destinations into a car's navigation system. And it works. Very well indeed.
As standard, the sound system is an excellent 600-watt,13-speaker (including subwoofer) Harman Kardon setup. There are also four USB-C connectors for charging as well as a wireless charger in the center console.
J.D. Power hasn't yet rated the Polestar 2 electric sedan, but we expect to know more about the 2's reliability in about a year from now as this is still a brand new arrival. However, the 2021 Polestar 2 has already been subject to one recall by the NHTSA for a potential loss of power caused by a high voltage system that can disconnect.
The Polestar comes with a four-year/50,000-mile warranty and an eight-year/100,000-mile warranty for the battery pack. 12 years of coverage protects you in the event of corrosion.
Although local authorities have yet to evaluate the Polestar 2 for crashworthiness, we have little doubt that the sedan will perform very well in US safety reviews, at least based on overseas tests. In the Euro NCAP Polestar 2 safety review, the EV emerged with a maximum five-star rating.
Along with the usual suite of airbags, the Polestar 2 is loaded with the latest safety systems to keep the driver and passengers safe. An advanced collision mitigation system includes front/rear radar units and a windshield-mounted camera, allowing the Polestar to detect animals and pedestrians and, if necessary, active steering support or automatic braking. At higher speeds, adaptive cruise control and Pilot Assist work in tandem to maintain a safe following distance and a safe position in your lane. The sedan also gets blind-spot monitoring with steering assistance, cross-traffic alert with automatic braking, road sign information, a 360-degree camera system, front/rear parking sensors, and hill start assist.
The Polestar 2 is a refreshingly simple car to get into and drive. That doesn't mean it's not a sophisticated car, though. It has a lot of different blends throughout that make it something that will suit those with taste. The build quality is excellent, and the interior is distinctly Scandinavian as a testament to its Volvo roots. Its speed and handling for a heavy car are testaments to Polestar's tuning ability. However, it's not a sports car. What it is is a driver's car that can comfortably accommodate passengers. Above all, the approach taken to reducing unnecessary interaction in day-to-day use is what puts the Polestar 2 over the top as an excellent car. From charging to the infotainment system to just getting in the car and driving away, almost everything has been designed to make it an easy part of daily life. And, it works.
The only drawback we see is the Polestar 2's range when comparing with other models, particularly Tesla's offerings. However, it's worth bearing in mind the reality of how many miles you actually drive. For the average American, the Polestar 2's 233-mile range will mean charging once every five to seven days. The range only becomes an issue for long days out and road trips where some planning is needed. However, like the rest of the car, Polestar has worked hard to make sure there is as little friction as possible there.
For now, the pricey Launch Edition is the only model on offer, so Polestar 2 prices begin at an MSRP of $59,900. Pricing excludes tax, licensing, registration, and a destination charge of $1,300. However, the Polestar 2 potentially qualifies for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500, effectively dropping its price to below that of the Tesla Model 3 Performance. The Polestar 2 will cost even more with the optional Performance package which goes for $5,000.
The Polestar 2 electric car is only offered in one trim, the Launch Edition. This dual-motor liftback sedan directs power to all four corners and produces a combined 408 horsepower and 487 lb-ft of torque, enabling it to reach 60 mph in only 4.7 seconds. The 78 kWh battery allows for a range of 233 miles on a full charge.
Standard exterior features include a panoramic glass roof, 19-inch alloy wheels, pixel LED headlights, and front fog lights with a cornering function. The cabin boasts heated front/rear seats as standard, but Nappa leather is available as an option. By default, the Polestar 2 enjoys dual-zone automatic climate control, a heated steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring. A Harman Kardon sound system, an 11.15-inch central touchscreen, and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster are all standard.
The most prominent upgrade comes in the form of the $5,000 Performance package. This brings with it manually-adjustable Ohlins dampers, an improved Brembo braking system, 20-inch forged black alloy wheels, gold valve caps, gold seat belts, and a roof segment finished in high-gloss black. Do be aware that the ride becomes noticeably firmer with this package.
Some interesting standalone options include ventilated Nappa leather seats at $4,000 and 20-inch diamond-cut black alloy wheels at $1,200. The towbar hitch with a four-pin connector goes for $1,200.
With only one model and trim currently available, the choice is a simple one, and we are more than happy with the car without additional options. The standard vegan interior is excellent, but we know the Nappa leather seats with ventilation will be a popular option. We're not sure we could resist the diamond cut black alloy wheels, though, and add $1,200 to the base price.
While the performance package is something we expect from Polestar, it is pure overkill on this model. The Polestar 2 certainly does not need it, and we're more than happy with the balance of performance and comfort out of the box and don't see its demographic as people that will want to adjust their dampers manually. It seems a bit silly for this model, but we hope it's a sign of things to come in Polestar's future.
There's no way for the Polestar 2 to escape from the Tesla comparisons, and that battle begins with the strong-selling Model 3 sedan. The Tesla is off to a strong start as the base Standard Range Plus starts at under $40,000, has a range of 263 miles, and can reach 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. That isn't as quick as the Polestar 2, but if it's power you're after, the Model 3 Performance can't be matched; it takes a mere 3.1 seconds to hit 60 and has a much better 315-mile range at a cheaper price. The Polestar does feel like a slightly better handler, though. Both cars have a similar amount of cabin space and a minimalist interior design, but the Polestar 2 feels like it's better screwed together. However, as things stand now, the Model 3 offers more performance and a longer range for less money. It's hard to argue with that.
As if the Model 3 wasn't enough of a hurdle to overcome, the Polestar 2 also has the Model Y crossover to deal with. The base Model Y Long Range is $10,000 cheaper than the Polestar and nearly as quick to 60 mph, but will travel almost 100 miles further on a full charge. Overall, there's more cargo room in the Model Y and it offers a seven-seat option, but those rearmost seats are cramped even for smaller adults and children. Both vehicles make commutes easy with their instantly available performance, and each offers superb safety standards and a long list of driver aids. They look quite different, so a choice between the two could come down to which one panders more to your personal taste. However, as with the Model 3, the Model Y's far superior range makes life difficult for the pricier Polestar.
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