- Competitively priced for the performance
- Stylish, high quality, intuitive interior
- Desirable image - not a Tesla or another 3 Series
- 2,123kg is undeniably onerous...
- ...which does mean it could be better to drive
- Range inferior to Model 3
They say timing is everything. If that's true, the Polestar 2 can certainly claim to have arrived an opportune moment. Though 2020 was a year to forget for most car manufacturers, there were clear signs of a rosy future for alternatively fuelled vehicles: sales of purely electric cars soared 185.9 per cent compared to 2019. And although 108,205 is someway short of the 903,961 petrol cars registered in the same period, that figure is an awful lot closer to the 261,772 diesels the UK bought last year than many would have predicted. The change is happening then, and happening extremely quickly. 2021 will likely see demand drop for one of those categories. It won't be the one that plugs into a socket.
Obviously it's a situation custom-made for the Polestar 2. It’s both new enough to be intriguing but with a familiar Volvo influence; it costs less than the equivalent S60 plug-in; it’s rated at almost 300 miles range by WLTP and it has more than 400hp. Add into that the carefully curated Polestar image - “to drive progress and create a better future, a future that is sustainable, hassle free and strikingly beautiful” - and it’s easy to imagine premium-grade petrol cars being traded in by the dozen as the bright lights of an electric future blaze into view.
Or is it? We've been told so long about the electric car tipping point that the suggestion that it might actually be upon us is a little hard to believe. Is the Polestar 2 really another straw on the zero-emission side of the scale, or are its drawbacks still too obvious for the average motorist? And, perhaps most pertinently, is it the car you would prefer over the obvious German alternatives at £50k - or a Model 3? Time to find out.
There’s one very immediate difference in the Polestar 2 cabin: it doesn’t need starting. There’s no keyhole, no starter button, no ignition process of any kind. Park your behind on the Slate WeaveTech vegan upholstery and the Polestar 2 is primed, ready to go; with a foot on the brake and a pull of the central selector (far more satisfying than any similar systems - take note VW) you’re ready to go. Once stopped, just press park and get out - the car will turn off. It’s possible to more formally shut the 2 down through the screen, though there’s really no need. This slickness and ease-of-use in such a mundane process characterises much of the Polestar experience.
Though there have been other notable attempts - not least Teslas - the 2 is the car that proves touchscreens can really work in cars. There are central buttons for both heated screens alongside a volume and on/off dial for the entertainment (also very nicely crafted), but the significant difference to most other comparable systems is in outsourcing key parts. The HVAC controls are as logical as they would be in any Volvo, albeit on a screen, and the infotainment side of the central display works as well as it would on an Android smartphone thanks toGoogle’s direct involvement. You wouldn’t expect a smartphone maker to be adept at making air-con controls, and that’s probably why most car infotainment systems are still flawed. By and large, that isn’t the case here.
Without the delay that often exists with smartphone mirroring, requests for the Google operating system are instantaneous: media can be swapped from Bluetooth to Spotify to radio without hesitation, and Maps loads as it would on a phone. With chargers easy to add into a route (and labelled on how fast they are), it makes plotting an EV journey for someone with limited experience simpler than ever.
All that is in addition to what we’ve come to expect from the latest batch of expensive Volvos: the seats are excellent, the materials very high quality, the displays a model of clarity and the stereo superb. It's a lovely interior; crucially, too, it makes almost as much sense on the move as will in a Polestar Space. That said, it isn’t the most spacious out there: though the batteries’ location means two boots are offered, the 35 litres up front is best used for charge cables; the traditional boot’s 405 litres includes the 41 available under the floor, and still lags behind something like a 3 Series, which has 480. Seats down, the Polestar 2 has 1,095 litres available.
ENGINE & GEARBOX
For now, just the one Polestar 2 model is available, with an electric motor on each axle supplied by a 400V lithium-ion battery with 78kWh capacity. Each motor provides 150kw and 330Nm each, for 300kW and 660Nm in total - or 408hp and 487lb ft. A 0-62mph time of 4.7 seconds is competitive with the 2’s petrol-powered rivals, identical to a Mercedes-AMG C43 and just a couple of tenths behind the BMW M340i xDrive. Polestar says that lower powered and two-wheel drive models will join the range later on, bringing the asking price down to a more accessible figure.
On the road, the Polestar always feels fast, an impression obviously augmented by the immediate nature of electric performance. There isn’t the genuine thrill of a really quick EV, though, the Polestar’s substantial kerbweight blunting speed eventually. The 2 feels as broadly accelerative as those petrol rivals, if perhaps a little more so with additional torque and without the need to change gear - which is exactly where it needs to be. It probably should be noted, however, that the equivalent Tesla Model 3 - a £46,990 Long Range - has a greater range (360 miles WLTP), higher top speed (145mph and swifter acceleration (4.2 seconds to 60mph.) The £56,490 Performance increases that gap, with a 3.1-second benchmark sprint.
Whether that matters will come down to personal preference, of course. The Polestar is never found wanting on the road, and such is the calibration of its regenerative braking - the OnePedalDrive is configurable through Off, Low and Standard - that it can be driven almost entirely (and quite naturally) with just the accelerator with the regen at its strongest. Which might seem a bit counterintuitive, given the money spent on optional Brembos, but they can have a slightly abrupt feel. With more effort they improve, though at which point you’re stopping a lot quicker than is often needed on the road.
In terms of efficiency and range, Polestar claims 292 miles on WLTP and average consumption of 19.3kWh/100km, or 31kWh per 100 miles. AC charging is one or three-phase up to 11kW, with up to 150kw possible via DC charging. In our driving… well, we didn’t get that. But when does a new car ever match the claimed figures? With more motorway use than would probably be typical, mean consumption was rated at 44kWh per 100 miles, and range on a full charge - or the 90 per cent Polestar suggest for battery preservation - a little more than 200 miles. Less than a petrol car would offer, of course - and a Tesla, more relevantly - but good enough. Especially when charging works well - but more on that later.
Ever since the demise of the Tesla Roadster, there hasn’t been much for enthusiasts to get overlyexcited by in the electric space - or not at sub-Taycan/Model S money anyway. And while the Polestar 2 is not a two-seater sports car on Lotus architecture - the steel Compact Modular Architecture also underpins the Volvo XC40 as well as Lynk&Co cars - it does promise something for the keen driver. Not only is that considerable mass split almost evenly 51:49 front to rear, the Polestar Performance Pack (a £5k option) promises to introduce some big brand kudos to EV arena. We’ve surely all contemplated fitting (or actually bought) better brakes, tyres and suspension for combustion-engined cars, be that from the factory or the aftermarket - now it’s here for electric cars.
The PPP switches the standard 19-inch alloy on a Michelin Primacy 4 for a 20-inch forged rim with Continental SportContact 6 tyres; the standard suspension is replaced by Ohlins Dual Flow Valve dampers, dropping the ground clearance from 151mm to 146mm and offering 22 settings of adjustment. The Polestar-designed Brembo brakes are said to offer “increased rigidity and quick response at any temperature”; the PPP is also marked out by gold calipers, so there's that.
Is it worth having? Though it’s difficult to be sure without comparing this 2 to a standard car, it does seem like £5k well spent. In a middle of the road standard setting, the Ohlins achieve what they so often do, delivering plush, iron fisted body control - seemingly flummoxed by nothing and yet never punishing, either. It isn’t exactly soothing around town, and the wheels can feel heavy dropping into holes at urban speeds, which could put some off; on the other hand, speed bumps can be tackled with rally-style abandon. And those Ohlins could be wound back a tad for those seldom above 40mph.
At higher speeds, the Polestar is as accurate and as poised, with its mass kept low and centralised. Though the steering has a nice, predictable rate of response, even the most aggressive mode (Firm sits above Light and Standard) is still quite light, which is at odds with the purposeful nature of both the damping and the brake pedal. It’s far from a deal-breaker, though.
Up to a point, the Polestar does that modern EV thing of feeling a good couple of hundred kilos lighter than its claimed kerbweight thanks to precise direction changes. It can drive out of corners smartly, too, power juggled between axles swiftly and smartly as front end grip ebbs away. However, there’s never more than 50 per cent of torque sent to either end; on occasion that can mean greedy throttle applications push the car on rather than rotate it, where the Polestar can feel worth every gram of its more than two tonnes. A lift does quell that, but again in the fashion of a heavier car rather than one to rivals sports saloons.
So Polestar’s claims of “the ultimate in driver engagement” doesn't play out on the road. But this the manufacturer's opening salvo - the Polestar 2 will only improve dynamically from this point. And given this is the brand’s first dedicated EV, that it weighs as much as a Range Rover and rides higher than a typical sports saloon, it’s a respectable effort.
Plainly, its asking price means there won’t be a Polestar 2 on every street corner. But not only does £49,900 ensure that the car qualifies for the Government’s £3,000 low emission vehicle grant (it has a £50k cut off), it also compares very favourably with rivals of similar performance - however they’re fuelled.
Volvo’s own four-cylinder, plug-in S60 Polestar Engineered costs from £56,105; a straight-six BMW M340i xDrive kicks off at £49,845 and an Audi S5 TDI will set you back anything from £52,950. Paying a premium for electric cars of comparable performance seems to be coming to an end, at least in this class. That hardly gets a bare bones 2, either, with standard panoramic roof, harmon/kardon sound, 360-degree parking camera, heated steering wheel and a raft of active safety features. A Polestar 2 like this one costs £56,800 before the grant, with the £5k Performance Pack, £900 Thunder metallic paint and £1,000 tow bar. All that could be added on top is the £4,000 leather interior - it’s a very simple car to spec. On the Polestar website, a £1,000 deposit on a car like that, with a three-year, 30,000-mile lease, costs £732 a month.
But you don’t care about that, do you? Electric vehicles inevitably ignite discussion about charging, which remains the obvious usability weakness. Though unable to accept as much charge as something like a Taycan (up to 270kw), the Polestar’s 150kw rating means rapid charging is possible; our time with the car involved successful charges on 7kw, 50kw and 150kw chargers, at least once the car was corrected configured to receive 32amp charge from the standard 6. On the most powerful, one of the new BP Pulse installations, a 30-minute charge yielded 35.9kWh of juice, or almost half the battery. The trip computer suggested another 125 miles of range was added, for a cost of £15.07.
For those aiming to charge their Polestar at home, a pod-point 7kw charger can be installed for £529. And that’s before considering the free charge that can still be picked up at supermarkets, retail parks and so on. Or, as Polestar puts it: “One of the biggest differences between conventional and electric driving is the way you think about fuel. Instead of driving to a petrol station to refill an empty fuel tank, electric cars redefine parking time as charging time. So every time you park, you plug it in and top it up.” One to put to the test when we’re allowed out again…
This will sound like damning Polestar’s latest model with faint praise, but perhaps the 2’s crowning achievement is in feeling so resolutely normal. It impresses in every conceivable area, so much so that we have no hesitation in comparing it with the traditional compact executives, without requiring any caveat for its powertrain. Anybody currently in a 3 Series, C-Class or XE could swap into a Polestar 2 and feel like they’re receiving the same level of quality and expertise, from the way it drives to the way the interior functions. In some cases, the 2 is better.
Certainly be in no doubt that it is competitive. That's huge, of course - although for some the more relevant comparison will be with the Tesla Model 3, and not having experience of the Palo Alto pin-up feels like singing the praises of an Android smartphone having never used an iPhone - such is the 3’s ubiquity. Whether or not the car is any better or worse than Polestar's effort might be less important than its access to the Tesla Supercharger network - still easily the best charging infrastructure available in the UK. But there’s more than enough quality on show in the Polestar - and continuing progress in the wider network - for it to be an intriguing ongoing battle.
In an ideal world, the 2 would weigh 10 per cent less and go 20 per cent further on a ‘tank’, but those caveats are hardly unique to Polestar. Indeed, there’s many a combustion-engined car that could be lighter and more efficient. The key takeaways are that the electric sports saloon is an extremely desirable and broadly accomplished addition to the class. Petrol power most certainly has its place, and we’d be the first to defend the emotional appeal of six cylinders, but if there were any residual doubt, the 2 emphatically proves that battery-powered cars have earned their place at the table. Given the choice between it and the Polestar Engineered S60 plug-in, the hybrid wouldn’t get a look in - the electric model is better across the board. And that assessement extends to some of its conventionally driven premium rivals, too. Still not the tipping point per se - but sufficient to make you a believer again.
SPECIFICATION | POLESTAR 2
Engine: 400V Lithium-ion battery, 78kWh capacity, twin AC synchronous electric motors
Transmission: Single-speed, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 408
Torque (lb ft): 487
0-62mph: 4.7 secs
Top speed: 127mph
Range: 292 miles (WLTP)
Price: £49,900 (price as tested £56,800, comprised of Performance Pack (Brembo brakes, Ohlins Dual Flow Valve dampers, 20-inch forged alloy wheels) for £5,000, Tow bar for £1,000 and Thunder Metallic paint for £900. Prices without Government grant)
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