The Polestar 2 has what it takes to interest discerning buyers in the premium part of the EV segment, thinks Jonathan Crouch.
You may vaguely be aware of the Polestar brand as Volvo's luxury platform for uniquely designed sporting electric models. Every premium marque makes an EV these days of course, but many of them merely feel like battery-powered versions of existing cars. For an early adopter to plug-in motoring, there's an undeniable appeal in the clean sheet approach that segment originator Tesla's products bring to the table.
Polestar aims to deliver that but combine it with the depth of engineering you'd get from a more established manufacturer. Its first product was the Polestar 1, a beefy luxury GT coupe that was a plug-in hybrid and came with a hefty £140,000 price tag. The model we look at here though, the Polestar 2, is much more like it, a full-EV priced more accessibly from around £40,000 and aimed directly at sportier versions of the Tesla Model 3.
We get the Polestar concept: creation of electric cars for the kind of customer who'd normally buy a conventional premium sports saloon. But as such a buyer, you might understandably have a few qualms about choosing such a thing from a subsidiary of the Volvo marque, a maker yet to deliver any sort of enthusiast-orientated product and a brand that has announced its intention to limit the top speed of all its cars to 112mph. But give this Polestar 2 model a chance. The technical spec is, after all, pretty tempting.
The top version offers a dual motor AWD drivetrain with 402bhp and 660Nm of torque - more than a Nissan GT-R. There's a hefty 78kWh battery with a 300kW electric motor and a WLTP-rated driving range of up to 299 miles. In this form, the '2' can take off from rest like a scalded cat (62mph occupies just 4.7s) and you'll be flat out all the way to 140mph. If you can't stretch to that, two front-mounted 228bhp/170kW single motor variants are more affordably available. The mid-range Long range Single motor model has the same long-range 78kWh battery as the top model and can go up to 336 miles. Finally, the base Standard range Single motor variant has a smaller, standard-range battery (69kWh in size) offering a range of up to 294 miles.
Whatever your choice of derivative, you might be surprised to find just how good the Polestar 2 is to drive. Massive efforts have been made to imbue this car with levels of steering feel and body control that are about as far from your perception of Volvo as it's possible to get. And an optional 'Performance Pack' on the top variant includes a unique set of Ohlins dampers that can be formatted with a choice of 22 options to deliver suspension feel to suit your exact preference.
Design and Build
You'd recognise the Polestar 2 as a car from the Volvo family of brands (especially from the rear) but it also has a chunky, purposeful sporty and distinctively Swedish feel of its own. Looks probably aren't going to be the primary reason you choose this contender (and they won't immediately advertise the fact that you've probably spent £40,000-£50,000 on it) but if you're OK with something a little more conservatively premium, then there's plenty to like here. Under the skin lies the same CMA platform that's used by a Volvo XC40 but it's had to be updated with a unique front subframe for extra crash protection (electric motors are less absorbent in an impact than an engine), plus there are modifications at the rear to support the heavy lithium-ion battery pack.
At the wheel, you're favoured with faultless build quality from an interior carefully fitted out with fabric, wood and vegan leather (proper hide is optional). There's a blade-shaped dashboard incorporating a predictably huge central freestanding 11.0-inch portrait-format infotainment screen. This delivers the latest Google Android infotainment system (the first time this set-up's been used by any production car). Unlike Android Auto, you don't have to connect in and then still have to separately activate car stuff (seat positioning, safety system preferences and so on). Google Android infotainment can automatically do all that for you as you approach the car. What else might you need to know about the cabin? Well the seats are soft and supportive, but the window line is rather high, which contributes to rather poor rearward visibility. Careful battery design means that rear seat legroom is surprisingly good for an EV. And once the powered rear hatch rises, you'll view a 405-litre boot, which expands to 1,095-litres with the seats down, plus there's a further 35-litre space beneath the bonnet up-front.
Market and Model
There are three models on offer. The Standard range Single motor model starts from around £42,000 (lease from £424 a month), uses a 69kWh battery and offers 228bhp. The mid-level Long Range Single Motor version with its 78kWh battery costs around £45,000 and also offers 228bhp. And the top Long range Dual motor version with the same 78kWh battery costs around £48,000 and offers 402bhp.
Virtually all Polestar sales will be done online (via an app which will also be used to arrange servicing and aftercare). You certainly won't be able to buy the marque's products from a Volvo franchise. All models come with a fully loaded specification, but if you want to go further, three optional Packs are available.
The Plus Pack includes high-level premium equipment like a full-length panoramic glass roof, a premium Harman Kardon audio system with 13 speakers, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and wipers, WeaveTech upholstery, Black Ash deco panels, fully-electric heated front seats with memory, and a heat pump (which reduces the need to use valuable battery capacity to prepare and sustain the cabin climate).
The Pilot Pack includes enhanced safety and driver assistance features, such as the Pixel LED headlights with LED front fog lights, Driver Assistance with Adaptive Cruise Control and Pilot Assist, a 360-degree surround view camera, all-round parking sensors, and Driver Awareness including Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with steering support, Cross Traffic Alert with brake support, and Rear Collision Warning.
The optional Performance Pack is available for the Long range Dual motor variant only, and includes adjustable Ohlins dampers, Brembo brakes, forged 20-inch alloy wheels and signature 'Swedish gold' details inside and out. A handful of specific single options are available, including ventilated Nappa leather upholstery (requires Plus Pack), metallic paint, 20-inch alloy wheels and a semi-electric folding tow bar.
Cost of Ownership
The furthest you'll be able to go in a Polestar 2 is with the mid-range Long range Single motor 78kWh variant, which has a WLTP-rated range of between 316 and 336 miles. Not far behind is the Long range Dual motor 78kWh model (282-299 miles). The base Standard range Single motor 69kWh model manages 272-294 miles. Both the 78kWh variants can boost their range figures up to around 350 miles if you're driving exclusively in city traffic.
There's no Porsche Taycan-style 800-volt electrified tech here to boost charging times, so the usual 400-volt set-up delivers the normal replenishment period you'd currently expect from an EV of this kind. So from a garage wallbox for the 78kWh variants, think about 10 hours from empty. If you're out and about and find a 150kW DC public charger, you'd be looking at around 35-45 minutes to get an 80% fill from empty. The Standard Range model charges at up to 130kW.
Charging stations along any given route are displayed via a simplified Google Maps display on the centre-dash screen. This includes live availability data so that you can see in advance which charging points are currently free. And don't worry if your trip takes you somewhere with no online reception: should you venture into such territory, the car will automatically download maps into its hard drive and switch into an offline mode so that navigational services can continue uninterrupted. Around half of all Polestar 2 sales will be to business buyers keen to take advantage of the 0% benefit-in-kind tax rating that now applies to EVs.
What kind of luxury premium electric car would a real driving enthusiast design? Our first answer would be a Porsche Taycan, but that model's extremely expensive. Our second response to that question would be to direct you towards this Polestar 2. It's clearly been developed by talented engineers, it'll handle on a different level to most other posh EVs and it develops the electric remit with Volvo-style pragmatism.
There's no big fuss about superbike-style acceleration times. Or about how it can charge in next to no time from rapid charging stations you'll hardly ever come across. It doesn't even mess about with a pointless SUV configuration. Instead, the Polestar 2 simply gets on with delivering what is arguably the most complete EV experience in the £40,000-£50,000 price bracket. It has a Tesla-like feel of innovation, a Mercedes EQC-like feel of quality and a Jaguar I-PACE-like feel of sporting purpose. All with rare unique branding and packaging. Buying one would be a step into the unknown. But we can see why you might.