The electric car is no longer an environmentalists’ token. With plans to end the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles in the UK, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands by 2030 (Norway will bring in a ban in 2025 and France has a 2040 ban in the pipeline) electric vehicles will be the way forward – quite literally – in the not-too-distant future. Many manufacturers are having to jump in with both feet, sink or swim. And that’s the role of the Polestar 2.
Polestar is a new electric brand owned by Swedish car brand Volvo and, by extension, China’s Geely – which owns Volvo, Lotus, Proton, Lynk & Co, LEVC… It’s an electric luxury brand spun off of near-premium contender Volvo, which makes its chief competitor Tesla and the German premium electric brands. From a design perspective, it’s quite unique, especially this Polestar 2. But before we delve into that, here’s a bit of history.
Volvo 40.2 concept (2016)
Back in 2015, Volvo purchased Polestar, which was then a performance arm of Volvo but operating independently, like a contractor of sorts. In 2016, Volvo came out with the 40.1 and 40.2 concepts, both of which signaled the upcoming 40 cluster of cars from the Swedish brand and the first application of the Compact Modular Architecture – CMA – platform.
The 40.1 became the XC40, a very successful compact SUV that I reviewed a few years ago. But the 40.2 didn’t really fit in the Volvo model lineup. It was different. According to the design team, they wanted to continue with the car, and the decision was made to spin it off into becoming the Polestar brand’s second product.
In that sense, the story closely matches that of the Polestar 1, which started life as the Volvo Concept Coupe in 2013 before being spun off to become the first vehicle. But while that car is a hybrid model that shares a lot of carryover parts from the 90-cluster from Volvo – particularly in the interior – the Polestar 2 is an all-new crossover vehicle typology, blending the attributes of a sedan with those of an SUV.
Let’s start with the exterior. The Polestar 2 is simple, yet elegant and robust. It’s a bit taller – giving it more ground clearance than its rivals – and is fitted with big wheels surrounded by cladding. In that regard, it’s similar to the Cross Country V60 and V90 models Volvo builds. But there’s more to it than that.
The front end has a lot of character without being aggressive. The blacked-out grille element is arguably unnecessary, but it does conceal the front camera nicely and adds a technical feel through the numerous little squares within it. It’s also got a little recess, which is a nod to the historic Volvo P1800’s concave oval grille.
The Thors hammer headlamps are familiar and link to Volvo – but on the Polestar 2 the center DRL protrudes out of the main housing to almost join the grille. This adds to the sense of width to the front, which is underscored by the horizontal lines that demarcate the bumper.
Beneath the bumper is a secondary grill opening as well as two triangular graphical elements that house the foglamps at each corner. The fact that these are black on this ‘Snow’-white face and joined by another horizontal trim piece separates these elements from the rest of the face and subtracts visual weight.
From the side, the subtle indentation around the wheelarches further serves to accentuate the arches, adding character to the fenders and anchoring the car around the 20-inch wheels. It’s also accomplished within the stamping of the body rather than through another trim piece, saving materials and weight.
Otherwise, the surfacing on the bodyside is full, with soft volumes punctuated by sharp edges, like the shoulder line. The shoulder line is continuous, running all the way through and around the rear of the car to the decklid. It’s progressively accentuated as it travels rearward, becoming more undercut over the rear door and above the rear fender. This enhances its robust quality.
In the lower section of the doors is a rising feature line and a pronounced light catcher beneath. Combined with the black sill, this disguises the car’s height quite well. And while we’re on the subject of height, the Polestar 2 is only 30mm taller than the Tesla Model 3, which is longer and wider (by 88mm and 95mm, respectively).
I particularly like the blacked-out A-pillars, chunky C-pillar treatment, and steeply raked backlight, which gives a unique, dynamic and sporty character to the profile.
Like the front, the rear is bold and characterful, thanks in part to the unique lighting signature. The concave area encased within the taillamp graphic is fitted with the body color badge while the lighting is a thin, 3D element that stand proud from the surfaces. The horizontal lines emphasize the width of the car while blacked out lower element subtracts visual weight.
The squared clamp light graphic gives the car a robust yet technical aesthetic, which also subtly communicates the propulsion system within, especially when you approach and leave the car. It’s got this very cool ‘Knight Rider’-like welcome signature, another nod to the tech.
The Polestar 2 features the first all-new interior for the brand. The cabin is minimalist without forgetting that there’s a driver. There’s a dedicated 12.3-inch screen for the speedometer and all driving information in front of the driver’s seat while the central 11-inch portrait screen is clear, simple and intuitive, with no noticeable lag.
The IP consists of a simple continuous line that encapsulates three slim tiers and connects to the high-mounted central tunnel. Like the exterior, this emphasizes the width of the cabin and highlights the technology showpiece at the center.
The main fabric-covered element on the IP is backlit, which adds a three-dimensional quality that’s more akin to furnishings in a high-end hotel than a car interior. The recessed lighting continues behind the gloss back panel in the center console, which make it look like it’s floating. The irony of this lightweight aspect is interesting, as the car weighs a whopping 2.1 tons.
The compact shift lever is dynamic, sporty and lightweight, being hollow and illuminated on the inside. The main knob – for the audio controls – features a 3D edge pattern, which also appears on the insert trim piece on some models. The car I tested had a black ash wood insert, which felt authentic.
As an electric car, Polestar is also emphasizing sustainability within the Charcoal WeaveTech ‘Vegan’ interior… The 3D-knit fabric covering the seats are made of 100% recycled PET bottles; the interior plastics are infused with waste cork products, and the carpets are derived from recycled fishing nets. It’s all very Scandinavian.
Technology is, of course, paramount, and the Polestar 2 has everything you’d expect. It features heated seats, a heated steering wheel and the Pilot Package, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition and emergency braking functions.
It’s also got an Android system, that includes Google Assistant for voice commands, Google Play, Spotify and all sorts of Apps. It mostly works fine but not always and can be a bit frustrating, especially because I’m an iPhone user. Fortunately, Car Play will be rolled out later this year as an over-the-air update.
I particularly like the 360-degree view of the car, which is displayed on the screen and alerts you to surrounding obstacles, and the direction indicator to show you what gear you’re in. It’s the little things that add to the overall ease of operation and comfort.
As I mentioned before, this car is built on the CMA platform, which is not a dedicated EV platform. It therefore doesn’t have a skateboard platform as you’d find on other BEVs, where the batteries are mounted in the floor. Instead, they’re mounted in a T-Shape and going through what would normally be the transmission tunnel and under the rear seats. This is notable for two reasons: 1) the battery packs don’t eat away at space in the footwells and 2) it enables better ground clearance.
I didn’t know this before taking delivery and was a bit wary about driving it up my steep driveway. It’s a 45-degree incline that then levels off. My own car ( a BMW 3 Series) always scrapes either the front lip or the undercarriage as the front overhang is longer and the approach angle shallower than that of the Polestar 2.
The breakover angle at the center of the wheelbase is also more generous here, though the wheelbase on both cars is nearly identical [a negligible 25mm difference]. The point is this car is higher, and it provides a great middle-ground between a sedan and an SUV. You still get the higher ride height and seating position but – depending on your seating position – it doesn’t feel top-heavy.
One thing about electric cars is that, besides being silent, they’re quick. The Polestar 2 generates 300kW of power from two motors, which translates to 408hp in ICE terms, but it’s really the torque that matters in the real world. This has 480 lb-ft of it available pretty much the moment you stomp on the pedal. It can reach 60mph in 4.5 seconds. Definitely not too bad considering it’s heft. With AWD and a near-perfect front/rear weight distribution, it’s not only fast but sure-footed and agile too.
The steering is light, lighter than is it in M Sport BMWs even on the firm setting. That certainly not a deal-breaker… I don’t know too many people that like heavier steering as much as I do. The brakes are powerful, the Brembo four-piston calipers are amazing and the one pedal action is great too. I found myself using this feature quite a lot around town, though it can be quite jarring in the standard setting, scrubbing off speed at a rapid rate.
Besides the yellow Brembo calipers and larger front discs, valve caps and seat belts, the Performance Pack also adds Ohlins adjustable dampers so you can tweak the ride setting to your liking. I didn’t touch them so I presume they were on their standard setting, which is quite firm, and as the 20-inch wheels are shod with 40-series rubber the ride is a bit on the stiff side, which I actually like.
Being that this is an electric car, I’d be remiss not to mention charging. The claimed WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) range on the Performance Pack version of the Polestar 2 (I don’t know if it differs at all between models) is 292 miles from its 78 kWh battery pack. That’s not as good as the Tesla Model 3’s 329-mile range from its 75 kWh modules. This is compounded by the fact that, in the UK, Tesla’s Supercharger network – which can charge between 150kW and 250kW – is vastly superior in availability and output. Obviously, when you can charge at a much higher voltage, it takes less time.
The Polestar network can only reach 150kW max and the best I could find was 50kW outlets, which took two hours to charge 33% one day and three hours to charge 75% the next. On a regular wall socket from my house (2.3kW) it took six hours to charge 11%. [Note: These are top-up figures, not sure if it makes a difference]. The worst was actually seeing the battery lose charge when I hadn’t even driven the car. I drove the car in the winter, so temperatures are right around 5-degrees Celsius, and apparently batteries really don’t like being below 12-degrees, so there’s that.
Battery technology and – crucially – the changing infrastructure will undoubtedly improve over the next decade. Until then, the Polestar 2 is a great foray into what is as yet new technology and it’s blazing its own path in more ways than one. It is a welcome new and unique offering, which certainly turned a lot of heads during the time I was driving it around in London. The Polestar 2 is a compelling product from Volvo’s new premium offshoot.