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First drive: Polestar 2. Image by Polestar.

First drive: Polestar 2
Polestar’s ‘first’ car, take two, is – somewhat remarkably – even better than its stellar debut effort.

 



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Polestar 2 Performance Pack

5 5 5 5 5

So, after the glamorous opening act in the form of the Polestar 1, now the luxury electric vehicles (EV) arm of Volvo gets down to the serious business of making, well... EVs. And Polestar has, for all its models still to come, gone and set the bar those future products must clear rather high, because the 2 fastback is thoroughly fantastic from start to finish.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Polestar 2 Performance Pack
Pricing: Polestar 2 from £49,900, price as tested £56,800 (excluding Government's £3,000 Plug-In Car Grant)
Electric system: twin 150kW AC synchronous permanent magnet electric motors plus 78kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission: single-speed reduction-gear transmission, all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door EV fastback
CO2 emissions: 0g/km (VED Band 0: £0 road tax in perpetuity)
Range: 292 miles
Maximum charging capacity: 150kW; 40 minutes for 80 per cent battery charge on DC connection, 11 hours on 11kW AC domestic Wallbox connection
Combined electrical consumption: 19.3kWh/62.5 miles
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
Power: 408hp
Torque: 660Nm
Boot space: 440 litres total (split between 35-litre front and 405-litre rear boots)

What's this?

The Polestar 2, the first 'proper' product from this fledgling company that has spurred off from parent firm Volvo. What was once, briefly, the Swedish outfit's performance and erstwhile racing division has now become the EV house of Geely, the Chinese overlords of not only Volvo and Polestar, but Lotus and, um, Lynk & Co too. The thing is, look at the resurgence of Volvo, in particular, under Geely's careful stewardship. The Scandinavian marque has gone from a premium-sector also-ran into arguably the most desirable carmaker out of it and the Germans, Japanese and Brits it competes against. You know the ones we mean.

So now it's the time, if you'll forgive the obvious pun, for Polestar to shine just as brightly (sorry). You might think, what with our intro and also reading between the lines, that we somehow don't rate the Polestar 1. On the contrary; we think it is a majestic machine. Along with the Lexus LC, we can't off the tops of our heads think of a better piece of car design in the last three decades. And the engineering that went into its plug-in hybrid (PHEV) drivetrain was incredible, as was the 1's thumping performance. It's a truly superb and immensely desirable thing, all told.

It's not, however, really representative of what Polestar is aiming to be. The PHEV 1 will be the only vehicle in Polestar-the-company's portfolio to have a combustion engine (we're not counting things like the Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered, here) and as it was also a left-hand-drive only, limited-production run, £140,000 exercise in brand-building, then the Polestar 1 has to be put to one side, in a manner of speaking. Thus, it's this vehicle, the Polestar 2, which has the privilege of launching the new era of EV luxury from Sweden (and China, too).

Cor, but what a start it is off to. This is a mid-sized fastback EV that's designed to take on the Tesla Model 3 fair and square, while also heading off at the pass any similar-sized, similar-priced alternatives that are in the pipeline from the likes of Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Mercedes and the rest. However, at the moment, the Polestar 2 and the Model 3 sit in a niche between smaller, city-type EVs like the fabulous Honda e and then larger, plush SUV models of the ilk of the Audi e-tron. So when your choices at this sort of value point are a squashed-frog-looking thing that was built in a tent in America or a beautiful, crisp and oh-so-handsome Swedish contrivance with all the build quality back-up that that status brings with it, what are you going to choose? Hmm?

Not that the Polestar 2's undeniable handsomeness is a massive surprise, as Volvo's styling has been right 'on point' since the second-generation XC90 arrived in 2015. Furthermore, the current CEO of Polestar is German designer Thomas Ingenlath, who just so happened to join Volvo in 2012 as vice-president of design - riiiiight about the time that the XC90 Mk2 was probably in the early development stages. Anyway, what makes the Polestar 2 so pleasing on the eye is that, in one regard, it is clearly related to a Volvo and yet, at the same time, it is obviously not a Volvo. The rakish roofline and clean flanks could fit into the current Gothenburg portfolio, but the more detailed front end with its grid-type grille and that full-width light signature at the back (watch it illuminate at night like an automotive Cylon; it's brilliant) give the Polestar 2 a strong identity all of its very own. Save for that ridiculously cutesy Honda e, we don't think there's been an EV yet which has anything like the kerb appeal of this thing.

And then you move inside, and... wow. If there were criticisms of the Polestar 1's cabin for borrowing too much Volvo architecture and finishing for use in a £139,000 car, no such accusation can be levelled at the 50-grand Polestar 2. Its interior is more marvellous than that on the 1, because while there are still Volvo details to be seen - column stalks, that steering wheel - the rest of the cabin design forges its own, striking path and it's just magnificent inside as a result. There's a sculpted upper dashboard, the 'open-hexagon' shift lever on the console, a digital instrument cluster with its own crystal-clear graphics resplendent a Swedish Gold theme (we'll come back to this in a mo) in front of the driver and then, the Polestar 2's pièce de résistance, that Google Android 11-inch touchscreen dominating the dash. This operates so swiftly and slickly, and employs such pin-sharp graphics, that it's the first time a car infotainment system beats hooking your phone up to the vehicle instead. In fact, Apple users will have to wait until mid-2021 to have CarPlay in their Polestars, although it will at least become available as a cutting-edge software-over-the-air (SOTA) update.

Outside and in, then, the Polestar 2 is a total winner. Oh, and that Swedish Gold we mentioned? It's because our test 2 had the £5,000 Performance Pack fitted and that brings us onto our one minor criticism of the Polestar EV...

How does it drive?

The Performance Pack equips 20-inch forged alloy wheels, an uprated Brembo brake package and then, the biggie, Polestar's preferred Öhlins Dual-Flow Valve (DFV) dampers. To denote all this, you get the Swedish Gold highlights: it picks out the Brembo callipers, the inflation caps on the tyres and the seatbelts in the cabin, so that 12.3-inch cluster's orange-y highlights make so much more sense. Those DFVs, though, are the type which are not adjustable in the car via a button, but ones which require owners to tinker about mechanically in the engine bay and behind the rear wheel-arch liners. From the factory, they are said to come on setting '8 of 22', and we're not sure whether '1' or '22' is the tougher setting.

We're guessing '1', because the Polestar 2 PP rides firmly out of the box. Like, too firmly. The EV is damped rather like the Polestar 1, which is shame because if it rolled as gracefully as the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered then we'd be signing up for our own Polestar 2 PP right now, instead of writing this review. Like so many modern cars on big wheels with thin-sidewalled tyres and sporty shock absorbers, the Polestar 2's ride quality has split personality disorder - which is to say, at higher A-road and motorway speeds, it's pretty serene and tautly controlled; on rougher surfaces or bobbly back roads, it's just a gnat's too uncompromising and intrusive.

But we could live with it. Or, alternatively, not spec our Polestar 2 with the PP or, alternatively alternatively (ahem), we could have a go at slackening off the Öhlins ourselves. Because, in all other respects, the Polestar 2 is through-and-through terrific. There are various features, specific to an electric car, which the Polestar cleverly builds upon to make your life ever more straightforward. Such as the fact you don't have a 'start/stop' button; you just clamber into the luscious interior, put your belt on, click 'D' with that exquisite little shift lever and the 2 is ready to run. End of your journey, you pop it into 'P' and open the door, and the EV switches itself off. This is 'keyless entry and go' at its absolute finest. And then there's the regenerative braking. There are three settings, which are Off (self-explanatory), Low and Standard. In either of the final two, you can drive the car in a 'one-pedal' style, such is the retardation effect when you lift off the throttle, but Low is the more organic and natural-feeling set-up at first. Standard is strident in the extreme to the uninitiated, as it almost gives full braking power the moment you totally back out of the right-hand pedal, but once you attune to it and start to fathom out where and when you need to lift, it's another feather in the cap of the Polestar 2 as there's a certain level of fun in trying to get all your 'braking' points just right on a journey - at corners, at roundabouts, at junctions, when coming up behind slow-moving traffic. It's great.

Moving on, the Polestar 2's power is pretty addictive. Its twin 150kW motors deliver 408hp and 660Nm at the wheels so vehemently that the EV can snap your head back into the seat's restraint if you flatten the throttle at anything below 60mph. Don't worry about the 2's 2,123kg kerb weight, mind, because it never feels anything like that heavy either during acceleration or when you're on the supremely well-judged brakes (that's if you actually have to use their in-car pedal, because you're not in Standard mode for some reason). Nor, for that matter, does the 2 come across as cumbersome in the corners. There are traces of lean, pitch and dive to discern, but only enough to inform you where the Polestar 2's limits of grip are. And those limits are high, plus the traction is obviously immense, so while we wouldn't say this EV is thrilling to drive in the way a Porsche Taycan is, it neither sets its stall out to be some sort of sports machine in the first place and nor does it need to be. For what the Polestar 2 is, its handling is exceptional, which'll be due in a large part to its weight balance being a laudable 51:49 split front-to-rear. Oh, and lovely steering. Could perhaps do with a touch more feel, but it's mighty accurate and fabulously weighted nonetheless.

Naturally, it's on the refinement score where the Polestar 2 blows away any tiny, lingering doubts you might have about electric cars. Any EV has the benefit of not having a hefty, reciprocating mass up front that's conducting controlled explosions within its form and so they should feel smoother and more urbane than a comparable internal combustion-powered vehicle, but some EVs maximise this advantage more than others and the Polestar 2 is most emphatically one of this rare breed. Wind and tyre noise are practically non-existent, the former of these partially a result of those super-cool frameless door mirrors. So even at 70mph, the Polestar is quiet and dignified, while its mega-comfy seats make longer-distance driving a breeze.

And the range? Seems decent and perfectly attainable. Almost 300 miles on a single charge of its 78kWh battery is plenty enough for a larger, family-oriented vehicle and while the Polestar 2 runs on 'only' 400-volt technology, instead of the industry-leading 800-volt systems, it can still link up to DC chargers of up to 150kW, meaning it'll take in 80 per cent of its battery capacity in 40 minutes. Admittedly, we didn't quite see 19.3kWh/62.5 miles from the 2 during our time with it, in fact eliciting a 'best' of 34.2kWh, but that is probably because we spent most of our miles behind the wheel of the Polestar 2 driving it pretty quickly indeed, revelling in that seriously punchy yet velvety drivetrain and its imperious, unruffled manners.

It's everything you could ever want or need from a premium, mid-sized EV, the Polestar 2. Or, indeed, a premium, mid-sized vehicle, no matter what its choice of motive power. It looks gorgeous outside. It has a sublime interior. It drives beautifully. And, if you sort out the dampers one way or the other to fix the ever-so-slightly-brittle ride, there'd be nothing to complain about at all (save for the Polestar 2's cheap-looking 'ignition' key, but even that is being fixed with a SOTA update in late 2020 called Polestar Digital Key). So we'll conclude, for some strange reason, with an analogy about Gerry Anderson's Thunderbirds (look it up, kids): Scott's rapid Thunderbird 1 was always supposed to be the star attraction of the show, but in reality it was Virgil's Thunderbird 2 which was cooler, more functional and the vessel everyone wanted most of all. Have a guess at why we'd mention that in relation to the Polestars 1 and 2...

Verdict

Electric cars appear to be our only long-term driving future and, while EVs have been on sale for a few years now, we're still at the very beginning of what will be an extremely lengthy zero-emissions epoch. Therefore, we can't help but wonder if driving the Polestar 2 in 2020 is akin to someone from 1893 being offered a W213 Mercedes E-Class instead of a last-of-the-line Benz Patent-Motorwagen. It's hard to know how you can execute a large, prestigious, executive/family vehicle much better than the Polestar 2 and we doubt many companies will succeed in doing so in the next ten, twenty years or more. This is a remarkable, sophisticated and comprehensively impressive vehicle, and not just one of the best EVs you can buy right now - it's one of the best cars you can buy right now, period. Glorious.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

5 5 5 5 5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 9 Oct 2020









      - Polestar road tests
- Polestar news
- 2 images

2020 Polestar 2 Performance Pack UK test. Image by Polestar.2020 Polestar 2 Performance Pack UK test. Image by Polestar.2020 Polestar 2 Performance Pack UK test. Image by Polestar.2020 Polestar 2 Performance Pack UK test. Image by Polestar.2020 Polestar 2 Performance Pack UK test. Image by Polestar.

2020 Polestar 2 Performance Pack UK test. Image by Polestar.2020 Polestar 2 Performance Pack UK test. Image by Polestar.2020 Polestar 2 Performance Pack UK test. Image by Polestar.2020 Polestar 2 Performance Pack UK test. Image by Polestar.2020 Polestar 2 Performance Pack UK test. Image by Polestar.








 

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