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First drive: Polestar 3. Image by Polestar.

First drive: Polestar 3
Can the Polestar 3 tempt you out of your German premium electric SUVs?

   



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Polestar 3

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At last! Polestar gets a second model range to go with the (recently-updated) 2. Predictably, it's the Polestar 3, a large five-seat SUV that wants to beat the BMW iX for driver appeal and the Mercedes EQE SUV for sheer sex appeal. Can this Scandi-cool electric SUV beat the Germans at their own game?

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Polestar 3 Long Range Dual Motor with Performance Pack
UK pricing: 81,500 as tested; from 75,900
Powertrain: electric - 380kW dual permanent magnet synchronous electric motors, lithium-ion battery of 107kWh usable energy capacity
Transmission: automatic gearbox - single-speed, four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
Energy consumption: 2.7-2.8 mi/kWh
Electric range: 347 miles
Top speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
Max power: 517hp
Max torque: 910Nm
Boot space: 484 litres all seats in use, 1,411 litres rear seats folded, 32 litre 'frunk'
Kerb weight: 2,670kg
Towing capacity: 2,200kg

Styling

The Polestar 3 gets off to a big win in the styling stakes - it's way more handsome than either the BMW or the Mercedes, and while the rival Audi Q8 e-tron is a handsome thing, it's a bit of a predictable Audi in its styling. In contrast, the Polestar 3 looks fresh and handsome, and you'd never guess that under the skin it shares a structure, batteries and motors with the big Volvo EX90. That's like finding out that The Incredible Hulk and Black Widow are, technically, twins...

Polestar's design team - led by Maximilian Missoni - has done a great job of lowering the 3's roofline to an almost estate-car height. They've done this by sacrificing a little boot volume, eschewing an optional seven seat layout, and lowering and reclining the rear seats (we'll talk more about those in a tick). The roofline is almost shockingly low, lower than the BMW iX (which isn't all that tall itself) and more than foot lower down than the massive Volvo.

That lowness continues to the nose, where the edge of the bonnet has been brought even lower thanks to a front wing which sits atop the nose, slightly higher than the main structure. This wing - which is properly open; you can poke your fingers through it - is functional, directing airflow up and over the windscreen and roof to the also-open rear spoiler. Indeed, Missoni says that there's nothing on the 3's exterior, even the little aero flics on the edges of the rear bumper, which are not entirely functional.

At the front, in between the nice, neat arrowhead lights, is the 'Smart Panel'. This is a blanked-off section where a radiator grille would sit in a conventional car, but which here is home to cameras and forward-facing sensors. It will become something of a Polestar design signature (although, oddly, it doesn't feature on the upcoming Polestar 4...) and is a neat visual reminder that this car doesn't have an engine.

The big 22-inch forged alloy wheels (standard Dual Motor models come with 21-inch cast items) look great, and as this is the Performance Pack version, they reveal front brake callipers painted metallic Swedish Gold, and clamping Brembo drilled and ventilated brake discs.

Around the back, the Polestar 3 looks crisp and clean, and that kinda goes for the car as a whole. It's easily the best-looking car in its class, and frankly shows a few other classes how to make a big car look elegant and sporty, without it being overly complex.

Interior

As with the exterior, Polestar's idea for the 3's cabin was to remove rather than add. So it has a very clean, uncluttered cabin with hollowed-out surfaces which both reduce visual bulk and which leave lots of space for storage.

Up front, you get a pair of screens - a nine-inch driver's instrument display, and a 14.5-inch touchscreen, portrait-style, in the centre of the dash. The driver's screen looks great, especially with Polestar's chunky-minimalist graphics, but the big touchscreen is a little more fiddly, and Polestar has reduced the interior button count to one - a rotary controller for the stereo volume and track skipping. At least that stereo - an optional Bowers and Wilkins one - is gloriously loud, and includes Dolby Atmos surround sound.

Overall, it's a very practical, high-quality cabin with lots of recycled and eco-friendly materials (the optional leather comes from Bridge of Weir in Scotland, from herds monitored for animal welfare) but some of the quality isn't brilliant. The wood trim that runs across the dashboard feels very cheap and tacky when you touch it, and although the steering wheel has a pleasantly slim rim, it doesn't look or feel expensive enough for an 80k car.

Practicality

This might be a sporting SUV, but the Swedes just can't help themselves when it comes to practicality - check out the massive door bins, the huge open storage area under the centre console and the acres of legroom and headroom.

That goes for the back seats too. By lowering and reclining the seats in the back, Polestar has opened up lots of legroom for anyone in the rear, and even very tall passengers will be able to stretch out. Headroom is a little less generous, but still entirely adequate and the standard big glass roof lets in lots of light, and actually thanks to the rake of the rear seats it becomes your natural eyeline when you're sitting in the back. Optionally, the rear seats come with little Polestar scatter cushions, which are great for a bit of extra lumbar support.

Where you lose out is in the boot, which can hold only 484 litres up to the luggage cover, although Polestar does point out that it can take 597 litres up to the roof. There is a 32-litre 'frunk' in the nose into which you can squeeze a charging cable, which helps, but you can see in the boot the price paid for the low roofline and the spacious back seats.

Performance

In adding the Performance Pack to your Polestar 3, you're taking it to the giddy heights of 517hp and 910Nm of torque. Which is... *rummages through notes* ...a lot. Mind you, it's not a lot more than the standard Dual Motor model, which packs 490hp and 840Nm, and there's only 0.3 seconds between the two cars when it comes to 0-62mph times, with the Performance Pack model obviously the faster, at 4.7secs.

Mind you, it would be silly to quibble about such things. Drop your right foot hard onto the accelerator and the Polestar 3 dashes forward with instant venom, although that does start to feel a touch blunted by the hefty 2.7-tonne kerb weight as the speed starts to rise. Then again, it's hard to imagine that anyone would be upset with the 3's turn of speed considering its role as a family-friendly SUV (albeit a driver-oriented one). A BMW iX xDrive50 can hit 62mph a tenth faster than this Performance Pack Polestar 3, but it will cost you significantly more up front, so the Polestar is doing well.

It's only OK in terms of range, however. Polestar quotes a 347-mile range for this Performance Pack model (the standard Dual Motor stretches that to 390 miles) but you'll struggle to manage that kind of mileage if you're making full use of the performance on offer, or if you're pounding the outside lane of the motorway all day long. There's a clever rear motor decoupling system that helps to save a few electrons as you go, but if range is your concern, go for the standard version (or wait for the even longer-legged single-motor model).

Ride & Handling

Polestar goes to some lengths to bill the 3 as the driver's choice in the segment. Indeed, Joakim Rydholm - the man who tunes and tweaks all of Polestar's chassis - is especially proud of the 3, and he's a man who rallies an old Mitsubishi Evo at weekends and is mates with the legendary Stig Blomqvist.

Rydholm and his team have even gone to the effort to fit a complex and clever multi-clutch pack between the rear electric motor and the back wheels. This has practical purposes - it allows that energy-saving motor decoupling we spoke about above, and it can help on loose surfaces if you actually intend to take your Polestar 3 off-road - but really it's there to aid handling, as it can vector the rear motor's torque individually between the rear wheels. It's a unique part, too, for the moment and doesn't appear on any other Polestar model.

It's also quite effective, although there is a limit to how much it can help. With the air suspension, adaptive dampers, steering and throttle response all turned up to their maximum values, the Polestar 3 can indeed attack a twisting, turning mountain road with no little enthusiasm, spearing between the pine trees as it goes. For such a big car, it's impressively agile but the limitation - even with the clever rear clutches - is that the sheer weight and mass inevitably induce understeer in slower corners, and even though the rear torque vectoring can speed up an outside rear wheel to help pitch the nose into an apex, there can be an occasional moment where you just have to take a beat, take a breath, and wait for the nose to get to where you need it.

The steering is very sweet though, aided by that slim-rimmed wheel (are you listening, BMW?) and with some genuine feel and feedback. It definitely helps to make the 3 feels enthusiastic, while those Brembo brakes are just brilliant at shedding big speed when you need to, and they do a good job of blending physical braking with regenerative - mind you, the two-stage regenerative braking can feel a touch too much most of the time, and I preferred to drive with it off and do all my own braking.

The ride quality is a touch variable. The Polestar 3's standard air suspension makes for very comfy progress on main roads and motorways, and it doesn't feel too stiff around town either. The problem comes on give-and-take country roads, where there's too much inherent stiffness in the set-up which can induce way too much fidget and even an occasional sharp bang that makes its way up through the structure.

Value

The Polestar 3 isn't what you'd call cheap, exactly, but arrayed against its German rivals, it looks like really good value for money. It's also considerably more affordable than the Volvo EX90, even if that is a much bulkier, seven-seat car. Standard equipment includes the big screens with Google software, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay, as well as wireless phone charging, the panoramic glass roof, an electric tailgate, 360-degree parking camera, air suspension, 21-inch alloys (22-inch for this Performance Pack), the Brembo brakes, three-zone climate control with a parking and pet setting, heated front seats, a hugely extensive driver aids and safety system, LED headlights with adaptive high beam, pop-out flush-fit door handles, and - for the early launch models - standard-fit Plus Pack (which comes with the Bowers and Wilkins stereo, heated rear seats, heated wiper blades, heated steering wheel, wool or 'Bio-tech' upholstery, and soft-close doors) and the Pilot Pack (which includes full adaptive cruise and active lane keeping, automated lane changing, and a head-up display). These packs will be options for later models.

Verdict

The Polestar 3 is not without its issues - some iffy cabin fittings, that occasionally too-hard ride quality, and the small boot - but it's kind of impossible not to be charmed by it. It's fun to drive for a big, hefty electric SUV, has decent range, looks great on the outside, and is clearly a car ploughing its own furrow in terms of image and style. It's even well priced against its main opposition. What's not to like?



Neil Briscoe - 9 Jun 2024



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2024 Polestar 3. Image by Polestar.2024 Polestar 3. Image by Polestar.2024 Polestar 3. Image by Polestar.2024 Polestar 3. Image by Polestar.2024 Polestar 3. Image by Polestar.








 

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