Polestar 2 first drive: is 2 better than 3 now?
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Polestar 2 long range FWD $78,900
Clean Car Rebate
- Exquisite design and quality
- Two models under $80k
- Dares to be different
- Dual motor not fast enough for BEV nerds
- Stingy on the cupholders
- Still quite similar to a Volvo
It’s fair to say the Polestar 2 wouldn’t exist without the phenomenal success of the Tesla Model 3. Brent Ellis of Polestar’s global communications team says as much: “It’s no secret that the Tesla Model 3 is the car that effectively established the electric side of the segment and we are really proud to bring this vehicle to the marketplace; not necessarily as a rival or competitor, but more… a companion.
“The ultimate goal here is to increase the number of EVs on the road. We are here to increase that volume and effectively to get people to, instead of buying an internal combustion engine car, to look at something electric and really different.”
While you might want to take that we’re-all-in-this-together ethos with a pinch of salt, it’s still somewhat refreshing to hear a carmaker be completely upfront about its influences and market positioning. Transparency is apparently a big thing at Polestar.
It’s also a neat way into the Polestar 2, the first big export product from the “EV performance brand” founded in 2017 by Volvo and parent company Geely. You might remember Polestar was formerly Volvo’s motorsport partner/division and an enhancement brand for Volvo road cars.
Like the Model 3, the Polestar 2 is a compact Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) with sedan-like styling, although the Polestar also has SUV-like ride height and a liftback. Like the Model 3, you can buy a sub-$80k Polestar 2 model that will get you the $8625 Clean Car Discount: the standard range (69kWh, 470km) single motor is $69,900, or $78,990 with a long range battery (78kWh, 540km). Both produce 170kW and get to 100km/h in 7.4 seconds.
Available for the standard range are the Pilot Pack ($4000), which brings a range of safety and driver-assistance features including adaptive cruise and surround-view camera, and the Plus Pack ($5500) with luxury kit like glass roof, Harman Kardon audio and a heat pump.
The Plus Pack is standard on the long range; but you can’t dabble with the Pilot Pack unless you want to bump the car over that $80k threshold.
And also like the Model 3, if you want a big jolt of BEV performance you have to pay a much bigger price. The long range dual motor AWD model is $93,900 and makes 300kW. It’ll hit 100km/h in 4.7 seconds, so it’s not as fast as the Tesla Model 3 Performance “companion”; but it’s slightly cheaper, leaving you a bit of budget towards the $9000 Performance Pack that adds 20-inch forged alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, Ohlins Dual Flow Valve adjustable dampers and bespoke Continental SportContact 6 tyres.
Auckland | Auckland City
$256.44 p/w $1,025.77 p/m
Polestar does emphasise it’s not focused on 0-100km/h times and sees a more “holistic” approach as creating a better product for customers. As opposed to? Oh, right.
Incidentally, both the Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2 vehicles for New Zealand are made in China. So the two companies have hitched their stars to similar wagons all-round. Although only one has an actual star as a badge. In body colour, mind; subtlety is a Polestar thing too.
In fact the Polestar 2 is incredibly understated all-round, but look closely and it’s a stunning piece of work inside and out; not surprising when the head of the company is not an account or engineer, but a designer himself. Thomas Ingenlath is the former head car-drawer at Volvo.
The cabin is both high-end and minimalist; touchy feely in the extreme and so classy it makes many of the established premium brands look gauche and overdone. There’s virtually no physical switchgear, but the menus on the portrait touch screen are superbly intuitive.
One weird misstep among the ergonomic excellence is the single cupholder that sits in quite an awkward place; there’s another, but it’s hidden under the armrest. So… yeah, anyway.
The car runs a fully integrated Google operating system, which we could fill pages telling you about. But we won’t, because we’ve done it already in our Volvo XC60 B6 R-Design review. Except to say that while the back end is the same, Polestar has its own infotainment graphic design: simple, clean, bright colours.
The cabin is 100 per cent vegan; no animal products, including the WeaveTech fabric used for the Plus Pack, which is made from recycled material. If you must, there’s still a Nappa leather option.
There’s a lot of Volvo influence here of course, but the Polestar still has its own ambience and the two brands will become more differentiated as Volvo moves towards its own exclusively BEV future from 2030. Family versus funky.
We’ve had a taster drive in both the long range single motor and go-fast dual motor AWD models. The single motor is very much the “everyday” Polestar, with a nicely linear power delivery and balanced chassis. The kind of compact-executive you’d consider against not just a Model 3, but also an Audi A4 or Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
While many single-motor BEVs are rear-drive (let’s face it, you can put the motor at whichever end you want), the Polestar is FWD. That seems to fit with the Volvo heritage and it’s hardly an issue in terms of handling: the electric motor doesn’t issue blasts of torque and the traction/stability systems are very well sorted.
It all feels capable, effortless and very well, nice. High style and a cool on-road demeanour. Special but not gimmicky.
The dual motor model is different. It plays the BEV tricks so many still expect: there’s a jolt of acceleration at any speed that’ll slap your head back into the seat and the intelligent AWD system apportions torque at lightning speed to keep the car on track.
You can of course adjust the chassis to your liking with the Ohlins Dual Flow Valve dampers, but unlike the old Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered you’ll need to lie down and/or jack the car up. So maybe pick a setting you like and stick with it.
Polestar is a new brand and a digital-focused one at that, so in terms of brick and tile there’s only one customer-facing location: a “destination” store under development at 58 Great South in Auckland (formerly a Skoda showroom). It’s been delayed by Covid-19, but expect to see it complete by March.
Polestar does have the benefit of tapping into the nationwide Volvo NZ infrastructure for servicing and support. It also has the benefit of being distributed by the Giltrap Group, which owns the Sixt car rental/leasing company: there will be Polestar 2s on the Sixt fleet to rent in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown. If you choose to buy one after hiring, the brand will refund the fees.
The Polestar 2 will be followed by the Polestar 3 in 2022 and then the Polestar 4 – large and compact SUVs respectively.
The company has also confirmed it will build a production version of the Precept coupe, to be called the Polestar 5. That almost takes it full circle; the first standalone Polestar was the 1, a high-performance hybrid coupe which finished production last month. Although all future Polestar models will of course be pure-electric.
ENGINE: 69kWh or 88kWh lithium-ion battery, single or dual motor
POWER: 170kW/330Nm (single motor) or 300kW/660Nm (dual motor)
GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, FWD or AWD
0-100KM/H: 7.4sec (single motor) or 4.7sec (dual motor)
POWER CONSUMPTION: 16.7-20.2kWh/100km, range 470-540km
PRICE RANGE: $69,900-$93,900