Consider yourself excused if the sight of this new Swedish car cues memories of Saab. It does look like something that could have come off the drawing board in Trollhattan. It also occupies the same status in autodom as did the now-defunct automaker – namely, as the “other” Swedish auto brand, the one that isn’t Volvo.
In reality, the Polestar Two is much more a Volvo than it isn’t. Polestar started life as an independent speed shop hopping up Volvos, then Volvo brought it in-house, and now it has evolved into a sub-brand responsible for electrified performance cars. The company is jointly owned by Volvo and its Chinese parent company, Geely; the headquarters are in Sweden, while the cars are built in Chengdu, China.
Its first product was the plug-in hybrid Polestar 1 coupe, a limited-production and seriously fast halo car. The Polestar 2 is its first mainstream model, a full-electric compact “fastback” that is actually a hatchback but looks more like a sedan. That makes it a close rival to the Tesla Model 3, currently the only electric compact sedan in the luxury space, though plug-in hybrid alternatives such as the BMW 330e and the Volvo S60 T8 are potential alternatives.
Starting price is a lofty $69,900, but that’s for the fully loaded Launch Edition, with two 150-kW motors, which will kick off sales in Canada. More affordable trims, possibly including single-motor versions, will follow. To duplicate our test sample, however, would cost even more; it had the $6,000 Performance Package, which adds manually adjustable Oehlins dampers, 20-inch wheels and Brembo front brakes with gold calipers.
Don’t expect to buy a Polestar 2 off the lot at a traditional dealership. Starting in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, small retail “Spaces” in high-traffic downtown locations will house two or three display vehicles and no-commission product specialists, with demo cars on hand nearby. You can order your car online, with free delivery within 240 kilometres of your local Space.
As you can read below, the Polestar 2 is great to drive, and a pleasure to ride in. But what about range? The battery capacity is a competitive 78 kWh, but – at least in two-motor launch form – the car’s energy consumption is on the high side: 2.6 litres-equivalent per 100 km in government ratings, with a range of 375 km.
The $65,000 Tesla Model 3 AWD with a 75-kWh battery is rated at 2.0 Le/100 km and 518 km. And some downscale EVs such as the Hyundai Kona Electric and Chevrolet Bolt are rated at 400-plus kilometres.
I picked up the Polestar 2 test car showing a 94-per-cent state of charge (SoC) and 300 km of range. After 237 km of mixed driving (city, suburbia, highways and country two-laners), the car showed 80 km of range and a 24-per-cent state of charge. That would extrapolate to about 338 kilometres from 100-per-cent SoC down to “fumes” – a little disappointing, since most EVs match or beat their official range in mild weather. My test day was warm, however, so the HVAC was in use most of the time. More significantly, rather a lot of spirited driving occurred, including full-bore acceleration tests.
Perhaps concerned about its range, Polestar commissioned independent tests comparing the highway range (cruising at 113 km/h) of two Polestars – with and without the Performance Package – versus the Tesla Model 3 AWD Performance, Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-tron. (Note that, for EVs, freeway cruising is a tougher test of range than city driving.)
Based on when the cars could no longer maintain 113 km/h, the base Polestar achieved 330 km and the Performance Package 317 km. While the Tesla won with 377 km, it missed its official range by 22 per cent, while the base Polestar fell short by only 12 per cent. The Jaguar and Audi were effectively tied at just over 300 km.
As well, the report noted, “The Polestar 2 proved to be the most conservative in its dashboard predictions, as the test vehicles were able to drive an additional 7 to 10 miles (13 to 16 km) at 70 mph after showing 0-per-cent battery, whereas the Tesla Model 3 made it just 2 more miles (3 km) after zeroing out its battery gauge.”
If the range issue is still keeping you from buying an EV, the Polestar 2 likely won’t change that.
But its range is more competitive than it appears from the official ratings. It also combines practicality, comfort and safety with an exhilarating driving experience. If you’re already ready to buy an EV, this one deserves a close look.
And with Teslas almost becoming commonplace, driving a Polestar 2 won’t have you seeing another car just like yours on every corner. A bit like driving a Saab, come to think of it.
- Base price/as tested: $69,900/$75,900
- Powertrain: 2 x 150-kilowatt motors/78 kilowatt-hour battery pack
- Transmission/drive: one-speed automatic/all-wheel-drive
- Fuel economy (Le/100 kilometres): 2.5 city/2.7 highway
- Alternatives: Audi e-tron, BMW 330e, Jaguar I-Pace, Tesla Model 3, Volvo S60 T8
At 4.6 metres, the Polestar 2 is sized between compacts like the Audi A5 Sportback and subcompacts like the Audi A3. Perhaps that’s why, although Polestar calls it a “fastback,” it looks stubbier than most slope-backed sedans.
While the Polestar 2 is roomy for its size – and certainly not cramped – its rear-seat dimensions are less than those of its larger peers. The driver, however, gets ample at-the-wheel adjustability and terrific forward visibility (though the stout B-post is a shoulder-check cause for pause). The dashboard looks fairly conventional, including a centre-console “shift” handle. However, there’s no start/stop button; the seat senses when the driver is aboard, and then you just toggle into D or R to start moving. Thankfully, the portrait-oriented 11.25-inch touch screen is quite user-friendly, since you’ll be using it a lot, including for the HVAC. The gauge cluster is a digital screen that presents information with numbers and bar graphics; it has three display modes, but they don’t include any pretty “pretend” dials with needles.
The claimed 0-100 km/h acceleration in less than 5 seconds feels entirely credible, and the experience of crushing performance delivered with eerie silence is highly seductive. On the highway, some tire hum intrudes, and the firm ride can feel fidgety even on smooth pavement, but that sense of connection with the road also translates into terrific feel and balance when exploiting the impressive cornering grip. (Remember, the test car’s Performance Package included summer performance tires and adjustable dampers. Expect a calmer ride in the base car.)
It’s a Volvo at heart, so if the Polestar lacks anything in drive-assist technology, it’s probably for a good reason. The technology pièce de resistance is its world-first Android Automotive infotainment system, with over-the-air updates. Co-developed with Google, the OS integrates Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play into the car, all without any need to plug your phone in. And yes, it is also compatible with iPhones.
As a hauler, the 2′s standout feature is that can tow 900 kg. A tow rating is rare in any car these days, let alone an EV. It’s also a hatchback with flat-and-flush folding seats, so it’s big on versatility, even if cargo volume is unremarkable (405 L, plus another 35 in the “frunk”).
The writer was a guest of the automaker. Content was not subject to approval.
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