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A seriously credible electric car

Jointly owned by Volvo and Geely, Polestar is now an electric car company in its own right and it’s not long delivered is second production model. Here’s everything you need to know about the Polestar 2

Discover EV expert verdict...

4.5 / 5

PROS
  • Beautiful design and great build quality
  • Brilliant performance
  • Decent range
CONS
  • Steering lacks feel and feedback
  • No standalone charging network
  • Expensive car to buy and lease

Overview

For those of you who have never heard of Polestar, they were acquired by the Volvo Car Group in 2015. It was previously founded by Polestar Racing (now called Cyan Racing) in 1996, to explore how the technology behind their multiple title-winning racing successes on the track could be applied to Volvo cars on the road. For the first few years, Polestar supplemented Volvo’s portfolio with specially enhanced models – think of it as the equivalent of BMW’s M Division. Some of the results from the partnership include the S60, V60 and XC60 Polestar Engineered models, with the package consisting of a modified engine and gearbox, chassis upgrades and a range of cosmetic enhancements, designed to give a sporty edge to the Swedish car maker.

In 2017, Polestar became an independent brand – although still jointly owned by Volvo Cars and Geely Holding Group, but with its own independent management and governance – to focus on high-performance electrified cars. Its first car was introduced during the same year – the Polestar 1, a six-figure luxurious coupé inspired by Volvo's Concept Coupé introduced in 2013. It is a plug-in hybrid with two electric motors driving the rear wheels and a petrol engine driving the front wheels, which together generate 609hp and 740lb ft of torque.

In 2019, Polestar announced the Polestar 2, a fully electric, premium five-door fastback. Unlike its first effort – a limited-edition exotic headline-grabber, the Polestar 2 was designed to establish the brand as a big player in the EV scene. Just a few months after British deliveries started, Discover EV got its hands on one to see what the fuss is all about.

Driving

With 408hp and 487lb ft of torque from twin front and rear 150kW motors it’s certainly not lacking in grunt, dispatching 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds, before reaching a top speed of 127mph. That’s not bad considering this car tips the scales at 2123kg. Other than putting the traction control into Sport mode and adjusting the steering weight, there are no powertrain modes.

Our test car came with an optional £5000 Performance Pack which includes 20” forged alloy wheels shod in Continental SportContact 6 rubber (sharing the same width as the standard 19s but with a lower 40-series profile and stronger sidewall), four-piston Brembo front calipers, cross-drilled 375x35mm front and 340x20mm rear brake discs, adjustable Öhlins dampers and refined spring and stabiliser bar rates. It is designed to augment Polestar 2’s fun-driving character, but also add visual appeal with gold detailing to the calipers, valve caps and seatbelts. While on paper this sounds garish we thought it looked rather smart especially with the metallic Snow white paintwork (a £900 option).

With the regenerative function in third mode and deactivated it’s a two pedal car, and the traditional hydraulic brakes are more than adequate providing a braking force of 0.3 G. The standard level presents the highest rate of regeneration, but it’s not quite as seamless or progressive as some other systems we've come across, slowing down a little at first and then increasing the braking force.  The low setting is probably a better compromise reducing the rate of regeneration somewhat, but still bringing the Polestar 2 to a complete stop.

Creep mode, which can also be deactivated, will determine whether Polestar 2 begins to creep forward when the brake pedal is released (like a traditional car with an automatic transmission) or remain in place until the driver depresses the accelerator pedal.

The Polestar 2 is definitely a driver’s car with 51/49 per cent front/rear weight distribution, dynamic suspension and a low centre of gravity. As to whether the Öhlins shock absorbers increase handling response (and if owners are really going to adjust them) it’s difficult to say having not driven the Polestar 2 without the Performance Pack, but they are able to utilise higher damping values for a sportier response while still remaining comfortable when pushed hard and providing a flat ride ride yet agile feeling. Overall, the Polestar 2 is responsive, balanced, stable and predictable.

It’s just such a shame that it lacks a direct steering feel. And that in our opinion is its only major downfall – the Electric Power Steering (EPS) System – it just doesn’t give you the feedback you expect. It needs a huge amount of lock to do what you want it to, requiring a 45 degree turn of the steering wheel to point it into a slight corner, for example. While at speed it seems to be a little more precise it’s not a match for the Tesla Model 3 with its rapid 10:1 ratio, giving two turns lock-to-lock.

Polestar says that it provides the driver with quick, linear, natural steering response and excellent steering feel but we would have to disagree sadly. There are three steering feedback levels – heavy, standard or light, but in all cases the steering ratio remains the same. Steering aside, given that it’s based on a Volvo XC40, it’s a real credit to Polestar what they’ve done with the handling.

Polestar driving rear three quarter
Polestar Performance Pack gold painted Brembo calipers

Range and running costs

The Polestar 2 has a respectable range of 292 miles on the combined WLTP cycle matching the more expensive Jaguar I-PACE, and beating the Audi 55 e-tron (249 miles), Taycan Turbo (281 miles) and Model S Standard Range (280 miles). It is some way off the Tesla Model 3 Long Range however with 360 miles and costs exactly the same.

The car has been designed to slip through the air as efficiently as possible and thus improve range – from it’s a long, tapered fastback roofline and Kamm tail (whereby the rear of the car slopes downwards before abruptly cutting off with a vertical surface) to the aerodynamic frameless mirrors (which are 30% smaller in size compared to conventional ones).

Google Maps has been optimised for electric vehicle use, too, so it incorporates battery status and range information to allow for charging opportunities to be integrated into the programmed route, or you can use the ‘Hey Google’ voice assistant to find out what charging stations are nearby. It lacks a standalone charging network but Polestar has teamed up with Europe-wide charging outfit Plugsurfing, so owners get access to its 195,000 charging points with one electronic key tag. 

Just like a petrol or diesel car, range varies based on weather, road and driving conditions, and driving style but officially energy consumption is rated at 19.3 kWh/100 km. On the infotainment system under the ‘Driver performance’ menu, which displays how you’re driving (Low 0-20, Normal 20-40 and High 40-60), we were in the middle but it’s fair to say we were not driving it very efficiently during our time with it.

The Polestar 2 comes equipped with an 11 kW onboard charger and two charging cables suitable for use with home and Type 2 charging infrastructure. Via a 3.7kW home charging points it can take as long as 24 hours for a full charge, or at a fast charger (with the car able to accept up to 150 kW of DC power) it will take as little as 40 minutes for 0-80% charge.

Priced from £49,900 it just qualifies for the plug in car-grant (capped at £50,000), which knocks off £3000, and with lease payments of £565 per month, the path to Polestar ownership is not cheap. Compared to its fossil fuel rivals however, the lower running costs that an electric car brings, makes it an obvious and, with its green credentials, good family (or company car) choice. In addition, data suggests the Polestar 2 will be resilient to depreciation. After three years and 36,000 miles it is predicted to hold on to around 60% of its original list price.

Design

The five-door fastback body with its clean and crisp lines, has real road presence and turned a lot of heads. We were surprised at the number of people who didn’t know what it was, the Polestar logo completely alien to them – it was almost akin to the reaction a Tesla would receive whenever one was spotted on our roads a few years ago. Proportion-wise it has the comfort and practicality of an SUV yet it looks like a sporty saloon without being overdramatic.

Unless one chooses animal hide, the interior of the Polestar 2 is entirely vegan – utilising significantly lighter than leather WeaveTech, constructed from recycled materials and designed to be durable and clean easily. Again contemporary in appearance, with no gratuitous features, there is an 11.15 inch centre touchscreen and a driver’s 12.3 inch instrument panel. You may recognise the steering wheel and buttons from Volvo’s latest offerings, but the design and layout are different.

The exemplary fit and finish together with the free-floating centre display, LED lighting, panoramic roof, gloss-black finishes and black ash (or reconstructed wood inlay), and other carefully engineered and crafted materials, make the cabin a rather nice place to be.

It’s definitely a product of Scandinavian design ethos – minimalist and contemporary, while being responsible and efficient.

Comfort and practicality

The Polestar 2 is as simple and easy to drive and use as it is unassuming and modern in its design. It is the first car to use Google OS infotainment and both the fonts and graphics, are strong, clean and quickly interpreted. It’s not as slick as Tesla’s touchscreen but it is easy to use and responsive, and one of the best smartphone-like displays we’ve ever seen. Apple CarPlay will be added in 2021, but there is Spotify, and you can obviously link the car with your smartphone and via the Google Play store, download your own apps. 

There’s just one trim level at the moment, but you won’t be wanting for anything, with electronic 2-zone climate control, heated front and rear seats, steering wheel and side mirrors, keyless entry with hands-free boot lid opening, 4-way power adjustable front seats, active bending LED headlights with cornering lights complete with high-pressure headlight cleaning, Harman Kardon sound system with 13 speakers and a subwoofer, inductive 15W phone charger, 4 USB-C connectors, and over the air (OTA) updates for the lifetime of the vehicle. That's just a few of the standard features by the way.

It also comes with plenty of Driver Assist and Active Safety functions (including Pilot Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic Emergency Braking with detection for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, Road Sign Information, Lane Keeping Aid, Driver Alert Control, Oncoming Lane Mitigation with steering support, Run-Off-Road Mitigation and Cross Traffic Alert), as well as lots of Active and Passive Safety features.

Our only complaints are poor rear visibility thanks to the thick pillars and a small back window (although at the least the whole mirror housing moves to adjust the view and the 360° surround view camera aids with parking) and the wide centre tunnel debilitating rear legroom for the middle passenger. Those sat either side will also complain of limited headroom if above six foot. In its defence there are plenty of storage compartments and it offers 440 litres of combined front and rear cargo volume (35 litres front, 405 litres rear).

Being a Volvo, I mean a Polestar, it’s also one of the safest electric vehicles boasting inner-side airbags, a high-strength steel safety cage, battery protection (the battery is installed inside an aluminium case not only to protect it but to distribute collision forces or loads through to the car’s body, in the event of a front, rear or side collision, or rollover), Severe Partial Offset Collision Block (protects the battery pack during a severe partial offset impact, directing the wheel and related components outwards and away from the body of the vehicle, rather than towards the battery pack and front footwell) and Front Lower Load Path (to help absorb energy from a direct frontal impact, replacing the energy-absorbing characteristics of a traditional internal combustion engine).

Another brownie point for Polestar is that the 2 is the best tow car in the compact electric segment, with a braked towing capacity of 1500kg, which is twice as much as the Jaguar I-PACE. You'll need to spend £1000 on a tow bar though.

Verdict

Minimalist Scandinavian design, superb build quality, well-conceived and on the whole great to drive, the Polestar 2 is one of the most complete electric vehicles you can buy. For all of those people who bought the Polestar 2 without even having a test drive they will not be disappointed.

It’s not without faults – the steering could be better, the Android-powered infotainment system won’t be for everyone, the charging network needs to be sorted, there’s limited rear leg and headroom and the launch models are expensive, but it’s a fantastic first start from Volvo’s electric off-shoot and will certainly make Audi, Jaguar and Mercedes sit up and think. It’s one of our best cars of 2020 that’s for sure and a promising look at what’s to come in the future from Polestar.

Key Specs

2020 Polestar 2

Price (RRP OTR): £46,900 (including PiCG); price as tested ££53,800 (including PiCG)
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
Power: 408hp (300kW)
Torque: 487lb-ft (660Nm)
Driving range: 292 miles
Charging time: 40 mins (150kW DC rapid charger, 0 to 80%); 1 hour 20 mins (50kW, 0-80%) 8 hours (11kW, 0-100%); 24 hours (3.7kW, 0 to 100%)
Insurance group: 42
Vehicle warranty: 3 years
Battery warranty: 8 years/99,419miles, or 70% state of health (SOH)

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