Polestar 2 overview
We had to wait a while for it, but Polestar is finally here in Ireland. What is Polestar, you ask? Well, in the simplest terms, it's Volvo's spinoff electric-only brand. Actually, it's a little more complex than that - Polestar started life as a racing team, running cars in the Swedish Touring Car Championship, before turning to tuning road-going Volvos. Eventually, Volvo bought Polestar, and it became the Swedish car maker's tuning and performance arm, up-gunning regular Volvos with more power, body kits and shiny, bright blue paintwork.
In 2017, Polestar took another turn, as it was set up as an independent brand in its own right, and is technically a separate company now, co-owned by Volvo and the Chinese company that, in turn, owns Volvo (not to mention Lotus, Proton and more) - Geely. Polestar launched itself onto the world with the insanely handsome Polestar 1 coupe fitted with a 600hp plug-in hybrid powertrain.
Now, Polestar's mission is - in not so many words - to be the Swedish Tesla. From now on all of its cars will be fully electric, and it's kicking off with this, the Polestar 2. It's a fastback officially, with just a hint of crossover ride height that takes direct aim at the likes of the Tesla Model 3 and the recently-introduced BMW i4. Does it look a bit like a Volvo? More than a bit, really - the Polestar 2's body started life as one of a pair of Volvo concept cars, the other of which went on to become the XC40. In the future, Polestar's designs will become much more bespoke, taking the lead of the striking Polestar Precept, which was shown two years ago, and which in 2024 will become the Polestar 5. Filling in the Polestar 3 and 4 gaps will be an XC90-sized SUV that will be shown later this year, and an XC60-sized brother, which will arrive in 2023.
In the here and now, the Polestar 2 is where it's at. So, does it have what it takes to upset Tesla's electric applecart?
The Polestar 2 model range
The Polestar 2 line-up is simple. You get a single body style, a choice of two battery capacities and a choice of front- or four-wheel drive.
Prices start from €49,500 in Ireland (including government incentives) and the standard Polestar 2 is well-equipped. You get an 11.5-inch central touchscreen, a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, a 250-watt, eight-speaker premium audio system, Bluetooth phone connection, online Google services provided for three years, rain sensing wipers, an electric tailgate, keyless entry, part-electric front seats, front and rear parking sensors, two-zone climate control, heated front seats, a near-endless list of safety equipment (including emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, emergency steering assistance, lane keeping aid, road sign detection and eight airbags), electric and heated 'frameless' door mirrors, 19-inch alloy wheels and cloth upholstery.
There's also a standard-fit 'Pilot Pack' that comes with blind spot warning and cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree surround camera, auto-dimming mirrors, 'Pixel' LED headlights with auto dimming and cornering light control.
As standard, you get a 170kW electric motor (that's 231hp) with 330Nm of torque and front-wheel drive. The standard battery is a 69kWh unit (67kWh net), which gives a quoted 474km range on the WLTP cycle, and which can be DC-charged at speeds of up to 130kW, giving you an 80 per cent charge in 35 minutes. There's also an 11kW on-board AC charger.
For €53,245, you can upgrade to the front-drive, long-range version. This gets a 78kWh battery (75kWh net) that gives a maximum range of 540km on the WLTP cycle, and which ramps up its DC charging speed to 155kW. That's the version we're testing here.
At the peak of the Polestar 2 range is the two-motor, four-wheel-drive model that has up to 300kW, or 408hp, with 660Nm of torque. That can fling to you 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds, but it does cut the range to 484km.
There are few individual options for the Polestar 2 - really just the choice of Nappa leather ventilated seats, 20-inch wheels, metallic paint and a fold-away tow-bar.
You can have a €4,815 Plus Pack, which comes with a heat-pump for the heating system, a 13-speaker Harmon/Kardon stereo, heated windscreen washers (a Swedish classic...), heated rear seats, upgraded 'vegan' upholstery, mood lighting, a panoramic roof etched with Polestar's compass-style badge, full electric adjustment for the front seats, wireless phone charging and tinted rear glass.
Specifically for the two-motor model, there's an optional €6,420 Performance Pack, which includes trick Öhlins dampers (which can be manually adjusted, race-car style, which isn't very convenient, but which is desperately cool if you like mechanical things...), 20-inch alloys with Continental SportContact6 tyres and Brembo brakes with lovely gold-painted calipers. Inside, there are seatbelts finished in a cheerfully bright Swedish gold, too.
Polestar won't be using conventional dealerships in Ireland. In fact, the whole idea is that you'll do all your buying and specifying online, and the car will be delivered to your door. For servicing, which you'll only need to do once every two years, you'll drop it off at your local Volvo dealer, of which there are twelve in Ireland. Polestar will be opening at least one 'destination' centre, where you can view the cars in person, and collect one if you've bought one, but you can't actually buy one there (except through your phone, of course...) and the staff aren't on commission, so they'll not be putting pressure on you. The battery comes with an eight-year warranty.
The Polestar 2 interior
As with the exterior, the Polestar 2's interior is recognisably from Volvo. That square-bossed steering wheel simply couldn't be from any other brand, and if you've driven an XC40 or XC60 recently, you'll find much in the Polestar that's familiar. That's good in a lot of ways - you can at least be confident in the build quality - but not so great in others. For a €50,000+ car, the Polestar's cabin feels a touch cheap in places. The seats are a major culprit here. The trim cloth might be made from recycled PET bottles, but it looks and feels a bit too dour. Hard wearing? Certainly, but lacking in any sense of luxury, even if the seats themselves are exceptionally comfortable.
The touchscreen is better. Polestar and Volvo have teamed up with Google to develop their infotainment systems, and here in the Polestar the screen looks more expensive than what you'd get in an XC40 or C40 (both of which share the Polestar's platform and, in electric form, its batteries and motors). The screen layout is also better than in related Volvos, with a pretty straightforward menu layout and a sense of graphical richness that the Volvos lack. The voice control system, based on the familiar Google Assistant, is also better than you'll find in most cars, and picks up what you're looking for with a little more alacrity and accuracy. The digital screen in front of the driver is also sharp and clear and works especially well when you have a destination programmed into the navigation. Overall, it's a digital setup that's less striking than that of the rival Tesla Model 3, but which is easier and more intuitive to use when you're on the move.
Beneath the touchscreen, there's a small rank of physical buttons for volume and for screen demisting, plus a skeletal gear selector that's lovely to use. There's space to store your phone under the screen, but the Polestar does lack for cabin stowage. You get two small cupholders, one of which lives under the front seat armrest, and the door bins are not massive.
Space in the rear seats is OK - not exceptionally spacious, or anything, but you'll not feel cramped - but getting in and out is a little tricky because the rear door openings are actually quite small. There's also a vestigial transmission hump, a legacy of the Polestar's relationship to diesel-and-petrol-powered models, which robs space from the centre rear seat. You do at least get ISOFIX mounts for the outer rear seats and the front passenger seat, and when the kids have grown up a bit, there are four USB-C sockets (two front, two rear) so their devices will remain charged.
The boot is a decent size, at 405 litres, although there's a bit of a high lip if you're loading or unloading heavy items. The rear seats split-fold 60:40 and do fold almost entirely flat, which is useful. There's also an extra 41 litres of space in the 'frunk', under the bonnet, which is a handy spot in which to store your charging cables.
The Polestar 2 is well set up for towing and carrying, too. There's a decent 75kg roof rack load and you can spec it with a fold-away tow-bar, which will tackle a 1,500kg (braked) load.
The Polestar 2 driving experience
This front-wheel-drive, 231hp version of the Polestar 2 is going to feel a touch flat if you've driven the bombastically fast twin-motor version, with its 408hp. That said, it's certainly not disgraced, and overall performance feels strong enough - analogous to what you'd get from a comparable 2.0-litre diesel, in straight-line terms. As ever, with electric motors, initial acceleration is brisk (0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds is fine), but it does tail off as the speed rises, albeit not disastrously so.
Where this front-drive Polestar 2 really impresses is in its battery range and efficiency. Over a 100km test route, taking in country, town and motorway, with the air conditioning going and not trying to drive in a fashion that you'd call especially economical, we averaged 19.0kWh/100km, which is only slightly more than Polestar quotes for the car on the WLTP test. While the fully-charged range wouldn't display the full-fat 540km (it seems only Hyundais and Kias will actually display their quoted ranges on a full charge...) we reckon that your realistic day-to-day range in this model, including some motorway use, should be between 400- and 450km. Not bad at all, really. The Polestar 2 also has a particularly good 'one-pedal' driving system, with three settings - off, medium, and high - which feels entirely intuitive, and which stops the car smartly but smoothly when you lift your foot off the accelerator around town.
The Polestar 2 also feels really nice to drive. Again, trade up to the twin-motor version, with the optional dampers and those brilliant Brembo brakes, if you want the full effect, but even this humble front-driver has a sweet sense of chassis balance, and well-resolved steering. It's no sports car, true enough, and it will understeer doggedly if you try to push it too hard, but in general it feels agile and accurate through a series of corners, and sufficient fun to hold its head up in company with its BMW and Tesla rivals.
The ride is quite firm, but not excessively so and it's well-damped, so although you'll certainly know where the bumps are, they'll not jolt you around too much. Overall refinement could be a touch better though - there's noticeable road roar on anything but an exceptionally smooth surface, and you'll probably find that the stereo suddenly seems too loud when you slow down from cruising speed.
Visibility is a slight issue, though. The rear pillar is quite thick, and the side glass a touch shallow, so seeing out isn't always the easiest thing. It's not helped by a reversing camera that's set at too acute an angle, and which doesn't quite give a truly panoramic view of what's behind you.
Our verdict on the Polestar 2
Polestar took its time reaching these shores, but it was worth the wait. In spite of its obvious Volvo heritage, this is a brand and a model that feel fresh and interesting, and which provide a good combo of price and electric performance. While the cabin could look and feel a little more obviously premium, the Polestar 2 hits something of a sweet spot in the way it drives. As good as it is in its own right, it has also whetted our appetites for what comes next from this brand.
What do the rest of the team think?
The Polestar 2 is an impressive electric car and it's well-priced in comparison to other premium EVs, even if it's not the best at any one thing. I like how it's not an SUV, though its styling might still appeal to those that think they want one. The interior could be more spacious, but that isn't top priority for everyone. As Neil mentioned, it's what Polestar has planned next that is more exciting, but anyone that orders a Polestar 2 while they're waiting won't be disappointed.
Shane O' Donoghue - Editor