I recently managed a brief walk-around and test drive of the Polestar 2 – and thought I would pop together my first impressions of it prior to a longer test drive early next year.
For those who wonder who Polestar are, they are NOT a start-up like Rivian, Tesla or Lucid. Rather, Polestar is the all-electric sub-brand of Volvo.
As such, they have the engineering and financial back-up that both Volvo and Geely offer. (Geely being the owner of both Volvo and Polestar. If you’re wondering: Geely are a large Chinese auto manufacturer who produce vehicles both in their own right as well as owning, or have major stake holdings in Volvo, Polestar, London EV Company, Lotus, Proton and others).
It should therefore come as no surprise that the Polestar 2 is based on the same CMA (Compact Modular Architecture) platform and electric drive system that underpins the Volvo XC40. And because of that, the Polestar and XC40 do have some similarities.
It should also be no surprise that the Polestar 2 is manufactured in China – although my first impression was that its fit and finish was comparable to any European assembled model. Chinese auto manufacturing has certainly come ahead in leaps and bounds over the last few years.
When it comes to test driving or buying a Polestar, as a new entrant to the Australian market they have decided to employ the distribution path pioneered by Tesla (and also used by Hyundai for their Ioniq 5), and not offer their vehicles through a traditional dealer network.
Instead, all Polestar models are/will be offered for sale at a fixed price through the Polestar website. Test drives of the Polestar 2 are run from ‘Polestar Spaces’ and booked via the Polestar website.
The Polestar 2 is described as a 5 door, crossover lift-back/fast-back and provides a more car-like driving position (similar to the Hyundai Ioniq or Tesla Model 3) in comparison to the more upright seating positions of its other BEV competitors.
(These include the Nissan Leaf e+, Kia e-Niro, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Volvo XC 40 Recharge, Mercedes EQA and the ever ‘soon to arrive’ Tesla Model Y).
As I could only drive it around inner-city Melbourne and Albert Park Lake (the Melbourne ‘Polestar Space’ is run out of a small factory in South Melbourne) I had no chance to get past 50km/h – but I found that even the single motor 2WD that I had was more than adequate off the line (7.4 sec 0 – 100 according to the specs) and very smooth to drive.
The choice of one-pedal driving mode plus ‘creep’ mode seemed to provide the best all-round driving experience as it allowed for maximum regeneration on braking, but allowed for smoother take-offs and easier reverse parking. (Not using ‘creep’ meant you came to an abrupt halt every time you remove your foot from the accelerator pedal – which is most disconcerting when reverse parking!).
The driving position was both very comfortable and easy to find the ‘right’ position due to its electrically operated mechanism. (A Plus Pack addition). By the way – one neat feature of the Polestar 2 is that the side mirrors are a sealed unit with the whole pod moving rather than just the mirror itself – meaning there is nowhere for those pesky spiders to hide!
Boot space appeared excellent and only slightly less than the Tesla (405 versus 425 litres) with 41 litres of that under the boot floor itself plus a 31 litre ‘froot’ for storing your charging paraphernalia. (By froot I mean the ‘front boot’, or under bonnet storage. In US parlance, this is often called a ‘frunk’).
Again, I couldn’t test out the driving range or efficiency in a 1 hour low speed test-drive, but the Polestar 2 in two-wheel drive guise with the long-range (78kWh/75 useable) battery has a WLTP range of 540 km and a US EPA range of 426 km.
If doing an apples-for-apples comparison with the AWD Tesla Model 3, then the equivalent Polestar 2 has a 480km WLTP and 401 US EPA range. Perhaps not quite up to Tesla standard, but impressive nonetheless. Will give a fuller report on the range during the extended test.
If comparing prices and features – an AWD Polestar 2 Long Range comes in around $2,000 under the dual-motor Model 3 Long-range (which has a similar sized battery) or around $7,000 if going for a Polestar 2 long-range single motor. (Which would be a popular Model 3 option … if it were to ever be made available again).
However, this is not a complete apples-with-apples comparison. Whilst the Polestar 2 comes with many of the same features as the Model 3, including keyless entry a phone access app, over-the-air updates and all the safety features needed for a 5 star safety rating – it does require some extras to be added if you wanted to match a Model 3 Tesla.
These are wrapped into two bundles – the ‘Pilot pack’ for additional safety features and the ‘Plus Pack’ for further luxury items.
The Pilot Pack costs $5,500 and includes LED headlights, Driver Assistance with Adaptive Cruise Control and Pilot Assist, a 360-degree surround-view camera, all-round parking sensors, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with steering support, Cross Traffic Alert with brake support, and Rear Collision Warning.
To get the panoramic sunroof – you would then need to add the ‘Plus pack’ for another $6,600 – which also includes a 13 speaker Harman Kardon audio system, special interior trims, fully-electric heated front seats with memory, heated rear seats, steering wheel and wiper nozzles, and a heat pump.
All-up cost then would then be about $10,000 more than a similar Tesla AWD (without the $10,100 Autopilot option) – but only if you wanted those features.
On the flip side – you can order a long-range single motor Polestar 2 (unlike the Model 3), you get a driver’s instrument cluster that is easy to read without having to look aside from the straight-ahead position (again, unlike the Model 3 and the coming Model Y), a higher tow rating (1500kg for the Polestar 2, 910kg for the Model 3) and a ‘vegan as standard’ interior that also minimises chemicals used in manufacture – which also results in a much reduced ‘new-car’ chemical smell.
All-up – the entry of the Polestar 2 shows a maturing of the EV market. We now have competing vehicles with different features and driving experience in the same vehicle segment outside of the SUV one.
For those wanting a medium-sized sedan-like EV – (effectively inhabited only by the Tesla Model 3 and the original Ioniq) the Polestar 2 is a welcome entrant for those interested in the luxury and/or range of the Model 3, but needing better boot access and/or towing capacity, or are perhaps put off by the ‘computer-on-wheels’ character of the Model 3 and/or the significantly shorter range of the Ioniq.
In the meantime – I for one am looking forward to giving a fuller report once Polestar bring in enough cars to be able to score one for an extended test!
See also Giles Parkinson’s review of the Polestar 2:
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.