I came to Volvos later in life when I purchased a red C30 T5 six speed manual. Depending on who tells that tale I was either harking back to the days of hot hatches or having a mid-life crisis.
Either way, it was the best car I ever owned that didn’t have a battery. Unbelievable grunt from the five-cylinder transverse engine, probably the best ICE Volvo ever made, but I’m biased. I liked that car so much I paid a silly amount of money to get the Polestar chip upgrade. As my daughter said at the time, “You paid how much to get a blue scrabble tile stuck on the back?”
Which brings us to today. The Polestar high performance racing brand has been spun off into its own company jointly owned by Volvo and Geely (who also own Volvo) with a mandate as a pure EV marque.
Their first pure EV, Polestar 2, is available now in Australia. It’s marketed directly to the public with test drives organised through a series of “events”, initially in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
This is one of the “direct to public” models sidestepping dealer networks that Tesla pioneered and is being tentatively adopted throughout the industry, albeit with some resistance from the incumbents.
Given my favourable predisposition to Polestar and the fact that I run a website that aspires to be an EV agnostic direct to public sales channel, I booked a test drive at Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast with a view to seeing how the car was and how their direct model was delivered.
I must say my first impressions were a bit underwhelming. Way too much communication that ended up feeling overly intrusive. But that all changed when I got to site and was introduced to Mel, my demonstrator; competence and professionalism personified.
My ride was the FWD long-range version in “Thunder”, a sultry grey that didn’t live up to its name, but was relatively inoffensive.
Mel gave me a detailed briefing inside and out, which was very useful and she made sure that I paired my phone with the car so that they could give me a call out on the road.
Predictably, this was the most difficult thing to achieve. She then put a route into the navigation (local golf course), said when you want to come back just say “Hey Google, take me home” and told me to be back in 45 minutes.
The Polestar 2 is a fastback that is a bit like a hatch on steroids. It’s built on Volvo/Geely’s CMA platform and has over-the-air updates. Very spacious on the inside, comfortable cockpit position, four-way heated front seats and a couple of memory buttons, worth their weight in gold.
The centre-mounted touch screen was easy to use and didn’t feel like it overwhelmed the space. The steering wheel is not cluttered and the navigation came up on the dash. Plenty of room in the back seat for the occasional trip with friends, but I personally wouldn’t care to sit in the middle seat.
Driving the car was effortless. Took me a while to get the feel of how much loud pedal I needed to get the car moving, but the couple of times I managed to be in the first row at the lights demonstrated that the single motor version is no slouch.
I’m not a fan of one-pedal driving so I selected light regeneration during the setup. Given the congestion around Broadbeach, I cancelled the navigation using Hey Google so I could go for a spin up the M1.
Quite slow to respond, about 15 seconds, which made me wonder if I was doing something wrong. But there was also the same lag responding to my request to take me home. (Editor’s note: Polestar says a roaming connectivity issue was not picked up prior to media cars being issued, and will be fixed).
Handling was excellent and the car had good visibility all around including out the back.
So would I buy one? Hell yes! But I don’t think Polestar is making it easy.
The base price is great, I can step into the Void (insider Polestar joke) with the free colour and standard range from $63,310 drive away in Queensland.
For another $5,000 I can have FWD Long Range with the 78 kWh battery and a WLTP range of 510-540 km. That feels like good value, but I‘m not sure about paying yet another $5,000 to upgrade to two motors. I don’t need to get two tonnes to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds.
Then there are the option packs. There are three and if you added them all it would be another $19,000, taking you well into LCT territory.
The pilot pack for $5,000 gives you upgraded driver aids including adaptive cruise control, 360-degree cameras and fancy headlights. I could be persuaded.
The next pack, “Plus” has more interior comforts, better sound, lighting and a grocery bag holder. It also has a heat pump! Aghhhh, I’m not paying six grand for a heat pump. If you sell an EV, the heat pump should be standard equipment.
The “Performance” pack I’ll leave to your imagination, but needless to say, I’ve never felt the need to pay for $8,000 for gold valve caps.
My memory of Polestar was the signature electric blue. It was awesome, but where is it? The current choice is Void (black) which is complementary, then snow, magnesium, thunder, moon and midnight all at $1,400 each.
I mean, it’s a great muted palette if I lived in the arctic north and I wanted something that wouldn’t attract the attention of polar bears. But seriously, where’s the red, yellow or orange, or even better the traditional Polestar blue?
So have Polestar lived up to their high-performance heritage? They aren’t quite there yet in my opinion. I’d certainly buy a Polestar 2 (long-range plus the Pilot pack) off the back of my experience, but I’m pretty sure I’d settle for Void and see how much orange wrap I could get for $1,400 to punch up the look.
David Mitchell is the founder of findmyev.com.au and a closet Volvo driver.