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Car reviews - Polestar - 2

Polestar models

Our Opinion

We like
Great build quality and materials, handsome design, sporty driving position, outstanding grip, handling and acceleration in dual-motor Performance spec
Room for improvement
Compact cabin, very taut ride on Performance Pack, range claim seems optimistic, standard equipment list could be more generous

The Polestar 2 is a finely honed product and an enticing Tesla Model 3 alternative

11 Nov 2021

Overview

 

THE arrival of a new brand is always a moment of intrigue, however, there’s something else beyond Polestar’s freshness to the market that sparks curiosity.

 

An all-EV offspring of Volvo and Geely, Polestar fuses familiar Swedish virtues with clean-slate thinking about what cars should be, how they should be built and how much they should pollute.

 

Indeed, the company aims to build a truly carbon-neutral car by the end of this decade, a vehicle whose total production-related CO2 output is zero – or even negative – and Polestar’s holistic approach to achieving that encompasses everything from how its factories are powered and where its raw materials come from, to how much recycled material it can make use of in each car it builds.

 

But does pursuing the ultimate eco-car lead to compromises? Polestar’s corporate ethos is noble, but its longevity in the market won’t be determined by how green it is but how good its products are. We Australians missed out on Polestar’s first effort, the very exclusive Polestar 1 sportscar, but its more relevant stablemate, the Polestar 2, is finally with us and on sale. It’s time to find out whether the Polestar hype is justified.

 

The pricing is certainly sharp, aimed squarely at Tesla’s Model 3 with a starting price of $59,900 before on-road costs, but our first taste of the Polestar 2 is in the $69,900 flagship.

 

However, even at the top end the Polestar 2 feels very much like a finely-honed product that not only poses an enticing – and more mature – alternative to the Tesla Model 3, but should also make everyone who drives it question whether there really is a need to burn hydrocarbons any more.

 

Drive Impressions

 

Let’s get the obvious question out of the way: yes, while Polestar prefers to think of itself as distinct from Mother Volvo, there’s no denying that the inside and outside of the Polestar 2 both look and feel very Volvoesque. In fact, it’s a little bit odd not seeing Volvo’s Iron Mark sitting between those ‘Thor’s Hammer’ DRLs and on the steering wheel’s horn pad.

 

But this is a good thing. Volvo’s push into truly premium territory has yielded huge advances in engineering, material quality and design, and Polestar reaps all of those benefits too. Bodywork is flawless, there’s not a single skewed shutline (taking notes, Tesla?), the doors close with a vaultlike thunk and the cabin feels impeccably built… with the exception of the glovebox door, which closes with a very unflattering plastic ‘clack’.

 

There’s also a seam where two trim pieces meet at the back of the centre console that has just enough misalignment to make it visible, but honestly, those two things are all that we disliked about the cabin quality. Everything else is so exceptional, we’re forced to nitpick.

 

Black ash wood trims are balanced by textile panels, satin silver finishes and fine-grained soft-touch plastics, with seat upholstery that is either ‘vegan leather’ (synthetic leather-like), ‘WeaveTech’ synthetic (Plus pack only), or, if you really must harm the planet just a little, Nappa leather (cost option).

 

Our tester was equipped with the Plus package and featured the WeaveTech upholstery, which certainly feels upmarket to the touch, but its almost crepe-like texture is like leather grain. It’s a refreshing change from the typical luxury car seat, whether faux leather or real and the fact that it’s both lighter than leather and uses less harmful chemicals than vinyl-based fake leather adds some feel-good factor. It’s also highly recyclable, an attribute Polestar puts a strong value on.

 

It’s not all perfect though. Though not flaws, there are definitely shortcomings in the form of limited in-cabin storage – the glovebox is small, the centre console box is mostly occupied by the second cupholder, and under-console storage is really only appropriate for a wallet and keys. The shape of the centre console also intrudes on inboard knee room, and although this writer is neither big nor tall, his left knee was almost always banging against the Polestar 2’s furniture.

 

And while the driving position is good with a low seat position that puts you in a car-like posture (yes, the exterior design suggests the 2 is an SUV, but it’s packaged more like a small sedan), headroom is in short supply due to the panoramic glass sunroof’s structure around the periphery of the roof.

 

It’s particularly noticeable in the back seats, where the combination of a high seat base and the low roof means taller folks can feel a bit hemmed-in. The glass roof also doesn’t have a sunblind or any electro-chromatic tinting, and while we’re sure its anti-UV coating works, it still warms up the top of your noggin a bit too much when the sun is out. It’s an option at least, offered as part of the Plus pack. Rear legroom is pretty generous too, though the centre seat is best left to kids due to the 2’s width.

 

Boot space is useful at 405 litres behind the rear seats and under the power-operated hatch, with a fair-sized under-floor area for charge cables and the like. There’s also a frunk on the Polestar 2, but it’s very small – only good for about two shopping bags, maximum. 

 

The cabin returns a mixed report card, but what of the drive? Our tester promises much in that department, being the long-range, dual-motor configuration that offers 300kW of power, 660Nm of torque, a 0-100km/h sprint of 4.7 seconds and a claimed range of 480km.

 

On top of that, it was equipped with the optional Performance Pack, which bundles an adjustable sports suspension by Swedish specialist Ohlins with huge Brembo brakes, 20-inch forged alloys, Continental ContiSportContact6 tyres and gold seatbelts for a bit of sporty bling.

 

However, in the first kilometre of driving it becomes apparent that the Performance pack might not be an option box worth ticking. The ride is very taut, verging on brittle, with the combo of low-profile sports rubber and track day-style suspension being incompatible with ordinary Melbourne roads.

 

The Ohlins dampers have 22 adjustment settings and our car was set to number 11 so there’s scope to slacken off the suspension somewhat, but it’s something that needs to be manually adjusted and that requires some mechanical fiddling that we didn’t have time for. With setting zero being stiffest and position 22 being softest, Polestar recommends settings of 18 and 20 front and rear for best comfort. In our experience, setting 11 is definitely inadequate for day-to-day comfort. It’s also a shame we can’t vouch for the standard suspension just yet either.

 

But the powertrain is definitely adequate. While lesser Polestar 2s are front-drivers, this one sends power from its dual motors to every wheel, and its exceptional traction is matched by assertive acceleration. It’s not as fast as a Tesla Model 3 Performance – few cars are – but it’s within a few tenths of a Model 3 Long Range dual-motor. On the street, it’ll be quicker off the line than almost any other vehicle you’ll come across, short of proper performance cars and supercars.

 

To drive, it feels quite conventional, and that may be one of the Polestar 2’s strongest suits. With an instrument panel right in front of the driver (unlike the Tesla’s oddball central screen), and familiar control layouts and just a singular drive mode (unlike the Hyundai Ioniq 5’s plethora of drive mode customisations and ‘guiding hand’ driver assists), the Polestar 2 drives like an ordinary car.

 

An incredibly swift and stiff car, but a car nevertheless. It’s easy to get to grips with and an easy thing to pilot, with your only real drive-related options being what steering weight you prefer (light, normal or heavy), and whether you’d like heavy or light regenerative braking in the car’s one-pedal mode (which simulates engine braking when you lift off the accelerator, largely negating the need to use the brake pedal). You can turn off the one-pedal mode too if you just want it to feel like a normal car. 

 

Around town, its greatest limitations are the chunky and vision-obscuring A and C-pillars. Blind-spot monitoring and side park assist do help, though, and the 360-degree camera that’s part of the Pilot pack is a useful thing to have – though it really should be standard at this price point. 

 

Head out of town and find a curvy road, however, and the Polestar 2 shows a different facet of its personality. In dual-motor form, it eggs the driver on with its fat, near-instant torque delivery and assertive acceleration, and when coupled to the tight Performance suspension the 2 becomes an adept corner-carver. It turns in tightly with very little body roll and huge grip considering its 2.1-tonne kerb weight, and slingshots out with a squeeze of the accelerator. The huge Brembo brakes haul it up just as fast, sharing some of the load with the regen, and the net effect is a vehicle with an impressive balance of performance. 

 

That all being said, there is one major problem – we couldn’t get close to the 480km WLTP range claim. On our 100km urban/highway loop we saw an average energy consumption of 19.9kWh/100km, which works out to be a theoretical maximum of 376km from the Polestar 2’s 75kWh battery pack.

 

At a full charge, the car’s range computer gave a slightly more optimistic 400km prediction, but even that is far from the 480km claim. In fact, you would need to see an average efficiency of 15.5kWh/100km in order to achieve the factory claim, which seems very hard to accomplish in the dual-motor Polestar 2.

 

This is more a driver’s car than a treehugger’s car, at least in range-topping dual-motor form with every option pack thrown at it. But is it really representative of what the Polestar 2 is all about? 

 

Never mind the fact that the as-tested retail price of this particular vehicle is a huge $88,800 (the Pilot pack is $5000, Plus pack is $6000 and Performance pack is $8000), the more critical issue is that Polestar’s Australian office predicts the single-motor variants are the ones that most buyers will gravitate to.

 

After all, if peak performance isn’t what you seek, then the entry-level standard-range FWD Polestar 2 delivers almost just as much range as the dual-motor long-range model (470km vs 480km), for $10,000 less. The long-range FWD gives you 540km for $5000 less than the dual-motor equivalent and seems like a pretty sweet buy at $64,900.

 

But as the apex of its kind, the dual-motor Polestar 2 is hugely impressive. While Teslas might boast more attention-grabbing metrics, no Tesla feels as well-polished, well-rounded and well-executed as the Polestar 2 does. If the 2 is a sign of things to come, the Polestar brand is one that’s worth keeping a keen eye on.


The Road to Recovery podcast series

Model release date: 11 November 2021

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