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Polestar will build a Tesla Model 3 rival

Here's the full lowdown on Volvo-offshoot Polestar's future range of cars

Published: 08 Feb 2018

More details from Volvo-offshoot Polestar on its future range of cars. And also how they’ll be named, sold and powered. The covers were pulled off Polestar 1 late last year, and it’ll be making its European debut in Geneva at the start of March.

It’s a big four-seat coupe in the mould of the Bentley Conti GT or BMW 8 Series, but powered differently – a plug-in hybrid with a four cylinder turbo up front and twin electric motors at the rear for torque vectoring and a combined 591bhp and 737lb ft.

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Polestar claims it’s a genuine sports car, not merely a GT cruiser, although CEO Thomas Ingenlath did say “don’t expect the same kart handling as a Lotus – they are part of the family, so we want to keep that spot for them”. Ah, of course, along with Volvo and Polestar, Lotus is now part of Geely’s gameplan. Be sensible to assume that Lotus might have an input into Polestar development.

It uses a cut down version of the S90 platform, with 320mm lopped out of the wheelbase and another 200mm removed from the rear overhang. On top of this the structure and body panels are carbon, helping to reduce weight by 230kg. Of course the weight is then boosted by the electric motors and battery packs, so let’s guess on a two-tonne kerbweight. Tesla has proved a car of this power and weight is capable of astonishing feats of acceleration, so expect 0-62mph in the low threes. The cabin is mostly lifted from the S90 as well, but with carbon fibre replacing the wood inserts.

One interesting feature: the door mirrors are mounted on the frames, not within them, so the whole housing moves when you adjust it. This has allowed Polestar to shrink the housings by 30 per cent. Since mirrors typically account for around 8 per cent of a car’s drag, this is a useful aero gain. At least until cars are allowed side cameras instead.

The 1 is going to be an exclusive machine, with only 1,500 built over the course of three years. Demand is already high and Polestar will be collecting ‘application fees’ of 2,500 euros soon. On delivery, expect to pay £120,000 for a 1.

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But actually don’t, because that’s not how Polestar wants to sell you a car. Instead it would rather you paid a monthly subscription that’ll cover everything from insurance and servicing to a concierge service and borrowing a different car for a few days if necessary. Volvo is trialing this on the new XC40, and if it works it could well herald an entirely different way of ‘owning’ a car. Think about the phone you probably have in your hand right now. The plan for the 1 – still being finalised – is that Polestar’s financial arm would retain ownership, and at the end of your lease period, ownership would return to them, and they’d let it out again. Same terms, only cheaper – a second hand subscription.

Could be revolutionary, but will require careful negotiation not to alienate a typically conservative dealer network. “It’s hassle-free, you don’t have to worry what happens in three years” says Ingenlath, “you just finish, give it back, get a new one. I think there is charm in that idea and I can see generations to come will not be happy to put 60,000 euros on the table that at the end of the day they have to sell again. The modern way is not to do that.”

Beyond 1 there’s 2 and 3. They’ll be all electric. 1 will likely be the only Polestar ever to have an ICE engine. 2 will be a much more keenly priced crossover aimed at the Tesla Model 3. “We’re not saying it’s a Tesla killer”, says Ingenlath, “because we are not here to kill Tesla, but we are here to vividly compete with them in that market.”

Expect a decent hit of e-performance as Polestar needs to distinguish itself from Volvo. For clues about its appearance, have a look at the Volvo Concept 40.2. Concept 40.1 went on to become the XC40 with relatively few changes…

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3 will be a bigger SUV, probably double the cost of the 40,000 euro Polestar 2. That’ll come in 2022, over two years after the 2. Both of them will be available in right hand drive, the 1 will be left hook only due to the small sales volumes. Think big, fast and luxurious for the 3. The 2 will be mass market, sales in the strong tens of thousands.

The naming strategy is simple: the next car will be given the next number. So the 1's eventual replacement could be the 5. “It’s so painful to find names,” Ingenlath comments, “this way we save the energy and time, there’s no model hierarchy so we avoid thinking about categories. You’re not bound to a box.”

I asked Ingenlath what differentiates a Polestar from a Volvo. "They are driver-orientated cars," he said. "They have better electric propulsion. The style is progressive yet appealing. They behave and drive in an engaging way”. So: faster, more exclusive Volvos.

I ask him about the 1’s exhaust noise. “We won’t make a feature of it. I really think that’s the past – it sounds old-fashioned.” So how do you make silence exciting? “By not disturbing it”.

A new kind of sports car is coming.

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