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The Top Gear car review: Polestar 2
For:Beautifully built intuitive cabin, effortless performance, exceptionally cool image, the look on Tesla drivers’ faces
Against:Performance Pack adjustable dampers are too firm out of the box
What is it?
A new electric car, from a new electric car company. Polestar was once Volvo’s racing skunkworks, but it’s morphed into a standalone electric offshoot, jointly owned by Volvo and its Chinese mothership, Geely. Its cars are built in China, to be sold worldwide.
And while Polestar’s first homebrew effort was a plug-in hybrid – the beautiful, £140,000 Polestar 1, this is where it gets serious. The 1 was a limited-edition headline-grabber. This is the Polestar 2, and it’s a fully-fledged production car designed to do the hard yards in establishing Polestar as a big player in the EV scene. It’s gunning for the biggest bullseye of them all right now: the Tesla Model 3.
Prices start at £49,900, (at the moment) for a Polestar 2 equipped with a 78kWh battery pack and electric motors on the front and rear axle. The car develops just over 400bhp split 50/50 front-rear, so it’s fast, despite weighing 2.1 tonnes. Polestar says it’s planning a two-wheel drive version, and a 2 with a smaller battery, which will bring the cost down towards thirty-something thousand. It won’t be lost on EV-watchers that it’s exactly the same tactic employed – with some success – by Tesla and its wildly popular, and deeply impressive Model 3.
For now, we’ll concentrate on the spec we’ve tested, in the UK, in right-hand drive. British deliveries are due to kick off in August 2020, which is impressively only a matter of weeks behind schedule despite the global disruption wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic. What deposit-holders will receive is not just a new EV, but also a new type of car style – a sort of raised, not-quite-a crossover saloon fastback thing.
Previewed as a Volvo concept several years ago, the Polestar 2 uses its height not just to offer a more commanding view of the road than a conventional saloon, but also to carve out space for the water-cooled battery pack, which lies beneath the cabin. It’ll juice the 2 for a claimed range of up to 292 miles, with the Performance Pack box ticked.
Now, an equivalent Tesla Model 3 Long Range is good for another 50 miles of claimed endurance, and for some folks, the argument will end there. But we’ll not get utterly bogged down in Tesla tit-for tat now. The head-to-head showdown will come later.
Polestar is finding its feet in the market and wants to do things its own way. CEO Thomas Ingenlath (an ex-Volvo design boss himself) hints Polestar’s USPs will be build quality and the completeness of the car and ownership experience, not YouTube-friendly 0-60 times.
He admits the learning curve will be steep, but points out Polestar has been in the EV market for a year or two, not decades. He believes that now the world is warming up to electric cars, soon the idea of each car needing to carry around all the weight and cost of a 300+ mile range will seem as absurd as a car carrying around a second engine as a redundancy measure. Y’know, just in case. Polestar wants to make desirable and rapid electric cars, but it wants to do so with Scandi common sense. And Swedish fashion sense.
On the design front, it’s job done: this is a sensational-looking machine in the metal, crisp and fresh and clean-cut, loaded with presence but wonderfully unadorned with fake vents or dummy-aero nonsense. It looks like the car the future promised, but distanced enough from a Volvo S60 not to seem contrived. When you see one of these whoosh past, you’re going to want one. And so, you might try a test drive…