Variant: Long Range Dual Motor
Engine / Transmission: Electric 330Nm-660Nm
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Range: 455km-487km (dual motor)
Price: From $97660 as tested
Li Shufu, like Elon Musk, is a billionaire with a taste for cars – electric cars. Polestar is a collaboration between parent company Geely, owned by Shufu and based in Hangzhou, China, and Sweden’s Volvo. In an interesting twist of fate, not dissimilar to our own local experience with Ford and Holden, the Swedish government had an opportunity to purchase Volvo from Ford during the GFC of the early 2000s. I’m so glad they didn’t. What would have most likely happened under state ownership is the continued construction of existing models, with next to no expenditure on research and development, followed by fewer and fewer sales and then, eventually, the destruction of a brand that I hold close to my heart. What the Geely-Volvo partnership has delivered instead is a steady stream of very tasty Volvo models, including the XC40 and substantial redesigns of the XC90 and S60.
Turning to the Polestar brand, previously Volvo’s hot rod division, Geely has managed to position the brand in the sweet spot of aspirational and high quality EV transport – sticking it to the Tesla Model 3 and cutting off those too slow to see the race to EV coming. My first impressions? My first impressions are that I may very well use my own money to buy one of these! It’s that good!
What Geely has managed to achieve with Polestar is to tap into the sense of style and tactile experience of a Euro car but without the Euro price. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still a lot of money, a huge amount once all the option boxes are ticked, but if the Polestar was manufactured by Volvo in Europe it would be more expensive still.
The Polestar is made in China. For some, this will be a deal breaker. They’re fools. The quality of the interior trim and paint on the Polestar on test was easily on par with, say, the Mercedes-Benz C Class or BMW 3 series. Now, both the BMW and Merc have some ‘hidden’ quality in chassis design and dynamics as well as a hugely more accessible dealer base but you simply can’t dismiss the Polestar just because it is made in China and not Europe.
There was a real risk, of course, that Geely would have turned the Polestar driving experience into something akin to the joy of a second generation Hyundai Sonata! Thankfully, they have done no such thing. The tactile sensation of switchgear, trim and carpets as well as the firm, yet compliant ride leaves you in no doubt that, in essence, this IS a European car.
Heaps! Polestar owners tend to be tech savvy and early adopters. With this in mind, the Polestar 2 sports Google based Android Auto R and a constant stream of over-the-air software updates. Polestar say that since the launch of the Polestar 2, there have been ten major updates and close to 100 smaller improvements, all delivered OTA.
Polestar claim that their “… approach to software technology in our cars is that it should not be any different from how the latest software is pushed out on smartphones and computers in everyday life.” Most of these updates relate to optimising economy, but the performance software upgrade boots power on the dual motor version to 350kw and 680Nm. I’m all for that, I just wish it was included in the purchase price.
The Digital Key app allows you to not only unlock and start the car and to check on battery level remotely but to also pre heat or pre cool the car remotely – now, that’s handy!
Thanks to a OTA update, the infotainment system now supports Apple products via bluetooth and wired CarPlay. Google Android Auto is good but when I’m jumping from car to car I just want the simplicity of one system – for me, that’s CarPlay. Owners won’t be bothered by this fly in an otherwise tasty ointment.
The Polestar 2 Dual Motor is an expensive, high quality, high power electric car – it’s bloody good, but then, so too is the Hyundai Kona EV and Tesla Model 3 at the lower end of the market and the Audi e-tron and Porsche Taycan at the high end of the market. Electric cars aren’t going anywhere – they’re here to stay. This is partly because of the way they drive and partly because of the environmental benefits they (sort of) present to the world. No electric car is environmentally friendly and if you think they are, you’re kidding yourself.
You simply can’t get that much steel, glass, plastic and aluminium into a thing that, in Australia, is charged from coal fired electricity. The most impressive thing about the Polestar 2 and Polestar as a brand is that they’re trying their best. Importantly, the CEO of Polestar, Thomas Ingenlath, has identified that an electric car is just the start of the ‘clean’ journey. A clean supply chain is much harder to achieve than just a clean exhaust pipe. Polestar can supply full details of the CO2e footprint of each one of its cars as well as a “Product Sustainability Declaration, making it easy and intuitive for consumers to consider the climate impact of different Polestar vehicles, along with price and range”. It is this commitment to transparency that, I believe, sets Polestar apart from its competitors. Sure, it might just be greenwashing, but how’s this – Polestar is the only company that tracks it’s supply of nickel, manganese, graphite and lithium. This is in addition to the industry tracking of cobalt which is going someway to allowing Congolese kids a childhood free from slave-labour mining.
This commitment plus Polestar’s aim to create a truly climate neutral car by 2030, without relying on carbon offsetting, is deeply impressive and stands up to closer scrutiny than many other brands.
Not So Impressive:
There is no getting away from it, some of the Polestar’s options should be included as standard equipment. While the base sticker price of $64k is impressive, some very important functions have been pushed into the realm of ‘options’.
The $3400 ‘Pilot Lite’ pack, for example, gives you the headline stealing semi-autonomous driving function, but it also gives you some features that really should be standard. At this price, 360 degree reverse camera, adaptive cruise, emergency brake assist, active blind spot assist and cross traffic assist should be freebies. All of these features are only available as part of ‘Pilot Lite’.
The $6000 ‘Plus’ pack is easier to justify. If you want a glass roof, Harman Kardon branded sound, fancier vegan trim and fabrics and wireless charging for your phone, tick the box. If you can live without these additional features, save $6k. Easy!
An even harder sell is the $8000 ‘Performance’ pack. While the 20″ rims, gold Brembo brake calipers, and gold seatbelts look awesome, it is hard to justify the outlay. A big part of the cost of this pack goes towards the Ohlins dampers. No doubt, they’re quality items but, for me, I’d save the coin. I won’t even talk about the $1600 over-the-air performance software upgrade – silly!
I’d save the coin for the only option that appeals to me – the $9500 dual motor! Choosing the dual motor bumps your available power from 170kw and 330 Nm of twist to 300kw and a huge 660 Nm and gains all wheel drive! Now, that’s an option that’s worth every cent!
On a Test Drive:
If you like the feel of a European car and you’re after an EV, the Polestar simply must be on your shopping list. I imagine buyers cross shopping with the ubiquitous Tesla Model 3 but I also encourage you to wander down to Mercedes Benz to check out the bigger, but slower, plug-in hybrid 300GLCe or smaller, and still slower, A250e. Both are good cars and the hybrid nature of their drivelines means neither will leave you stranded with a flat battery pack.