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New car review

Polestar 2 test drive

Polestar’s second model – the 2 – brings electric power and a minimalist interior.

This is the new Polestar 2, and it’s the first solely electric vehicle to be produced by the company since it became a standalone entity separate from Volvo. We’ve already seen the Polestar 1, which utilised a plug-in hybrid powertrain, but the 2 is best seen as the firm’s first mass-market car with an electric setup designed to appeal to those who want an everyday EV.

It’s also aligned to take on a certain US-based electric car manufacturer at its own game. So can it hold its own in a quickly expanding segment? We’ve been behind the wheel to find out.

What’s new?

The Polestar 2 is a car that’s packed with innovation and features, so needless to say there’s a lot to talk about. It sits somewhere between a regular saloon and a slightly raised-up crossover, giving a more commanding view of the road ahead without being a fully-fledged SUV.

Inside, it’s brimmed with technology and it features full Google assistant capability. This means that, unlike many rival systems, all of the voice-activated systems genuinely work – but we’ll get on to that in more detail later on.

It essentially sits on the same platform as the Volvo XC40, but don’t go thinking that this is some parts-bin EV – this is a bespoke car for a very bespoke-feeling company.

How does it look?

To say the Polestar 2 looks otherworldly is to somewhat underplay just how mad this car looks out on the road. Of course, there are some subtle Volvo design cues there – the Thor’s Hammer headlights up front are the most noticeable – but in terms of outright design execution, the 2 is right up there. It turns heads wherever it goes with our space-age white vehicle standing out against pretty much anything it drove alongside.

The car’s layout, with a relatively raised seating point but a low-slung ride height, does give it rather strange dimensions but in this instance, it just works. Certainly against other EVs currently on sale, it’s refreshingly bold without being too over-the-top.

What’s the spec like?

Polestar has pitched the 2’s starting price at just under the £50,000 bracket, which allows it to benefit from the Government’s £3,000 plug-in car grant – so things are already off to a value-in-mind start. Even so, there’s a healthy amount of standard equipment including climate control, heated front and rear seats and adaptive cruise control.

The tech on offer is excellent too. The 11-inch touchscreen which dominates the cabin is one of the first to use a Google-made operating system and, as a result, it’s effortlessly clear to use and responsive, too. As we’ve mentioned, the voice control system is also intuitive and user friendly – just say ‘Hey Google’, state a command and it’ll do it. Looking for a charger or wanting to enter an address into the nav? This system will handle it all. Apple iPhone owners can connect and stream via Bluetooth, but full Apple CarPlay functionality won’t be available until sometime next year.

In terms of safety, just remember that Polestar is from the Volvo family. Therefore, it has been designed with safety as a priority rather than an afterthought. The Polestar 2 hasn’t been subjected to Euro NCAP crash testing yet because – like everything else – the labs have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s fair to expect that it will perform pretty well.

What’s it like inside?

Much like the simplistic exterior, the interior is a masterstroke in how to make a little look like a lot. It’s not a cabin which is strewn with buttons nor too many screens, just one central display which features a pleasing lack of menus. As a result, it’s a relaxing place to sit, with the elevated view of the road ahead giving a more commanding feel to those behind the wheel.

Space in the back is decent enough, though headroom could be a touch tight for taller passengers. There’s 405 litres of boot space which is bolstered by an additional 41 litres of load area under the boot floor. Polestar has also incorporated a clever ‘flip-up’ boot divider which helps to keep the area organised, while you can also fold the rear seats down to open up the boot area to a healthy 1,095 litres.

What’s under the bonnet?

The Polestar 2 uses a dual-motor EV setup, which sees a motor placed on each axle. With a 78kWh battery pack, it develops just over 400hp and an impressive 660Nm of torque, allowing for a 0-60mph time of 4.5 seconds and a top speed of 127mph. Of course, all of this is dealt out with zero-emission eco-friendliness.

What about range though? Polestar claims up to 292 miles on a single charge which, though coming just under the magical 300-mile bracket, is likely to be enough for most people. It’ll accept a rapid 150kW charge too, which would see the batteries taken from 0-80% in just 40 minutes. If you want to charge back at home via a wall box, you’re looking at 12 hours for a 0-100% recharge.

What’s it like to drive?

We’d argue that if you looked at any car with more than 400hp and over 600Nm of torque you’d expect it to punch pretty hard in the performance stakes, and that’s certainly the case with the Polestar 2. Stamp the throttle and the instant torque on offer thrusts you forward with ferocity, the numbers on the dash increasing in a scarcely believable fashion.

Acceleration tests aside, the 2 goes about daily duties in an elegant manner. The whisper-silent powertrain makes the whole car quiet and refined, though a small amount of wind noise from the roof did disrupt the peace somewhat.

Our car, in Performance Pack setup, rode on adjustable Ohlins dampers which, despite being an addition which will find favour with motoring enthusiasts, deals the 2 a ride which is simply too firm. It’s almost certain that, with these swapped in favour of a more everyday suspension setup, that the 2 will ride in a more composed fashion. But elsewhere things are superb; the steering is well-weighted and accurate and, despite weighing more than two tonnes, it goes round corners in an admirably flat way.

2020 Polestar 2 road test - rear

Verdict

Given that the 2 is only Polestar’s second vehicle – and first full EV – you could cut it a bit of slack if things weren’t quite as they should be. However, there’s little need as the 2 is a fully-fledged, brilliantly executed vehicle that feels just as good to drive as it is to look at. Cleverly packaged and featuring some innovative tech, it’s very much the real deal.

Polestar is expected to announce a cheaper, smaller battery version of the 2 shortly, lowering the entry price and further extending its appeal. If you were already looking at a Tesla Model 3, then we’d give the Polestar 2 a fair amount of consideration before you go through with a purchase – that’s for sure.

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Key specifications

Model: Polestar 2
Base price: £49,900
Motor: 2 x 150kW electric motors
Gearbox: Single-speed automatic

Power: 408 hp
Torque:
660 Nm
Top speed: 127 mph
0-60mph: 4.5 seconds

CO2 emissions: 0 g/km
Range: 292 miles
Euro NCAP safety rating: Not yet tested
TCE Expert Rating: Not yet rated

Jack Evans
Jack Evans
Articles by Jack Evans are provided for The Car Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association). They include test drives of the latest new cars and features on various aspects of automotive life.

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