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Polestar 2 test drive 2023

The Polestar 2 has undergone an update that fundamentally improves many aspects of this EV and makes it a more attractive proposition

Summary

The Polestar 2 appears an initially expensive buy but once you factor in its quality, equipment levels and the extras such as the over-air updates that keep the car fresh, it becomes a much more attractive proposition
Design
8
Comfort
8
Driving experience
8
Value for money
8
Safety
9

Summary

The Polestar 2 appears an initially expensive buy but once you factor in its quality, equipment levels and the extras such as the over-air updates that keep the car fresh, it becomes a much more attractive proposition

Make and model: Polestar 2
Description: Mid-sized executive car
Price range: £45K to £58K (plus options)

Polestar says: “We rather went below the surface and upgraded substantial tech and mechanical components of the electric drivetrain – this is the best Polestar yet.”

We say: Build quality, lots of equipment and potent performance make the Polestar 2 a real contender against the more obvious big hitters in its market.


The ‘facelift’ – in the automotive industry this is basically a way of giving a car a boost halfway through its life-cycle – a few nips, tucks and extra bits of plastic on the exterior visuals, perhaps some new seat fabrics and a bit more, or changed, equipment.

Polestar, the electric performance brand created by Volvo, claims not to do facelifts – instead it sends ‘over the air’ electronic updates to all its cars so that a three-year old used version is no different in spec to a brand-new one. So just why was The Car Expert attending the launch of the ‘2024 Model Year Polestar 2’?…

Turns out, in many ways this Polestar 2 is virtually a new car, with more powerful motors, bigger batteries promising longer range and faster charging, and even on the single-motor models a complete change from front to rear-wheel drive. So more than a facelift then…     

What’s new about the Polestar 2?

In 2020 Polestar put its first mainstream car on UK sale – dubbed the Polestar 2, since it was the second model from the brand after the Polestar 1 (an expensive, limited-edition plug-in hybrid GT). The Polestar 2 is a mid-sized EV and slightly unusual, sort of sitting in the gap between saloon and crossover, targeting ‘executive’ buyers and particularly taking advantage of company car drivers pushed towards electric by the tax benefits.

It’s widely regarded as a direct rival to the Tesla Model 3 and the more recent BMW i4, and it’s already proven a success – there are more than 17,000 on UK roads and the Polestar 2’s silhouette is becoming a familiar sight.

Technology moves apace, however. and while electronic updates can be sent automatically to every Polestar 2 – to date there have been 16 since the first car went on sale in 2020 – updating the hardware to take advantage of such things as advances in battery technology is more difficult. 

Meanwhile in the last three years better rivals such as the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and Kia EV6 have come along. So now we have this new Polestar, boasting higher-capacity batteries, the ability to charge faster, and new motors that are more powerful.

The young Swedish brand has also clearly been irked by suggestions that compared to the front-wheel-drive single-motor Polestar 2, the direct US and German rivals offer a better driving experience. So from now the car goes rear-wheel drive, just like that…  

How does it look?

The Polestar 2 makes an immediate visual impression – initial confusion at a body shape that is neither quite saloon or crossover is replaced by appreciation of a quite angular exterior look that is both distinctive and pleasing to the eye. It’s very different to the Tesla, with prominent creases rather than curves, that work well together to produce quite a purposeful-looking machine.

Polestar couldn’t resist some visual upgrades on the new model. Notably the car adopts the ‘Smart zone’ front end treatment which debuted on the Polestar 3 SUV, launching at the end of 2023. Sitting where the radiator grille would be on combustion-engined cars, it accommodates the front camera and mid-range radar for the car’s safety systems. We rather like the comment that this zone marks the transition of cars from ‘breathing’ to ‘seeing’.

The new car also gets a revised design of 20-inch forged-alloy wheel, which rather than being diamond cut are created by a patented laser-etching process. They look great but are an expensive option, while not exactly helping ride quality either as we’ll see shortly.  

We like: Sharp, purposeful looks
We don’t like: Looks can confuse

What are the specs like?

One aspect that immediately endeared the Polestar 2 to potential buyers was a long list of standard equipment, including many things traditional executive brands have charged big money for as options. For example metallic paint comes as standard, as do heated front seats with some electric functions, front and rear parking sensors, not one but four USB-C ports and a 12-volt power outlet in the boot, a rain sensor, eight-speaker audio… 

The safety package particularly impresses – when first launched the Polestar 2 earned a strong five-star Euro NCAP rating, as it brimmed with active safety systems most of which were standard. Now in the latest model even more of them are.

These include blind-spot information linked to the steering, a cross-traffic alert that can activate the brakes, and a rear collision warning. All versions boast a 360-degree around-view camera too, useful to avoid curbing those expensive alloys in a tight spot.

Among more basic but useful equipment that now comes as standard in the new version is wireless phone charging, while Apple phones are now more compatible with the car – more significant than it sounds. When Polestar arrived on the market, it highlighted a major tie-up with Google, so all the phone integration was (and still is) based on Android Google units with iPhone owners totally missing out. 

Customer pressure ensured that wouldn’t last and Apple Carplay has steadily spread through the car – the most recent update integrating Apple’s Maps App to the driver’s information display directly ahead of the steering wheel. Freezing out Apple was a bit strange really as most people use their iPhones to show – Google Maps…

Polestar does offer options and they come in packs – on all models you can have the £4,000 Plus Pack, highlights including a better audio, posher upholstery, fully-electric seats, more upmarket air conditioning, a full-length panoramic sunroof and foot-waving opening of the boot.

The Pilot Pack, another £2,000, upgrades the LED headlamps with an adaptive high-beam and adds LED fog lights that see round corners, plus more driver-aids including adaptive cruise control – it’s a shame that’s not standard considering how much is. 

Available on the long-range dual-motor version only is the £5,000 Performance Pack, which adds further to the car’s potency with the 20-inch wheels, Brembo brakes with drilled, vented discs, sportier dampers and a software upgrade to control it all with sharper handling. 

We like: Strong equipment list and particularly strong safety
We don’t like: Adaptive cruise control not standard

What’s the Polestar 2 like inside?

Stepping inside the Polestar 2 produces an immediate positive impression – the interior is very clean, bright (especially if you have a car with the panoramic sunroof) and almost minimalist. There are very few extraneous knobs and switches, not even a start button – you switch everything on with a touch on the brake pedal.

The various systems are mainly controlled by the central infotainment touchscreen, which is, well huge – 11.5 inches, which is something close to what Tesla does. It is also placed in the vertical format which Volvo has been doing for a while and which makes so much more sense, especially when using it as a sat nav screen. 

In terms of space the interior is adequate – there’s plenty of room up front, not quite so much in the back especially above the head. The rear window is a bit letterbox too,  but with all the electronic aids this is less of an issue. Luggage space is good, certainly up with rivals.

What certainly impresses is the build quality – it’s all very well put together and feels like an upmarket environment. 

We like: Quality of interior build and design
We don’t like: Rear seat headroom not great

What’s under the bonnet?

Of course on any electric car ‘under the bonnet’ is a bit of a misnomer as the motors are usually mounted between the axles, the battery pack where it can keep the centre of gravity low, usually, as on the Polestar, under the floor.

It’s here that the 2024 Polestar 2 has undergone the major updates, across all four versions of the car – it comes in single or dual-motor variants both in ‘standard’ or ‘long-range’ formats. 

Firstly that battery pack – we’re told that ‘improved chemistry’ is a major factor in efficiency improvements across all the batteries and a bump up in long-range models from 77 to 82kWh. It’s apparently 22% more efficient, but no larger and it doesn’t intrude into the rear footwell, but it does boost the car’s range up to a WLTP-certified maximum of 406 miles between charges – no range anxiety here then, even the ‘entry-level’ standard model can do up to 331 miles…

A longer range does not mean more time waiting for the car to recharge. All versions of the Polestar 2 now offer faster DC charging – the long-range model increased from 155 to 205kW and the standard version from 130 to 155kW. Assuming you can access a suitable fast-charger – and one area in which Polestar can’t compete with Tesla is in the latter’s banks of ‘superchargers’ – rapid-charging from 10 to 80% can take a mere 27 minutes.

The motors are now more powerful, which means this is no sluggish car – the entry-level single-motor model passes 62mph from rest in 6.4 seconds while the dual-motor version does it in 4.5 seconds, or three tenths faster if fitted with the Performance Pack.

Finally, and perhaps remarkably, the single-motor variants are no longer front but rear-wheel drive – a major hardware change in anyone’s book. Certainly separating the propulsion and the steering makes for more precise handling, and this is an area in which Polestar has been marked down in the past.

Polestar adds that all these upgrades and improvements have been achieved on a car which now has a lower carbon footprint. The brand promotes sustainability as one of its core values and is committed to producing the first completely climate-neutral car, though its initially stated goal of 2030 might be optimistic. The company says that some three tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions have been cut from Polestar 2 production since the car first went on sale in 2020.

What’s the Polestar 2 like to drive?

It’s difficult to find a hard-to-drive EV and the Polestar certainly maintains the breed. Bring it to life with a touch of the brake, select D on the short, stubby selector at the base of the centre console and off you glide in almost silence – at speeds up to 12mph, and when reversing, the car makes an “unobtrusive but recognisable” exterior noise to warn pedestrians of its approach. 

It feels potent, as it is, but never coarse – gliding round town is an effortless experience and accelerating up to motorway speeds equally unfussed. Mind you get up to M-way speed limits and the ride quality is found slightly wanting, at least with the 20-inch wheels fitted to our launch test cars – poor road surfaces make themselves known in the cabin.

There’s no doubt that the rear-wheel drive makes this a better-handling car, easy to place in corners and assured through them. It’s still not as good as rivals though, with a bit too much body roll to be truly impressive.   

We like: Effortless performance
We don’t like: Ride quality at speed

Verdict

Polestar’s rapid growth in sales suggests the Swedish upstart is doing something right, but there are still plenty of potential buyers who don’t know enough about the brand to try out a Polestar 2 instead of either the German executive big-hitters from the likes of Audi and BMW or the fashionable option of Tesla. They’d benefit from doing a bit of research because there is a lot to like about this car.

The Polestar 2 appears an initially expensive buy but once you factor in its quality, equipment levels and the extras such as the over-the-air updates that keep the car fresh, it becomes a much more attractive proposition. And if you are seriously concerned about the climate aspect of your driving, you should certainly be looking at the Polestar. 

Polestar 2 highlights

  • Long range
  • Very rapid charging available
  • Top-quality build, especially interior
  • Over-air updates keep car from dating
  • Impressive safety kit

Polestar 2 lowlights

  • BMW still handles better
  • Big wheels don’t aid ride quality
  • Not a lot of rear-seat space
  • Quite pricey

Similar cars

If you’re looking at the Polestar 2, you might also be interested in these alternatives.

Audi e-tron | Audi Q4 e-tron | BMW i4 | BMW iX3 | Ford Mustang Mach-E | Hyundai Ioniq 5 | Kia EV6 | Mercedes-Benz EQC | Skoda Enyaq | Tesla Model 3 | Volkswagen ID.4

Key specifications

Model tested: Polestar 2 MY24 Long Range Single Motor
Price as tested: £48,950
Motor: Permanent magnet synchronous
Gearbox: single-speed, rear-wheel drive

Power: 299 hp
Torque: 490 Nm
Top speed: 127 mph
0-62 mph: 6.2 seconds

Range: Up to 406 miles
Euro NCAP safety rating: Five stars
TCE Expert Rating: 75% (as of July 2023)

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.
The Polestar 2 appears an initially expensive buy but once you factor in its quality, equipment levels and the extras such as the over-air updates that keep the car fresh, it becomes a much more attractive propositionPolestar 2 test drive 2023