It’s not all that often we get behind the wheel of something from an all-new brand.
This is the 2021 Polestar 2, and no, it’s not a Volvo. Sort of, but not quite. Polestar was initially known as an independent performance brand developing faster Volvos, but has since evolved into an electrified sub-brand under the same umbrella. The brand is owned by both Volvo as well as their parent company, Geely. This is a Chinese-built fully electric four-door sedan with a usable hatch.
The first car to come out of the Polestar brand was the Polestar 1, a plug-in hybrid with serious performance chops, and a price tag around $200,000. It somewhat resembles the Volvo S90, and is quite the looker. This Polestar 2 is the first attainable car for the public, targeted right at the Tesla Model 3, because these two are the only fully electric premium sedans at this size and price point.
The Polestar 2’s proportions are actually quite nice; it resembles Volvo’s sedans but has a touch of futuristic elegance to it. It almost looks like what today’s Volvo S40 would look like with a bit of a Cross Country treatment to it. This isn’t a bad thing – there is LED lighting all around, and the taillights have a neat fade-out pattern that attracts the public. It’s likely because nobody has seen one before, but this Polestar 2 couldn’t go anywhere during our test week without getting a ton of attention from admirers.
Powering this electrified sedan are two 150-KW motors, and this will eventually be the up-level powertrain. With a total of 408 horsepower and 487 lb-ft. of torque, the Polestar 2 will hit the quarter mile mark in 12.8 seconds. Despite its 4,680-pound heft, the abundance of instant torque right off the line makes it a seriously fast car.
The powertrain has 324 battery cells that total a 78-kWh capacity. It’s estimated to deliver about 350 kilometers of range on a single charge. Our test took place during near-freezing temperatures and battery life was affected as a result – we observed 265 kilometers at best. The CCS plug can support charging speeds of 150-kW, which can get it up to an 80 percent charge in just under 40 minutes.
As expected, the Polestar 2 handles well, though like most electric vehicles, the electrically adjusted power steering feels a touch over-boosted and can be twitchy at highway speeds. Regardless, this probably isn’t the car you’re flinging into corners and sling-shotting out. If you do though, you won’t necessarily be disappointed with its performance. It’s also very quiet at highway speeds, with only a bit of wind noise observed coming into the cabin.
The Öhlins dual flow valve dampers are manually adjustable, which is an interesting gimmick that’s also seen in some Polestar Engineered versions of the current Volvo lineup. It’s a decent conversation point, but it adds an element of effort when every other car with adjustable dampers only requires the touch of a button. Ride quality is excellent, and with 22 different settings for the dampers, there really is a configuration for everyone’s preferences.
Stepping into the cabin, it’s immediately clear that Polestar has focused on minimalism. Ergonomics are excellent, as expected for anything coming out of the Volvo umbrella, and the cabin is free of buttons and knobs. There is adequate height for easy ingress/egress, and interior space is perfectly acceptable for four, with plenty of headroom. The trunk can hold 405-liters of your stuff; fold down the seats and this number grows to 1,095-liters. There is also a “frunk” that can hold a small backpack, camera case or charging cables.
Materials are also minimalistic yet sharp, with easy-to-clean surfaces and a nice knurl to the volume knob. The piano black plastic bezel in the center will get dusty and scratched, which is the one weakness we could find. The real star here is the infotainment system, which is the first fully Android-based automotive integration system. It’s housed in an 11-inch portrait-oriented screen that, at first, looks like the Volvo Sensus screen, until you look closer.
This system uses the Google Assistant with voice recognition and can execute just about any command that your Android phone or tablet can. Naturally, those who are comfortable with Android OS will immediately feel at home. It uses Google Maps for navigation, which is exceptional. Apple CarPlay integration is coming, but not quite here yet. The only real complication here is that the climate controls are also built into this system, and therefore require a bit more fiddling than we’d like. That said, the heated seats are notably toasty in the chilly fall weather experienced during our test week.
The 2021 Polestar 2 starts at $69,900 in Canada, for the Launch Edition tested here. It includes everything you can imagine, along with the full suite of active driver assists. Our tester also included the Performance Package, which for $6,000 adds Öhlins dampers (manually adjustable!), Brembo brakes and 20-inch wheels. Performance Package cars are easily identified on the road because of the gorgeous gold brake calipers. The as-tested price of our tester comes to $75,900, and at the time of this writing, it does qualify for electric vehicle incentives in certain parts of Canada.
If you want to buy a Polestar 2, you’ll have to visit one of their proprietary retail spaces, which are not Volvo dealerships. Polestar also allows buyers to order their cars online and provide free delivery. They’re trending away from the traditional dealership model by ensuring the sales staff are non-commissioned, salaried employees, and in the interest of launching the brand smoothly, there are plenty of demo vehicles available for test drives.
The Polestar 2 is a much higher quality vehicle than the Tesla Model 3. The Tesla may have serious quality issues, but the range and price point is undeniable – consumers are speaking here. Though, if you’re not a member of the cult of Elon and looking for a premium EV sedan, you have very few choices. Audi’s e-tron Sportback is in the same range, but if you’re a minimalistic, simplistic individual with taste, the 2021 Polestar 2 just might be the most elegant EV on the market.