In a minimalistic presentation that would’ve done Steve Jobs proud, Volvo debuted its first battery electric vehicle, the 2021 Polestar 2. Polestar once served as Volvo’s in-house performance tuning division but is now the automaker’s performance-oriented electric vehicle brand.
A 5-door hatchback, the Polestar 2 is sized similar to a Tesla Model 3, offering an estimated 275 miles of driving range, acceleration to 60 mph in less than 4.7 seconds, and a 14.4 cu.-ft. luggage compartment that expands to offer more capacity with the rear seats folded down.
Polestar will offer the Polestar 2 through retail “spaces” built in major cities around the world, with the first one to open in 2020. The car will be available for purchase or by subscription, and through a Polestar Connect smartphone app – which also works as the vehicle’s key and preferred interior settings cue – the company will communicate directly with its customers.
Based on exchange rates at the start of 2019, prices will begin at about $45,000 in the U.S., but for the first 12 months of production, the Launch Edition will cost nearly $70,000. Those numbers will drop once you factor in the federal tax credit and any state/local rebates.
Intrigued? Let’s dive into the details.
Powerful AWD Performance
The all-wheel-drive Polestar 2 is built around a 78 kWh battery pack and two 150 kW electric motors delivering a total of 408 horsepower and approximately 485 lb.-ft. of torque. Power delivery to the wheels varies depending on driving style and conditions, and the battery resides underneath the Polestar 2’s seats and center console, the structure of the battery compartment helping to increase the car’s torsional rigidity by a claimed 35%.
A set of 19-inch aluminum wheels is standard. Get the optional Performance Package, and Polestar installs 20-inch wheels along with Brembo front and rear brakes with gold calipers and adjustable Ohlins dampers. All versions of the car feature blended regenerative braking with one-pedal driving capability that an owner can customize using the Polestar Connect app.
Polestar locates the charging port on the left side of the car, behind the rear door. It is compatible with up to 150 kW DC Fast Chargers, and a 4.5-meter(14.8-foot) high-voltage charging cord is an option.
Familiar Surroundings, Next-generation Technologies
Polestar says the Polestar 2’s battery enclosure also acts as an “anchor of relative frequencies.” Translated, that means you’ll enjoy a significant reduction in noise, vibration, and harshness. For example, a conventional car traveling at 60 mph might register 74 decibels of interior noise. At the same speed, a Polestar 2 is 3.7 decibels quieter.
Thomas Ingenlath, Polestar CEO, channeled Depeche Mode during the Polestar 2’s reveal in Gothenburg, Sweden: “Enjoy the silence in a Polestar 2.”
As far as the Polestar 2’s interior design goes, Ingenlath claimed the car “redefines premium for the electric age.” Essentially, the interior expands upon existing Volvo design idioms, and in a new sustainable manner.
When you walk up to the Polestar 2, it recognizes a driver via Bluetooth and his or her connected smartphone. You unlock the car by grabbing the door handle, and your phone’s Polestar Connect app configures the vehicle’s settings to your saved preferences. Once you’re inside, you won’t find a traditional start button. Instead, the activation sensor is in the seat.
Ingenlath said: “The Polestar 2 knows what you want to do and is always a step ahead.”
That’s probably true, until the Polestar 2 gets confused about what it is that you want to do, and stumbles. In theory, this process sounds super-cool and sophisticated. But it also sounds like a problem waiting to happen, or at least a source of inconvenience.
Moving on, the driver faces a 12.3-inch digital instrumentation display similar to, say, Audi Virtual Cockpit. Mounted portrait-style on the center of the dashboard, an 11-inch tablet-sized infotainment display features a completely redesigned interface based on Android technology.
The main menu features four large tiles with modern graphics, and because the system is Google-based owners can download apps from Google Play, the navigation uses Google Maps, and the voice recognition system employs Google Assistant artificial intelligence for a superior user experience. Harmon Kardon provides the Polestar 2’s audio system, and thanks to Wi-Fi-enabled over-the-air software updates, the system is always up to date.
Don’t worry. Polestar promises that your iPhone will work with all the Android-based tech.
Minimalistic Interior, Maximum Safety
“Minimalism is an art that requires maximum artistry, experience, and precision,” said Ingenlath during the Polestar 2’s debut. To this end, the interior is clearly derivative of established Volvo aesthetics, decorated in environmentally friendly and sustainable materials.
Occupants are bathed in natural light thanks to a standard panoramic glass roof. It is laminated for safety, and for protection from solar rays and heating. A shade is unavailable, according to Polestar, because it is not necessary.
In standard specification, the interior adheres to a “vegan” program. Textile seat material is standard, with an available Weave-tech material inspired by scuba-diving sports vests. Polestar says the Weave-tech upholstery repels both water and dirt. If neither of these choices is appealing, Polestar can equip the car with premium Nappa leather.
Diamond-faceted 3D etched interior trim adds topographical interest to the car’s cabin. Upgrades include reconstructed wood in a light hue, or a Black Ash wood trim that Polestar promises is used in a way to reduce scrap for a more sustainable approach to vehicle construction.
Of course, driver and passenger safety is of paramount importance to both Polestar and Volvo. That’s why the company bolts something it calls a “spock” to the vehicle architecture near the front corners of the battery. This robust element is designed to deflect all metal frame elements away from the interior and to protect the battery in a small overlap frontal-impact collision.
Polestar says its new EV is designed to excel in all global crash standards and to prevent any crash energy from reaching the cabin or the battery. Standard equipment also includes a lengthy list of driver assistance and collision avoidance systems, and even Volvo’s Pilot Assist technology is included in every Polestar 2.
As Ingenlath summed up: “The Polestar 2 makes no compromise when it comes to protecting your life.”
Design With a Scandinavian Edge
Available in six colors (Midnight, Magnesium, Snow, Thunder, Moon, Void) and with two different wheel designs, the Polestar 2’s exterior styling is also reminiscent of modern Volvos right down to the familiar Thor’s Hammer running lights, but with a distinctive edge.
Highlights include LED headlights with 84 individual pixels that can so precisely cut their illumination pattern to account for both oncoming and followed vehicles that Polestar claims you can drive with the high-beams on at all times. They flank a rather plain grid-pattern grille that would look better with the Polestar emblem mounted in the center rather than on the hood.
By designing the entire side mirror housings to adjust rather than only the glass, Polestar has reduced the size of the side mirrors by 30%. This improves aerodynamics, and rids the car of what Ingenlath referred to as “elephant ears.”
Around back, adaptive C-shaped taillights illuminate variably depending on the weather, and are connected by a crystal light blade. They decorate a power-operated liftgate with hands-free operation. Just wave a foot under the bumper and it will rise upon your command. Just be careful if the ground is icy.
Built for the change to sustainable mobility, according to Ingenlath, the Polestar 2 appears to be a solid first effort by Volvo to build a competitive electric luxury performance car.
When it arrives, given the rapidly increasing competition in the space, reality will need to exceed expectations.