Test drive Polestar 2: a serious Model 3 competitor
With its Volvo background, the Polestar 2 strikes a far more serious and mature chord than the Tesla Model 3. That doesn't alter the fact that like its American counterpart, it also provides shiploads of sensory and digital pleasure.
Less is more. This is Polestar's brand motto and is reflected in all areas, starting with the design. It's original to say the least, although some will recognise clear Volvo traits in it. It radiates strength and self-confidence to say the least. These two elements also characterise its technical arsenal: the Polestar 2 uses two electric engines which together put 408 hp and 660 Nm on all four wheels. Naught to a hundred kph takes just 4.7 seconds and if you keep going, the speedometer won’t call it a day before 210 km/h - Volvo now limits all its models to 180 km/h, incidentally. The Polestar 2 has another major asset: an advanced infotainment system with Google software.
Android Automotive OS
Swing open the heavy driver's door and your eye is immediately caught by the large vertical tablet in the centre of the dashboard, which otherwise looks sober and sleek but less so than in a Model 3. Like in the Tesla, the door unlocks with your smartphone and you don't need a key to start it. There's not even a start-stop button: just pull the hexagonal gear selector in D and you're off. As for the physical key (which we received during our 1-day test because our smartphone wasn't connected to the car): it looks very cheap, dear Polestar. It reminded us of the 2002 Mondeo key that Ford considered good enough for the late Jaguar X-Type. It wasn’t – it’s the first contact with the car and should make a good impression.
The brain of the infotainment system comes from Google: this Polestar is one of the first cars to use the so-called Android Automotive OS. Just to be clear: this has nothing to do with Android Auto, the smartphone mirroring function for Android phones. iPhone users shouldn't be worried either for that matter: the system also works with Apple CarPlay. Google’s OS for vehicles turns out to be extremely powerful, fast and above all user-friendly. The tablet is divided into four tiles for as many categories, ranging from phone and media to vehicle data and navigation. The latter uses Google Maps, obviously, and is frankly the best system we've tested so far. The maps are crystal clear, dynamic and rich in information, zoom in and out quickly using two fingers and give you a clear overview of the route.
Thanks to the data subscription (free for 3 years) you always get the most accurate traffic information and other content, such as the weather forecast, location and availability of charging stations, opening hours of coffee bars, etc. Important for an electric car is to know whether you will reach your destination with the remaining battery charge. The Polestar 2 calculates which percentage you will have left at your destination and suggests charging points along the way if the answer is zero.
A real relief and value-added safety feature is Google Assistant. You can activate this virtual assistant by saying "Hey Google" or "Ok Google" and then give a command in plain human language. In short, you don't have to structure your sentences in a robotic way like "Navigation - enter destination - Amsterdam – P.C. Hooftstraat 74". You can also ask Google questions, ranging from "how far is the Eiffel Tower from here?" and "what is the best sushi restaurant in Düsseldorf?" to "Do I have appointments this afternoon?" and "why are bananas curved?". Really.
Thanks to this voice assistant you can keep your eyes on the road. Google even reads out your text messages and Messenger messages if you ask nicely. You can also easily dictate and send messages. We've tried this text-to-speech feature several times and it worked flawlessly, even in Dutch. However, we couldn't always wake up Google with the familiar voice command. Software glitch or connection problem?
Tight and razor sharp
The interior finish also exudes simplicity and quality - apart from the side panels of the centre console - and there was no rattle or squeak to be heard, not even on the worst Belgian roads. The Polestar 2 remains composed at all times and inspires a lot of confidence, especially in fast corners. Our test car was fitted with the Performance Pack, which costs about €5,000 and includes manually (indeed...) adjustable dual-flow valve shock absorbers from Öhlins, more powerful Brembo brakes, specific 20 inch rims, gold-coloured brake pads, valves and seatbelts and a high-gloss black roof segment.
In terms of ride quality, the Performance Pack’s standard set-up can be compared to the M-Sport suspension of the BMW 3-Series. Body roll is kept in check perfectly, but on bad roads every bump is transmitted to the occupants. As to the degree of regenerative braking, there are three settings ranging from almost no deceleration (ideal for highways) to maximum braking (the better choice for urban and/or sporty rides). In the latter case you barely need the brake pedal - simply releasing the accelerator is enough to bring the car to a complete stop. Add to that razor-sharp steering - what a difference with the aforementioned Californian competitor - and you get a real driver's car. As far as accelerations are concerned, there is little to say about them, except that they are impressive, as with any powerful electric car.
Driving pleasure is available in busloads, but is the Polestar 2 also suitable as a daily drive? On paper it is: it promises a range of 470 km according to the WLTP cycle. Our test car consumed an average of 23 kWh/100 km, which seems a bit high. Considering the net battery capacity of 72.5 kWh (78 kWh gross), our range turned out to be between 300 and 350 km. We did deploy the full cavalry regularly and drove on motorways for about half of the time, though. We hope to be able to test the Polestar 2 for a bit longer in the autumn, when we can also pre-climatize the interior to make maximum use of the battery. We are also curious to check its charging performance. The standard on-board charger can handle 11 kW - seven hours should suffice to charge it from nearly empty to full. The Polestar 2 can draw 150 kW from a DC fast charger, which translates into a charging time of half an hour to reach 80% state of charge.
In any case, the Polestar 2 seems perfectly suited as a daily drive, especially since it is quite practical. The standard power-operated front seats are a dream (thank you, Volvo), the soundproofing is exemplary and the interior space is large enough for four adults. You can store small items in the frunk (the 3- litre compartment in the nose) and the bulkier ones in the conventional boot, which can take 405 litres of stuff and is easily accessible thanks to the electrically operated, wide opening tailgate. By the way, the entire underside of the rear bumper is equipped with sensors, so you don't have to swing your foot forward exactly in the middle of the bumper to activate the automatic operation.
The Polestar 2 costs roughly € 50,000 excluding VAT. For this price you get everything you can expect from this type of car in the year 2020 - and more. LED headlights, a panoramic glass roof (fixed), the Android infotainment system including Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play Store, Harman Kardon Premium Sound, wireless mobile phone charging, Pilot Assist (semi-autonomous motorway driving), adaptive cruise control, 360° parking aid cameras, electrically operated seats with memory function, 19" alloy wheels, hands-free electrically operated boot lid, electrically heated front seats and rear seats: it’s all included.
The personalization options are very limited - that is the price of rationalization. For the interior you can choose between two vegan textile options and a leather option (ventilated nappa leather in combination with modern wood inlay in the dashboard, +/- €3,700). For the exterior the only option - besides the 5 metallic paint colours (+/- € 800) - is a set of 20-inch rims to replace the standard 19-inch ones (+/- € 800).
Last but not least: Polestar also gives a complementary data plan for three years to feed all connected services, as well as three years or 50,000 km of free maintenance - with pick-up and return service. Now that’s convenient. Or is it because Polestar wants to avoid bad customer experiences at the Volvo dealer – who provides servicing but cannot sell the car? Indeed, you can only order your Polestar online. We hope (and believe) that the after-sales service will be of a higher quality than the one provided by Tesla, which failed many of its customers in need of maintenance and repair.
The Polestar 2 is one of those cars that causes some eye-brow raising at first sight but convinces you completely when you see it in real life and experience it sensorially and digitally. It offers a more serious package than its Californian counterpart and features at least as many trumps to make it on the fleet market.
- Driving pleasure on all levels
- Fantastic infotainment system and HMI
- Volvo credibility
- Limited personalisation options
- Strictly online sales model
- A few cheap looking details