The offspring of Volvo and Geely, Polestar paints itself as an electric performance brand. With its first vehicle, the Polestar 1 plug-in hybrid coupe now out of production, the Swedish company stands as one of two marques with an all-electric lineup. The Polestar 2, a compact sports sedan, now stands as its only model until preorders for its first SUV, the Polestar 3, open this October at its global debut. Is it a worthy addition to the growing portfolio of battery-electric vehicles on sale in North America? Oh yes. This one shows that performance, luxury, and sustainability can coexist under the timelessly beautiful sheet metal.
Polestar 2: Scandinavian Design at Its Best
Previewed by the Volvo 40.2 Concept, the Polestar 2 was originally going to turn into the next S40. Instead, it turned into an electric compact sports sedan that forms the foundations of a new brand. Most of the show car’s design remains intact but with several notable changes. The grille gets closed off and now has a cube-like pattern while a single LED strip now connects the C-shaped taillights. Polestar retained the 2’s coupe-like shape plastic body cladding and slightly raised stance. This results in an unconventional look reminiscent of vehicles like the Volvo S60 Cross Country and Subaru Legacy SUS. However, the raised appearance is all but an optical illusion. The Polestar 2 has 5.9 inches of ground clearance in standard form or 5.7 inches with the Performance pack
Entering inside the cabin is like stepping into an upscale Scandinavian living room that’s completely vegan. The clean layout with an 11.1-inch portrait-style touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital cluster exude a modern yet timeless aura. It’s inviting, pleasing, and makes you feel at ease when you’re inside. The available glass roof adds airiness while the use of renewable and plant-based materials creates a sense of calm. Everything you interact with feels expensive and the cabin features excellent sound insulation, enhancing the car’s overall premiumness.
Practical to a Degree
Built on the CMA platform Volvo Car Group and Geely developed, the Polestar 2 shares its underpinnings with the Volvo XC40 and C40 Recharge. Since it’s not a dedicated EV platform, it uses a T-shaped battery instead of one packed flat under the passenger compartment. This results in a lot of intrusions that limit small-item storage in the center console. It also adds a center hump in the rear seats, effectively turning the car into a four-seater despite belts for three. Tall passengers want to sit in the front because of limited head and legroom in the back. Front seat passengers, on the other hand, get treated to firm but supremely comfortable and supportive seats upholstered in a wetsuit-like weavetech material.
The Polestar 2 redeems itself in cargo carrying capabilities. Since it’s a hatchback, it offers plenty of space behind the rear seats even with the coupe-like roofline. Polestar says you have 14.3 cubic feet of capacity but in reality, you have more in terms of usable space. Folding the rear seats down expands capacity to 38.7 cubic feet. Once again, you have more than that number suggests thanks to the nearly flat load floor and an upright portion of the greenhouse between B- and C-pillars. You also get underfloor storage, a small frunk, and an optional cargo divider to help you better organize your belongings.
Google’s Android Automotive operating system first appeared on the Polestar 2. It immediately became one of the best infotainment systems because of its simplicity and responsiveness. Built-in Google Maps, Play Store, Google Assistant, and other useful apps give you everything you need. The system recently added Apple CarPlay compatibility via an over-the-air (OTA) update, adding another useful feature and better integration with Apple devices. Audiophiles will love the immersive and crisp 13-speaker Harman Kardon audio system. It features extensive customizability and is one of the clearest units in its segment.
Polestar and Volvo’s driver assistance suite stands out as one of the best in the industry. It makes subtle corrections and never gets intrusive when it steers you back to center or helps you navigate turns at highway speeds. Pilot Assist, Volvo Car Group’s semi-autonomous system, is proactive and does a great job responding to traffic. When someone cuts you off, the car immediately slows down to maintain your set distance or prevent an accident. These actions all happen smoothly, too, preventing the system from feeling overly intrusive. The downside? You must get the Pilot pack to get everything.
Polestar 2: Sports Sedan the Swedish Way
You can get the Polestar 2 in single- or dual-motor configurations. The former is FWD and makes 231 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque. Our subject is the latter, which makes 408 hp and 487 lb-ft and is AWD. For 2023, the Performance package bumps the latter’s output to 476 hp and 502 lb-ft. Even without that power increase, dual-motor models offer mind-bending acceleration. Put your foot down and you immediately get pinned hard into your seats as you accelerate to triple-digit speeds.
Unlike some of its rivals, the Polestar 2’s front and rear electric drive motors possess identical outputs. As result, neither axle gets a power bias, giving you an even power distribution. This contributes to the car’s stability, especially with the Performance package’s 20-inch wheel and summer performance tire combo. Together with the manually-adjustable Öhlins shocks, you get incredible handling and nearly unflappable levels of grip. Nonexistent body roll and quick, accurate steering allow the Polestar 2 to come alive. While not tail-happy like the BMW i4, it gives you enough rotation to make things interesting but will gladly save your bacon when needed.
Balancing things out is a firm but livable suspension tune. You can easily drive the Polestar 2 on your daily commute since it does a great job ironing out road imperfections. It provides plenty of road feel but the tires have enough sidewall to keep sharp impacts from jolting your spine. However, if your car has the Performance pack, keep the adjustable dampers in its Comfort or Normal setting. The Track setup is downright brutal and is best left unused because the car already possesses incredible handling outside of it.
The dual-motor Polestar 2 initially arrived with a 233-mile EPA rating for the 2021 model year. Since then, several OTA updates have bumped that to 260 miles for 2023. Don’t worry if you have a 2021 or 2022 vehicle because your car also gets that rating since they got the same software. Even before that, I managed to do 260 miles without trying on a long drive. The updates I’ve gotten in this example, which I own, have since allowed me to get up to 280 miles. I’m curious to see if the latest one allows me to break past that magic 300-mile mark. For those who want to maximize their driving range, the 2022 single-motor model is EPA-rated at 270 miles.
Polestar initially launched the 2 with a peak DC charge rate of 150 kW. An OTA update bumped that up by 5 kW, shortening the 10 to 80 percent charge times. During several DC charging sessions, I’ve yet to see the car hit its peak and it always seems to taper off quickly. It doesn’t seem to sustain high energy intakes for long durations but the initial spikes keep the charge times between 30 to 40 minutes max. I’m curious to see if the latest OTA update improves the charging curve, especially with the recent tweaks.
Quirky and Lovable
Prices for the Polestar 2 range from $49,800 to $71,650 with every option checked off. That makes it a good deal considering it still qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credits plus local and state incentives. The more powerful BMW i4 M50 and Tesla Model 3 Performance cost more than a loaded Polestar 2 dual-motor with each checking in at between $75,000 to $80,000. As a result, the svelte Swede brings a lot of value to the table despite its price tag. Its balance and ability to do nearly everything well are what will make you fall in love with it.
In typical Scandinavian fashion, the Polestar 2 walks quietly but carries a big stick. It doesn’t impress you with garish styling or stupendous acceleration or lap times. Instead, it relies on simple, clean design to achieve its alluring looks and presence. Together with its well-rounded power, handling, and comfort levels, you get an attractive sedan that redefines the meaning of luxury. This car eschews excess and shows what you can do when you focus on sustainable, progressive performance. Even though it’s eco-conscious, sacrifice isn’t in its vocabulary and Polestar is finding new ways to give you everything while taking care of the place we live in.