The Polestar 2 is an EV that's been fundamentally improved. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
You might think this updated Polestar 2, this Swedish EV brand's most important model, looks hardly different from the original. Much though has changed. As well as being a little smarter to look at, it's better to drive, charges quicker and goes much further on energy from its more advanced battery packs. As before, it's a high quality sporting EV, a rare and rather unique five-door hatch with quality, handling and battery technology all benchmarked against the best that the premium segment competition can offer.
You may now vaguely be aware of the Polestar brand as Volvo's luxury platform for uniquely designed sporting electric models. Every premium marque makes an EV these days of course, but many of them merely feel like battery-powered versions of existing cars. For an early adopter to plug-in motoring, there's an undeniable appeal in the clean sheet approach that segment originator Tesla's products bring to the table. Polestar aims to deliver that but combine it with the depth of engineering you'd get from a more established manufacturer.
Which in 2020 was what brought us the Polestar 2, a mid-sized premium EV Crossover that's done its share of shaking up the market. Almost everything a conscientious EV adopter might want was promised here - decent driving range, sustainable manufacturing, a vegan interior - and more than a dash of cutting-edge technology too: this was the first model in the world to feature an infotainment system powered by Google's Android Automotive OS system, which claimed to redefine what you could expect from in-car infotainment and connectivity. But the competition has been catching up, so Polestar has fundementally re-imagined what this car can be and produced a lot more than just a mid-term facelift....
In terms of dynamic updates, this is about as fundamental as it gets. Single-motor Polestar 2 variants (the ones almost everyone chooses) have been switched from front to rear-wheel drive, which Polestar claims 'elevates the driving experience to a whole new level'.
Joakim Rydholm, the brand's Head of Chassis Development, reckons this updated model 'is an even more playful and agile car, retaining its compactness and complete sense of control, while at the same time becoming more mature with added comfort.'
It certainly features quite a few engineering changes - even at the foot of the range, where the base Standard range Single motor variant now gets a revised 69kWh battery (sourced from LG Chem) and a redesigned permanent magnet motor producing 295bhp and 490Nm of torque (raised from the earlier model's 228bhp and 330Nm). That gets the car to 62mph in 6.2s, 1.2s faster than before. And, more significantly, driving range rises to 321 miles, 24 miles more than the earlier version.
The mid-level Long range Single motor model also gets a battery change - and in this case one with greater capacity, an 82kWh battery pack (up from 78kWh) supplied by CATL and capable of taking the car up to 406 miles. That same 82kWh battery also appears in the top Dual-Motor AWD model, which now has a 367 mile total (rising 64 miles from before thanks to a front motor disconnect function that's particularly adept at maximising range).
That top AWD model should be more engaging to drive too, thanks to the new powertrain's greater rear bias; and it'll be faster, total system output rising to 416bhp (14bhp more than before) and 760Nm of torque (100Nm more). The 0-62mph time of that Dual-Motor variant is therefore cut to 4.5s. If that's still not quick enough, customers for this AWD flagship model will be offered an optional 'Performance Pack' upgrade, which boosts power to 469bhp and cuts the sprint time to just 4.2s. This option is also offered to existing Polestar 2 AWD owners as an over-the-air update.
Even if you're impressed by all of this, you might still understandably have a few qualms about choosing a sports saloon from a subsidiary of the Volvo marque, a maker yet to deliver any sort of enthusiast-orientated product and a brand that limits the top speed of all its cars to 112mph. But give this Polestar 2 model a chance. Massive efforts have been made to imbue this car with levels of steering feel and body control that are about as far from your perception of Volvo as it's possible to get.
Design and Build
You'll recognise this improved Polestar 2 from the changes made to its front end, the original combustion-like grille now replaced by a much more EV-like 'SmartZone' body-coloured panel housed in a slim surround and incorporating safety tech like the mid-range radar and the forward camera. Otherwise, things are much as before, the Polestar 2 championing a chunky, purposeful sporty and distinctively Swedish feel of its own. Looks probably aren't going to be the primary reason you choose this contender (and they won't immediately advertise the fact that you've probably spent £50,000 or more on it) but if you're OK with something a little more conservatively premium, then there's plenty to like here. Under the skin lies the same CMA platform that's used by a Volvo XC40 but it's had to be updated with a unique front subframe for extra crash protection (electric motors are less absorbent in an impact than an engine), plus there are modifications at the rear to support the heavy lithium-ion battery pack.
At the wheel, no cabin changes have been made as part of this mid-life update. As before, you're favoured with almost faultless build quality from an interior carefully fitted out with fabric, wood and vegan leather (proper hide is optional). There's a blade-shaped dashboard incorporating a predictably huge central freestanding 11.0-inch portrait-format infotainment screen. This delivers the latest Google Android infotainment system. Unlike Android Auto, you don't have to connect in and then still have to separately activate car stuff (seat positioning, safety system preferences and so on). Google Android infotainment can automatically do all that for you as you approach the car.
What else might you need to know about the cabin? Well the seats are soft and supportive, but the window line is rather high, which contributes to rather poor rearward visibility. Careful battery design means that rear seat legroom is surprisingly good for an EV. And once the powered rear hatch rises, you'll view a 405-litre boot, which expands to 1,095-litres with the seats down, plus there's a further 35-litre space beneath the bonnet up-front.
Market and Model
It's no longer possible to get a Polestar 2 anywhere near £40,000; the asking prices now kick off at around £45,000 for the Standard Range single motor variant, running up to around £58,000 for the top Long range dual motor model fitted with the optional Performance Pack.
At least the small price rises that deliver these figures see some extra spec added in as standard. Namely blind-spot information with steering support, Cross Traffic Alert with brake support, and Rear Collision Warning and Mitigation. Plus auto-dimming side mirrors, a 360-degree parking camera and a smartphone-charging mat. Opt for the 'Permance Pack' on a dual motor model and your car will come with a freshly created set of 20-inch forged alloy wheels.
As before, virtually all Polestar sales will be done online (via an app which will also be used to arrange servicing and aftercare). You certainly won't be able to buy the marque's products from a Volvo franchise. All models come with a fully loaded specification, but if you want to go further, various optional Packs are available, primarily the 'Plus Pack' and the 'Pilot Pack'
Cost of Ownership
The furthest you'll be able to go in a Polestar 2 is with the mid-range Long range Single motor 82kWh variant, which now has a WLTP-rated range of 406 miles. Not far behind is the Long range Dual motor 82kWh model (367 miles). The base Standard range Single motor 69kWh version manages 321 miles. Despite the larger batteries, more powerful motors, longer range and more exciting performance, carbon emissions for long range versions with the 82kWh battery have come down by 1.1 tonnes to 5.9 tonnes per car (previously 7 tonnes per car), thanks to improved cell chemistry.
There's still no Hyundai Motor Group-style 800-volt electrified tech here to boost charging times (the usual 400-volt set-up remains) but the upgraded battery tech has brought with it quicker battery replenishment: charging speeds have increased - to 135kW for the standard 69kWh battery car and 205kW for the larger 82kWh battery pack model. That should mean a slight improvement on the charging times quoted previously, which for Polestar 2s with larger batteries were quoted at 10 hours for full replenishment using a garage wallbox; and 35-45 minutes (to 80%) using a 150kW public charger.
Charging stations along any given route are displayed via a simplified Google Maps display on the centre-dash screen. This includes live availability data so that you can see in advance which charging points are currently free. And don't worry if your trip takes you somewhere with no online reception: should you venture into such territory, the car will automatically download maps into its hard drive and switch into an offline mode so that navigational services can continue uninterrupted. Around half of all Polestar 2 sales will be to business buyers keen to take advantage of the 2% benefit-in-kind tax rating that now applies to EVs.
Yes, it's easy to sneer at Polestar's environmental mission statement - 'to drive progress and create a better future, a future that's sustainable, hassle-free and strikingly beautiful'. But we can't help liking the way that this car has delivered its electric remit with Volvo-style pragmatism - and continues to do so in this updated form. There's no big fuss about superbike-style acceleration times. Or about how it can charge in next to no time from rapid charging stations you'll hardly ever come across. It doesn't even mess about with a pointless SUV configuration.
Instead, the Polestar 2 simply gets on with delivering what is arguably the most complete EV experience in the £45,000-£60,000 price bracket. It has a Tesla-like feel of innovation, a Mercedes EQC-like feel of quality and a Jaguar I-PACE-like feel of sporting purpose. All with rare, unique branding and packaging. Choosing one of these would be a step into the unknown. But we can see why you might.