One of the advantages of living in the hinterland of the northern rivers region of NSW is that you can quickly gauge how well a car handles. Being stuck in city traffic doesn’t give you much insight beyond the bleeding obvious, and neither does sitting on a freeway at 110km/h for hours on end.
Sure, they are both important inputs, but there’s nothing like a winding road in rolling foothills to put a car through its paces. It’s what has made my Tesla Model 3 so much fun to drive on a daily basis for the last two years, and for the first time I have found another electric car in the same price range that matches it on driving performance.
The Polestar brand started out as a racing team before being purchased by its partner Volvo and its parent company Geely, and then being re-launched as an EV brand focused on performance, possibly because Volvo had yet to get its strategic brain about its own transition to electric vehicles would unfold.
There’s an advantage in this. The first one is the development of a new electric drivetrain, which allows a car company to rethink the way it approaches car design. Hyundai has taken advantage of this with its Ioniq series, starting with the recently released Ioniq 5, and its new thinking about interior space and vehicle to load.
Polestar hasn’t gone down either of those paths with the release of its first fully electric car, the Polestar 2. (The Polestar 1 was a hybrid). The designers don’t appear to have thought much about the possibilities of extra space, or vehicle-to-load, but they they have produced a super sedan that delivers in handling, acceleration and performance.
In the foothills, it was a real pleasure to drive. And it really shouldn’t have been a surprise, given the company’s achievement as a champion touring car. But this was seriously impressive, and others who have had the chance to drive the car had a similar view.
Granted, I was driving the long range dual motor variant of what Polestar describes as its “avant-garde fast-back” sedan, which is being offered at a price from $69,900. It has a 78kWh battery, range of more than 400kms, and can get you from 0-100km/h in a smart 4.7 seconds.
There are lower cost options, such as $59,900 for the Standard range Single motor (64kWh battery) and $64,900 for the Long range Single motor (78kWh battery and more than 500km range). Both single motor variants fall under the threshold for the $3,000 electric vehicle rebate on offer in three states, as well as significant stamp duty savings.
Another plus is the relative simplicity of the dashboard. There’s a big screen to one side and it was pretty simple to work out how to use the radio, the navigation and keep a tab on the state of charge and distance remaining. That was quite refreshing, although the view from others ranged from approval to not so sure.
Another cool feature was the visualisation presented for reversing. Like so many modern cars, turning around and looking out the back window doesnt give as full a view that you used to get in older models. That’s why we have reverse cameras, and the Polestar’s efforts at triangulating those cameras and giving a birds’ eye view was pretty useful.
What I was surprised, and frankly disappointed about, was the interior set up. While many EV models have used new drive trains, flat floors, and smaller electric motors to create more space on the inside, Polestar have made little effort on that part.
Maybe they figure their customers like to feel snug, and it may not be an issue at all for many people. Design points come down to individual preference.
But I couldn’t for the life of me work out why so much room was taken up by the middle compartment, and even the raised area in front of the back seats. EVs are supposed to have flat floors and create a feeling of space! This seemed like an opportunity missed.
Still, there is a lot to like about this car, and it’s no surprise to see it popular with orders, and plenty of bookings for test drives. I’d recommend doing one.
And it will be interesting to see how the Polestar designers treat space with the release of the Polestar 3, which will be an electric SUV.