What is it?
Performance electric brand Polestar, which was spawned by Volvo and launched its Polestar 2 in 2020, claims “not to do facelifts”, instead sending over-the-air updates to its cars ensuring that a three year-old used vehicle is as up-to-date as a brand-new one. So the launch of the ‘Model Year 24’ Polestar 2 is initially surprising.
It quickly becomes clear, however, that this represents a major hardware change for the brand’s current single model which has already proven highly successful – more than 17,000 examples are on UK roads, 80% of them going to fleet buyers. But this new Polestar 2 promises higher capacity batteries with longer range between charges, more powerful motors and remarkably in the single-motor variant, a complete drivetrain change from front to rear-wheel drive.
The Polestar 2 is a mid-sized electric saloon, targeting the big-hitting cars of the German executive heavyweights and especially the Model 3 of EV flag-waver Tesla. The Swedish interloper has already received high praise, particularly for tis design inside and out, its top-level safety scores and the sustainability aims of its manufacturer.
With the 2024 model Polestar claims to have made changes that its customers have been asking for. Visually there is not a great deal to differentiate the newcomer – there are new 20-inch forged alloy wheels which are created using patented laser-etching process rather than diamond cutting, and the adoption of the ‘smart zone’ front end that debuted on the Polestar 3 SUV which will launch towards the end of 2023. Replacing the radiator grille of traditional cars, it is said to mark the transition of cars from ‘breathing’ to ‘seeing’ as it houses the front camera and mid-range radar for such aspects as the cruise control and safety systems.
The major upgrades are to the batteries. The Polestar 2 is offered in four main variants, standard and long-range with a single motor, long-range with a dual motor and a range-topping version of the latter with a ‘Performance Pack’ added. All the long-range models now have a new 82kWh battery pack, a gain of 5kWh thanks to improved chemistry boosting the car’s WLTP-certified range up to a maximum of 406 miles between charges – an efficiency increase according to Polestar of some 22%.
All versions now offer faster DC charging too. The long-range is bumped up from 155 to 205kW and the standard version from 130 to 155kW. What this means is that rapid-charging from 10 to 80% can be accomplished in as little as 27 minutes.
Then there is the swap, on single-motor versions, to rear-wheel drive. This of course makes for a more finely handling machine, and can be seen as a direct attempt to sway customers from the Tesla Model 3 and the other big electric contender of the moment, the BMW i4.
Finally there are more powerful motors on every car – and Polestar says that all this extra potency has been achieved while cutting the car’s carbon footprint, CO2e emissions reduced by some three tonnes since the 2 first went on sale in 2020.
What do we think of it?
The launch test drive was confined to long-range versions of the single-motor Polestar 2, and the appeal of this car is apparent the moment you get into it. The surroundings are very clean, almost minimalist, and dominated by a huge 11.5-inch central touchscreen, laptop computer (or Tesla) sized and placed in the much more practical vertical format that Volvo has been doing for a while.
On this you can now get full-house Apple CarPlay, which is more seminal than it sounds. When first launched Polestar’s tie-up with Google meant that Apple phones could not be integrated to the dash like on any normal car. Customer pressure soon forced a rethink and the latest and 16th over-the-air update even includes the facility for Apple’s map display to be viewed in the driver’s own display directly ahead of them.
The Polestar 2 is stunningly easy to drive. There’s no start button, which is unusual on an EV – instead you touch the brake pedal to being everything to life. Then you simply select D from the stubby little gear-lever between the front seats and off you serenely glide.
Everything feels smooth and unfussy – the launch cars were set for one-pedal driving with plenty of regen and little need to bother with the brake pedal. Around town the Polestar 2 is a very willing companion and once the motorway opens up it accelerates briskly to a fast cruising speed.
It is quite stiffly suspended, especially with the new 20-inch wheels, and this can make things slightly jarring on less than perfect road surfaces. But generally this is a comfortable car to travel in.
And the switch to rear-wheel drive? It does make a difference, with more placed, precise handling. This car is not up with the best in the business, but it does outdo its Tesla rival.
The Polestar 2 has already gained a big following thanks to excellent design and performance, an impressive safety package and equally excellent back-up. Polestar’s ‘non-dealer’ route to market which doesn’t penalise business customers (see separate story here) is also earning it big fleet business. Now they’ve taken the package and made it better – expect a car that is already familiar on UK roads to become more so.
Polestar 2 Long range single motor
P11D value (as tested): £48,950
Powertrain: synchronous electric motor, rear-wheel drive
Max power: 220kW (295 bhp)
Max speed: 127 mph
0-62mph: 6.2 secs
Range between charges: up to 406 miles
CO2: 0 g/km