Mountain Wheels: Distinctive Polestar 2 all-electric builds on Volvo’s experience
So when is a new Volvo not exactly a new Volvo, and what makes it one of the most satisfying electric car experiences I have had so far? Yes, me, Mr. Ongoing Disappointing Electric Car Experiences.
The vehicle in question is the somewhat mysterious Polestar 2, a name that might ring very few bells unless you’re a Volvo (or European auto racing) aficionado. If so, you’ll know that Polestar has worked with Volvo to create special race-oriented editions of their vehicles — usually very blue and very fast.
While Volvo was the first manufacturer to talk about its full commitment to electric automobiles (long before we could conceive of something as wonderfully perverse as the upcoming GMC Hummer electric truck and SUV), Polestar has sorta beaten Volvo to the punch by hitting the American market first and as its own brand.
With news that a standalone Polestar dealership opened this week in Cherry Creek, one of 28 set to open in the U.S. this year, I was also given a weekend loan of the company’s primary product: the new, 408-horsepower 2021 Polestar 2, a 100% electric vehicle with a real-world, EPA-rated range of 233 miles.
Polestar is also making a limited edition, 619-horsepower hybrid sub-supercar that starts at $155,000; the readily available Polestar 2 is a somewhat more earthly $59,900 before the regular federal and state electric vehicle tax credits.
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Coincidentally, I noted on Facebook this week that the eerily similar (and perhaps largely identical) 2022 Volvo C40 Recharge will eventually appear at dealers. But if you want to be the first on your block with a non-Tesla electric vehicle that drives like a car, looks and feels like a car and absolutely goes like hell, here’s your chance.
Gregor Hembrough, head of Polestar USA, said the company is in the unique position of being 50% owned by Volvo and all that goes along with that brand, unlike many other literal fly-by-night EV companies that have promised vehicles but never quite made it to market.
“In a way, we’re like a 94-year-old startup,” he explained. “We bring 94 years of know-how, R&D and a distribution that is already well defined, with manufacturing in Sweden, Belgium and China. And we make damn good cars.”
The Chinese-made Polestar 2 does, as a result, have a pretty serious Volvo feel to it, including the shared platform, lots of Volvo-ish details in the doors, steering wheel and other controls. But they’ve also managed to make this electric vehicle its own offering by personalizing those bits and crafting an interior that is about as elegantly low-key as possible.
Unlike most new cars, Polestar’s instrument display is not like a 1970s nuclear power plant simulation game. Here, you get speed, range and the car’s entirely Google-based navigation directions — and nothing else. There are barely any controls in the cabin, minus Polestar’s rendition of the Sensus touchscreen you’d find in a Volvo and a large, curiously shaped gear shifter, all in a hollowed-out central console trimmed in “reconstructed” wood and other all-vegan materials, except when you go for the luxurious and totally optional Nappa leather interior. There’s also a full-panel glass roof, similar to the Mustang Mach-E.
And most surprisingly, there’s no starter button. Anywhere. Remote unlocking the vehicle and stepping behind the wheel does that for you: Shift it into gear and the emergency brake releases and away you go.
With the equivalent of 408 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque from two electric motors, Polestar really does go very quickly. I discovered this as I pulled out to pass some slow-moving vehicles on the road up to the base of Mt. Evans, and the thing took off like a rocket.
My tester was also outfitted with the $5,000 performance package, which meant actual high-performance race tires, gold Brembo/Polestar brakes and those distinctive yellow-gold Polestar seat belts. It was not blazing Polestar blue, but it sure felt like those souped-up Volvos — cornering confidently, accelerating ferociously and feeling very much like a real car, not some EV compromise.
Like the C40, the Polestar 2 is a slightly elevated fastback design with a rear liftgate that reveals a sizeable storage area if you drop the fold-flat rear seats. One of the car’s only foibles is the oddly low-hanging ceiling in the far back, which limits rear visibility. Well, that and the lane-departure-correction system that desperately wanted to steer me back and run over cyclists during my drives.
Hembrough said that Denver has been picked as a Polestar location based largely on the area’s interest in electric vehicles. As always, our infrastructure issues remain, but with 233 miles of range, you start to move into some semblance of practicality.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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