Automorbit, Cars – Sometimes space and deadlines conspire to keep us from saying everything we’d like to about a vehicle in one of our reviews. Such is the case with the intriguing new Polestar 2 electric vehicle. Polestar, Volvo’s former AMG-like hot-rod division, has turned EV maker virtually overnight, and the 2 is its first effort. Not only is the car new from the tires up, so is the way it will be sold and serviced. Here are 10 things we learned about it while driving it and testing it in and around our Ann Arbor, Michigan headquarters.
Buying One is Easy, Getting It Serviced Not So Much
You can purchase a Polestar 2 online almost as easily as buying a pair of socks from Amazon. But there are currently only four Polestar “spaces”—dealer locations where you can see and test-drive a 2 and also get it serviced—in all of America, three in California and one in Manhattan. If you’re within 150 miles of a Polestar space, the “dealer” will deliver your newly purchased car to your home and pick it up for service, no charge. If you’re beyond that distance, though, you’ll have to literally pay the freight to have it shipped to you and shipped back to the dealer for service. This does not sound like the ideal marketing plan for a very marketable vehicle.
The Glass Roof is Huge and Wonderful
Rear seat riders in particular will love the Polestar 2 launch edition’s standard glass roof. Not only does it extend from where the sun visors store rearward to just ahead of the rear hatch opening, but it has no cross-car roof-support bar aft of the front seats. The view to the sun, moon, and stars is thus unobstructed and truly panoramic, something best appreciated from the rear seat.
Its Headlights are Smart
Polestar says production versions of the 2 will be equipped with the company’s pixel LED headlights, which have 84 individual pixel light sources. (Our pre-production test car was not so equipped.) In Europe-market models, the system’s camera detects the headlights of oncoming traffic and automatically pivots the individual pixels left and right as needed to split the beam around the approaching vehicle, thereby keeping the lights from blinding oncoming drivers. The company says that this allows the 2’s driver to motor along at night with high beams on all the time. Unfortunately, America’s antediluvian headlight regulations don’t allow the pivoting feature, so Polestar 2 drivers will have to make sure their high beams are dimmed as needed.
The Battery Case Stiffens the Car
The large 78 kWh battery is made up of 284 cells, weighs 1098 pounds, and is housed in an aluminum case bolted underneath the 2’s passenger compartment. Polestar claims the ultra-stiff case actually stiffens the car’s body structure considerably. It’s likely part of the reason that the 2 felt as solid as granite and was rattle free—even without the structural roof crossmember spanning the B-pillars that is common in cars with large glass roofs. The central location of the battery’s mass within the 2’s wheelbase also contributes to its 51 percent/front-49 percent rear weight distribution.
There’s Extra Cargo Room Under the Hood
Lifting the 2’s wide front hood is surprising for what it does not reveal: anything mechanical or electrical. What is there is a small frunk (front trunk) roughly large enough to fit a single carry-on suitcase. But like conventional compact SUVs, the 2 can carry a reasonably large load of cargo in back under its rear hatch—after you flip down the rear seat, of course.
Going Fast Kills a Lot of Range
The 2 did better than many EVs on our highway range test, delivering 190 miles of driving range at a steady 75 mph. But like virtually all EVs, its range shrinks drastically when you pedal it hard. We started one drive with 130 miles showing on the instrument cluster’s highly accurate range estimator. After flogging the 2 on our favorite local two-lanes and then blasting down a stretch of Interstate the range meter dropped by 100 miles though we’d travelled just 63. We arrived back at home base with only 30 miles of range showing on the cluster screen—and a strong desire to recharge.
Added Protection for More Air Bag Safety
Since Polestar is the offspring of Volvo, you’d expect a focus on safety, and the 2 doesn’t disappoint. The 2 introduces what Polestar claims is a new type of air bag that adds extra protection for front-seat passengers. Both of the front seats are fitted with the bag, which deploy forward along the car’s centerline, between the front-seat passengers, to keep them from being flung sideways (and into each other) in the event of a side impact.
It Lights Up Like It’s Happy to See You
When you approach the 2, it recognizes you from the key fob or your phone (there’s an app for that) and sets off a happy dance of a light show. The 84 LED pixels in the headlights twinkle; the full-width taillight’s 288 LEDs race outward in sequence from the center of the car; the Polestar logo—a stylized star meant to evoke the North Star—is projected on to the inside of the glass roof like the Bat-Signal (it’s visible from outside as well); and a small version of the logo located inside the hollow shifter also lights up.
It Takes Control to Avoid an Accident
The Polestar 2 comes standard with parent-company Volvo’s Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS), a comprehensive suite of safety aids. One of those safety systems—possibly Oncoming Lane Mitigation—unexpectedly twitched the steering wheel abruptly to the right for a split second as we crested a rise in the middle of a corner while we were motoring along sedately on a two-lane road. We think the system mistook a large tree across the road for a car in the oncoming lane and tried to steer us out of trouble, then realized its mistake instantaneously and released the steering. It was over so quickly that the 2 didn’t even change direction. But it was a big surprise. Thankfully, it never happened again.
Its Highway Range is Better Than its EPA Estimate Suggests
The EPA’s combined range estimate, the most prominent EV-range figure the agency publishes on its site, can be misleading. That’s why we test the real-world highway range of the EVs we review. The Polestar 2 with Performance package posted a 190-mile result on our test against what we expect to be a 230-mile EPA combined range. That’s only 10 miles short of a 2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance that had an EPA range of 310 miles. In fact, that 190-mile figure ties it with the Audi e-tron for the best real-world highway range of any vehicle that’s not a Tesla.