Rising new star
It's no secret: Polestar is the upmarket subbrand from Volvo. Many brands now have a sub-brand for exclusive models or electric cars, and Volvo is joining them. That way, it has a chance to start with a clean slate. Besides: because electric cars require little to no maintenance, dealers are not keen on them. Setting up a new brand allows a carmaker to sell online and avoids conflicts with the existing network. At the same time, it prevents Volvo from alienating existing customers.
Because the Polestar 1 is definitely different! This first model from Polestar is a two-door coupé with a completely unique style. While coupes generally impress with extravagant design, Polestar goes straight against that with a minimalist style that almost gives the middle finger to the established order. With this, Polestar will appeal to customers who are certainly interested in an exclusive car, but do not do so primarily to impress others.
Not only is the 1 different on the outside, the experience inside is also completely different from other coupes. Those often have dark, moody interiors. The Polestar 1 again goes straight against that with light tones and lots of glass. Not only is the glass area large, but the glass roof and as well as the many finishing details make all the difference. Even the mirrors have glass to the extreme edges, making the difference that Polestar strives for.
Space in the front is adequate, legroom even ample. The main purpose of the back seat is to have an excuse for any partner who has reservations about buying the Polestar 1, as space in the back is actually nil. Thereby, the electrically adjustable seats give such agonisingly slow way to the back seat that potential passengers quickly unlearn.
Don't forget to take a look in the luggage compartment, as there is a special attraction there. Traditional mid-engine sports cars sometimes display their power source as a showpiece behind glass. In the boot of the 1, the main connections of the electric powertrain are similarly displayed behind glass. As far as Autozine is concerned, this is a great find and proof that the designers really have passion for their product.
The kinship with Volvo is abundantly clear from the layout of the dashboard. All buttons, levers, clocks and the central display are taken directly from Volvo. The layout and controls are also similar to Volvo's. The sublime-sounding audio system from Builders & Wilkins is included and fits the car perfectly. It is superior, but never garish or intrusive. Integration with Apple Carplay leaves something to be desired in practice. For instance, the built-in sat nav refuses service when a phone with Apple Carplay is paired. It is also difficult to convince the system to navigate using the phone while at the same time play sound from the DAB+ radio.
As a Volvo sub-brand, safety is also at the heart of Polestar. Yet it is noticeable that the amount of semi-self-driving features is limited. This makes it clear that the Polestar 1 has been in development for a long time and therefore could not share the very latest technology from its parent company.
Polestar focuses on electric cars, but for practical reasons, this first model is a plug-in hybrid. By opting for hybrid drive, more of Volvo's standard components could be used. The battery pack and electric motors are unique to Polestar, though. Here, a setup was chosen where the combustion engine drives the front wheels and the electric motors drive the rear wheels. Note the plural form: each rear wheel has its own electric motor. This allows exactly the right amount of power to be sent to each wheel under varying conditions for optimum performance and maximum grip.
Officially, the Polestar 1 has a range of 125 km (WLTP) in all-electric mode, which is an exceptionally long distance for a plug-in hybrid. During the test, that distance could actually be covered electrically. Remarkably, the electric motors are audible and produce a low, industrial sound. This is very different from the humming or slight whistling sound that other electric cars produce (when they do make noise at all). The sound is not disturbing, as it actually sets an exciting tone.
Very conveniently, the Polestar 1 is one of the few plug-in hybrids that can also fast charge. Thus, a lunch stop during the test was enough to recharge the battery to 80%. This makes it easy to charge regularly and thus drive electric as much as possible. Partly for this reason, test consumption came to 0.9 litres per 100 km; almost the entire test drive was done electrically.
Little of the promised power of 609 PS / 1,000 Nm is initially noticeable. This is because it is only available when all engines join forces. In electric mode, the power is significantly lower. Then the Polestar 1 is quick, comfortable and supple but by no means lively or superior. This electric car has to make noticeable efforts to set its own weight (2.4 tonnes!) in motion.
To perform, dynamic mode should be chosen so that all engines are on standby. Then the electronics make perfect use of the way the various engines develop their power (electric power from low revs, petrol steps in as soon as the combustion engine revs). In this way, the response to the accelerator is smooth and the 1 has tremendous clout. Just as the electric motor has a special sound, the petrol engine also has a quirky sound, namely an exciting rumble.
When all the power is released, it is so overwhelming that all four wheels regularly search desperately for grip. Particularly on wet roads, it is therefore important to handle the throttle with care. Always, the electronics have to work noticeably hard to manage the power. In an emergency stop, it is again noticeable that the Polestar 1 is heavy. The brakes are very strong, but the tyres struggle to provide the necessary grip when decelerating from high speed.
It is also abundantly clear in the handling that this is a heavy car and, as a result, the Polestar 1 is much less agile than a traditional sports coupé in this price range. The steering gives enough feedback, but precisely because of this it is quite noticeable that a steering input does not immediately make this obese coupé change course. When cornering, the 1 is nicely balanced, but never eagerly bites into the asphalt like sports cars do.
In everyday use, the Polestar 1 stands out positively because of its size. The 1 is neither too big nor too small. The width is also limited (a well-known "problem" in this segment) and that, together with the uncluttered bodywork, makes the Polestar 1 carefree to drive.
The Polestar 1 is therefore, above all, a car to enjoy quietly. The beautiful cabin is like a comfortable cocoon and, in electric mode, the crystal-clear sound of the audio system can be enjoyed to the full. This is what the Polestar 1 was made for: to drive for miles in peace, comfort and beauty.
Is the Polestar 1 more than the rising new star of Volvo's new sub-brand? Even after an extensive test drive, that question is difficult to answer.
The biggest point of doubt is the powertrain. Whoever wants to innovate prefers to do it right the first time and then choose the most advanced technology. For the price of the Polestar 1, it is possible to deliver an all-electric car that has a long range, weighs the same and performs even better. On the other hand, the plug-in hybrid is a safe choice because it combines the benefits of electric driving with the familiar and carefree of a petrol engine.
When it comes to design and experience, the Polestar 1 has certainly succeeded. Polestar gives a completely individual interpretation of the dream car phenomenon, reaching a target group that is not attracted to traditional coupes or sports cars. Polestar is superior in many ways, but at the same time chooses packaging that exudes unprecedented modesty and dignity. With this, the tone has been set upcoming models are ready to shine.
- Great design
- Exclusive and privileged feeling
- Fast, comfortable and economical
- Noticeably heavy
- No all-electric car