Currently reading: First drive: 2020 Polestar 2 prototype
After Polestar’s limited-run, debutant 1 comes, logically, the 2 – its mass-market, make or break EV. We drive a pre-production car

Hällered proving ground sits an hour’s drive east of Gothenburg and seems an exemplary place to experience a Polestar 2 for the very first time.

Sets of quiet, remote test tracks wind among the forest and chime with the car’s environmental brief. Unlike the plug-in hybrid Polestar 1, the 2 is entirely electric, with a WLTP range of 311 miles and nothing less than the Tesla Model 3 in its sights.

This place also has space enough to properly exploit the performance on offer. Which is lucky because, with a dedicated electric motor for each axle, the 2 makes 487lb ft – more even than the Nissan GT-R – and does so almost instantly.

But Hällered also feels an odd place to become better acquainted with the 2, which at £49,900 will cut the cost of entry to the Polestar owners club by almost two-thirds and will exist as a big-volume model next to the hand-built, 1500-off £139,000 Polestar 1 grand tourer.

These smaller cars will be assembled in the Luqiao facility of Polestar parent company Geely in China and the battery modules are from LG Chem in South Korea. Siemens in Germany builds the motors and the brand recently opened a 120-strong R&D facility in Coventry. It’s an amazingly global product whose muscularly attractive design will ensure that it draws eyeballs and graces the streets in fashionable places around the world. Yet here we are, standing in the Swedish bush.

But this is where the magic happens. “The first thing the driver gets from the chassis is how the steering feels,” says Joakim Rydholm, the lead chassis engineer and someone not only with a clear mission sense but also softly voiced but nevertheless Italianate levels of passion. “Then the rest of the suspension should work in harmony with the steering,” he says, revealing that the chassis is set up for slight oversteer. He says the manually adjustable Ohlins dampers alone were iterated through 120 different tunes, with removal and hardware changes required each time: “There are no shortcuts: it’s hard work behind the steering wheel to get a good car. The human is sensitive and you cannot calculate that.”

97 Polestar 2 prototype feature 2020 interview


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All of which should be music to our ears because, as always, it comes down to priorities. Polestar will not operate dealerships but chic ‘spaces’; the cars can be ordered online only; it will make a splash among the general public, with cutting-edge looks and zero-emission powertrains; and it is a subsidiary of a marque that recently announced an intention to limit its cars to 112mph and, bluntly, has never given us a world-class driver’s car. It would have been so very easy for driver appeal to descend so far down the 2 to-do list as to become irrelevant, but that has not at all been the case.

No point beating around the bush: the Polestar 2 is good to drive. It may never set your synapses on fire but the natural steering response is well matched to what the suspension is doing, and on Hällered’s quick, flowing handling course, the Ohlins dampers – hydraulically textured in their movements – only ever need one bite of the cherry to get the body under control.

Given the powertrain layout, it is no surprise that the car’s balance is good and one can’t fail to notice how high the limits of grip are compared with, a Volvo Volvo XC40. It can be teased into neatly rotating on the brakes, but snow and ice are required to get the car expressing itself under power.

On the more challenging rough-road tracks (there are surfaces resembling LA freeways and Perthshire B-roads), the ride is on the firm side but remains genuinely compliant. Gut feel says this car ought to cope well with UK surfaces, although the softer setup of non-Performance Pack versions might be best for daily driving.

88 Polestar 2 prototype feature 2020 rl driving

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We know the 2 sits on the same CMA platform as the XC40, but it also features a unique front subframe for crash protection (combustion engines being more absorbent than electric motors), has modifications at the rear and supports a battery whose shape leaves good rear footwell space, which is rare in an electric car.

In fact, barring the small boot and poor rearward visibility, the 2’s cabin is superbly conceived. Where the Model 3 goes for an expansive, minimalist ambience, this is more classically enveloping. The window line is high and the glasshouse vaguely pillbox, and the standard panoramic roof is a game-changer because, without it, the high ‘transmission’ tunnel, abrupt 11.0in display and blade-shaped dashboard might have made the place feel too confined. As it is, the cockpit feels safe, secure and involving, and even in this early-stage verification prototype, the fabric and wood trims hit high notes for perceived quality. Soft but supportive seats – a modern Volvo speciality – complete the surprisingly lavish picture.

Back with the not-so-oily bits, Olle Fast (powertrain expert, naturally) explains that the torque split is variable between 60:40 and 40:60 and Rydholm adds that steering angle is used to inform the split and help the car rotate. Drive smoothly and it looks for grip; get punchy and it will begin to favour the rear. Fast also says that for more power, they’d need a better-flowing battery rather than stronger motors, although so rapid is the pace of development that improvements are being made “more or less on a daily basis”. For now, it’s 402bhp whether or not you go for the Performance Pack, which brings 20in wheels with Continental SportContact 6 tyres, the Ohlins dampers and gold-calipered Brembo brakes.

For an electric mass-market family car, the Performance Pack is overkill. And, in truth, so is the surging performance of the 2. But there’s appeal in the way this machine concurrently feels both highly rational and slightly illogical, and at a time when so many automotive pleasures come with guilt attached, that’s exciting. That the people behind this electric car are what we might still describe as ‘petrolheads’ is even more so.

Polestar 2 specifications

Price £49,900 Motor Two, AC synchronous, permanent magnet Power 402bhp (total output) Torque 487lb ft (total output) Gearbox 1-spd (dual) Kerb weight 2020kg (approx) Top speed 140mph (est) 0-62mph 4.7sec Range 311 miles (WLTP) Battery 78kWh, lithium ion

Richard Lane

Richard Lane
Title: Deputy road test editor

Richard joined Autocar in 2017, arriving from Evo magazine, and is typically found either behind a keyboard or steering wheel.

As deputy road test editor he delivers in-depth road tests, performance benchmarking and supercar lap-times, plus feature-length comparison stories between rival cars. He can also be found on Autocar's YouTube channel

Mostly interested in how cars feel on the road – the sensations and emotions they can evoke – Richard drives around 150 newly launched makes and models every year, and focuses mainly on the more driver-orientated products, as is tradition at Autocar. His job is then to put the reader firmly in the driver's seat. 

Away from work, but remaining on the subject of cars, Richard owns an eight-valve Integrale, loves watching sportscar racing, and holds a post-grad in transport engineering. 

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wingzero 20 February 2020

Those commenting on the transmission tunnel

To the ignorant that are so interested in the "transmission tunnel" of this car, it's also used for chassis rigidity and stiffness. Simply looking at one thing and calling it a converted ICE car makes you look like uneducated bufoons
Peter Cavellini 18 February 2020

Not bad.

 It's a nice piece of design, it isn't that offensive to the Eye, the price is too out there for what it is, who isn't charging a bit to much for not a lot more?

Porus 17 February 2020

'The Saint'

Reboot 'The Saint'! And give him one of these.