From £139,0008
Bodystyle, dimensions and technical details

Little is as it may seem about this handsome, left-hand-drive-only 2+2.

The story of its birth is almost the stuff of fairy tale. It was designed as a Volvo – the 2013 Volvo Concept Coupé – by the man who would go on to become boss of the company that would eventually make it: Volvo design director turned Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath. It’s almost as if Volvo’s Chinese owner, Geely, called his bluff or challenged him to double down on a bet; to put his personal reputation at stake and make not just one electrified mega-Volvo but several. Well, Ingenlath dared.

This chunky, square-set look for the car’s rear arches comes straight from the Volvo Concept Coupé. On that car, it was deployed as a reference to the P1800 of 1961, which had fin-like raised rear-wing edges.

That helps explain why this car could be mistaken for a particularly svelte take on a Volvo S90 coupé, if such a car existed. It has a deliberately understated aesthetic by the standards of £139,000 exotic grand tourers; but, make no mistake, it’s even more exotic than most of its rivals under a skin of panels of which almost all are made out of weight-saving carbonfibre-reinforced polymer.

Volvo’s all-steel SPA platform was adapted to form the basis of the 1, but that process involved chopping the chassis down between the axles; reinforcing it with a new carbonfibre section called ‘the dragonfly’; and then replacing the car’s upper structure with carbonfibre pillars, cantrails and roof. The finished 1 is resultantly some 230kg lighter than if it would have been made entirely out of steel. It has a lower centre of gravity, too, and is some 45% more torsionally rigid.

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And yet it isn’t a light car; it might, in fact, be the most technically ambitious plug-in hybrid the market has yet seen, with a petrol combustion engine, no fewer than three separate electric motors, three individual transmissions and a lithium ion drive battery of three times the capacity of the one that featured in the BMW i8. We weighed our test car at slightly less than Polestar’s published kerb weight claim but still at 2327kg with fluids.

The car’s primary propulsion source is said by Polestar to be its Double ERAD, or twin-motor electric rear axle drive. Unlike Volvo’s T8-badged PHEVs, it uses a pair of 114bhp electric motors packaged around the rear axle, each driving one rear wheel through its own planetary transmission. Mechanically that should allow for proper asymmetrical torque vectoring in a way that few hybrids or EVs have actually delivered thus far.

The electric motors draw power from a pair of lithium ion drive battery packs, one carried above the rear axle and the other inside what might otherwise be the car’s transmission tunnel, with a combined total of 34kWh of energy storage. That’s enough for a WLTP-certified electric-only range of 77 miles. Moreover, the batteries can be rapid-charged midway through a journey from a 50kWh DC supply in less than an hour.

Back-up for those rear motors comes from Volvo’s familiar 2.0-litre ‘twincharged’ four-cylinder engine, which sits transversely under the bonnet, drives the front axle through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and has a 68bhp starter-generator motor coupled to it that can either act to recharge the drive batteries or to drive the front wheels.

Suspension is via double wishbones up front and a multilink axle at the rear, with passive, manually adjustable ‘dual flow valve’ dampers from Öhlins fitted as standard that are claimed to ensure a smooth ride by automatically harmonising damping rate across compression and rebound strokes.