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Emergent brand treads its own path to inject EVs with more driver appeal

Geely’s Volvo-offshoot, EV premium brand Polestar is about to undergo a rather hectic expansion. In another 18 months, when the Polestar 3, 4 and 5 are all on sale, it should look like a much more fully formed car brand than it has so far. But will it also still look like a natural home for keener drivers who have already made the switch to electric motoring?

This week’s road test subject is a stake in the ground for the brand on that score. The Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 is an extra-special performance version of what we might now consider the ‘pre-facelift’ 2 crossover hatchback. It counts the Ford Mustang Mach-E GT and Kia EV6 GT as its nearest rivals, but the philosophy behind it is tellingly different and might even resonate better with more traditional performance car buyers.

I wouldn’t pay extra for the decal stripe, especially since it partially covers the glass roof; but I would certainly have liked some brighter colours. Scandinavian understatement is all very well - but your only options here are snow white, thunder grey or a battleship grey wrap.

In 2021, Polestar showed off a prototype 2 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed designed to explore the outer limits of the 2’s potential as an out-and-out driver’s car. The Polestar 2 Experimental used widely (and quite exotically) upgraded chassis, suspension and braking systems – and it clearly generated enough interest to inspire a limited-run production version, which is what the BST Edition 270 is.

Just 40 of these will come to the UK. Polestar decided to effectively extend the car’s availability by proxy recently by announcing the BST Edition 230 (ostensibly the same car with different colour and trim options) but even fewer of those will be offered.

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Range at a glance

Polestar 2 edition bst270 2023 009 ohlins 0

The BST Edition 270 is the ultimate version of the 2023-model-year Polestar 2 (although if you order a new car now, it will be from the updated 2024-model-year range).

The line-up nomenclature is sufficiently descriptive as to need little explanation. The Pilot Pack adds adaptive cruise control, lane assist and LED pixel headlights, and the Plus Pack brings premium audio, electric seats and a heat pump.

Version Power
Polestar 2 Standard Range Single Motor 228bhp
Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor 228bhp
Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor 402bhp
Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor Performance Pack 469bhp
Polestar 2 BST Edition 270* 469bhp

*Version tested

 

DESIGN & STYLING

02 Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 RT 2023 front cornering

You might not expect a car brand led by a designer to be so preoccupied with chassis and suspension development as Polestar is proving to be. But the 2 BST Edition 270 is an extra-special niche model whose character is defined pretty squarely by the money and effort invested in upgrading its axles and what joins them to its body.

Polestar’s aim was to give this car deeper and more meaningful qualities of driver engagement than its rivals offer, ones that can be appreciated at a broader range of speeds, instead of simply adding yet more organ-pummelling thrust.

The CMA model architecture (shared with Volvo and Lynk&Co) offers single motor/front-wheel drive or dual motor/all-wheel drive (although the incoming 2024-model-year version switches to ‘native’ RWD). The steel chassis carries its drive battery in an H shape under both rows of seats and within the ‘transmission tunnel’. The weight distribution of our test car was 51% front and 49% rear.

The BST Edition 270 sticks with the same permanent magnet synchronous drive motors as any other Long Range Dual Motor Performance Pack Polestar 2. They develop 469bhp and 502lb ft as a pair, leaving the car some way adrift of the on-paper power of certain rivals (Kia EV6 GT, 577bhp) and the claimed 0-62mph potential of others (Tesla Model 3 Performance AWD, 3.1sec).

Just as the car’s motors have been left untouched, so too has its inter-axle torque-vectoring software and motor calibration. But on the BST Edition 270’s suspension, Polestar has gone to town. The car’s outward stance makes apparent every one of the 25mm through which its ride height has been dropped, its body sitting on coil springs some 20% stiffer even than those of the Performance Pack car.

At each corner are new 21in forged wheels with staggered widths (half an inch wider on the rear axle), wrapped in specially developed Pirelli P Zero Elect tyres. And within those wheels are the same four-piston Brembo brakes as the regular 2 Performance Pack’s. (Outright accelerative performance hasn’t increased here, remember, and neither has kerb weight.)

The dampers are the real development. Up front, Polestar supplier Öhlins has developed a special two-way-adjustable damping system with remote reservoirs, of the sort it typically supplies for motorsport only. At the rear, the firm’s Dual Flow Valve single-way-adjustable dampers continue, albeit in a retuned state .

Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 owners also get an aluminium strut brace reinforcing the chassis at the front – but not an equivalent brace at the rear of the car, as the Polestar 2 Experimental had.

A little surprisingly, there was no special weight-saving programme for this car, so kerb weight is 2113kg as claimed, or 2161kg as tested. Which is a lot of bulk for any driver’s car of this size to carry.

INTERIOR

09a Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 RT 2023 dashboard

The cabin looks to have been notionally filed by its creators, along with outright performance, under ‘things we needn’t bother improving’. By and large, they get away with that decision, because the interior of a Polestar 2 still looks and feels like a comfortable, well-constructed and materially simple yet appealing place to be even three years after the model first appeared.

Simplicity and ergonomic distinction are its abiding themes. Your backside drops lower into the seat than you expect it to, allowing you to adopt a pleasingly recumbent driving position that feels more sports saloon than crossover hatchback in derivation.

Has any £70,000 performance special before this been trimmed like the Edinburgh Woollen Mill cardigan section? It’s all very lovely – but not very exciting.

The control layout and display real estate in front of you are appealingly spare. From the instrument console to the transmission tunnel, nothing superfluous is given houseroom. The primary and secondary controls are all good-sized and ergonomically pleasing, right down to the chunky volume knob for the audio system.

The car doesn’t have paddles for manual control of energy regeneration. Otherwise, little that’s useful is omitted (there’s plenty of handy storage, even away from the door cubbies) and there’s pleasingly little ritzy trim decoration or clutter.

The front seats haven’t been upgraded but perhaps they might have been in the interests of producing greater lateral support and conjuring some sense of occasion. As they are, they’re very comfortable, just a little flat and plain, even accounting for Polestar’s signature bronze seatbelts.

Space is fine for taller people up front and generous enough for leg room in row two, if slightly short on head room, for adults. The boot is only averagely large for a mid-sized car, although it’s well provided with bag carrier hooks and retention straps and it has a good-sized under-floor storage area.

Multimedia system

17 Polestar 2 bst edition 270 rt 2023 infotainment 1 0

Polestar’s portrait-oriented infotainment system was designed with smartphone integration (Google/Android, specifically) in mind from the outset. It runs an Android-based software architecture and it integrates best with Google-based smartphones once you sync your Google email account (iOS Apple CarPlay mirroring is via wired connection only).

The system’s Android/Google software basis also boosts the effectiveness of its voice recognition and connected navigation functionality, which are both very good. A three-year data-streaming connection comes as part of the price of the car, for online music streaming and the like.

There’s no option to navigate the system via a physical cursor controller – but doing it directly on the screen is made easy by good menu hierarchy and particularly large menu icons, which are easy to hit at arm’s length.

 

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

19 Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 RT 2023 performance driving snow

We needn’t dwell long in confirming that this isn’t quite the quickest-accelerating EV of its kind, because it was never intended to be. Among the 0-60mph results we’ve recorded in rivals, the BMW i4 M50, Genesis GV60 Sport Plus and Ford Mustang Mach-E GT were all quicker.

None of that needs suggest the Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 feels at all slow, though. There is that familiar note of maturity and progression in the car’s throttle pedal calibration, striking a nice balance between sharp-edged responsiveness and easy, intuitive drivability.

It may be slightly strait-laced, but for those who have driven some hot EVs and wondered where on earth they could use so much performance, this Polestar 2 might just cut through. There is a likeable authenticity about it.

There is a launch control mode, which you will find almost by accident when you seek to hold the car stationary and build up a little motor power against the car’s brakes. But the way it takes off is almost indistinguishable whether you use that launch control or not.

In mostly dry conditions, with the stability and traction controls pared back but not deactivated entirely (they are always on to a greater or lesser extent), there wasn’t even a hint of wheelspin from either axle on the day of our test.

The car’s boosted body control prevents it from squatting noticeably, so there’s very little seasoning to accompany the beefy longitudinal thrust with which the car takes off. It’s too smooth and composed a sensation to feel violent, and while it’s moderately dramatic to experience, it’s also only moderately exciting. But it does keep accelerating on to bigger speeds harder than some similar EVs (60-100mph in 5.3sec, to the Porsche Taycan RWD Performance Pack Plus’s 5.8sec).

Polestar shuns the routes that so many other makers of fast EVs take to give you lines of engagement with their cars. Because there are no regen toggle paddles, you can’t ratchet up trailing-throttle ‘engine braking’ when approaching a bend. There’s no switchable, synthesised ‘engine noise’ here, either.

So there’s nothing contrived to invite you to engage with what’s powering the car, just the bare bones of a seamless power delivery that doesn’t start with a particular explosion of force and doesn’t build to any particular climax.

The BST Edition 270 accelerates with total linearity according to the position of your right foot. It also brakes with plenty of outright stopping power, albeit with that fuzzy kind of bite that EVs tend to suffer with. It’s an effective performer – if a sterile one. 

RIDE & HANDLING

20 Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 RT 2023 front cornering

If anywhere, this is where the BST Edition 270 must have a shot at impressing, but it’s also where the weight of expectation really figures. The weight of so many other things turns out to be rather more significant, however, when it comes to making the chassis engage with an interesting road.

There are several things it will do that a regular Polestar 2 won’t – dynamic qualities it has that will give owners something to point to when totting up what their money’s bought, and to feel grateful for at the end of a long drive. But what it’s missing is more obvious: the outright lateral grip, and the handling agility, balance and poise, of a really compelling sporting car.

Forged gloss black 21in alloy wheels save unsprung mass and they are staggered in width (the rear rims are half an inch wider than the fronts). The Pirelli P Zero Elect tyres have been specially developed.

What will raise your eyebrows farthest is the striking quality and sophistication of the car’s damping. We tested it with Polestar’s factory damper settings dialled in, from which there would have been considerable adjustment potential to both soften off and firm up – in both compression and rebound – at the front axle.

And yet it didn’t ride like a car that needed any fine-tuning at all to be compatible with the lumps and bumps of British A- and B-roads. Close body control is surprisingly progressive; the back-road ride quality is firm enough to feel taut, but not at all restless or recalcitrant; and lateral body control and damper support are both excellent in outright terms.

Bigger inputs are soaked up with uncanny authority, and without any fear that the shortened suspension will run out of travel. If anything, it’s that ability to charge at speed over tougher asphalt surfaces with impunity that lifts the car’s driving experience most successfully.

Polestar’s chassis reinforcements and suspension revisions do give the BST’s power steering greater weight and tactile feel, particularly if you set it for minimal power assistance. When cornering hard, for instance, you can clearly feel the instant when the front motor asks the outside front wheel to do that little bit too much.

But there’s very little to be gained from feathering off the power and trying to induce the chassis to rotate on a trailing throttle, and nor is there much evidence of any particularly helpful torque vectoring, either front to rear or asymmetrically, to rotate the car with tractive force when driving on.

Perhaps it makes for greater suitability in wintry Scandinavian conditions, or perhaps it’s just the unusually mature dynamic character that Polestar intends for the BST Edition 270, but this car’s chassis is that little bit too inert and aloof to really capture the imagination.

Comfort and isolation

21 Polestar 2 bst edition 270 rt 2023 rear cornering 0

Firming up both chassis and suspension here has made for a very slightly noisier ride than a regular Polestar 2 has, but it’s a marginal and very acceptable trade-off.

As our noise meter had it, the 2 BST Edition 270 was a solitary decibel noisier than the Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor we tested in 2021 when moving at both 30mph and beyond 70mph but it was no noisier at either 50mph or 70mph (where varying test conditions probably played their part in closing the gap with the lesser model). Compared with an entry-level Porsche Taycan, it’s noisier still on paper, but you wouldn’t call it that from the driver’s seat, which is comfortable over distance and as adjustable as most testers required.

In terms of primary ride comfort, the suspension feels remarkably moderate and deals with most country road inputs as nonchalantly as it does motorway expansion joints. Those expensive dampers make the car’s unsprung mass seem as light as air much of the time, with only the shortest, sharpest intrusions making much of a dent on the car’s ride composure.

The well-tuned Pilot Assist driver aids also boost the car’s longer-distance cruising comfort, on those occasions when you just want to cover distance and don’t care how much you’re engaged in the process. However driver-centric a car’s agenda may be, there are always times when that applies.

Track notes

Track notes polestar 2 bst edition 270 rt 2023

The 2 BST Edition 270 was impressively stable and composed around the Millbrook alpine hill route on a slightly damp day and showed clearly better lateral body control and damping support than a regular Polestar 2 Performance Pack. Just as on the road, though, the car’s ability to entertain by really gripping the asphalt and rotating underneath you when cornering, either on the throttle or off it, is somewhat muted.

Some tuning of the handling is possible courtesy of its Öhlins dampers, of course. But the tuning we would have liked even more would have been to the on-throttle torque vectoring, which feels quite conservative, and to its electronic stability controls, which can’t be fully deactivated.

Simply feeding torque to the rear motor first might give this car the accessible cornering poise it’s missing. Perhaps we will have to wait for the updated Polestar 2 for that.

 

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

01 Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 RT 2023 lead driving

Residual values on the Polestar 2 have held up well throughout its life so far. Although CAP doesn’t have a forecast for the BST Edition 270 in particular, it’s reasonable to expect it to remain collectable and to hold its value well – especially on the basis that a fully loaded Polestar 2 Performance Pack has better forecast residuals than an equivalent Tesla Model 3, although not quite as good as an Audi Q4 E-tron Sportback.

Against that backdrop – and considering that a fully optioned, twin-motor 2 was already a £60k buy before Polestar’s announcement of the 2024-model-year car – the £69k being asked for the BST Edition 270 is unlikely to seem exorbitant to committed fans of the Polestar brand.

This is a fully loaded car, so your only options are a ‘wrapped’ grey exterior colour or that black roof-bonnet-and-boot stripe. We would avoid both.

Given this car’s rarity and its exotic ingredients, it won’t struggle to justify its price, even allowing for the presence of cars like the BMW i4 and Porsche Taycan well within arm’s length.

VERDICT

22 Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 RT 2023 static broken down

The thinking behind the Polestar 2 BST Edition 270 is easy to approve of. It goes something like this: “Electric cars like ours are quick enough already, so let’s focus on making them tactile, grippy and composed, and see if we can’t surprise a few people.”

Because this car doesn’t have the torque-vectoring capability to really cash in on its new-found handling composure, there’s a limit to how much fun it can be. A smarter motor calibration, or a programme to trim a few kilos from its 2.1-tonne kerb weight, might have made the end result feel more like a car transformed. As it is, the BST Edition 270 is certainly interesting for its alternative take, and it is talented in some areas, but it remains a car only sharpened up rather than taken to all-new heights – either for Polestar, or for cars of its ilk.

We wish it well all the same: because proving that there is a market for really considered performance EVs is a worthy task – and doing it with cars as uncontrived and unsynthesised of character as this is to be applauded.

Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.