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Segment-straddling Porsche Macan rival looks to inject sporting appeal into a long-range, family friendly proposition

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In case you weren't keeping up, the Polestar 4 is – sensibly – the fourth model from the Swedish sporting EV brand. Somewhat less obvious is the fact that it's only slightly larger than the 2 and quite substantially smaller than the 3, but it's probably best to ignore that confounding nomenclature structure – which will soon give us a big new 5 saloon and a smaller 6 GT – and define the cars instead by their most obvious rivals.

In the case of the 4, that's not especially easy. Rather like the 2, it is not immediately recognisable as an SUV, and nor does it sit quite close enough to the ground to be labelled a saloon, so it can be difficult to immediately pigeonhole. But its £60k start price and 4.8m length line it up neatly to contend with the new Porsche Macan Electric, and thus you imagine it will also be cross-shopped with the likes of the BMW iX3, Audi Q6 E-tron and Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV.

Frustratingly, the same-sized Jaguar I-Pace – with its similarly segment-straddling silhouette and overt focus on dynamism – would have been one of the 4’s most obvious and natural rivals, but is getting on in years and coming up for retirement by the end of 2024, so doesn’t really bear comparison. 

Due to start deliveries in August, the 4 will be built initially in China, but a second production line opening soon at a Renault-owned facility in Korea could eventually supply cars to right-hand-drive markets. Polestar says it is the fastest and lowest-carbon car it has yet produced, and has lofty ambitions for the 4 to play a core role in its plan to drastically boost its global volumes, alongside the larger, US-built 3.

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It is Polestar’s first car atop parent company Geely’s new SEA modular platform, which means it is also the brand’s first model to not use Volvo-derived underpinnings, as do the 2 and 3. SEA is more a catch-all name for a family of architectures than a single modular structure, so the 4 is only partly related to the smaller, SEA-based Smart #1 and Volvo EX30 crossovers, which brings two crucial advantages: Polestar was able to engineer in its dynamic proclivities right from the get-go, while benefiting from the use of existing components like the electronics systems and HVAC pipework. 


2024 Polestar 4 prototype at test track 1

I spent much of the flight home from Gothenburg trying to cobble together some sort of Oasis-themed introduction to the Polestar 4, which in spite of its objectively compelling technical specification, striking form and futuristic, tech-laden cabin, has come to be known in social media circles as simply “the car with no rear window”. 

Polestar’s decision to omit the rear windscreen in favour of a digital ‘mirror’ – thereby negating the need to look back, in anger or otherwise – has provoked no small degree of public shock and intrigue. After all, this is otherwise a relatively conventionally conceived car, from a brand that’s increasingly seen as ‘mainstream’ - not a five-off, mid-engined hypercar that trades exclusively on shunning tradition and embracing wantonly controversial design cues. 

But the justification for the totally opaque stern section is twofold, explains designer Max Missioni: it allows the rear header rail to be shunted backwards, freeing up more headroom for backseat passengers while allowing a slipperier coupé-style roofline, and the camera actually offers a more expansive field of rearward vision than such cars traditionally have. Plus, it is sheltered from the rain and accumulates far less road grime than a big pane of glass. 

“It’s not for the headline,” he says, sternly. “It's not just a gimmick; it's really trying to solve the problem.”

Perhaps it suffices to say that after 30 seconds at the wheel, I’d forgotten all about it, and the extra headroom and subtle ambient lighting behind the headrests make it all but unnoticeable for rear seat passengers, too. 

Leave those Gallagher references at the door, then. This is less ‘don’t look back in anger’, and more just ‘roll with it’. Done with these? Good, because it was all starting to get a bit tenuous around the ‘she’s electric’ point. 


Perhaps the most obvious and welcome point of difference from its Geely Group cousins is that the 4 uses a new, Polestar-developed infotainment system that’s unrelated to the troublesome interfaces deployed in the Smart and Volvo. 

The massive 15.4in touchscreen – mounted landscape rather than portrait as in the 2 (Polestar says neither orientation has a distinct advantage) – has inevitably become the primary control interface, with only a volume knob remaining on the centre console as a token concession to tactility. But this digital interface is far better resolved and less infuriating to use than rival systems, with scrupulous attention having been paid to font size and menu orders to cultivate an obvious sense of hierarchy and reduce distractions on the move.

It gives easy access to the climate control and ADAS functions - each of which has its own animation to clearly show what it does, and is highlighted bright orange when activated so you can easily adjust on the move. There is no haptic feedback, but each icon beeps when pressed, and the dashboards are arranged clearly and memorably enough to be navigable without too much distraction. Besides, because every setting is linked to the driver's profile and smartphone mirroring is fitted as standard, there should be no need to trawl through these menus regularly, in any case. 

The shift away from physical buttons will dent its appeal for drivers with more analogue pretensions, but it does help to create a clean and airy environment that lives up to Polestar's Scandi-cool, minimalist ethos. The glasshouse – somewhat ironically, considering the opaque rear end – feels massive and open, and the benefit of moving the rear header rail is tangible: a six-footer would have a good three or four inches of headroom in the back. 

You sit lower in the 4 than in other SUVs of this size, which helps to cutivate that sense of sporting appeal, and the three-metre wheelbase allows for big saloon levels of legroom in each row. 

All the soft furnishings and touchpoints are trimmed in slick, suitably modern textiles that cry out to be prodded and stroked – including an especially enticing '3D-knit' texture modelled on running trainers – and the few physical controls that remain are reassuringly clunky and feel nice and durable. 

Curiously, the top-rung 4 can be specified with real leather seats, which seems at odds with Polestar’s sustainability ethos, “but if we did not use it, it would be landfill”, reasoned materials boss Maria Uggla. “Vegan plastic is more vegan, but not more sustainable.”


From launch, the 4 is available with a pleasingly simple choice of single-motor, rear-driven or dual-motor, four-wheel-drive powertrains, the former offering the longer range and the latter trading a pinch of that stamina for double the power and a more dynamic billing. Each is equipped with a 94kWh (usable) battery – offering 379 or 360 miles of range, respectively – and can charge at speeds of up to 200kW - slower than rivals equipped with 800V charging architectures, but engineers suggest a future iteration could upgrade from the current 400V system. 

Both cars are prodigiously rapid off-the-mark, of course, but the Dual Motor’s extra reserves allow for properly exciting, pin-back acceleration that feels more than comfortably the measure of the Taycan 4S or Audi S Q8 E-tron, for example - the sort of straight-line urgency that is so seldom deployable in the real world, but which is nice to know you have at your disposal. 


Ultimately, it is the 4’s impressively rounded dynamic character – rather than its unsurprising accelerative attributes – that are most enticing. In both forms, the 4 changes direction with an alacrity and precision which belies its generous footprint and 2200kg-plus kerbweight, its body remaining commendably flat even on the standard-fit coil springs of the rear-driven car. Depending on the chosen drive mode, its steering is either viscous and fluid, or purposefully weighted and supremely communicative - but it is always quick-reacting and highly intuitive, with the sort of elasticity on corner-exit that lends credence to Polestar’s sporting pretensions. 

I preferred the more playful character of the simply sprung, lower-powered car. The adaptive dampers fitted to the twin-motor range-topper bring a welcome increase in bandwidth and flexibility, but the RWD version’s thicker tyres go some way to compensating for any shortfall in sophistication over rough ground, and the 140kg of weight saved by jettisoning the front motor translates into a tangibly nimbler and more feelsome front end. 

It’s much easier to coax the entry car’s rear axle into a controlled slide, too, given the twin-motor 4 doesn’t tout the same torque-vectoring trickery as the larger Polestar 3, though the faster car’s sheer unflappability makes for a similarly visceral treatment of fast corners. Push it hard into a series of tight, steeply banked bends and you can reap the benefits of a ride height, seating position and centre of gravity that are all unusually low for an SUV; the sensation is of the car pivoting around its mid-section, with a sure-footedness and predictability that will give you the confidence to cut loose even in challenging conditions. 

Perhaps most impressive about all of this is that the 4 is capable of such controlled exuberance, yet sacrifices so little in terms of real-world utility and refinement. It is quiet and composed at motorway cruising speeds, irons out speedbumps and cobblestones with aplomb and it even put in a fairly good shift on a challenging off-road section - though the low ride height and long wheelbase mean it’s never going to challenge the Ineos Grenadier for approach, departure and breakover angles - to the surprise of precisely nobody. 


This, then, is shaping up to be a rare example of how a car can straddle multiple segments successfully, leveraging the inherent strengths of each while mitigating the compromises that so often blight a ‘catch-all’ car.

It is impressively spacious inside while retaining relatively compact, unintimidating external proportions; it has the battery capacity and rolling refinement to bolster its appeal as a long-distance cruiser yet has a nuanced and genuinely engaging dynamic character; and it leans heavily enough on the themes of minimalism and sustainability to satisfy a more conservative audience, while accommodating the top-drawer technology it needs to appeal to the blue-tick Instagram crowd. 

But, importantly, the cars we drove were only around 80% ready for showrooms, and it will be several months before we drive a full production-spec 4 on foreign turf, let alone in the UK. So Sally can indeed wait (sorry, last one) to see if its broad spread of attributes holds strong when you remove it from the environment in which it was developed.

Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years.