Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: October 20, 2021
The identity of the Polestar brand has changed throughout the past few years, morphing from Volvo’s dedicated performance division into its own separate entity that produces electric vehicles based off of Volvo platforms. The Polestar 2 is the latest from the Swedes, a five-door fastback sedan that, is now available with just a single electric motor as opposed to the two that it launched with. That means a front-wheel drive setup with longer range and less power, but also a lower entrance fee.
The price tag is key to its appeal, because the 2022 Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor starts at $49,900, or $7,000 less than the Dual Motor, with a $1,900 destination charge, and it will be available in January 2022. That’s significantly cheaper than the Volvo XC40 Recharge ($64,950) and the Tesla Model Y ($70,990), but about in line with the base Ford Mustang Mach-E ($50,495) and MINI Cooper S E ($40,990).
It’s the same 78 kWh lithium-ion battery up front, but the rear one has been axed. Why front-wheel drive instead of RWD you ask? Polestar says it’s because the 2 is riding on a FWD platform so it made it easier to implement. They’ve bumped up the power rating on the front motor as well, and it produces a healthy 231 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque and runs it through a planetary gear set. For reference, the dual motor boasts 408 hp and 487 lb-ft of torque instead. Polestar also retuned the gear ratios for better acceleration off the line, with the single motor reaching 0-100 km/h in 7.4 seconds, while the dual motor only needs 4.5 seconds.
Polestar estimates up to 426 km on a full charge compared to the dual motor’s 400 km, which is still a ways off of the Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD (483 km) and Tesla Model Y Long Range (525 km), but it’s more than competitive than the Jaguar i-Pace (377 km), Audi e-tron (351 km), and even the Porsche Taycan 4S (365 km). Charging from 10-80% takes just 33 minutes with a 155 kWh DC charger, or 8 hours with 11 kWh or a public charger. It will take a few days (likely four-ish) for a full charge using just a standard 120-volt power outlet, though, so if you frequent long distance commutes, best to install a dedicated EV charger at home, or have a station closeby when you need electrons in a pinch.
New additions for 2022 include an HVAC mechanical heat pump, which Polestar says increases driving range by 10%. It captures ambient heat and residual thermal energy from the drivetrain to reduce reliance and strain on the battery, so it may focus on propulsion instead. Polestar says this makes a huge difference in cold climates such as Canada, as it more effectively moves and sources heat from other parts of the car for better cabin heating and efficiency. Polestar is also keen to point out that since the heat pump is an optional feature as part of the Plus Pack, they haven’t included the range benefits into the EPA estimate, so the real-world range should be even better.
We aren’t really sure what the Polestar 2 classifies as but they tell us it’s a fastback sedan. Its proportions suggest a raised hatchback, or perhaps a stunted compact SUV with a sloping roofline. Whatever you want to call it, the Polestar visually stands out from its Volvo stablemates while also retaining those ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED headlights. The rear end is more distinctive with a full-width C-shaped rear light bar, complimented by standard 19-inch wheels or optional 20s. The latter seem to match its fastback silhouette better, but we can’t help but find the 2’s overall design a little too restrained and inoffensive, especially for one of Polestar’s vanguard vehicles paving the way for the young brand.
The interior is nicely pieced together for an EV ringing it around $50,000. It focuses on being artful and minimalistic, with a generous helping of both leather and fabrics. Polestar only uses fully vegan leather and all the materials are recycled and 99% free of all plasticizers too. It’s nice to see an automaker being so eco-focused. Which isn’t to say it’s a no frills cabin. It’s still a nicely appointed interior that is visually different from the XC40. The Polestar uses the same steering wheel and signal stalks but the center console design is unique. Got to love the unique gear shifter - Volvos and Polestars always seem to have the best shifter showpieces - and the full-length, fixed panoramic glass roof makes the cabin feel airy and atmospheric.
A large 11-inch touchscreen is centrally mounted and it utilizes an Android operating system so those using Android phones will find some familiarity in its interface, and you can further personalize it by connecting your Google account. The system is honestly right up there with the best, sporting bright and crisp graphics with user-friendly menus. Having a familiar map interface with Google Maps further reduces the learning curve for anyone hopping into the Polestar for the first time.
To get a feel for the single-motor Polestar 2, we took a US pre-production model for a spin around local roads for a few hours. It rides on the same platform as the XC40 Recharge that we tested a few months ago, and safe to say it drives quite similarly. The center of gravity is focused down to the floor of the vehicle, so it rotates with ease and feels darty and agile. Body roll is minimal and it rides fairly well too on its fixed suspension setup. I wouldn’t call it exceptionally comfortable but it absorbs pockmarked roads with grace and doesn’t jitter occupants around in excess like the Mach-E.
The single motor weighs 119 kg less than the dual motor Polestar 2 and it makes a difference to handling. Overall grip is clearly less without AWD but the front end feels much pointier, and the steering is more responsive. With less weight shifting side to side, the Polestar eases down nicely after rotation, and while it’s not the rowdy V60 Polestar wagon that we strive to have in our own garage one day, but it’s the right amount of sporty from an electric sedan.
It has just the right amount of power for the everyday driver - not so much that you are overwhelmed but neither are the front tires. You don’t get that sudden kick to the seatback at wide open throttle but it makes the power delivery much smoother and more linear, great for those slowly adjusting to how an EV operates. There is more than enough torque for highway pulls, and we can’t really see why anyone would need the dual motors unless they are truly pining for the quickest EV or all-wheel drive confidence.
Limited drive time and a pre-production test unit meant we weren’t able to fully explore all the nuances and differences with the single-motor Polestar 2, but we were delightfully impressed by its nimbler handling, extended range, and potential of the optional mechanical heat pump. It remains to be seen whether or not the actual real world range is up to its claim, but its attractive price tag of $56,800 fully loaded has our undivided attention.
We think Polestar’s biggest issue at the moment isn’t its products but brand awareness. Ask a stranger to name three electric vehicles in a Family Feud style competition and I don’t think Polestar would even make the board. Tesla, Porsche, and maybe Audi seem to have the largest mainstream following, followed by others coming down the pipeline like the Volkswagen ID.4, BMW i4, and Chevrolet Bolt EUV. Clearly, Polestar is the outlier but it shouldn’t be.
If Polestar continues to expand their portfolio with impressive EVs like this Polestar 2 with usable real-world range, exceptional user interfaces, and eco-friendly interior materials, then they are on the path to success, and this single-motor unit should attract an even wider audience and hopefully (but slowly) convert conventional buyers into the exciting frontier of zero-emission driving.
Model: 2022 Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor
Paint Type: Thunder
Base Price: $49,900
Price as Tested: $56,800
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,606 / 1,859 / 1,479
Curb weight (kg): 1,994
Battery: 78 kWh lithium-ion
Horsepower: 231 hp
Torque: 243 lb-ft
Drive Configuration: Front electric motor, FWD
Estimated Range: 426 km