Published on July 24th, 2020 |
by Kyle Field
July 24th, 2020 by Kyle Field
Every technological revolution brings with it the possibility of a better life. Whether it aspires to bring better products, new services, lower cost, higher returns, or just more fun, it must resonate with a core set of consumers that will not only pay for the new tech, but also head out into the world to champion the new tech for the company.
Polestar aims to cut a path into a fully electric future, starting with the iconic Polestar 1. It takes the best of parent company Volvo’s combustion technology and augments it with electric motors, batteries, controllers, and in-car tech for an experience that pulls drivers into the fully electric future.
The Polestar 1 Driving Experience
The Polestar 1 was born out of a desire to blend the luxury of vehicle from Polestar’s parent company, Volvo, with the highest levels of racing performance. It is not simply a luxury plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, though it is that.
Up front, on the petrol side of the equation, its in-line 2 liter, 4-cylinder engine is both turbocharged and supercharged for performance that translates to massive amounts of torque and power for such a small engine. Out back, a pair of electric motors drive each of the rear wheels independently for a combined 232 horsepower and 363 lb-ft of torque.
Thanks to 4 different driving modes, the Polestar 1 is able to optimize these two powertrains to suit the needs of the driver. Hybrid mode mellows out the car, seeking a comfortable and efficient blend of the electric and petrol powertrains. It’s not too exciting, not too fast, and not too loud, perfect for those days when your mind is elsewhere and you just need to get from point A to point B in style.
When it’s time to blow off some steam, Power mode unleashes the Polestar 1’s combined 619 horsepower and 737 lb-ft of torque for an experience that leaves the worries of the day behind. It is not simply for show, but the Polestar 1 even holds its own on the famed Nürburgring.
A next generation plug-in hybrid supercar probably isn’t something you’re going to see on the track a lot, but it was designed to stand up to the test. Its 48% front / 52% rear weight positions it at the ideal weight distribution for a balanced posture and All Wheel Drive mode pushes the platform to the limit. It engages both the electric motors and the internal combustion engine to launch the vehicle while keeping the suspension almost perfectly flat.
Active torque vectoring with the two rear electric motors ensures maximum power to the ground without compromising on traction. The result is akin to flying, where a stomp on the pedal is followed almost immediately by a sensation to hold onto the steering wheel for dear life as the car threatens to leave everyone — and everything — in the dust.
Finally, after a fun day at the track or just a long day at work, Pure mode kills the combustion engine and lets the car run as a pure electric vehicle. In this fully electric mode, the complete silence of the two rear electric motors paired with the healthy sound dampening in the premium interior transforms the car into one of the most luxurious, fun to drive EVs around for up to 60 miles, thanks to its 34kWh traction battery. This mode is also great for daily driving for folks looking to eliminate emissions from the daily commute, but still want the freedom to just get in and go for a long drive when the occasion calls for it.
For those who just want to do their own thing, a custom mode is also available that allows the owner to tune the behavior of the car to their exact specification.
Polestar 1 Exterior
The exterior lines of the vehicle make a bold statement without having to put on any bright red lipstick. Sitting low and wide on its haunches, the Polestar 1 blends just enough relaxed California style to trick bystanders into missing out on just how much of a beast it is. For anyone taking more than just a passing look at it, jaws quickly fell to the floor. In a day trip up the coast from Ventura to Morro Bay, we regularly came back to the car to people taking pictures, looking inside, and asking questions about it.
It is available in a handful of sophisticated yet simple colors ranging from snow, magnesium, osmium, midnight, and space, with all of them available in matte. The subtle exterior palette is the equivalent of the perfect blazer, equally comfortable with the top buttons opened up and a pair of jeans for a picnic or dressed to the nines for a night of rampaging around the city.
The sleek exterior lines and subtle paint make it easy to think this is just another luxury sedan, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Below the paint and occasionally peeking out to say hi is a carbon fiber grand touring frame built to thrill.
A set of massive 21″ alloy rims provide the perfect contrast to the low-slung lines of the car, providing balance and stability to the overall posture of the sports coupe.
Polestar 1 Interior
Slipping into the low slung cabin of the Polestar 1 sport coupe, the car reaches out to coddle the driver in fine handcrafted leather seats reminiscent of a pair of well-worn driving gloves. Bold streaks of carbon fiber and aluminum accents claw their way out into the cabin as bold proclamations of the Polestar 1’s racing credentials.
Panoramic glass roofs have become the price of entrance in modern vehicles, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. Polestar leaned on the structural integrity of the carbon fiber throughout the vehicle to keep the roof lines nice and tight while minimizing visual interruptions from unnecessary structural members. The combination of the low windshield lines and the wide open ceiling is the feeling of flying even before you step on the pedal.
The solid doors close like a vault door with a heft that reinforces the sensation of entering the cockpit of a fighter jet. The seating position of the driver is low, but thanks to a clever design, visibility out the sides and over the hood is fantastic.
Like many sport coupes, the rear seats are not designed for regular use, with my two boys ages 9 and 10 finding it a tight fit behind my 6’2″ frame. Having said that, it’s nice to have them for the occasional group outing, but not the best option for long trips with 4 adults.
Polestar didn’t take the safe route with technology in the Polestar 1 and it shows. The team has been aggressively working to maximize the utility of the onboard ADAS systems and it shows. We loved how the technology was nearly invisible in our early drives where we simply wanted to drive the vehicle, but after a few taps of the responsive and functional center touchscreen, a full host of features becomes available.
When driving, the Traffic Adaptive Cruise Control did a fantastic job of adjusting the speed of the vehicle to adapt to the speed of the leading vehicle, but it was Pilot Assist that really impressed us. Pilot Assist acts like Tesla’s Autopilot solution, with the vehicle managing not just the acceleration and deceleration of the vehicle, but taking over steering as well.
Much like Autopilot, Polestar’s Pilot Assist looks around for other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, road markings, and street signs to steer the vehicle along the ideal route. We used it on a few well marked city streets and freeways and found that it performed well over several hundred miles of use. There were several occasions where we had to intervene when the vehicle drifted over a lane line, but the vast majority of the time, it performed admirably and improved the driving experience.
Polestar offers an app to connect to its vehicles that gives drivers insights to what’s happening in the vehicle and acts as a key for the vehicle a lá Tesla, thanks to the Polestar Digital Key app.
Polestar 1 Specs
- Total Power: 619 horsepowerTorque: 1,000 Nm / 738 lb.-ft
- Total Torque: 1,000 Nm / 738 lb.-ft
- Petrol Motor: Supercharged, turbocharged motor with 326 horsepower, 520 Nm / 384 lb.-ft torque
- Electric Motors: 2 x 85 kW / 116 horsepower motors w/480 Nm / 354 lb.-ft torque
- Integrated Start Generator: 52 kW / 68 horsepower ISG starts engine and provides additional torque when combustion engine is running
- All Electric Range: 60 miles / 97 kilometers EPA, 78 miles / 126 kilometers WLTP
- Battery: 348 volt, 102 Ah, 34 kWh lithium-ion battery
- Curb Weight: 5,885 lbs 2,669 kgs
- 0-100 kph / 0-62 mph Time: 4.2 seconds
- Efficiency: Hybrid: 58 mpg combined city/highway, Petrol engine: 26 mpg combined city/highway (EPA)
View the full spec sheet at Polestar.com (PDF).
At a starting price of $155,000 with the option to upgrade to nicer rims or matte paint finishes for a few thousand more, the Polestar 1 is clearly positioned as a vision vehicle for the brand. With Polestar only scheduled to produce 500 of the vehicles per year and only 150 of those bound for the US, it will be an exclusive vehicle for the foreseeable future. It has mapped out the design language and the look and feel for Polestar moving forward and by all accounts, it is an impressive vehicle.
If it had one, the fatal flaw of the Polestar 1 is definitely under the hood. Don’t get me wrong, the hybrid powertrain is beyond impressive, but it is still a petrol-electric hybrid. Relegating drivers to clean driving for up to 60 miles with the onboard traction battery is a significant restriction in a day and age where the performance of electric vehicles has already exceeded that of any form of combustion engine is a bit of a letdown.
Having said that, the fact that it is a petrol-electric hybrid allows buyers who are still uncertain about electric vehicles to experience the benefits of an electric vehicle for their daily driving, while packing in an immensely satisfying performance hybrid experience when it’s time to blow off some steam.
As the first creation to emerge from Polestar, the Polestar 1 will serve as the guiding light for the brand in design, quality, technology, and powertrain execution as it moves towards higher volume vehicles with the fully electric Polestar 2 and beyond. Production of the Polestar 1 has already begun at Polestar’s new Production Center, with the first deliveries to customers in the US and Canada starting earlier this year.
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