A guiding principle of performance

You amateur astrologists out there probably know that the proper noun “Polestar” (also “pole star”) is a synonym for the North Star, our hemisphere’s celestial constant for historical explorers and dreamers.

The term also evolved into a euphemism for vision, goal, or guidance in the face of adversity – which is exactly where Polestar comes in. The stepchild of Sweden’s Volvo and wealthy sugar daddy Geely Autos, Polestar champions a vision – there’s that north star again – of a less wasteful world. And the brand practices what it preaches. Polestar’s entire approach to creating vehicles is minimalist. Even the branding looks like a NATO logo that failed to fully render.

The 2022 Polestar 2 eschews waste and puts forth only what matters in a drive. It starts without the push of a button. Enter, sit, buckle up for safety, apply the brake, engage a gear, and go. Chock-full of such sensible shortcuts, the Polestar 2 brings this brand’s vision to life in thrilling ways.

Styling: 9/10

In spite of its minimalist approach, the Polestar 2 is deceptively simple. It’s nuanced; look closely and you’ll be aesthetically delighted. What’s been removed – notice the frameless mirrors, a single-panel glass roof, and unadorned lines inside and out – upstages the need to show off. The performance does the boasting. We’ll get to that soon.

First, count the ways designers overtly stamp or subtly suggest the unfinished NATO logo. Inside, at the front centre of the panoramic sunroof, a logo is projected from a light hidden behind a lip that juts out from the front header, providing a fixed celestial constant from the occupants’ perspectives. Outside, golden calipers peek out from the four double-spokes supporting fat 20-inch wheels (an upgrade from the standard 19-inch alloys on five double-spokes). The spokes present a starry variation on the logo.

This tester also featured a $1,200 paint job, called “Snow.” We’ll call it white. On sunny days, the dark fabric and wood-lined interior (dubbed “Slate WeaveTech with Black Ash deco,” for those wondering) amplified the heat; but the cabin would’ve been an inferno with such dark hues outside. The funky hexagonal gearshift also stands out, its matte gloss contrasting with the shiny surrounding surfaces that display dust and fingerprints magnificently when photographed.

Safety: 10/10

Safety features are table stakes these days and Polestar is betting the farm. Remember Polestar is the offspring of Volvo, a company that went worldwide on its reputation of safety. The Polestar 2 comes standard with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist, automatic emergency braking, a surround-view monitor, front and rear parking sensors, and more.

The headlights conform to that overall minimalist design ethic, brightly guiding your way at night like a trusty north star, but automatically and safely shading certain areas to avoid blinding oncoming drivers. The small rear window may take some getting used to, with outward visibility restricted somewhat.

We’ll cover performance shortly. In the meantime, be aware that this car moves very quickly with little encouragement. Heed the flashing local speed limits that are projected on the screen.

Features: 9/10

Considering its less-is-more ethic, the Polestar 2 comes with a boggling number of standard goodies. To avoid another laundry list, here are a few milestones. An air filtration system sucks out dust, particulates, pollen, and the like from the stuff you breathe while inside. According to the marketing materials, the system can also seal the car off completely if it senses anything harmful in the air. Come to think of it, maybe this feature belongs in the Safety section.

Or maybe it should be mentioned in the Comfort section because, when you unlock the car remotely on hot days, the system will expel the stale warm air inside before you enter. And on cold days? Canadian will welcome the heated steering wheel, front and rear seats.

Truly a product of the digital age, the Polestar 2 features the first infotainment system powered by Google’s Android technology. The vocal assistant speaks multiple languages and supplies constantly updated relevant data for your drive, from maps to those local speed limits. If you’re on team Apple, you may find the user experience frustrating at first, but it works. The frameless 11.15-inch centre screen is touch-sensitive, of course, and intuitive; just play with it a bit. Then charge your phone with the wireless charger by the gear selector or any of the four USB ports.

Play with the sound system, too. For such a dancy, light-feeling ride, the Polestar 2 is remarkably well soundproofed, providing concert hall acoustics to enjoy the depth and richness of the audio.

This tester was upgraded with Polestar’s Pilot, Plus, and Performance packages, which added $6,000 to the price. Pilot expands the safety feature functionality; Plus kits out the stereo, sunroof, wireless charging, and fancy fabric inside; and Performance upgrades the brakes, wheels, suspension, and tires.

User-Friendliness: 8/10

As mentioned, this car is rule-breakingly simple to operate. Just wash and go. It’s also law-breakingly fun to drive.

Thanks to the positioning of the seats, getting in and out may be a challenge for the recently quarantined – this despite an overall height that’s almost identical to the Tesla 3’s. As much as I loved the drive, the seat never quite accepted my new and not-so-improved-by-the-pandemic dad bod.

The hatchback makes access to the 453-L trunk easy; kick it open from beneath the bumper. The sightlines are excellent – except the one out the back – but the computer senses when to offer extra information in tight spaces. And on the subject of sight, my middle-aged, screen-weary eyes had no trouble reading the displays inside.

Practicality: 8/10

On the whole, the Polestar 2 can be considered practical, but this ain’t no minivan. It’s a vanity purchase for someone who loves performance and the thrill of winning the race to the next stoplight without growling or even breaking a sweat. Indeed, leading its class in towing capacity, the Polestar 2 can pull as much as 1,361 kg (3,000 lb) – and it can apparently do it without affecting the dynamics of the drive.

Compared to the many noisy moving, shifting parts of a combustion engine, the battery power of an electric vehicle (EV) like this is simple: it’s either on or off; go or no-go. The Polestar 2 defaults to one-pedal driving, meaning you rarely need to brake if you don’t tailgate (a dangerous and illegal activity in Canada, though you’d never know it in Southern Ontario). Lift your foot from the accelerator and it’s no longer on, so you quickly slow down and stop. Regenerative braking sends the remaining kinetic energy back into the battery. Some people hate the feeling of one-pedal driving at first, but give it a chance at slow speeds before dismissing it. It’s fun.

The Polestar 2 seats five, but the passengers better be well acquainted. With a child seat, they’d better be family. Entering and exiting a bit of a workout, but 30 seconds in drive and all was forgiven. With 940 mm (37 in) of headroom in the back, moving a child seat in and out isn’t hopeless but might tax the spines of those of us who don’t practice yoga.

Comfort: 7/10

I gushed a bit about the air flow already. Climate control was easy to suss in the infotainment interface, and the resulting comfort in the cabin during the early summer days that it was tested arrived almost immediately. Seat cushion extensions offer more support; the corollary is that the seats are uncomfortably short.

If you favour a soft, smooth ride, test the base model without the sporty Performance upgrade, which banged around. If you do like a tightly tuned ride, you’ll be tempted to push it. Perhaps that’s why the tester contained a persistent if quiet chirping sound like a spring somewhere had loosened. Now let’s talk more about that temptation.

Power: 10/10

Warning: check your headrest position before shifting out of park. Your ability to overtake will thrill you. The Polestar 2 achieves 660 on the Newton meter almost instantly. That translates to 487 lb-ft of torque, or enough available spring to catapult you into the near future while others on the road seem to be standing still. You can leap, almost silently, from zero to 100 km/h in 4.7 seconds. Now, meet the torque’s co-star: 408 hp. Tell your hippie neighbours you bought this for the environment.

Fuel Economy: 9/10

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) predicts a range of as much as 375 km on a single charge. The tester’s computer predicted an even cheerier 390 km upon my first entry. The Polestar 2 is just one of many new EVs offering such capacious batteries. Between this increasing number of there-and-back EVs plus the rapidly growing infrastructure throughout North America, I predict that range anxiety will soon become far less of an issue for consumers.

Driving Feel: 9/10

Again, this tester was tuned finely with the Performance package – but what a ride. Like any EV, the low, flat battery pack lies beneath the floor, anchoring you to the tarmac. The result? It laps up corners effortlessly and sails past all challengers almost instantly. If you take one out for a test spin, beg for some empty country roads with bends and hills; just watch out for that dangerously quick pickup.

Value: 8/10

When considering the worth of something like the Polestar 2 versus a gas-powered car, keep in mind you’re comparing apples and EVs. Buy the latter and you’ll never pay for gasoline again. Also consider the volatility of gasoline prices. According to Statistics Canada (StatsCan), by May, gas where I live had risen 20¢ per litre since January. At the time of this writing, it’s risen another 3.5¢ in less than a month. And to misquote Arya Stark after 15 months of pandemic restrictions, “Summer is coming.” Expect the cost to surge and soar until at least Thanksgiving. In that light, all EVs are arguably good value.

The Polestar 2’s direct competition is the Tesla 3, which starts at $44,999 – but that’s a bit deceptive. This particular car’s most direct competition in Canada is the Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor all-wheel drive, which starts at $73,600. This P2 with all its packages is priced at $79,000. So, yes, it’s competitive in its still-small category. That very nicheness almost necessitates a high price. So, yes, it’s good value.

The Verdict

Think what a terrific conversation piece the 2022 Polestar 2 would be to help fill silences during these awkward first few months of finally seeing other people uninterrupted by screens. Its sheer novelty makes it a standout automobile. But the power and driving dynamics make it an outstanding automobile. Imagine the heart of a lion with the roar of an elevator. If you love to drive, you’ll love driving this.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 300 kW   Model Tested 2022 Polestar 2
Engine Cylinders Dual electric motors   Base Price $69,900
Peak Horsepower 408 hp   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 487 lb-ft   Destination Fee $1,900
Fuel Economy 2.5 / 2.7 / 2.6 Le/100 km, 21.9 / 23.9 / 22.8 kWh/100 km cty/hwy/cmb; 375 km est. range   Price as Tested $79,100
Cargo Space 453 / 1,070 L seats up/down  
Optional Equipment
$7,200 – Snow paint, $1,200; Performance Pack $6,000