New York, NY
– With the Polestar 3 and Volvo EX90 all-electric luxury SUVs heading to North America around the end of 2023, based on similar drivetrains and identically large batteries, the market race between these two closely related vehicles arguably becomes a choice of style and seats.
Which whispers more alluringly to you: the upright, classically conservative and practical Volvo seven-seater? Or the sleeker, less spacious but spicier five-seat Polestar 3?
The Polestar 3’s North American debut was conspicuously held the week before the New York International Auto Show, which Polestar did not officially attend. Noted enviro-conscious movie star Leonardo DiCaprio also helped bring some celebrity shimmer to the event, posing for photos with Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath. And while Ingenlath acknowledged some technical similarities between the Polestar 3 and upcoming Volvo EV, he also stressed more than the visual differences between the two corporate cousins.
“It’s not just the same vehicle with a nicer top hat on it,” said Ingenlath at a technical deep dive on the Polestar 3 with other senior execs hours before the DJ and models showed up. “We have more of a pioneering role within the company,” he said, noting that the Polestar 3 will arrive first, and those first-year units to arrive are set to be produced in China, before its plant in South Carolina starts producing them around mid-2024.
Having globally introduced the 2024 Polestar 3 in October last year in Denmark, the luxury EV maker quickly started taking orders for the vehicle in Canada and the U.S. in November. It also released a surprising amount of information about the vehicle early, including its base price in Canada of just under $100k, especially considering that Volvo as of this writing has still not announced its EX90 price, which traditionally is held to just a few months before the first units arrive.
The Polestar 3’s six-figure price may sound expensive, especially when you consider that the EX90 will offer three rows of seating, which is currently still a relatively rare offering amongst any BEV models, at any price point.
But there was a strategic reason for this price in Canada, and it actually helped make the $99,900 starting price (after delivery charges) notably lower than the Polestar 3’s announced launch prices in both the U.S.($83,900, or C$113,417) and Europe (89,000 Euros, or C$131,711).
“We purposefully brought it in just under the ($100,000 vehicle) luxury tax,” said Hugues Bissonette, the Country Manager for Polestar Canada. The launch models come fully loaded, as they include the Plus and Pilot packages, with only a few available option packages that would push it over the six-figure luxury tax threshold.
One is a $7,000 Performance pack option, with which horsepower jumps from 489 hp to 517 hp, while torque increases from 620 lb-ft (840 Nm) of torque to 671 lb-ft (910 Nm). And all from a software upgrade, with more rated horsepower than the EX90, but the same torque in both regular and performance versions. Handling is also sharpened by stiffer springs and semi-active dampers, with rear torque-vectoring acting on wider 22-inch unique wheels. And distinctive yellow Polestar Engineered seatbelts.
Both the Polestar 3 and the EX90 will share the same large 111 kWh lithium-ion battery, of which 107 kWh will be usable, with a max charge speed of 250 kW, which is very high for a 400-volt system. Polestar says a DC quick charge will take 30 minutes to go from 10-80% charged, which is quick for a battery this large.
But it’s worth noting that you’ll need one of the relatively rare 350 kW DC quick-charging stations to achieve this max speed, and likely ideal conditions as well, since a 400-volt system will be working very hard to reach and keep anywhere near that 250 kW max charging speed.
It will be fascinating to DC quick charge these upon its arrival in North America, currently slated for the last quarter of this year, where Canada and the U.S. will be among the first markets to receive it.
Maximum range in the Polestar 3 will be 482 km, as rated by the EPA, which is notably lower than its 610 km preliminary range target originally communicated on Europe’s much more optimistic WLTP standard. Speaking of daily range, the company recommends charging it daily to 90% or less for ultimate battery longevity, although company engineers say it’s not going to be an issue to charge it overnight to 100% occasionally if you’re going to need the range.
“Sometimes people are afraid to charge their EVs to 100 percent,” because of the NMC (nickel Manganese Cobalt) chemistry of the battery, said Beatrice Simonsson, the international head of product management. “Though we recommend normally to charge to 80 or 90%, if you’re going on a trip and need the full 100, customers are totally fine to use it.”
If there are any issues, there’s a very generous eight-year, 160,000 km warranty on the battery. Some driving range reduction over the years due to lithium-ion battery degradation is expected and normal, as with all current batteries, but Polestar includes a battery capacity guarantee of 70% over those periods.
The Polestar 3 and its battery can also handle some tasks that aren’t normally strengths of BEVs, such as towing, up to 2,200 kg (4,500 lb), while offering wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto from launch. Regular over the air (OTA) updates will also be provided.
Helping with winter conditions in particular, the Polestar 3 comes standard with a battery warmer, a heat pump, and interior pre-conditioning, either from an app or settings inside the vehicle. There’s no ability to manually switch on battery pre-conditioning for a quicker charge, which is unfortunate, but it will automatically pre-condition (warm up) the battery when you select a DC quick charger in the GPS system to navigate to, after choosing from three different levels of high-speed charging.
Many EV fans will be happy to know that there is also a one-pedal driving option, as well as a selectable creep-forward mode, which more closely mimics the feel of a gas vehicle, and is useful for folks with a steep driveway.
There will be some major capabilities that won’t be available right away. The most notable is an optional LiDAR system that for $7,000 adds extra cameras and an advanced laser “pod” on the roof similar to the one that comes standard on the EX90. It will help its driver-assistance technologies perform better in bad weather and at night (auto emergency braking and smart cruise especially), as well as increase its self-driving abilities in more areas and situations.
Ingenlath believes it’ll likely be two to three years before this system will achieve “unsupervised piloting,” as he described it, and likely first in California or other areas where similar systems are now being tested and up for legal approval.
Of course, the 2024 Polestar 3 will also have other luxury rivals in this class, such as the five-seat BMW iX and Mercedes-Benz EQE SUV. But if it comes down in the end to a fashion choice between any BEV luxury SUV in this near-six figure segment, the Polestar 3 has little to worry about.