Polestar 2 Makes its Canadian Debut in Toronto
New sedan from Volvo’s all-electric performance arm a genuine threat to Tesla3
TORONTO, ON – Until 2009, Polestar was a small Swedish performance company who specialized in turning Volvos into highly modified race cars. After a half-decade partnership, Volvo purchased the Polestar name outright in 2015 and announced that it would become a standalone brand dedicated solely to the production of high-performance electric cars.
“A lot of traditional manufacturers are going to have a mix; hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and battery electric vehicles. We don’t have any concern about legacy, so we can just go all-in on the electric car and bring something different to the marketplace” said Jonathan Goodman, Polestar’s global chief operating officer during a one-on-one just prior to the event. “We have a specially tweaked chassis, so the handling of the car will be exceptional. These will be great driver’s cars that are electric.”
The first of these, a 600 hp plug-in hybrid coupe made its head-turning debut at Pebble Beach last year. A limited, and already sold-out run of only 500 units annually, coupled with a $200,000 price tag places the Polestar 1 in aspirational halo car territory. More accessible is the company’s second effort, an all-electric 5-door liftback targeting the mainstream premium EV market.
Introduced at $69,900 (with lower-priced models to come) the Polestar 2, which just made its Canadian debut in Toronto, is aimed squarely at the reigning Tesla Model 3.
“Toronto’s a great place for us to start, because the investment has already happened, plus the schedule for the electric infrastructure makes this an obvious place” said Goodman “You’ve got a federal government that’s very committed, federal subsidies for that, but above all, we believe it’s a car that’s going to appeal to the Toronto public.”
The 408 horsepower EV has standard all-wheel-drive, and is powered by two electric motors connected to a 78 kW battery pack, with a range of 500 km. The $69,900 Polestar 2 on display in Toronto was equipped with a Performance Pack, consisting of Öhlins dampers, Brembo brakes with gold callipers, 20-inch forged wheels, and gold seat-belts.
By comparison, the 283 hp entry level Tesla Model 3 now starts at $44,900 in order to qualify for the $5,000 federal incentive for vehicles under $45,000 but is limited to only 150 km of range. The standard Range Plus model is $53,700, good for 386 km, and 499 km for the long-range Model 3, which starts at $64,100 and has 412 hp, 473 in the $74,990 Performance variant. Only Long-range and Performance models are available with AWD.
“We’re excited about the response to the car, the number of people who have reserved the car” said Goodman. “This car will do very well, it brings something new to the market—it’s the only car that will be in and around the Tesla Model 3 for the next eighteen months. We’re not looking to outsell Tesla 3—we aren’t looking for those volumes. Tesla have done a fantastic job, what we’re doing here is offering an alternative. It’s a different looking car, we believe it stacks up very nicely, but ultimately, the customer will decide.”
Polestar describes the new car’s styling as avant-garde, and indeed it does project a clean and minimalist design. The lines are sharply defined, and the swept-back roofline ends neatly in a tapered rump. Aside from the racy appearance it gives the car, the liftback provides a wide opening and easy access to the trunk area. Pixel LED head lights and proximity lighting perform a welcoming sequence, and an illuminated Polestar logo is reflected in the panoramic glass roof. The side mirrors are small and frameless, which makes them very unobtrusive, but they make up for their small surface area by swivelling when needed to provide a broader range of view.
The minimalist aesthetic carries over to the cabin, defined by uninterrupted planes and straight lines. An 11-inch tablet-style touchscreen is the focal point of the cabin, while a single display in front of the driver replaces the traditional set of gauges. The Polestar 2 is billed as a 5-seater, but rear passengers would probably have to draw straws to see who gets stuck in the middle. In order to reduce intrusion into the trunk and underbody, Polestar engineers designed what looks like a traditional transmission tunnel bisecting the cabin to house the battery packs, and a 5th passenger would have to straddle this.
Don’t expect to see any Polestar dealerships. Buyers can visit franchised boutique spaces with only a couple of display vehicles, where non-commissioned “product experts” can answer questions and guide them through a number of ownership or lease options, including an all-inclusive monthly “subscription” payment that takes care of all insurance and maintenance fees. “That transparency, as many people come in for the first time to buy an EV, gives people confidence” said Goodman. “They know exactly what they’re going to pay. And with the subscription, they can just bring it back at the end of two years time and go home with a new one. And if they prefer to own it, we’ll have the traditional finance products available.”
“If you want to do everything online, you can – if you want to configure your car, order your car, and have it delivered to your home, you can. “But I think a lot of people will want to go to a retail environment where they can interact with the car. When you’re buying a car, it should be a fun experience, and I think maybe the motor industry’s lost that a little bit and one of our jobs is to put it back.
Polestar has no plans to develop a proprietary network like Tesla’s, or partner-up as Porsche has done to create a network of charging stations. “All the Volvo dealerships will have charging points, the Polestar space investors will have charging points” said Goodman. “But when we sit down and talk with some of the suppliers like Electrify America and other people, their plans are so huge for rolling out infrastructure that for us, the logical thing to do is to partner with them and give our customers access to a nationwide network.”
“We’re in development phase, some partnerships that we’ll be able to announce fairly shortly, to ensure that there is access to a charging network that’s available on a national level. When you have a range of 275 miles, the majority of people on a day-to-day basis, they’ll be driving to work and back, they’ll charge the car at home and they’ll be fine. But they also want the flexibility of knowing that if they do want to go a longer distance, they can go with this car and have access to a charging network. They will have that, and what’s exciting about this car is they’ll also have an onboard system which is the Google Android embedded, which means they will have up-to-date Google Maps, they’ll have Google Voice, and they’ll be able to ask the car to find a station.”
There’s no word yet on whether the Polestar 2 will use CCS, or CHAdeMO connectors but according to Goodman, they’re in the final stages of discussion with a number of partners, and should be ready to announce within the next month.
Polestar 2 is one of the world’s first cars to use Google Android as its operating system platform. It opens up a world of potential for Android apps to function seamlessly without having to use smartphone pairing. It’s also the first to enable the user to operate the car without a key – access and startup can be controlled entirely with the user’s smartphone.
“Phone as a key technology is exciting… because we’ve all done it—my children making fun of me running around, hunting for my car keys in the morning—but I always know where my phone is. All of us know where our phone is and we’re kind of lost without it.
With this you’ve got the opportunity that you could just walk up to the car, when you get within two-and-a-half meters, the car recognizes your phone, and you just get in because it unlocks automatically. Sit down in the seat and you don’t have to switch on anything, because there’s a sensor in the seat, it recognizes the phone is in there, you just put it into drive and go. “
Recognizing that there may be differing levels of tech familiarity within their buying demographic, Polestar has also equipped the car with a traditional key. Goodman also assures us that the Google operating system will be extremely user-friendly for even the least tech-savvy buyer.
“The plan is for it to be hugely simplistic. There’s no phone pairing to be done at all. What we wanted to have in the system is state-of-the-art navigation, Google Maps – up to speed, up to date, permanently, whereas some of the other manufacturer’s systems always seem to be running a little bit behind. And we’ll have the ability for voice, so you can simply ask “Hello Google, please let’s navigate home”. It will be very, very simple to operate, very easy to use – but for those who want to go deeper, those who want to link up to their Spotify app, Waze, and all of the Google App Store products, they can do that in the car, but without having to pair their phone. What it offers is the opportunity for the first time… is the car no longer has to be a break in their connected life. Right now we all have everything we need on our phone, we get in the car and 90 percent of it doesn’t work. Those days are gone, that’s the advantage of an Android embedded system.”
The car starts production in the first quarter of next year, with deliveries beginning in the summer, but can be configured online now at www.polestar.com.