2022 Polestar 2 First Drive: Resetting The Bar For EVs
The Polestar 2, an EV from a company few have heard of, ushers in a new era of electric cars—a driver’s EV with premium features at everyday pricing.
As its no-nonsense name indicates, the Polestar 2 is the second car from the Swedish company. The first was—as hard as this may be to believe—the Polestar 1. However, the Polestar 2 is the company’s first all-electric model (the Polestar 1 is a plug-in hybrid) and its first mass-market car. To the surprise of no one, there will be a Polestar 3 SUV next year, with more to follow.
The original Polestar 2 was introduced in 2021 as a dual motor high-performance model. For 2022, the company increased its range, made significant pricing and standard feature changes and added the “Dual Motor” suffix to its name. Then it added the Polestar 2 Single Motor, a lower-cost, longer-range single-motor version that retains much of the sporty driving character of the Polestar 2 Dual.
While obviously rooted in Volvo—Polestar is a Volvo subsidiary, and the Polestar 2 shares its platform with the XC40 crossover—there are visual similarities with the S60 sedan in the shapes of the grille and headlights. However, the Polestar 2 aims to be different in look as well as function. The first all-Polestar design shows up with the forthcoming Polestar 3 SUV, but the Polestar 2 has plenty of detail separating it from its Volvo cousins.
It is a four-door sports sedan with a short hood and relatively flat roofline with a fastback rear window. There’s a rear hatch, no conventional trunk. It rides higher than most conventional sedans, providing an almost crossover-like seating height. Its blacked-out, dimpled grille and the full-width LED light bar in the rear don’t appear anywhere in the Volvo family, and its paucity of badging is definitely at odds with the giant “look at me” emblem Volvo plants in the middle of its grilles. Nevertheless, it gets noticed, although more often than not, the first question asked is, “What is it?”
Polestar 2 Price
The initial “2,” the 2021 Launch Edition, was pricey at $61,200 but came fully loaded with two motors, all-wheel drive, 408 horsepower and 233 miles of range. In addition, a panoramic glass roof and a boatload of advanced safety and driver assistance technology ensured it played in its segment and price range.
For the 2022 model year, the Launch Edition is gone, its vacancy filled by the new Polestar 2. The Polestar 2 Single Motor features a single-motor, 231 horsepower, front-wheel drive and a factory-estimated 265 miles of range and wears a $47,200 base price. Additionally, it has a metal roof in place of the Launch Edition’s glass roof, cloth upholstery and a reasonably full suite of advanced safety and assist technology
A $7500 federal tax credit that all Polestar EVs qualify for cuts the actual acquisition cost to $39,700, and state and local incentives, where available, can reduce it even more.
That compares to $41,190 and no federal incentives for a base Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus, which has 283 horsepower, 262 miles of range and rear-wheel drive. The Ford Mustang Mach-e Premium with the standard battery, a rear-drive EV, has 266 horsepower and 230 miles of range, starts at $48,700 and qualifies for the full $7,500 federal tax credit. That means a $41,200 base price.
Other mid-size, front-drive EVs with comparable power and range include the Nissan Leaf Plus SV and Chevrolet Bolt EV. The Leaf Plus SV has 214 horsepower, 215 miles of range and a $36,375 starting price before incentives; the Chevrolet Bolt EV—currently unavailable because of a battery recall—has horsepower and a 259-mile range and is priced at $31,995 for the base trim. Unfortunately, like the Tesla, the Bolt is no longer eligible for the federal tax credit.
The Model 3 and Mustang Mach-e EVs likely will be the Polestar 2 Single’s main competition. Both have a similar range and standard equipment. The Polestar boasts a nice interior and a superior infotainment system, but the Tesla and Ford EVs are much quicker from 0-60, with sub-6-second times versus the Polestar Single’s 7.4-second pace. The Bolt and Leaf Plus, each with 6.5-second times for the 0-60 sprint, also are quicker, although not as sporty.
The 2022 Polestar 2 Dual Motor, which features a dual-motor powertrain and all-wheel drive starts at $51,200 before incentives. Horsepower and performance capabilities are unchanged from the 2021 Launch Edition, but the maker pared back the standard equipment to reduce the price.
A Driver’s Delight
Unlike the Polestar 1, the Polestar 2 is made of sheet metal on a modern production line and aimed at a broad swath of the car-buying public. But it shares much of its predecessor’s responsiveness and overall driveability.
We recently had a few hours in New Mexico with the 2022 Polestar 2 Single Motor, driving from Santa Fe to Los Alamos via the Bandelier National Monument. The return trip followed a less mountainous route down from the mesa tops on which the famed nuclear research town stands.
The roughly 100-mile drive took just over two hours, consuming about 40% of the lithium-ion battery pack’s 75 kilowatt-hours of usable power. Mathematically, that puts it on track for its promised 265-mile range, despite a relatively steep and energy-draining 3,000-foot elevation climb from the San Idelfonso Pueblo to Bandelier’s main entrance.
Charge Time and Range
We didn’t need to charge the Polestar 2 Single’s batteries. But if we had plugged in, a software update has boosted the original 150-kilowatt lid on DC fast charging to 155 kilowatts. It enables a recharge to 80% from 10% in just 33 minutes instead of 40. The over-the-air fix is being sent to 2021 Polestar 2 owners. An 8-hour overnight session on 240-volt Level 2 equipment will replenish a fully depleted battery for home and workplace charging.
While the Polestar 2 Single Motor’s front-wheel drive layout likely isn’t as grippy as the Dual Motor’s electronic all-wheel drive, it was still quite fun to drive insofar as New Mexico’s speed limits would permit. Still, it responds with velvety smooth quickness to steering and brake inputs. Moreover, because electric motors don’t need to breathe the way internal combustion engines do, the Polestar 2 Single had no problem maintaining an impressive pace in the 7,000- to 10,000-foot elevations our route covered.
The car is hushed, even with a window rolled down. Of particular note is that with the driver’s window rolled down, there’s no cavitation—that disturbing “whoop-whoop” of incoming air bouncing around the cabin— until about 50 mph. Then, from 50 to 70 mph, rolling the window halfway up resolved things without the need of rolling down another window, which can help equalize pressure and end the noise but usually results in a windstorm roiling the interior.
Firm is Fine
Polestar EVs don’t have a bunch of performance settings—the default, essentially, is sport—but drivers can use the info screen to adjust steering wheel response and regenerative braking levels. There are three settings for each.
Set the steering response at “Firm” and regeneration at “Standard” and the Polestar 2 replies with responsive handling and, on twisting mountain roads, the ability to use the electric motor’s regenerative braking power to slow before entering curves, not unlike downshifting with a manual transmission.
The Polestar 2’s front-mounted electric motor delivers its torque evenly, so there was no jarring torque-steer to deal with when accelerating out of curves, a problem with many front-drive vehicles, electric and otherwise.
Both “Low” and “Standard” regenerative settings will bring the Polstar 2 to a complete halt without the use of the brake pedal, but the low setting is relatively soft and seems best for highway cruising. The third setting, “Off,” is for those who prefer to use the brake pedal.
The Polestar 2 Single Motor’s suspension tuning provides a comfortable, if slightly stiff, ride on the 19-inch inch all-season tires. The ride is biased toward sporty rather than land yacht plush. The heated front seats—built on Volvo frames—are well-bolstered, supportive and wonderfully comfortable.
Interior Comfort and Cargo Space
The Polestar 2’s biggest apparent flaw is the lack of interior storage space. The door panel pouches are narrow and shallow, and there’s almost no room in the center console. One cupholder is visible, just rear of the shifter, but the other occupies what otherwise would be the console’s storage space. As a result, the center armrest has to be flipped up to access it and renders it useless.
There is a small, thin cubby at the front of the console and a small net pouch the size of a pocket tissue package on each side of the console just below the dash. But purses, laptops and the like? They either go onto an unused seat or roll around on the floor.
The Polestar 2 claims a mere 14.3 cubic feet of room under the hatch and behind the rear seats, which, on paper, makes it the smallest cargo hold in the competitive set. But while SUVs and crossovers get to measure from the cargo floor to the vehicle’s roof, coupes and sedans can only measure from the floor to the top of the rear seats. In practice, the Polestar 2 likely will be fine for most uses— just don’t try to cram an easy chair back there.
If the back seats aren’t needed for people, flipping them down increases the interior cargo area to 38 cubic feet. Add a properly fitted tow hitch (for $1200 Polestar will provide a hidden hitch that deploys at the touch of a button), and the Polestar 2 can tow a ton or so.
And while the base model Single has fore and aft power adjustments for the driver’s seat, a slightly awkward reach down and back is required to grab the knurled knob that manually adjusts the seatback.
A Tech Leader
One of the most noteworthy separations from Volvo is the Polestar 2’s Google Android Automotive-driven infotainment technology. It is the first mass-produced car in the world to use it, and it is an absolute delight.
The “Hey Google,” plain-language voice command system works perfectly. Icons on the 11.25-inch, vertically oriented touchscreen are sharp and easy to read and comprehend, and while there is some drilling-down required to get to some functions, navigating the system isn’t an arduous task. Although Apple CarPlay capability doesn’t arrive until this fall, it even plays well and wirelessly with iPhones. It will be an over-the-air update provided for all 2021 Polestar 2s and the ’22 model year cars.
In the meantime, the 2022 Polstar 2 moves the bar smartly forward. Thanks no doubt to its close ties with Volvo, Polstar has delivered a first-effort EV that can hold its own in an increasingly competitive area and outshines most of the competition in tech features and overall drivability.