Joe Rayfus with the new Polestar

Motoring with Joe Rayfus: Polestar pushing the boundaries

I recently returned my Polestar 2 after the usual weeklong test drive. It’s perhaps not a car name you’ll be familiar with. In fact, the two gardai that waved me into the Foxhunter on the N4 were equally puzzled. I should mention that satisfying their curiosity was literally their only reason for showing me the blue lights.

As I explained to them, Polestar is the newest car brand to hit the Irish market. It was the given name of Volvo’s racing skunkworks.

However, in 2017 it was established as a new, standalone Swedish premium electric vehicle manufacturer, albeit one which enjoys specific technological and engineering ‘synergies’ with Volvo Cars and benefits from significant economies of scale as a result. Headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden, Polestar vehicles are currently available in 21 markets across the world.

As of earlier this year, Ireland became their 22nd market and by 2023, the company plans for its cars to be available in a further eight. And whilst the majority of their design and R&D work is conducted in Sweden, Polestar cars are currently manufactured in two facilities in China.

The Polestar 2 is a smart looking, 4 door fastback. Its chunky design features strong bold lines, frameless doors, two of the most beautiful door mirrors and bucket loads of road presence. Yet look close enough and you can spot the accents of Volvo’s design language, but it’s all wonderfully subtle and in no way seems contrived.

It has a slightly taller stature that the traditional saloon or fastback cars but thankfully it’s by no means what one could call a crossover – think cross county and you’ll be about right. My Long Range (78Kw) Dual Motor test car was perfectly finished in the head turning Magnesium exterior colour.

Inside, the cabin oozes class. Constructed of all-vegan materials as standard and the carpets, which I’m informed, are manufactured using old fishing nets. With this approach to sustainability, Polestar intend to be 100% climate neutral by 2030 without the need for carbon offsetting.

As you’d expect from any self-respecting electric car, the Polestar 2 has a large centrally located touchscreen, and it was the first car in the world to come with Google built-in.

The Android Automotive OS infotainment system provides a solid and adaptable digital environment for apps and vehicle functions to co-exist and brings embedded Google services to a car for the first time – including the Google Assistant, Google Maps with support for electric vehicles and the Google Play Store.

Natural voice control and an 11-inch touch screen display bring the new interface to life. It’s all super impressive and is incredibly intuitive to use.

Polestar have kept the variants fairly simple. Limited to just one bodytype in a choice of 2 powertrains, either single or dual motor and two different battery sizes (67kWh or 78kWh).

As I previously mentioned, I was testing the range topping dual-motor, four-wheel-drive model. It’s a powerful beast generating 408hp (300kW) with a tarmac rolling 660Nm of torque. Zero to 100km/h times may not be quite a rapid as the Tesla Model 3 Performance but at just 4.7 seconds it’s certainly no slouch.

Charging is done via the now standard Type-2 or CCS connections. On a standard home charger you’ll be topping up at a rate of 7.4kW’s (up to 11kW if you’re lucky enough to have 3-phase) or on DC fast charging at speeds of up to 150kW’s.

Whilst more or less all of the manufacturers now have one if not several fully electric offerings, until now Tesla were the sole standalone EV brand.

They are as much a tech company as they are a car maker and the way they do business is worlds apart for the traditional brands. These new EV-only-makers don’t ease their customers into fully electric driving through phases of soft hybrid or PHEV options; nor can they rely on the long-developed rapport between their dealer networks and local customer base.

Their customers will make the decision to buy their car all on their own, from behind the screen of their laptop with an oat milk flat white in hand. Well, at least that’s how the stereotyping goes; but joking aside it’s fast becoming the reality.

Like it or not, the world is changing in every way, and this little island doesn’t have an exemption. Twenty years ago, everyone drank nine cups of tea a day, tipped around town in the diesel Avensis – the one they bought off Pat, the man who also sold them every other car they’d previously owned and nobody dreamt of doing their Christmas shopping on any day other than the 8th of December. We have however, moved on. Welcome to a world of artisan coffees, cars with plugs and online shopping.

The motor industry is going through one of the biggest shifts it’s seen since Henry Ford introduced the assembly line. It’s not just electrification either, it’s the way people will buy their new battery-powered cars.

Polestar’s approach to selling their cars is equally innovative. Customers will be able to purchase their car through an online store. This simplistic, 100% digital process is complemented by the odd physical retail locations known as Polestar Spaces and Polestar Destinations; think shops rather than dealerships. These bespoke retail environments allow consumers to interact physically with the brand, meeting with Polestar Specialists to explore the car in more detail, including test drives.

The first Polestar Destination in Ireland is planned to open to the public in Dublin later in 2022 but until then the process of purchasing a Polestar is all done online including financing and trade-in solutions via their partners.

All in all, the Polestar 2 is a very credible alternative to everything from C-Class Merc to a BMW 3-Series, and more importantly to the Tesla Model 3. It’s refined, well-built and a pleasure to drive. Okay so it’s a tad pricy, but what new car isn’t these days. Besides cut back on those iced, oat-milked coffees and you’ll save the difference in no time at all.

Pricing for the Polestar 2 starts at €49,500 (standard range single motor) whilst the Long Range Dual Motor model tested starts at €61,990 and the model tested including the Plus pack and metallic paint came in at €67,875.