Review: Polestar 2, a Tesla Model 3 rival with Volvo roots
When I tell people that I recently drove the new Polestar 2, the first question I get is a variation of “What is a Polestar?” Never heard of it.”
Electric car enthusiasts have been eagerly awaiting its arrival as the Tesla Model 3’s first real direct competitor. The reception of auto buyers and reviews will help determine whether buyers really want electric cars – or just Teslas. It is already available in Europe; Deliveries to the United States begin in mid-September from Southern California.
The Polestar 2 was designed and manufactured in Sweden and manufactured in China. Polestar is a new company, a 50/50 joint venture between the Swedish Volvo and the Chinese Geely.
Like the Model 3, the Polestar 2 is fun to drive, albeit with different characteristics. For me, the Model 3 is a machine for young people, a little weird in the sense of ‘hey, look at that’ – and if it doesn’t hold together so well, we do not care? It’s cooler than practical.
The Polestar 2 is more of a comfortably appointed adult car. It feels a bit heavier behind the wheel, but in a confident and reassuring way. But if you want to push it, it’s fast, it holds the road and the steering is precise.
I drove a Polestar 2 last week through the bends on Highway 84 near Silicon Valley on my way to Alice Restaurant in Woodside for a turkey sandwich.
The dual carriageway is known locally as La Honda Road and passes the town where Ken Kesey conducted some of his LSD “acid tests” in the 1960s.
Almost 60 years later, perfectly sober and drug-free drivers can still get their feet wet on a road made up of curves, double yellow lines and trees. Best to go at dawn, as there is no sure way to pass slowpokes. I encountered a hay truck and had to stop for a while and check my emails.
I have found the Polestar 2 to be one of the best performing electric vehicles on the market today. Its suspension and steering were almost as good as the Porsche Taycan electric sports sedan. But where the base price of the Polestar 2 is $ 60,000, the Taycan can easily cost more than double.
The exterior design of the Polestar is quite beautiful. The interior is elegant, in the Swedish way of simple luxury. Not as simple as the austere screen aesthetic on a Model 3 shelf, but you don’t have to scroll through a menu to get the Polestar’s wipers to work.
The range is adequate for most needs, with an expected EPA rating in the middle of 200 miles. The time from zero to 60 is estimated to be 4.4 seconds. Model 3 has a longer range and faster offline time. If you live and die at clock speed, get yourself a Model 3. For everyone else, the Polestar 2 will prove to be very fast and powerful, with its two electric motors capable of forcing you and your passengers to climb in. the seat backs, if you are into such things.
The car comes with the Volvo driver assistance and safety package, Pilot Assist. It’s not as advanced as Tesla’s autopilot – it doesn’t automatically change lanes – but at no point did I feel unsafe.
Some might think the price is a bit steep. The price differences depend on the configurations, but there’s no doubt that the Polestar 2 costs more than the Model 3, with an average selling price of around $ 50,000.
This is in large part because of the 25% tariffs imposed by the Trump administration on cars imported from China and included in the price of the car.
Partial offsetting of a federal tax credit of $ 7,500 for buyers on the first 200,000 Polestars sold in the United States (Tesla has already exhausted its quota, so Model 3 buyers are no longer eligible.) plans to sell “tens of thousands” of Polestar 2s next year. A Polestar executive says he is moving slowly to ensure a quality deployment.
Geely, one of China’s most successful and arguably most interesting large private car companies, should have enough cash on hand to help Polestar gain a foothold. (Geely actually owns Volvo, although Volvo is a separate company capable of forming a joint venture with its parent company. It’s complicated.)
Polestar plans to present its next car at the end of next year, the Polestar 3 compact SUV, built on Volvo’s new all-electric SPA2 platform. This will allow a shift in the design aesthetic towards something more avant-garde, evoked in Polestar’s Precept concept car. (For those wondering, yes, there is a Polestar 1, a hybrid-powered supercar that costs $ 150,000. Only 150 are made each year.)
For distribution, Polestar is going the Tesla route: it sells cars online and builds showrooms, not dealerships. Unlike Tesla, however, it won’t be building a service network. Instead, it will use Volvo’s extensive service network.
A showroom will soon open on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. A pop-up store will open in Union Square in San Francisco, with more permanent facilities in the Bay Area in Silicon Valley and Marin County. There will be one more in Manhattan and three in major cities across Canada. Further exhibition hall locations will follow in 2021.
Technologically, Polestar is the first automobile in the world to include the new Google Android Automotive operating system. A fully-fledged software operating system, it serves as the basis for the car’s driver-passenger information system. Don’t confuse it with Android Auto, which due to inept Google branding will be easy to do. People use Android Auto, like Apple’s CarPlay, to plug a smartphone into the car and use the phone and apps through the car’s system.
With Automotive OS, no phone is needed, although Android Auto or Apple CarPlay can still be used. The system works more like Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
The best thing about the new setup is the quality of the speech recognition. Voice control in most cars remains appalling, in part because companies don’t own the stupendous consumer data sets Google and Amazon have, nor the massive cloud server farms that tech giants are using to grow. and improve the elements of understanding the language of artificial intelligence.
Automakers have tried to avoid giving Big Tech the ability to dominate the potentially lucrative data streams that will increasingly go to automobiles and the rest of the world. But Polestar believes Google can do a better job of information than it can, and a better user experience will allow it to sell more cars. Volvo feels the same: From next year, Volvo will start adding the Android Automotive operating system to its new vehicles and encourage developers to create custom apps.
For me, and for many safety experts, robust and reliable voice recognition is key to reducing driver distraction, a long-standing problem made worse by smartphones and digital infotainment systems that take their fingers off the wheel and drive them away. eyes of the road.
The Polestar iteration of the operating system is promising. For the most basic car controls, the voice recognition is excellent, by far the best I have experienced. But for now, it’s a bit limited. You can ask to increase or decrease the volume, or for the air conditioner to be cooler or warmer, and your wish is its control. But you can’t ask to lower the bass or increase the treble.
Its Google roots sometimes appear in a funny way. Hey, Google, I said, turn up the audio system’s equalizer. The answer: “‘The Equalizer’ is a 2014 film directed by Antoine Fuqua…”
Modern automotive technology will remain a work in progress. But judging at first glance, the Polestar 2 is heading in the right direction.