What’s a Polestar? That was the follow-up question from a curious couple who asked us to identify the 2022 Polestar 2 we were driving in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico. To paraphrase, we explained that Polestar is an all-electric subsidiary of Volvo, and the Scandinavian-designed squat vehicle in question is currently the sole mass-produced model in its portfolio. Only the Volvo reference appeared to register, so we skipped the stuff about the Polestar 2 being the company’s first EV, being built in China, and being sold directly to customers via the internet.
For 2022, new configuration choices and other notable improvements make the Polestar 2 more competitive in the premium-EV space, particularly versus the popular Tesla Model 3. Previously, the Polestar 2 was offered only as a feature-laden Launch Edition with dual motors and a $61,200 starting price. Now that many previously standard features are instead divided between the new $4000 Plus and $3200 Pilot packages, the starting point of the dual-motor powertrain configuration is $10,000 less. Making the ’22 Polestar 2 even more accessible is the new single-motor, front-wheel-drive variant that goes on sale in January. It starts at $47,200 (an amount that drops below $40K when you consider the available $7500 federal tax credit).
Since we’ve already driven and tested a dual-motor 2 with the $5000 Performance package and Polestar says the 2022 alterations don’t affect its driving behavior, during our New Mexico rendezvous we focused on the single-motor example. The experience was less satisfying from an enthusiast perspective, but the differences are likely inconsequential to most shoppers. The single motor delivers 231 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels, producing the immediate thrust characteristic of electric vehicles. The sensation is available on demand from a dead stop or when passing on the interstate. The effect is simply amplified when two motors make a combined 408 ponies and 487 lb-ft, sending our aforementioned tester to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. With only one motor, we expect the fastback hatchback to be about 2.6 ticks behind that mark.
The front-drive Polestar 2 also lacks the point-and-shoot dynamics that make its all-wheel-drive counterpart feel more playful. With the stability-control system set to ESC Sport, the AWD model’s tail will wag in a controlled manner for maximum entertainment value. For anyone not interested in such juvenile antics, the FWD version still feels athletic and refined. In fact, even with the standard 19-inch wheels, it’s remarkably planted and sure-footed, thanks in part to standard summer tires. The worst road imperfections are more pronounced with the optional 20-inch wheel-and-tire combo, but overall the cabin is impressively isolated from the outside world. The accurate steering includes three adjustable levels of effort—light, standard, and firm—but none generate any actual feedback. The most aggressive regenerative-braking setting provides 0.3 g of deceleration and enables true one-pedal driving. The brake pedal’s firm action and short travel also feel more assuring than that of many other EVs.
Regardless of motor count, every Polestar 2 features a 75.0-kWh battery pack. While that net capacity is unchanged for 2022, Polestar credits increased range to “controller software and vehicle efficiency improvements.” Although the EPA hasn’t certified the single-motor’s 265-mile estimate, the dual-motor car gets a 249-mile rating (16 more than before). Plus, thanks to the magic of over-the-air updates, 2021 models can unlock that extra range too. The same applies to the car’s maximum DC fast-charging speed, which rises from 150 to 155 kW. Polestar says charging the battery from 10 to 80 percent at 150 kW should take 33 minutes. Our single-motor example began the day with close to a full charge, and after two trips cruising back roads and highways between Santa Fe and Los Alamos, New Mexico (approximately 180 miles total), our battery’s charge stood at about one-third.
Racking up those miles in the Polestar 2 is enjoyable thanks to an elevated seating position and a tall greenhouse with good forward visibility. The back seat is comfortable enough for two adults, and there’s lots of cargo space under the rear hatch. The 2’s interior looks minimalistic, but the space has distinctive finishes and sturdy panel fitment. It feels like sitting in a Scandinavian coffeehouse–except there’s only one easily accessible cupholder between the front seats; a second is hidden under the center-console lid. The centerpiece of the cockpit is the vertically mounted 11.2-inch touchscreen, which features an innovative Google-developed OS infotainment system meant to replicate the feel of a smartphone or a tablet.
While that’s familiar to most folks, the Polestar brand and this high-riding hatchback aren’t so much. Polestar acknowledges the lack of brand awareness and says increasing it was a top priority this year. After what can be considered a soft launch of the Polestar 2 more than a year ago, the company says it has been ramping up marketing in 2021, with a majority of its advertising money allocated for this final quarter. Likewise, it has been expanding its North American network of “Polestar Spaces” (a.k.a. dealer showrooms) from three in 2020 to what should be 30 by year’s end. The effort isn’t expected to make Polestar the new Tesla, but it should improve sales and drum up interest for future models such as the forthcoming Polestar 3 SUV. Then maybe Polestar 2 early adopters won’t have to answer so many questions.
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