For many years, the Polestar moniker has been associated with high-performance models of the Volvo lineup. And now for the 2020 model year, Polestar is setting sail as a standalone electric performance brand. Launching the Polestar brand is the stylish and sporty 2020 Polestar 1, offering impressive hybrid performance in a sleek GT package.
First From Polestar
“Polestar 1 is the first car to carry the Polestar on the bonnet. A beautiful GT with amazing technology packed into it — a great start for our new Polestar brand,” said Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Polestar. “All future cars from Polestar will feature a fully electric drivetrain, delivering on our brand vision of being the new standalone electric performance brand,” Ingenlath noted.
Even though Polestar has become its own brand, the 2020 Polestar 1 still carries styling cues inside and out that clearly tie it back to its Volvo parentage. The iconic Thor’s Hammer headlights are the first giveaway that there is a Volvo connection, while inside all controls match those found inside top-level Volvo models. In fact, this first Polestar model is a close likeness to the Volvo Coupe Concept (pictured above) shown at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show.
From the rear, the Polestar 1 makes a statement thanks to stylish LED taillights. With the lights positioned at the outer edges of the body, they emphasize the car’s low, wide stance. The rear spoiler is nicely integrated into the trunklid — out of sight at low speeds, and extending when speeds exceed 62 mph.
The Polestar 1 chassis builds on Volvo’s global Scalable Product Architecture. The floor structure gets enhanced with carbon fiber crossmembers that increase rigidity by 60 percent. The carbon fiber body includes roof cross sections that make it possible to have a lower, sleeker roofline. The bodyside panels inside and out — as well as the front fenders, hood, trunk and rear parcel shelf — are all made from carbon fiber. The extensive use of this high-tech material saves more than 500 pounds, as well as lowers the center of gravity and increases body structure torsional stiffness.
The Polestar 1 is available as a single trim with a base price of $155,000. With the idea of simplifying the ordering process, the only option is matte paint which adds $5,000 to the price. Standard features are numerous and include dual-zone climate control; Nappa leather-trimmed sport seats; power front seats; a heated steering wheel; a 360-degree camera; two USB ports; a head-up display; sport pedals and a Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system. Also standard are LED active bending headlights; Akebono 6-piston calipers in front, 4-piston calipers in the rear; and 21-inch alloy wheels fitted with Pirelli P Zero performance tires.
The Volvo Group has built its reputation around vehicle safety, so it’s no surprise that the Polestar 1 is equipped with the latest high-tech safety equipment. Features include collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning, lane-keeping assist, cross-traffic alert and front seats with whiplash protection.
Under the Hood
The Polestar 1 possesses one of the most complex power systems, yet it works seamlessly, as demonstrated during our test drive. Under the hood sits a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged 4-cylinder engine sending 326 horsepower to the front wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. In addition, each rear wheel is powered by an electric motor that generate 232 horsepower. The result is a total output of 619 horsepower and a plentiful 738 lb-ft of torque. With all motors engaged, the Polestar 1 sprints to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds with top speed limited to 155 mph.
The Polestar 1 employs some massive brake discs with Akebono 6-piston aluminum monobloc calipers at the front and 4-piston calipers at the rear. The big brakes in conjunction with the Pirelli P Zero tires provide excellent (and much needed) stopping power. During our test drive the brakes were much more linear and easier to modulate than similar brakes found on Volvo products.
Polestar 1 also capitalizes on Volvo’s longtime experience with Ohlins suspension, resulting in the introduction of Ohlins Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension. This advanced chassis technology constantly monitors driver input and road conditions, and in a mere 2 milliseconds shock absorbers can react and adjust as needed. Suspension settings can also be changed by the driver via levers under the hood for a more sporting or more comfortable ride.
The U.S. EPA numbers for the Polestar 1 won’t be released until early next year; however, with a full charge our test vehicle indicated 75 miles of electric range — considerably more than other plug-in hybrid vehicles on the market. During our drive of about 150 miles, the trip computer displayed almost 40 mpg — an impressive figure for a GT with more than 600 horsepower. When plugged into a 50kw fast charger, the Polestar 1 can reach a full charge from empty in less than an hour — fast and convenient.
Drivers of the Polestar 1 choose from four drive modes selectable via a switch in the center console. Modes are Pure, Hybrid, AWD and Power. Pure is an EV mode, available only if there is enough charge in the batteries. Even full throttle will not engage the gasoline engine, and since the motors are at the rear, this mode is rear-wheel drive only. The AWD mode keeps the gas engine running all the time to send power to the front wheels, combining with the electric motors for all-wheel drive.
Hybrid mode is the default, using electric-only power when possible but seamlessly starting the gas engine for additional motivation when needed. Our test drive didn’t require any change in driving habits to pilot the Polestar 1 primarily with electric power.
For ultimate performance, Power mode keeps the Polestar’s gasoline engine running at all times so the full potency of the gas-electric powertrain is always on tap. Selecting Power mode also provides tighter steering calibration as well as improved throttle and braking response. Power mode also recharges the batteries, providing additional range of EV-mode driving.
Car shoppers familiar with the interior of the current Volvo lineup might experience some disappointment, since the Polestar 1 cabin looks a lot like a Volvo. None will find the surroundings unattractive — the soft leather trim with accent stitching offers a premium feel, and carbon fiber trim pieces on the dashboard and doors are a nice touch. Designers integrated the large vertical display screen nicely with the dash, and a crystal gearshift lever adds a level of elegance. But the Polestar 1 is a very exclusive vehicle — its interior should reflect that exclusivity.
Volvo vehicles have always had some of the most comfortable and supportive seats on the market, and we’re happy to report that he Polestar 1 also possesses carryover comfort. With multiple adjustments and side bolsters that offer support without being too tight, these seats help make the Polestar 1 an excellent road tripper. The interior also feels roomy thanks to a panoramic glass roof.
Although the Polestar 1 purportedly has seating for four, the rear seat is not really usable by an adult — except perhaps in an emergency. When the front seats are comfortable positions for average-height adults, legroom in the rear is practically nonexistent. Access to the rear seats and also be frustrating — front seats take a long time to slide forward, achieved by holding down a button on the rear of the seat. The same time delay puts seats back into position.
Limited Trunk Space
Viewed from the outside, it seems as though the 2020 Polestar 1 would have a generous trunk, but the space is limited due to battery placement over the rear axle. We appreciate that the connections are all visible and labeled — at least Polestar is being transparent about why the trunk space is so small.
On the Road
We had the opportunity to test the 2020 Polestar 1 in and around San Francisco on routes that included freeways as well as narrow, winding roads. Aside from a bit of tire noise, the Polestar 1 cruises quietly and smoothly — in most cases with the gas engine off. When needed, the fossil fueler comes on seamlessly and the full 619 horses are available for quick and easy passing. The automatic transmission changed gears so quickly and smoothly that shifts are barely perceptible.
During our test drive, the Polestar 1 made short work of twisty roads, and there was always plenty of power on tap. Active torque vectoring allowed us to accelerate quickly out of corners. A planetary gear in the rear axle permits power from each rear electric motor to be applied to a single wheel — rather than applying brakes to the inner wheel, this system adds power to the outer wheel, driving the car through the corner. While the Polestar 1 weighs in over 5,000 pounds, it feels much lighter and smaller than expected. There’s very little body roll and grip is good.
If there is enough charge left in the batteries, the Polestar 1 can be set to EV mode, which only uses the electric motors for propulsion; even full throttle will not start the gas-powered engine. Acceleration is not exactly quick in electric-only mode, although it would be ideal for short-stint city driving.
Hand Built and Exclusive
The Polestar 1 is hand built at the new Polestar Production Center in Chengdu, China, with planned production of 500 cars per year, and a mere 100 of those are expected to come to America. Furthermore, Polestar 1 has a planned production life of three years. First deliveries will be in early 2020.
What’s Next — Polestar 2
With its high sticker price and low volume, the Polestar 1 is clearly not for everyone. But this hybrid performance GT functions as an introduction to a new brand that will produce pure electric vehicles going forward. The more affordable Polestar 2 will start production next year in much higher numbers. It will come with two electric motors producing more than 400 horsepower, and boast an EV range of more than 300 miles.
Right For You?
The Polestar 1 is unique, not simply because it will be built in such small numbers— its plug-in hybrid system provides more EV range than any other PHEV on the market. Most consumers would enjoy the Polestar 1 as a pure electric car in most situations, knowing that at the same time there are 600-plus horses on tap. For car shoppers seeking efficiency and performance in a very stylish GT package with a high-level of exclusivity, the Polestar 1 would certainly fit the bill.
Pros: Outstanding performance; high efficiency; attractive styling.
Cons: Small trunk and back seat; interior too much like a Volvo.
Bottom Line: Efficient performance in a sporty package — an excellent way to launch a new brand.
Bold rear fenders
Thor’s Hammer headlights.
Stylish in black.
Proper coupe lines.
Frameless rear-view mirrors.
Integrated dual exhaust.
Integrated vertical display screen.
Electronic gauge cluster with integrated navigation map.
Battery cables visible in trunk.