More than 60 years ago, Volvo introduced the world to the three-point seat belt, a safety feature that has become so standard that it's almost an afterthought. In the years that followed, Volvo, the Swedish maker of mild, boxy sedans, gained a reputation for safety above all else.
Being in a Volvo meant driving in a warm, protective cocoon that is calm and reliable for you and your family. It wasn't cool and exciting.
Polestar, Volvo's new luxury spin-off electric vehicle division, aims to rid the world of this boring chunk. The company hopes to appeal to buyers who appreciate Volvo's sparse, classic Scandinavian design but want an attitude like Vikings in sheep's clothing.
"Both Volvo and Polestar are Scandinavians and we share values," said Thomas Ingenlath, Polestar Managing Director. "But we're sportier, with an element of performance. Volvo would never focus on the driving experience. You would say, 'No, we shouldn't do that."
The all-electric Polestar 2 is available from the company's first four dealerships in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco. Another seven stores are expected by mid-2021, which should place 85 percent of shoppers who have reserved a Polestar 2 within 150 miles of one.
The new model is the group's first volume vehicle along with the Polestar 1 hybrid with a circulation of $ 155,000. The Polestar 3, an electric S.U.V. is based on the platform for the XC90 from Volvo and is currently being developed without an announced sales date. The company also recently announced that it will develop and produce an additional sedan, the Precept. The interior is made from materials like recycled PET bottles, reclaimed fishing nets, and recycled cork vinyl.
Owned by Chinese manufacturer Geely along with its parent company, Polestar is joining a number of other brands from Europe and Japan targeting luxury vehicles to those who find the company's main offerings boring.
But Polestar claims – unlike Volkswagen Audi, Nissan Infiniti, and Toyota Lexus – that it is working on being more adventurous. "We will have elements of joy and surprise that are unthinkable in the German context," said Ingenlath.
Polestar eschews the traditional keywords that buyers see as the definition of a luxury vehicle. Neither shiny interiors made of wood grain nor many chrome or infinite color variations. Instead, much of the interior, including the seats and steering wheel, is lined with a fiber made entirely from vegan materials, inspired by the look and feel of wetsuits. When wood is used, material is recovered. The vehicle can be ordered in one of only five colors.
"We don't have cheesy chrome letters on our car," said Ingenlath. Instead, there are decals on the doors.
The company distracts buyers of leather seats – although it's available as an option for $ 4,000 – because it wants customers to know how that leather was made, how the animal lived and died. "You shouldn't expect leather to be standard," said Ingenlath.
Design hints integrate the vehicle into the cinematic universe of Volvo. Both brands share the T-shaped "Thor & # 39; s Hammer" headlights. The Polestar's taillight strip looks like a horizontal derivative of the Volvo XC40. And the entire outer shape is reminiscent of the parent company's sedans.
To sell its vehicles, Polestar is taking a side from Tesla and Apple and foregoing dealer showrooms in favor of so-called Spaces – environments without sales staff, in which customers can inspect the vehicles without anyone breathing down their necks. In order to increase the perception that a Polestar is a work of art and not just a commodity, parts such as wheels and electric motors are even displayed in museum boxes.
Polestar's software, like Tesla's, can be updated wirelessly to add new features. Unlike Tesla, Polestar does not offer a "fart mode". "We're going to take on elements that are fun in your life, but in our own way," said Ingenlath.
Future technologies could include streaming video when the vehicle is stopped. Eye tracking to identify health or alertness with solutions to stay alert; and pre-climatisation of the interior climate based on the knowledge of the driver's habits and schedule.
While other manufacturers have a similar future ahead of them, the Polestar 2 is the first vehicle to exclusively use the Google Android Automotive System as the brain for infotainment, system operation and navigation. The center-mounted touchscreen allows drivers to access familiar Google tasks and download over 200 Android apps, including those for AM and SiriusXM radio stations.
The Google smartphone app asks the vehicle to recognize the driver so that the seating position can be automatically adjusted and the preferred touchscreen apps of this person can be shown on the display.
A few days behind the wheel, I found that the Polestar's handling characteristics really shine. As with most all-electric vehicles, the acceleration is staggering – 0 to 62 mph in 4.7 seconds, faster than a 2020 BMW 840i Gran Coupe M-Sport. Sitting is supportive and the vehicle can easily take tight turns at much higher speeds than specified without the tires squealing or losing traction.
The Polestar's quick acceleration came in handy as it drove in a winding, almost empty lane in the Lake Malibou area of the Santa Monica Mountains. When I ran into a driver who was driving at half the speed limit, I was able to overtake her in a corner with poor forward visibility, which I would never have tried even in my own combustion sports sedan.
The cabin is spacious and the trunk is large enough to accommodate a large swivel office chair once the rear seats are folded.
The Launch Edition starts at $ 61,200 including delivery. A potential tax credit of $ 7,500 would bring the cost down to $ 53,700. For this and all E.V.s, a level 2 charging station is a must. It takes around eight hours to charge 80 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency-rated 275-mile range.
As with every electric vehicle I've tested, this range is optimistic. After driving 55 miles in a mix of city and highway traffic, my range had decreased by 70 miles.
Those who opt for the $ 5,000 performance package get Öhlins dual-flow valve dampers, Brembo front brakes, 20-inch wheels, and what some find to be gaudy gold seat belts.
A glass roof over the entire length of the interior is standard in the Launch Edition. There is no sun protection because the glass filters out 99.5 percent of ultraviolet light, according to the company. Even so, I found it annoying if the bright sun kept shining on my head, and since Southern California is usually cloudless, this feature would be a deal breaker for me.
On the other hand, the restrained yet attractive design of the vehicle is, for some, a deal clincher that drew a lot of attention over a weekend. My test vehicle was noticed several times, including by several people who stopped me to discuss the car. I got more attention in two days at the Polestar than after a week with an Aston Martin DB9 and a Lamborghini Huracán.
Maybe that's because in Los Angeles even students drive Range Rovers and Maseratis. But with only a few thousand this year, the Polestar looks like it will be noticed for some time to come.