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We drive the electric Polestar 2 – a rival to Tesla’s popular Model 3

Now here’s something to get your teeth into.

Serving up the most important fresh dish on their automotive menu, the Swedish style-council behind the modernist Polestar 2 electric car tell me their watchword has been ‘vegan as standard’. 

That means the man-made and plant-based textiles and seat-coverings of the spare but comfortable designer interior are free of any animal hide or hair.

But how does this vegetarian or vegan-inspired zero-emissions five-seater family or executive car costing under £50,000 fare as a rival to Elon Musk’s red-blooded and already established ‘affordable’ Tesla Model 3?

Should Elon Musk and Tesla be concerned? The Polestar 2 has just arrived in the UK. Daily Mail Motoring Editor, Ray Massey, poses with the svelte electric car before taking it for a silent spin

Should Elon Musk and Tesla be concerned? The Polestar 2 has just arrived in the UK. Daily Mail Motoring Editor, Ray Massey, poses with the svelte electric car before taking it for a silent spin

Ray Massey pictured driving the sub-£50,000 Polestar at Milbrook proving grounds in Bedfordshire (before tucking into some vegan food)

Ray Massey pictured driving the sub-£50,000 Polestar at Milbrook proving grounds in Bedfordshire (before tucking into some vegan food)

Ray Massey pictured driving the sub-£50,000 Polestar at Milbrook proving grounds in Bedfordshire (before tucking into some vegan food)

Today I had a chance to find out as I took one for a spin from the fringes of Surrey to the motor industry’s world-renowned Millbrook proving grounds and test tracks in Bedfordshire where appropriately enough, rising star chef Kirk Haworth was serving a socially-distanced vegan lunch. But as with any dining experience with guests, some introductions are perhaps in order first.

Many people reading this may be asking: ‘Polestar who?’ That’s because Polestar is very much the new kid on the block.

Polestar was once the sporting and racing arm of Sweden’s Volvo with a name reserved for the sportiest models.Now it is now a new stand-alone premium electric car brand owned by Volvo and its Chinese parent, car giant Geely, which bought the Scandinavian manufacturer a decade ago in 2010.

The Polestar electric car range is designed and engineered in Gothenburg and built in China.

Led by chief executive Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo’s former design chief, the firm’s first car out of the blocks in November last year was Polestar 1 – not a pure electric vehicle , but rather a stylish plug-in petrol-electric hybrid coupe of which only 1,500 will be built in left-hand drive only – with a hefty £139,000 price-tag. But this was seen as a ‘halo’ car to get the Polestar brand on the road.

The five-door five-seater Polestar 2 now marks the real start of the brand which from now on will be pure electric.

Though slightly slower, more expensive and with a lower range than the equivalent Tesla 3, it is nevertheless a worthy and keenly priced rival. Watch out too for Audi moving into this competitive market.

There are certainly some clever design and technology quirks in the new Polestar 2 that either surprise or delight – and sometimes both.

The Polestar electric car range is designed and engineered in Gothenburg and built in China, meaning Scandinavian style and high-volume production outputs

The Polestar electric car range is designed and engineered in Gothenburg and built in China, meaning Scandinavian style and high-volume production outputs

The Polestar electric car range is designed and engineered in Gothenburg and built in China, meaning Scandinavian style and high-volume production outputs

The Polestar's biggest rival is this: The Tesla Model 3

The Polestar's biggest rival is this: The Tesla Model 3

The most affordable car in Tesla's range has topped UK registrations charts in April and May, as deliveries continued while the country remained in lockdown

The most affordable car in Tesla's range has topped UK registrations charts in April and May, as deliveries continued while the country remained in lockdown

The Polestar’s biggest rival is this: The Tesla Model 3. The most affordable car in Tesla’s range has topped UK registrations charts in April and May, as deliveries continued while the country remained in lockdown

Though slightly slower, more expensive and with a lower range than the equivalent Tesla 3, it is nevertheless a worthy and keenly priced rival

Though slightly slower, more expensive and with a lower range than the equivalent Tesla 3, it is nevertheless a worthy and keenly priced rival

Though slightly slower, more expensive and with a lower range than the equivalent Tesla 3, it is nevertheless a worthy and keenly priced rival 

At first blush you might think from its profile that this a handsomely stylish small saloon car. In fact, thanks to a trick of the designer’s pen, it’s actually a hatchback with a wide and voluminous boot accessed by a lift-up hatch door.

The car doesn’t require a key. Initially a fob will gain you access – either by pressing it, or simply by proximity and putting your hand on the door handle so one or more doors unlock automatically. But soon you’ll be able to download an app to use your smartphone instead.

There’s also some real theatre with ‘welcome’ and farewell ‘sequences’, triggered when locking or unlocking the vehicle – including the front and rear lights. Illuminated ‘Thor’s Hammer’ daytime and indicator lights are a nod to the Polestar 2’s Volvo family connection.

Ray Massey: 'The five-door five-seater Polestar 2 now marks the real start of the brand which from now on will be pure electric'

Ray Massey: 'The five-door five-seater Polestar 2 now marks the real start of the brand which from now on will be pure electric'

Ray Massey: ‘The five-door five-seater Polestar 2 now marks the real start of the brand which from now on will be pure electric’

Charging up to 80% on a high energy DC current takes 40 minutes, though less powerful methods take longer

Charging up to 80% on a high energy DC current takes 40 minutes, though less powerful methods take longer

Charging up to 80% on a high energy DC current takes 40 minutes, though less powerful methods take longer

There are certainly some clever design and technology quirks in the new Polestar 2 that either surprise or delight – and sometimes both

There are certainly some clever design and technology quirks in the new Polestar 2 that either surprise or delight – and sometimes both

There are certainly some clever design and technology quirks in the new Polestar 2 that either surprise or delight – and sometimes both

At first blush you might think from its profile that this a handsomely stylish small saloon car. In fact, thanks to a trick of the designer’s pen, it’s actually a hatchback with a wide and voluminous boot accessed by a lift-up hatch door

At first blush you might think from its profile that this a handsomely stylish small saloon car. In fact, thanks to a trick of the designer’s pen, it’s actually a hatchback with a wide and voluminous boot accessed by a lift-up hatch door

At first blush you might think from its profile that this a handsomely stylish small saloon car. In fact, thanks to a trick of the designer’s pen, it’s actually a hatchback with a wide and voluminous boot accessed by a lift-up hatch door

And when you do get into the vehicle, you don’t need to manually turn it on.

Step inside the clean, chic, cabin and a pressure-sensitive monitor in the driver’s seat fires up the electric motors automatically. Weirdly, there is no button to press. It just starts when you park your backside. It feels very strange, but you simply slot the shift selector into ‘D’ for drive, and you’re ready.

Now brace yourself – and I did – because the near silent Polestar 2 has Concorde-like acceleration but without the noisy roar. 

I was lucky enough to fly a couple of times on the supersonic jet airliner to the USA. Once, the captain advised passengers, with typically British understatement, that take off would be ‘rather sporting’. The seamless electric take-off speed of the Polestar 2 reminded me of this.

You can drive the Polestar 2 with just one foot, without ever – or rarely – having to touch the brakes. 

That’s because there are three settings for the level of braking resistance which, in turn, helps generate more charge for the battery. I found the ‘standard’ setting a bit of a drag – even though it would generate more charge. But ‘low’ felt much smoother and fluid for my driving.

Acceleration for a car weighing more than two tonnes is a rapid 0-to-62mph in just 4.7 seconds up to a top speed of 127mph

Acceleration for a car weighing more than two tonnes is a rapid 0-to-62mph in just 4.7 seconds up to a top speed of 127mph

Acceleration for a car weighing more than two tonnes is a rapid 0-to-62mph in just 4.7 seconds up to a top speed of 127mph

There are three settings for the level of braking resistance which, in turn, helps generate more charge for the battery. The ‘low’ setting was our favourite: it felt smooth and not overly intrusive

There are three settings for the level of braking resistance which, in turn, helps generate more charge for the battery. The ‘low’ setting was our favourite: it felt smooth and not overly intrusive

There are three settings for the level of braking resistance which, in turn, helps generate more charge for the battery. The ‘low’ setting was our favourite: it felt smooth and not overly intrusive

Acceleration for a car weighing more than two tonnes is a rapid 0-to-62mph in just 4.7 seconds up to a top speed of 127mph. And whoosh, you can feel it, though the ride can be a tad hard on bumpy roads.

Where it performs best is as a calming motorway cruiser, with welcome bursts of acceleration on tap just when you need them to put BMW drivers back in their box.

Ironically, for an electric car, my one niggle was with charging. not the car itself, but my phone. 

The smartphone charging ports inside the vehicle only accommodate the new USB-C plugs, not the older USBs. 

Step inside the clean, chic, cabin and a pressure-sensitive monitor in the driver’s seat fires up the electric motors automatically

Step inside the clean, chic, cabin and a pressure-sensitive monitor in the driver’s seat fires up the electric motors automatically

Step inside the clean, chic, cabin and a pressure-sensitive monitor in the driver’s seat fires up the electric motors automatically

Buyers have the option of man-made and plant-based textiles and seat-coverings to make the cabin free of any animal hide or hair

Buyers have the option of man-made and plant-based textiles and seat-coverings to make the cabin free of any animal hide or hair

Buyers have the option of man-made and plant-based textiles and seat-coverings to make the cabin free of any animal hide or hair

Polestar 2 is the first car to feature and Android operating system with Google Assist on board and accessible either through voice activation or a large 11-inch touch-screen which dominates the centre console

Polestar 2 is the first car to feature and Android operating system with Google Assist on board and accessible either through voice activation or a large 11-inch touch-screen which dominates the centre console

Polestar 2 is the first car to feature and Android operating system with Google Assist on board and accessible either through voice activation or a large 11-inch touch-screen which dominates the centre console

Drivers can make adjustments to a range of driving models on the move using the enormous tablet-like screen in the centre of the dash

Drivers can make adjustments to a range of driving models on the move using the enormous tablet-like screen in the centre of the dash

Drivers can make adjustments to a range of driving models on the move using the enormous tablet-like screen in the centre of the dash

So if you have the latter, you are in trouble, as I was, needing to charge up en route. I’m sure it wouldn’t be beyond Polestar to make at least one of them for older USB ports. However, those interested in an electric car right now are probably those more tech-savvy than I am.

Polestar 2 is powered by two 150kW electric motors (300kW in total) developing 408hp linked to a 400-volt 78kWh lithium ion battery and a single-speed automatic all-wheel drive transmission.

Official range is 292 miles (under the new ‘real-world’ WLTP measure) which in theory will get you from London to Newcastle on a single charge – if you can hold your nerve somewhere north of Scotch Corner. 

Charging up to 80 per cent on a high energy DC current takes 40 minutes, though less powerful methods take longer.

Techies take note, Polestar 2 is the first car to feature and Android operating system with Google Assist on board and accessible either through voice activation or a large 11-inch touch-screen which dominates the centre console.

How does it compare to the Tesla Model 3? The cheapest car version is the Model 3 Standard Range Plus, priced at £40,490. However, with a claimed range of 249 miles, it's not on par with the 292 miles offered by the Polestar

How does it compare to the Tesla Model 3? The cheapest car version is the Model 3 Standard Range Plus, priced at £40,490. However, with a claimed range of 249 miles, it's not on par with the 292 miles offered by the Polestar

How does it compare to the Tesla Model 3? The cheapest car version is the Model 3 Standard Range Plus, priced at £40,490. However, with a claimed range of 249 miles, it’s not on par with the 292 miles offered by the Polestar

There's a small luggage compartment in the front with 35 litres of space. That's enough for a medium-size rucksack

There's a small luggage compartment in the front with 35 litres of space. That's enough for a medium-size rucksack

There’s a small luggage compartment in the front with 35 litres of space. That’s enough for a medium-size rucksack

Boot capacity is 405 litres, including 41 litres under floor. Combined with the front storage area, there is 440 litres of luggage space

Boot capacity is 405 litres, including 41 litres under floor. Combined with the front storage area, there is 440 litres of luggage space

Boot capacity is 405 litres, including 41 litres under floor. Combined with the front storage area, there is 440 litres of luggage space

So you can link your smartphone, though Apple Car Play is coming later.

The Polestar 2 is built in Luquiao, China and shares its platform with the award-winning Volvo XC40 also manufactured there.

The front grid houses the radar sensor and front camera.

Headlights each feature 84 pixelated LEDs which allow the car to run with maximum forward illumination without blinding up to five oncoming or leading vehicles

Cornering LED front fog lights activate automatically at low speeds when turning.

Design touches include ‘cupless’ door handles that create a slick side profile and feature keyless access sensors to unlock.

Text graphics on each of the front doors are designed to ‘echo technology and fashion labels’ and replace traditional chrome model badging.

The new Polestar 2 is on sale now, cunningly priced at £49,900 – or just £100 under the £50,000 cap at which the Government’s taxpayer-funded plug-in grant ceases to apply

The new Polestar 2 is on sale now, cunningly priced at £49,900 – or just £100 under the £50,000 cap at which the Government’s taxpayer-funded plug-in grant ceases to apply

The new Polestar 2 is on sale now, cunningly priced at £49,900 – or just £100 under the £50,000 cap at which the Government’s taxpayer-funded plug-in grant ceases to apply

With the grant, customer pays £46,900, after deduction of the £3,000 subsidy but before options are added

With the grant, customer pays £46,900, after deduction of the £3,000 subsidy but before options are added

With the grant, customer pays £46,900, after deduction of the £3,000 subsidy but before options are added

Like Tesla, Polestar is selling its car mainly online but also with a network of ‘Polestar Spaces’ – think of an Apple Store - starting with London and Manchester. Most will buy through personal leasing

Like Tesla, Polestar is selling its car mainly online but also with a network of ‘Polestar Spaces’ – think of an Apple Store - starting with London and Manchester. Most will buy through personal leasing

Like Tesla, Polestar is selling its car mainly online but also with a network of ‘Polestar Spaces’ – think of an Apple Store – starting with London and Manchester. Most will buy through personal leasing

The new Polestar 2 is on sale now, cunningly priced at £49,900 – or just £100 under the £50,000 cap at which the Government’s taxpayer-funded plug-in grant ceases to apply. 

So that means the customer pays £46,900, after deduction of the £3,000 subsidy but before options are added. 

Polestar 2: Will it fit in my garage? 

On sale: now

Price: £46,900 (after deduction of £3,000 plug-in car grant)

Price of model tested: £51,800 (after deduction of £3,000 from £49,900 base price)

Length: 2,735mm

Width: 4,606mm

Height: 1,469mm (1,473mm with Ohlins performance suspension)

Doors: 5

Seats: 5

Kerb weight: 2,123kg

Drive: two 150kW electric motors. Total 300kW.

Power: 408hp

Battery: 400volt, 78kWh lithium ion battery

Transmission: Single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

0-62 mph: 4.7 secs

Top speed: 127mph

Range: 292 miles (WLTP)

CO2: zero emissions/ 0 g/km

Wheels: 19 inch standard, 20 inch option

Charging times, 0-80%: 40 minutes DC current 

Storage: 

Rear: 405 litres (including 41 litres under floor) 

Front: 35 litres

Total: 440 litres

Cargo capacity: 1,090 litres (with sets folded)

Options:: Performance pack: £5,000

How does it compare to the Tesla Model 3? The cheapest car version is the Model 3 Standard Range Plus, priced at £40,490. However, with a claimed range of 249 miles, it’s not on par with the 292 miles offered by the Polestar.

The Tesla Model 3 Long Range has a more accomplished 348 miles between charges and costs £46,990 – which is the more comparable example for the electric-car newcomer. 

If you’re wondering if you have to be ethically-sourced, PC and a tiny bit hair-shirt puritan to buy one ? Not at all.

Otherwise Polestar would not have a leather option and mine came in a fetching light tan called Barley Nappa with a light reconstructed wood which nevertheless added a hefty £4,000 to the price.

But it helped set off a clean and contemporary interior resembling a Scandi-style furniture showroom like BoConcept. A huge panoramic glass roof stretching almost the entire length of the roof lets the light flood in.

Although 19 inch wheels come as standard, the car I drove came with optional 20 inch wheels versions costing £900, pushing the final gross price of my car up to £54,800. But as the £3,000 subsidy applies to the base price only, customers still qualify for it, bringing my car’s price down to £51,800, says Polestar.

Other options on the sparing menu list include metallic paint at £900, and a semi-electric tow-bar with a towing weight of 1.5 tonnes at £1,000.

The optional £5,000 ‘Performance Pack’ includes the 20 inch wheels, 4-piston Brembo brakes, Ohlins suspension, and ‘Swedish Gold’ seat-belts, valve caps and brake callipers using the shade used by the Swedish royal family.

Expect next year a two-wheel drive version with a smaller battery costing around £40,000. 

Like Tesla, Polestar is selling its car mainly online but also with a network of ‘Polestar Spaces’ – think of an Apple Store – starting with London and Manchester. Most will buy through personal leasing.

If, after all that, you’re still pondering whether ‘vegan’ Polestar 2 gives you enough automotive red meat to take on a carnivorous Tesla, also in the pipeline is an all-electric Polestar 3 SUV.

Bon appetit.  

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