By Dan Neil
EVEN THOUGH it makes the most technically advanced cars in the
world, Tesla rubs some people the wrong way. Maybe it's because CEO
Elon Musk is...complicated. Maybe they resent the role that public
money -- California clean-air credits, a regressive $7,500 federal
tax credit for purchase of luxury EVs -- played in the company's
meteoric rise. Maybe they are short on the stock and don't want to
increase deliveries. I mean, right?
The point is, cancel culture is as old as business marketing,
and it cuts across ideologies. People support brands that represent
their values and reject others that don't. Not always righteously,
I grant you. My father, who was a Marine corporal in the Pacific
during World War II, swore he would never buy a Japanese car. Then
he drove a Toyota and all was forgiven, apparently.
So, sure, for Never Elon'ers, the 2021 Polestar 2 Launch Edition
($66,100, as tested) might look like Christmas. This midsize,
five-seat sportback is the first mass-produced EV from the
premium-performance brand, a partnership between Volvo Cars and
corporate-parent Geely Car Group. Fresh? hell, this thing looks
like it's already been to Mars. Here, at last, is a charismatic
future-tech EV for which one need never shrug apologetically in the
Trader Joe's parking lot, as if to say, Yeah, I know. He
But I want to address myself to another group, whose numbers may
be multitudes -- we don't really know. That is people who would
love to own a Tesla except for the way they look, inside and out.
Here I am referencing the company's famously minimalist cabins and
arch, high-altitude design language. Those are legitimate buyer
preferences. Tesla's Model Y is about as cozy as a Harry Harlow
And if the Polestar 2 isn't some prophesied Tesla-slayer -- and
it's not -- it is still very good, hugely desirable and in some
meaningful ways more lovable than the Model Y.
Definitely more kissable. Unlike the Y, the Polestar 2 is
blessed with a placidly smiling front grille. If it were in the
Marvel Universe it would be Vision. But, being an EV, it doesn't
need anything like that kind of grille area for cooling effect.
Most is solid plastic. In fact, considering the costs in drag and
overall range, the grille represents an extravagant investment in
form over function in the interests of the familiar.
The interior features several outcroppings of the old regime.
Unlike Tesla, the Polestar provides an instrument panel ahead of
the steering column, a vivid and smartly animated display ensconced
in a taut-stitched dash binnacle. The absence of an instrument
panel in cars disquiets some.
As with Tesla, Polestar's vegan interior is standard equipment.
The 2's multi-tiered dash is clothed in sustainable textiles and
trimmed with veneer from aluminum trees, apparently. You have them
in your country, don't you?
The interior's lightest grace note is the
leatherette-and-crystal shift lever, or drive selector. Hands down
the best shift switch of its kind. An LED light integrated into the
shifter projects a ghostly Polestar logo in the console.
So, charming, but also really quick: Our test vehicle was a
road-gripping, electron-singeing joy to drive, with torque-rich
permanent-magnet motors (150 kW, or 204 hp) at the front and rear
axles (408 hp combined), and all the luscious, instantly
accelerative authority one craves from electric AWD propulsion.
This little buggy runs 0-100 mph in 10.76 seconds, says the
company. It sounds like this: Whoosh. ... Damn!
Ours was upfitted with the glory-seeking Performance Pack
($5,000), including gold-anodized front Brembo discs and my
favorite sport tire, Continental SportContact, wrapped around
20-inch wheels that strobed like erotic spirographs. With its
center of gravity slung low between four wide tires, the 2PP
version corners quite hard, quietly calmly and always within
itself. Nice adjustable Ölhins dampers, by the way.
For an electric vehicle, the 2PP's braking -- the pedal uptake,
sensitivity and hardness underfoot -- feels surprisingly
hydraulics-forward. Drivers also have the option to turn
regenerative braking all the way up, for minimum-effort, one-pedal
And I'd like to paint my dogs that battleship-gray hue.
With deliveries beginning in September, the Polestar 2 opens
with a pretty strong hand. It's the first car to feature an
embedded Android Automotive OS in the center display, providing the
Google ecology of apps and "voice command that actually works," the
company promises, through Google Assistant. We will give that more
of a thorough test next time.
But now, the Elon in the room: Like other first-generation
premium EVs from legacy auto makers ( Audi e-tron, Jaguar I-PACE,
Porsche Taycan), the Polestar's performance nominals fall short of
Tesla in range (roughly, and unofficially, 250 miles) and charging
rate (max 150 kW, or 40 minutes to 80% charge, equivalent to about
200 miles). At the risk of being reductive, the numbers reflect the
limitations of prismatic, pouch-style lithium cells, compared with
Tesla's cylindrical wonder cells.
These numbers also express themselves in the Polestar's
exterior, in its unusual body massing. The roofline of this
four-door fastback is about 3 inches higher than it would be in a
traditional sedan. Occupants are sitting on and among 78 kWh worth
of batteries and two inverters. The 2's heaviness below the door
handles betrays the incompressibility of this bulk. A bit like a
To the credit of Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath -- a studio
designer before he became an exec -- the 2 owns it. As good
architecture should, he told me in an interview last week, the 2
authentically conveys the mechanical underpinnings, even
capitalizing on them, for its bandy crossover stance.
Somehow, it works. The anatomical, um -- can I say thickness? --
is so unexpected and strange, it's cool. It also reminds me of an
anamorphically stretched Saab 9000.
And no one will ever mistake it for a Tesla.
2021 Polestar 2 Launch Edition with Performance Pack
Base Price: $59,900
Price, as Tested: $66,100
Powertrain: Battery-electric, with front and rear AC synchronous
motors and inverters; 78 kWh lithium-ion battery pack; full-time
Length/Width/Height/Wheelbase: 181.3/72.8/58.2/107.7 inches
Curb Weight: 4,680 pounds
Power/Torque: 300 kW (408 hp), 660 Nm (487 lb-ft)
0-60 mph: 4.45 seconds
Max Charging: 150 kW inductive, 40 minutes to 80% charge (about
Average Electric Range: 250 miles (estimated)
Luggage Capacity: 14.2 cu. ft.
Write to Dan Neil at Dan.Neil@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
August 06, 2020 16:02 ET (20:02 GMT)
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