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Driven: 2023 Polestar 2 Arctic Circle Slips and Slides in the Snow

On ice, sans I.C.E.

2023 Polestar 2 Arctic Circle drifting in snow

  • Polestar built a one-off rally-esque version of its all-electric sedan.
  • The car is based on the Polestar 2 with the Performance Pack and includes a set of Öhlins dampers tuned specifically for this car.

It's not every day that we get the opportunity to drive a totally unique vehicle, but when Polestar offered a spin behind the wheel of the one-of-a-kind rally-inspired Polestar 2 Arctic Circle, we couldn't say no.

The Polestar 2 Arctic Circle isn't a production car, not even an extremely limited one like the Polestar 2 BST Edition 270. But that doesn't make it any less cool, especially since the Arctic Circle carries the BST's performance-minded ethos, but it directs that spirit in a different manner. Rather than focus on conquering pavement, the Arctic Circle was designed for snow and ice. It is Swedish, after all.

Polestar wasn't the first to market with a fun-to-drive four-door EV. The Tesla Model 3 has been around for years, but while that car is fun and quicker than a Polestar in Edmunds' testing, it doesn't handle quite as well. There's also the Porsche Taycan, which is an absolute hoot, though it's considerably more expensive than the Polestar 2. The point is that electric cars aren't boring, and an EV's instant torque and a set of studded tires are a fantastic combination on ice. To show just how well they pair, Polestar flew the Arctic Circle, along with a fleet of standard Polestar 2s, to Circuit Mécaglisse in Quebec.

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2023 Polestar 2 Arctic Circle driving 3/4

What is the Polestar 2 Arctic Circle?

Like the BST, the Arctic Circle started as a Polestar 2 Dual Motor with the Performance Pack. The Performance Pack is key, as it adds Brembo brakes, manually adjustable Öhlins dampers, 20-inch wheels, and some tweaks for the car's software. The Performance Pack also boosts output from 408 horsepower to 476 hp and torque from 487 lb-ft to 502 lb-ft. (This power upgrade is also available as an over-the-air update for the dual-motor Polestar 2 for a one-time fee of $1,195.) The Arctic Circle is slightly detuned to 469 hp.

The engineers sort of flipped the BST’s formula. Rather than the Performance Pack's lowered suspension, the Arctic Circle actually features a 30-millimeter lift. The Öhlins dampers remain manually adjustable but are 30% softer than those in the Performance Pack. The wheels are down an inch on the Dual Motor Performance Pack, too. The Arctic Circle’s white 19-inch Oz Racing wheels and Nokian studded tires certainly give it a rally-car look, but it’s the four Stedi lights on the front end that complete the look. The Brembo brakes carry over from the Performance Pack unchanged. Inside, the front seats have been replaced with buckets, though the Öhlins-gold seat belts are still present.

2023 Polestar 2 Arctic Circle front

How does the Polestar 2 handle the ice?

This time of year, Mécaglisse is covered with ice and snow, and weather the day before our drive ensured there was a fresh layer of powder on the track for us. The snow lasted for a bit, but the surface became slicker as snow gave way to ice after the cars started lapping. We started in Performance Pack-equipped road cars fitted with winter tires. The course itself was short and not all that fast, though that's hardly a complaint when the road feels like a Slip 'N Slide and there are snow banks surrounding the entire track. The instant hit of torque supplied by the electric motors means being careful on the throttle. Too much and the car will spin, but too little and the nose will push wide and you'll understeer.

One trick unique to EVs is one-pedal driving, where the car begins braking as you lift off the throttle and prioritizes using regenerative braking, typically before the friction brakes kick in. This helps recharge the battery, but it also helps here on the ice. Rather than tapping the brake pedal to shift the car's weight forward, you can just back off the throttle for a second without moving your foot from the pedal. Shifting the weight helps rotate the car's rear end and tuck in the nose toward the apex of a corner. Skilled left-foot brakers might find using the regen odd, but it gives EVs a different character.

You use the throttle to steer the car as much as the steering wheel itself. Too much angle on the wheel and the front tires can't gain traction and the car will slide, hopefully not into a snowbank. Polestar won't allow you to completely disable stability control, though there is a Sport setting that loosens the reins. If there's too much angle on the wheel, the car won't give you full power. No power means the rear won't rotate and the car just slides. The Arctic Circle, like all dual-motor Polestar 2s, is all-wheel-drive, and the system is good at sorting out where to send the power it does give you.

After some time in the standard car, we hopped into the Arctic Circle. The changes were immediately apparent. The battery keeps the car's center of gravity fairly low, even with the increased ride height. That helps reduce body roll while allowing the softer suspension to be more compliant. The extra sidewall afforded by using smaller wheels helps with that compliance. The Arctic Circle was simply less fazed by the imperfect, slippery surface, and that's before mentioning the 4-mm metal studs in the tires.

Driving on ice is a different skill set than driving on a paved surface. That's true for both drivers and the cars themselves, and being good at one doesn't necessarily translate to being good at another. With not much more than some suspension work and studded tires, Polestar made a car that's pretty adept on asphalt and on ice.

2023 Polestar 2 Arctic Circle profile

Bring on performance EVs

The giggle factor that comes from stomping the throttle on an EV like the Polestar 2 can't be overstated. Instant, fierce acceleration comes thanks to an electric motor's ability to deliver power instantly rather than having to rev up like an internal-combustion car. Thankfully, that's true of more than just the Polestar. Tesla, Porsche, Kia and Ford all offer sport-tuned versions of their EVs, and more automakers are on the way with theirs. We have fast all-electric sedans, hatchbacks and SUVs, and they're only getting better.

There are few things more invigorating than the sound of a really good internal combustion engine at full throttle, but there's still fun to be had in this new era of automobiles.

Edmunds says

The Polestar 2 Arctic Circle isn't going into production, but those slick Oz Racing wheels would look mighty stylish on a Polestar 2 Dual Motor with the Performance Pack. Gas-powered performance sedans might be a dying breed, but the sport sedan segment is alive and well thanks to cars like the Polestar 2, BMW i4 and Tesla Model 3. You don't need internal combustion to have fun.

2023 Polestar 2 Arctic Circle spinning wheels