2021 Polestar 2
2021 Polestar 2 Review
- Instant and powerful acceleration
- Excellent handling and all-wheel-drive traction
- State-of-the-art infotainment powered by Google Android
- Stylish and comfortable interior
- Only pricier models available to start
- New brand with unknown track record
- Support infrastructure is still developing
- All-new all-electric sedan from Polestar
- Kicks off the first Polestar 2 generation
New cars come out all the time. But how about a new car from an all-new brand? That doesn't happen very often, but our "once in a blue moon" event is here with the 2021 Polestar 2 small electric luxury sedan.
Polestar is a new offshoot from Volvo. In the past, there have been Polestar-engineered performance versions of existing Volvo vehicles. Now it's getting its own vehicle lineup but with a different, more modern take. Instead of throaty exhausts and high-strung turbocharged engines, there's lots of electricity and luxury.
The Polestar 2 is meant to rival the Tesla Model 3. It has more squared-off styling than the 3 and a large rear hatch area in lieu of a standard trunk, as the Model 3 has. Range is certainly decent — the EPA estimates you can go 233 miles on a full charge — but there's no way to upgrade to a bigger battery and more range, as you can with the Model 3.
Inside, the Polestar 2 uses Google's Android to power the infotainment system. It incorporates Google Maps, Google Play and Google Assistant right into an 11.2-inch touchscreen interface. Voice controls are cloud-based and as advanced as those on your smartphone, allowing you to check the weather or control your seat heater just by saying "Hey, Google" followed by a command. Rest easy, iPhone owners — you don't need an Android-based phone to interface with the system, and wireless Apple CarPlay will be a feature added (via over-the-air update) by the end of 2020.
As with the Model 3, your phone can act as the key, though two key fobs and an activity key are also provided. With your phone you can stay updated on things such as the remaining range and charging status or remotely precondition your cabin temp. You can even send a temporary digital key to someone if, say, you're away and need them to move your car on street-sweeping day.
So how does it all turn out? Is it a Tesla Model 3 killer? Read our Expert Rating below to find out.
The Polestar 2 is a significant rival to the Tesla Model 3. It's a great match both in regards to specs and the driving experience. An easy-to-use Google-backed technology interface is also part of the appeal. On the downside, the Polestar 2 is a bit pricey, even when factoring in available tax credits. Interior space and energy efficiency are a bit lackluster too. But on the whole, the Polestar 2 delivers on enough fronts to move close to being in pole position for the best mid-priced EV on the market.
How does the 2 drive?
What a time we live in. Electric cars are setting new performance standards and anything accelerating to 60 mph in more than 5 seconds is merely average. Tesla has set a high bar, but the Polestar 2 has the goods to match it. Our Polestar 2 test car accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds. That's impressively quick but a bit behind Tesla's claim for the Model 3 Performance's acceleration.
Stopping from 60 mph took just 102 feet. That's among the shortest distance recorded for any EV we've tested to date. Both are figures many sports cars would be happy to claim.
But it's not just straight-line performance where the Polestar 2 shines. In fact, the Polestar 2 leads the way through corners and sets the new standard for the class. Its steering may not have quite the quick and immediate snap of the Tesla's, but it grips and moves with natural confidence. When you just feel like cruising, the Polestar is a smooth operator, delivering the effortless acceleration we've come to expect from an EV. It also offers easy one-pedal driving thanks to a generous amount of regenerative braking available.
How comfortable is the 2?
The Polestar 2 provides a great amount of comfort in such a compact package. For how well it handles, ride comfort is excellent. And if you're so inclined to crawl under the car to manually adjust them, there are 22 available settings in the optional Performance pack's Ohlins adjustable dampers. Noise is also very well isolated, and vibrations and squeaks were nonexistent in our test vehicle.
The seats provide ample cushioning and support over long distances, but we noticed the non-perforated upholstery lacked breathability. The seat heaters, front and rear, work great and have multiple levels of heat. The climate system's power is more than adequate and is easy enough to adjust.
How’s the interior?
The interior quality and styling in the Polestar 2 are exquisite, but that's not what we're grading here (see the value section). Instead, it's how we interact with the interior. We found the pioneering Google Android interface to be quite user-friendly. If you own a smartphone, you should have little issue getting acquainted with the layout and learning how to control things. And unlike Tesla, you're not entirely reliant on the center screen for functions such as operating the windshield wipers or cruise control. We greatly prefer the Polestar 2 here.
The Polestar 2 has a little less interior space than the Model 3 does. The front has a cozier feeling, but there's a good range of adjustment for the driver with the exception of a steering column that doesn't quite extend out far enough. Rear seating is generally comfortable, though a battery tunnel running down the middle of the car takes up floor space, and there's slightly less headroom.
Forward visibility is excellent thanks to the large windows and frameless mirrors. The view out back is more narrow, like being in a coupe, and the rear headrests obscure the view even more. The glass roof does help create an airy feel, but it can be a bit too bright at times if the sun is directly overhead. The standard surround-view camera system is great to have, but the rearview camera's fish-eye lens can distort the distances to objects.
How’s the tech?
No one has been able to challenge Tesla up to this point, but with the help of Google, the Polestar 2 does. Polestar is the first manufacturer to integrate Google's Android OS directly into its infotainment, meaning the 11.3-inch center touchscreen operates much like a smartphone. You're essentially plugged into the Google ecosystem with everything from Maps to Google Assistant, an advanced voice recognition system that allows you to adjust everything from your climate or seat heaters. It can even fire off a decent "Dad joke" on command.
For iPhone owners, Polestar will be adding wireless Apple CarPlay smartphone integration in the near future via an over-the-air software update. Yes, Polestar will be pushing out vehicle improvements of all sorts over the air, something Tesla has led the way on.
All Polestar 2 Launch Edition models come with a comprehensive suite of advanced driver aids as well. Everything from adaptive cruise control with lane centering to blind-spot monitoring system is here, as well as a 360-degree surround-view camera system. Polestar says full self-parking (meaning no driver in the car) is a feature that's on its way.
How’s the storage?
The Polestar 2's fastback hatch design bodes well for cargo. The rear seats are split 60/40 and fold virtually flat for a generous 38.7 cubic feet of maximum space. There's also a center pass-through, additional underfloor storage and a handy pop-up grocery partition. You'd think it would have a significant advantage over the Model 3, but overall space is very similar.
Small-item storage isn't so great. The center battery tunnel cuts into space that would otherwise be for small-item storage. Cupholders are concealed under a sliding and folding armrest, so you have to choose between drinks or an elbow rest. Most other cubbies are modestly sized. The Model 3's storage may not be that well organized, but its extra storage space has the Polestar 2 beat.
The Polestar 2 is rated to tow up to 2,000 pounds. While there are claims the Model 3 can tow as much, there is no official rating from Tesla to validate it.
How economical is the 2?
The EPA estimates a Polestar 2 will go 233 miles on a full charge. It also says the Polestar 2 consumes 37 kWh worth of electricity for every 100 miles driven.
In Edmunds testing, we ran a Polestar 2 outfitted with the Performance pack (larger 20-inch wheels with grippier summer tires) at 80% battery charge on our real-world EV evaluation route. (Polestar recommends charging to 80% for daily use to preserve long-term battery life.) We made it a total of 190.1 miles. Based on our charging data, we calculated a consumption of 35.2 kWh/100 miles.
What does this all mean? Mostly that the EPA's range and efficiency estimates seem to be pretty accurate. As EVs go, however, the Polestar 2 is a little thirsty. On our same test route, a Model 3 Standard Range Plus used 27.4 kWh/100 miles. Remember that the lower the kWh number, the more efficient the vehicle is.
Is the 2 a good value?
The Polestar 2 is not inexpensive. And while some packages such as a leather interior ($4,000) make it even less affordable, there are some advantages to going with this Swede. Build quality inside and out feels solid, and Polestar's approach to cabin design strikes an excellent balance of elegance and simplicity.
By comparison, Tesla's models look virtually the same on the inside whether you get a base trim or all the bells and whistles. For now, pricing is competitive with a Model 3 Long Range if you factor in the available tax credits, but it becomes a harder case to make without them.
On the plus side, Polestar's warranties are pretty attractive and service centers offer complimentary vehicle pickup within a 150-mile radius. The bumper-to-bumper warranty is a typical four years/50,000 miles, but the electric motors and batteries are covered for a minimum of eight years/100,000 miles, or up to 10 years/150,000 miles if you're in California. Most competitors only cover the batteries under this warranty. The rust-through warranty is also on the generous side at 12 years/unlimited miles, with roadside assistance for four years/50,000 miles.
The Polestar 2 comes with an 11-kW onboard charger and the usual assortment of portable charge cord options, including a standard 120-volt household adapter and a 240-volt SAE public charge equipment adapter. On a proper home wall charger, it'll charge to full from empty in about 8 hours. It also has a DC fast-charging capability of up to 150 kW, which can theoretically get you from empty to an 80% battery charge in about 40 minutes.
The Polestar 1 is gorgeous. The Polestar 2 ... is not ugly. While there are definitely some good angles, some are a little less flattering. One thing that isn't up for debate is that the Polestar 2 is fun to drive. Perhaps its unassuming style is part of the charm because you'd be hard-pressed to know it's packing over 400 horsepower and 487 lb-ft of torque. Our Performance pack car delivers Tesla-beating handling despite a hefty weight penalty, yet it doesn't punish you on the ride home.
Tesla's Performance models still deliver more pop in a straight line, but if you decide to go with the Polestar 2, you'll hardly be disappointed.
Which 2 does Edmunds recommend?
Polestar 2 models
The Polestar 2 debuts as a generously equipped trim aptly called the Launch Edition. There will eventually be more basic trims offered, but no details have been announced.
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Our experts’ favorite 2 safety features:
- Pilot Assist adaptive cruise control
- Maintains speed and preset distance from the vehicle in front, providing braking and steering support at speeds up to 80 mph.
- Blind-spot warning with steer assist
- Alerts drivers of vehicles in their blind spot and helps avoid potential collisions by steering the car back into its own lane.
- Oncoming lane mitigation
- Helps drivers avoid oncoming collisions at up to 37 mph by automatically steering the car back into the lane if the marking is crossed.
Polestar 2 vs. the competition
2021 Polestar 2
2020 Model 3
Polestar 2 vs. Tesla Model 3
The Model 3 is a standout electric vehicle. It has a minimalist interior and a user interface that Tesla can improve over time by beaming updates to the car over-the-air. Driving-wise, Model 3s range from quick to holy Toledo. Tesla offers more affordable versions of the 3 (unlike the Polestar 2), but in general these two EVs are pretty evenly matched. Edmunds has owned a couple Model 3s so if you'd like to read about our experiences living with a Tesla Model 3 check out our long-term road test.
Polestar 2 vs. Tesla Model Y
The Polestar 2 may directly compete with the Model 3, but it's hard to ignore the other Tesla in the room, the Model Y. The Model Y is a Model 3 whose proportions have been stretched into a small SUV. There's more passenger and cargo space in the Y, but much of it resembles the experience you get in the Model 3. Tesla doesn't currently have plans to produce a base-trim Model Y, so its pricing and specifications are much in line with the Polestar 2 Launch Edition. Edmunds owns a Tesla Model Y so if you'd like to learn more about what it's like to live with, check out our long-term road test.
Polestar 2 vs. BMW i3
If you're looking for a smaller, less expensive alternative to the Polestar 2, there's the BMW i3. It doesn't have nearly as much range or performance as the Polestar 2, but it's still a fun city runabout that makes efficient use of interior space. You can also get it with a small gasoline engine that serves as a range extender in case you run out of battery power.
Is the Polestar 2 a good car?
What's new in the 2021 Polestar 2?
According to Edmunds’ car experts, here’s what’s new for the 2021 Polestar 2:
- All-new all-electric sedan from Polestar
- Kicks off the first Polestar 2 generation
Is the Polestar 2 reliable?
Is the 2021 Polestar 2 a good car?
How much should I pay for a 2021 Polestar 2?
The least-expensive 2021 Polestar 2 is the 2021 Polestar 2 Launch Edition 4dr Hatchback AWD (electric DD). Including destination charge, it arrives with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $59,900.
Other versions include:
- Launch Edition 4dr Hatchback AWD (electric DD) which starts at $59,900