SPEAKER 1: So this feels strange. This is actually my car. Back in March, we leased a Tesla Model 3 because he wanted an EV big enough to serve as a family car and because we wanted a bit of luxury to make my wife's commute just about tolerable. Back then, the Tesla was the only option that was reasonably affordable. But that's about to change with the launch of the Polestar 2, which, by chance, just happens to be lined up perfectly next to Edmund's own Tesla Model Y.
Now, you might reasonably be asking, who are Polestar? Well, they began life as a sort of works operation, running Volvo's racing teams and developing some of their high-performance derivatives-- kind of like a Swedish MPower or AMG. But now, they're a standalone EV brand focusing on performance and technology.
Now, if you'd gone back 10 years and told me that the most important EVs of 2020 would be a Porsche; a Tesla, that funny little Californian startup building electric Lotuses, and a Polestar, a spin-off of Volvo, which is now owned by a Chinese Geely, and frankly, you'd have thought I was mad. But here we are. Polestar's first offering was the Polestar 1, which was expertly reviewed on our channel by our very own Kurt Niebuhr. But that was a $150 grand super-luxury hybrid coupe.
This, the Polestar 2, is their first proper car, and it's aimed squarely at the Tesla Model 3. The one we have here is the first edition, which costs a smidgen under $60,000, and it's lined up against either the Model 3 Long Range or the Model 3 Performance. Or you might even consider the more SUV-focused Tesla Model Y, like our Performance Performance edition that we have nestling here. Our Polestar also has a $5,000 performance package, more of which later.
Now, regular watchers of Edmunds will recognize that we've done endless tests on Tesla models, so we're not going to get too deep into the Model 3 and Model Y here. But there are lots of links sort of round here and down below if you want to catch up on all things Tesla. Here, we're going to focus on the Polestar.
But before we get into it, please subscribe to our channel and check out a new feature on Edmunds, where we'll make you a cash offer for your car. Go to edmunds.com/sellmycar. Edmunds.com/sellmycar. Check it out. It's actually really good fun.
Now, if you're looking at the Polestar 2, thinking it kind of looks like a Volvo, then you'd be kind of right. It's actually based on a Volvo concept car and these signature force hammer daytime running lights are also straight out of Volvo's parts bin. Underneath, there's also a lot of Volvo XC40 in its construction.
But that's not necessarily a bad thing. This is a very handsome car, which in our experience, gets an almost universally positive reaction. It also benefits from being different. If like me, you live here in LA, than Model 3s are kind of like a Toyota Prius. They are utterly ubiquitous. This isn't. And the other advantage of buying a Polestar is that you don't necessarily look like you belong to the Cult of Elon. And believe me, that was almost enough to put me off leasing a Model 3.
The performance park fitted to our car adds at rate of suspension, some black detailing, and these 20 inch rims, complete with more aggressive Continental tires. You also get gold calipers to match the gold seat belts, and even these gold tire valve caps, which definitely won't get stolen.
Inside, this simple elegant cabin is also very Volvo-esque, but with one significant difference. This centrally-mounted screen is actually powered by Google. And I don't mean Android autorun from his smartphone. I mean a full interface designed by Google that works with any smartphone, even my slightly battered iPhone.
We've been talking about this a lot in the Edmunds office. Why do manufacturers continue to invest millions and millions of dollars developing their own interfaces when companies like Apple and Google have so much more expertise and so much more data to work with? This is Google's first attempt at an integrated system, and to be honest, it's really good.
What really appeals to me is the simplicity of the UX and the UI-- the user experience or user interface-- it really feels like it's been designed for human beings and not just for tech nerds. You can download things like Spotify from the Google Play store and you have Google Maps. That's all integrated. Also like the fact that this screen here talks to this digital dashboard display, which is beautifully designed, so you can look at the map and the navigation and your speed and the range left without really taking your eyes off the road-- much better than just focusing on a centrally-mounted screen like you do in the Tesla.
I also like the fact that the screen is combined with real controls for real functions, like the wing mirrors and these air vents. So to change the air vent, you simply twiddle this little knob and point it in the direction you want. You don't go
up, press, right, left as you do in a Tesla. Believe me-- so much easier.
To be honest, Tesla's voice command system is also a bit rubbish for now. But the Polestar uses Google Assistant technology, so you can say things like, Hey, Google, turn the fan on, please.
DIGITAL ASSISTANT: OK, turning on fan.
SPEAKER 1: Yeah, nice. And you could even say things like, Hey, Google, how's my new hairstyle?
DIGITAL ASSISTANT: I was just about to see how good it looks.
SPEAKER 1: Who doesn't like that? What I do miss, though, is some of the fun stuff that you get in a Tesla. I'm told that Netflix is coming to this system, but it's still not going to work as well on this portrait screen as it does in the Tesla's larger landscape screen. And I do miss things like the fart machine, which always makes my 16-month-old daughter laugh. Everybody needs a fart machine.
Overall, I think Polestar has done a great job with this cockpit. The fit and finish and the choice of materials is definitely a step above Tesla, and like the Model 3, it's all vegan. Although, to be honest, if you want to kill some cows, you can pay an extra $4,000 and have everything covered in leather.
The only thing that's troubling me is it's a bit small. It's three inches shorter, overall, than a Model 3, but the wheelbase is actually five inches shorter. So we're going to check out what that means for rear-seat passengers. What I'm going to do is set up my driving position in this, the Model 3, and the Model Y. Then, we're going to compare and contrast all three. So let's get cracking.
So we're starting in the Tesla Model Y. Now, just the usual caveat on every review I do. I'm six foot four, so everything's a little bit exaggerated because my height. But as you can see, this is set up for me, and I can pretty much get my knees in behind the seat in front. There's also plenty of space underneath the driver's seat for my toes. So yeah, this is pretty good.
Swapping to the Model 3, you can instantly see the difference. You sit much lower in the sedan, and because the batteries are under the floor of the Tesla, it kind of forces my knees up towards my chin. And there's also less space for my feet below the driver's seat. But you've still got enough room-- just about-- for my knees and plenty of headroom, too.
Jumping into Polestar 2, you can instantly see that I've got less knee room here than I had in the Tesla Model 3 and especially, the Model Y. Although, to be fair, my knees are marginally less close to my chin than they are in the 3. I also haven't got a lot of room under the driver's seat for my toes. But then, to be honest, I always have my driving station pretty low down.
What you might notice in here is that it has a transmission tunnel, which is odd because it certainly doesn't have a drive shaft. What this actually is is a legacy of the Volvo XC40 underpinnings. And it's used in this car to store some of the batteries. Now, that helps lower the floor and gets my knees away from my chin, but it's obviously bad news for the central passenger.
The other thing I should note in the Polestar is that the headroom is OK, but only just. Like the Tesla, there's a couple of air vents here. You also get a couple of USB-C ports and physical controls for the rear seat heaters.
Being a product of what is effectively Volvo, you won't be surprised to hear there's a pretty impressive lineup of safety kit, too. As you'd expect, ISOFIX mounting points for child seats on either side in the back and no fewer than nine airbags, including side airbags built into the front seats that actually hold you in place should there be an accident.
On our test drive, the Polestar recorded 0 to 60 in just 4.3 seconds. That's 0.6 of a second slower than our Model Y Performance Performance, but a full second faster than my Model 3 Standard Range Plus. So the Polestar is properly rapid, but to be honest, I don't really care. I mean, don't get me wrong. I spent the last 20 years testing fast cars and sometimes racing them, too. I love fast cars, but this is supposed to be a family hatchback.
Let me just demonstrate to you what 0 to 60 in four seconds-- in 4.3 seconds, I should say-- actually feels like. So here we go.
Honestly, if I did this with my wife and baby daughter in the car, I'd be speeding very quickly to the divorce courts. I just don't need this level of performance in a family hatchback I really don't. What I care much more about is-- yeah-- a good level of performance, but then what's the range like, and how does that deliver in everyday driving?
We put all three cars through our exclusive Edmunds EV range test. According to our results, the Polestar's maximum range is a competitive 238 miles, versus 232 miles-- my Model 3-- and 278 miles for our Model Y. Fast charging is available through Electrify America, but of course, you don't have access to Tesla's Supercharger network, which remains Tesla's trump card.
All this performance comes from two identical motors, mounted at the front and the rear, to provide all-wheel drive. It develops 408 horsepower and 487 pounds feet of torque. Now, Tesla doesn't quote the power and torque figures of its cars. But I'll give you some sort of context-- Porsche 911 Carrera offers 379 horsepower. So this has more than a 911.
As we talked about earlier, this car has the optional performance package, which introduces uprated springs and stabilizer bars, and also debuts Ohlins adjustable dampers. That's right-- adjustable dampers on a family hatchback. Imagine that. Sorry, darling. Can't quite take you to school just yet. Just got to put an extra click in the dampers. Honestly, I think it's a bit mad.
Polestar tell us that they've set this car for what they believe is the optimal setup. So we're not going to fuff around with adjusting the dampers here. We're just going to get on with it.
Now, before we get too deep into ride and handling, the thing that I can't quite get over is just how heavy this car is. On our scales, it weighed 4,719 pounds. Now, that's 300 pounds more than our Model Y Performance Performance SUV and a whopping 1,000 pounds more than our Model 3 Standard Range Plus. It's pretty porky.
To be honest, it actually does a pretty good job of hiding all that mass. That's because the batteries are actually mounted low in the car, and that helps lower the center of gravity and hide that feeling of inertia that you get in really heavy cars. Now, Polestar is determined to establish themselves as a sporty brand-- a slightly more fun alternative to Volvo. And this thing really does handle with some aplomb.
It doesn't quite turn in as sharply as a Model 3. But extremely sharp turning is very much becoming a Tesla trademark. And the trade off is firm springs, and at times, a pretty lumpy ride quality.
The Polestar takes a slightly different compromise. It doesn't turn in quite as keenly, but then the ride quality's actually better than the Tesla's. It's still quite a sporty ride. You still feel quite a lot of what's happening with the road surface. But at the same time, you get a bit more compliance than you would in a Tesla. So it's no luxury car, but it's perfectly tolerable day-to-day. And personally, I actually quite like a more sporty feel.
If you mess around with the settings, you actually have three different steering setups, from super lightweight, at which point it feels like one of those old-fashioned American cars from the 60s where you've got zero idea what the front wheels are doing. Then there's a standard setup, and then there's a more firmer setup, which, to be honest, is my preference.
You've also got a sport mode for the stability control. Honestly, it feels pretty secure. I wouldn't say it's massively sporting, but it could certainly hold its own with something like a BMW 3 Series, for example. Now, the brakes on most EVs aren't the best. And that's certainly a weak point of the Tesla, simply because there's so much going on with the combination of regeneration and then actual old-fashioned pistons and calipers.
But the reality is on the roads, you'd barely use the brake. This is like the Tesla. It's a one-pedal car. So you're actually just lifting off the throttle and letting the regenerative braking take care of the retardation. On a test drive like this, then, if you're pushing on a bit, you do use the brakes. But as I say, on the road, you're barely going to touch them.
What this car does give you is a lot of confidence. It feels pretty taut and secure. A little bit of push, but-- obviously, the Model Y Performance Performance that we have is faster against the clock. And it-- subjectively it-- it also feels faster. You don't get that neck snap of acceleration that you do in the Tesla. It's more of a-- progressive here, but it's fun-- genuinely fun. They've done a pretty good job with this.
The other thing I'd say on the road is that it feels extremely refined. On highway speeds, it's super quiet, like luxury car quiet and it's just generally a nice place to be. The Harmon Kardon hi-fi is great. As I say, the ride quality is better than the Tesla's, even if it's still, at times, feels quite firm. It's a nice everyday car. As long as you're not sat in the back. I think you could embarrass a lot of sports cars in this. I really do.
It should be pretty clear by now that we really do like the new Polestar 2. In many ways, it improves on the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y. The dashboard and infotainment system is a big improvement, as is the perception of quality. It's handsome, rapid, and desirable. For now, at least, it also qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit, which isn't available to Tesla-- they've sold too many cars-- but will be offered on the new Mustang Mach E. Apply $7,500 off the price of this car, and it ends up cheaper than a Model 3 Performance.
But now comes the big caveat. Although cheaper versions of the Polestar 2 with less equipment are on their way, what we won't see is a single-motor version to take on the Model 3 Standard Range Plus. My Tesla starts at under $40,000. And that really is my biggest gripe with this car. I don't need or even want a family EV with over 400 horsepower. Frankly, I'd much rather have a bit more rear room and an extra $10,000 to $15,000 to spend on diapers.
For me, the conclusion is really simple. If you're in the market for a Model Y or a Model 3 Performance, then you really should take a look at the Polestar 2. But if like me, you just want a family-friendly EV with good performance at a more reasonable price, then you really can't look past my Tesla, the Model 3 Standard Range Plus.