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View all Polestar 1 reviews
Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5

Performance and efficiency are combined with desirability. Shame it's so expensive

Polestar 1 Coupe (19 on) - rated 4.5 out of 5
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PROS

  • Incredible grip and performance
  • Refined and comfortable
  • Handsome

CONS

  • Left-hand drive only
  • Very expensive
  • Rear seats and large doors impractical

PROS

  • Incredible grip and performance
  • Refined and comfortable
  • Handsome

CONS

  • Left-hand drive only
  • Very expensive
  • Rear seats and large doors impractical

This is the Polestar 1 – a handsome, hybrid two-door coupe. If you think it looks familiar, then you’re not wrong: that’s because the brand is the new performance subsidiary of Volvo, and its first car is based on the S90 saloon. It’s an innovative coupe, and one that is the launchpad for Polestar as an out-and-out car manufacturer, not just as a performance parts sideshow for Volvo.

A Polestar is born

It’s a great-looking two-door, 2+2 seat Grand Tourer coupe with an Electric Performance Hybrid drivetrain that will drive up to 78 miles on battery power alone. In full-blooded hybrid mode, its 600hp power output is backed up by 1000Nm of torque. Those are some extreme performance car numbers. But the 1 is arguably designed to be a show-stopper to draw future customers in, as Chinese parent company Geely says that Polestar will be electric-only as future models come on stream.

The 34kWh battery can be plugged into a 50kW fast charger, with a 0-80% charge dealt with in under an hour as you'd expect.

Home charging varies, but Polestar's own figures suggest you can achieve 0-100% battery charge in 4h20m with a 10A/2.3kW outlet or 2h35m with a 16A/3.6kW socket; until final production models are released, we'd consider those rates to be wildly optimistic. If it is the case then the firm has made a significant breakthrough.

The 1 is one of three planned vehicles under the Polestar brand, with final production versions rolling out towards the end of 2019. Polestar 2 will start production in 2020 and will be a mid-sized battery electric vehicle (BEV), taking aim at the Tesla Model 3 and Jaguar I-Pace. It will be followed by the Polestar 3, a larger SUV-style BEV; both will be aimed at enthusiastic drivers.

What’s under the skin?

The Polestar 1 is based upon Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA), which is also found underpinning the S90 and V90 ranges, as well as the XC60 and XC90 SUVs. But according to Polestar, around half of the 1 is all-new.

It gains an interesting new Ohlins Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension (CESi) set-up, while its carbon-fibre body significantly reduces weight compared with the S90 it’s based on.

More importantly, it helps the 1 achieve an improvement in torsional rigidity of 45%. In short, a stiffer body means more predictable cornering. Handling will be further aided by a clever double-electric rear axle, which acts to create torque vectoring, a function that sends more power to the outer wheels when cornering.

What's it like to drive?

We were lucky enough to be one of a select number of outlets to drive a Polestar 1 in prototype form, with engineers and developers saying the car was around 90% complete. Our time with the 1 included a mix of motorway cruising, twisting and bumpy country roads and some testing at a Volvo proving ground.

Open the long, thick doors via a pop-out handle (with a very satisfying click) and anyone who is familiar with modern Volvo cars will feel right at home. Almost all of the switchgear, controls and infotainment system is Volvo technology. The Polestar 2 will come with a completely redesigned interior that mimics the Tesla Model 3 but, for now, 1 buyers will feel right at home if they’re already Volvo fans.

That’s not necessarily a criticism, either. The Polestar 1’s interior is supremely well put together, even in a prototype, with fine patterned leather and crystal gear selector. The only differences are a Polestar badge in place of a Volvo one and a big red emergency stop button in our prototype.

Polestar 1 interior

Refinement is already impressive; tyre roar is kept to a minimum and wind noise is almost non-existent. Impressive stuff for a hybrid that will spend some of its life with the engine off. There was considerable whine from the electric motors, but engineers told us this was rectified in a later ‘batch’ of prototype vehicles.

What really caught our attention was the ride quality. The Polestar 1 rolls on 21-inch (and very pretty) wheels but the Ohlins-enhanced suspension system dialled out almost all significant ruts in the road. Only the largest were ever really felt; the 1 managing to pummel lesser ones into submission.

We say pummel, because the Polestar 1 is heavy at 2,350kg. That’s particularly felt during braking, where the car heaved to a stop under hard presses of the well-modulated brake pedal. An S90 T8’s brake pedal by contrast is hard to balance and not very progressive; it seems Polestar’s engineers have managed to make a hybrid car without uncommunicative pedals.

It pummels the road with its performance, too. The 1 is definitely not slow, accelerating in a similar manner to a high-powered Tesla Model S; full acceleration is clean, unfussed and fierce. Gut wrenching at first, laugh-inducing by the time you do it again. That aforementioned torque vectoring also means this heavy grand tourer offers more grip than some racing cars. Incredibly high entry speeds into corners do very little to upset the balance of the car; the 1 just holds on for dear life.

Are there any issues with the Polestar 1?

It’s still in its prototype stages, so no verdict will be given just yet. It’s also going to cost those who want one £139,000 and they all come in left-hand drive - even if you order one in the UK. The rear seats aren’t easily accessible and there’s not much legroom back there, either.

And the new ownership model?

You’ll buy your Polestar 1 completely online via the Polestar app or online portal, and it comes on a two- or three-year subscription basis. The zero-deposit, all-inclusive subscription will also add features such as pick-up and delivery for servicing, and the ability to rent alternative vehicles within the Volvo and Polestar range, all incorporated into one monthly payment - similar to Care By Volvo.

To aid this subscription model, a Polestar 1 comes with Phone-As-Key technology that means the owner can share a virtual key with a third party so it can be remotely loaned out, while also being able to access and retain the driver's personalised on-demand features.

However, particularly in the USA, there hasn’t been much take-up for the subscription service with the 1. Polestar suspects it’s due to the car’s price; the 1 isn’t seen as someone’s only car but their second or third. By association, that means 1 customers are wealthy and can buy one outright, so have no need for it. Discussions are ongoing as whether to scrap the service for the 1 and focus on the 2 and 3 instead.

The dealership isn’t dead, though, because Polestar says it will open a network of what it calls Polestar Spaces. This is where future Polestar customers can interact with products and the brand. Polestar Spaces will be standalone facilities and not within existing Volvo retailer showrooms.

Orders for the Polestar 1 Coupe opened in October 2017, with production starting in the middle of 2019. The first production models will come off the line at the end of 2019.