Is The All-Electric Polestar 2 The First EV That Seriously Gives Tesla A Run For Its Money?

The Swedish launch a high-performance EV that only the Swedish could make

Volvo’s performance EV spinoff, Polestar, brought its Polestar 2 performance electric vehicle to Northern California where TFL’s friend Alex on Autos was able to take it for a test drive. His take: “The Polestar 2 feels like a car company built a Tesla,” he said. “The build quality is great, and the Polestar’s road feel is somewhere between a BMW and a Tesla.”

The AWD sport-back sedan goes on sale later this year, starting at roughly $60,000 before federal and state tax rebates are factored in. And Polestar, unlike Tesla, still has oodles of tax incentives to give away. So depending upon what state you live in and the size of those rebates, buyers could drive a Polestar 2 for about the cost of a tricked out Tesla Model 3. Nice!

Polestar 2
The Polestar 2 sport-back [Image: Polestar]

Polestar 2 Goodies

The P2, as I’m calling it, fits between the Volvo XC40 crossover and S60 sedan in terms of size. In fact, it shares a platform with the XC40. But it’s not a Volvo. The Swedish brand spun off Polestar into its own performance EV thing, which has allowed it to pursue that driving excitement without worrying about syncing with Volvo’s family and safety heritage. In other words, Polestar was and is free to chase Tesla. And according to Alex, it gets sorta close. The P2 claims 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds, a ~250 mile range between charges that Polestar claims is more realistic when pitted against Tesla’s 310-mile extended range version when both are driven hard on a track. (See Alex’s video to understand the comparison better).

As Alex says, a big part of the P2’s appeal is that it still feels like a car with knobs, buttons, a center dash display, and taut handling compared to the air suspension and touchscreen-everything of a Tesla. He likened it to an “industrialized Volvo aesthetic,” with everything you need, and nothing you don’t. The experience is much different from that “driving the future” vibe from a Tesla Model 3/Y.

AlexonAutos Polestar2
Alex on Autos with his Polestar 2 Performance test vehicle. [Image: Alex on Autos]

Inside, the center stack is dominated by a giant vertical touchscreen that runs on a customized-version of Google’s Android operating system. As such that makes Google Maps the default navigation software (Yay!), but oddly, the Waze app is not available through the Google Play store in the car (Huh?). Instead, only a curated selection of apps applicable to driving is available. Still, any Android user will feel instantly at home. And don’t worry Apple fans, the system does have Apple CarPlay connectivity. The dash graphics are predictably Swedish: simple and direct with no gee-whiz or Wow! factor such as you get with top-line Audi displays or Tesla’s.

Polestar 2 dash
The Polestar 2’s dash and cabin. [Image: Polestar]

Polestar 2 Performance

The high-performance variant of the P2 Alex tested came with upgraded wheels, tires, suspension and gold Brembo brakes. Why not red Brembos? Turns out these new gold ones represent high-performance models specifically designed for EV vehicles. They feature supposedly reduced friction on the rotors, but all the stopping power Brembos are famous for. That maybe the case, but they also look cool. And they match the gold seatbelts in the test car, another sign that you’re in the performance model.

Oddly, the suspension isn’t adjustable on the fly. There is no button available to switch between ‘sport,’ ‘normal,’ or ‘comfort’ settings. Instead, you have to manually adjust each damper on each wheel. While Alex didn’t fiddle with these settings, we see it as an indication that the performance P2 cannot be anything but sporty, with the manual dampeners simply allowing the driver to make it sportier if he or she really wants to.

Polestar 2 dash
Polestar’s Volvo connection comes through in the headlights and taillights. [Image: Polestar]

But is it a Volvo, really?

The P2 may be a separate car company from Volvo, but in terms of design and safety, it is very much a Volvo. Inside and outside are the usual array of Volvo safety features. There’s that Volvo commitment to sustainability via carpet made from recycled plastic and vegan upholstery. Even it’s version of lane-keeping assist, ahem, requires you to keep you hands of the wheel. How Volvo.

This isn’t to say the, Polestar 2 is perfect. It’s smallish and it features a panoramic sunroof that inexplicably doesn’t come with a cover to let you block the heat and light from the sun out. But it does offer a spirited and luxurious driving experience at a very competitive price to a Tesla. For those who can’t stand the Tesla approach to interiors and infotainment setups–or Elon Musk—the P2 could be a worth a look. Check out Alex’s video below for his take.