Powerful, Sleek, Plug-in Hybrid Luxury Coupe
Not the End, But a New Beginning
The Polestar 1, launched in 2019, was the first car released from what once was the performance division of Volvo. It came on with a bang, winning many Car of the Year awards, recognized for its design, performance and ride comfort. This limited production luxury sedan (1,500 units worldwide) ceased production in November 2021, and ushers-in a new era for the Polestar brand seeing only all-electric cars and SUVs going forward.
The Polestar 2, a midsize sedan with a 270-mile electric range, came to market in early 2021. Next up will be the Polestar 3 SUV in 2022, the Polestar 4 SUV in 2023, and the Polestar 5 luxury GT sedan in 2024, each with a projected 600-mile electric driving range. Polestar plans on being a major manufacturer of all-electric luxury vehicles, competing with the likes of Lucid, Porsche and Tesla.
Polestar 1: Power and Range
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) 2021 Polestar 1 is powered by a 2.0-liter, supercharged and turbocharged gasoline four-cylinder engine producing 326 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque. When combined with three electric motors, (two for the rear wheels and an integrated starter generator) there is a total system 619 horsepower and 738 pound-feet of torque. It is as impressive to drive as it sounds.
This prodigious power gets to the all-wheel drive system through an eight-speed automatic, with paddle shifters to manually go through the gears. This results in a 0-60 time of four seconds (it felt quicker) and a top speed of 155 mph, which we didn’t quite get to, lifting-off at 120 mph. (Shhh, don’t tell the CHP)
The Polestar system automatically switches between the electric drive mode, using both electric motor and gasoline engine, and gasoline-only engine power. The undetectable and seamless transitions have an EPA-rated 26 mpg city, with a combined (city and highway) 58 mpg. The Polestar 1 can go 52 miles on pure electric (per the EPA), which can be added-to through regenerative braking and, when in the Power drive mode, where the battery is being charged by the gasoline engine.
The three liquid-cooled lithium-ion battery stacks, with a total capacity of 34 kilowatt-hours (kWh), are charged through regenerative braking that converts kinetic energy into electricity when slowing or coasting, and by plugging in. The 11-kW onboard charger will replenish the batteries to 100-percent at these rates.
- 120V common wall plug up to 8 hours for a 100-percent charge
- Level 2, 240 V up to 3 hours for a 100-percent charge
- 115-watt fast charger 45 minutes for an 80-percent charge
Polestar 1: The Gran Turismo Life
Clean Fleet Report was invited, in early December 2021, to a one-day drive through the mountains surrounding Santa Barbara. Departing from sea level, we headed-out crossing the 5,160-foot Pine Mountain Summit on State Route 33, where we passed small patches of snow and 34-degree temperatures. After driving through (and not stopping for tastings) in the Santa Ynez Valley wine region, we returned to our home base at the exclusive El Encanto Hotel.
The route we took, if driven aggressively, which we did, was challenging and demanding on the driver. The wet pavement and elevation changes on tight corners, sweeping curves and plenty of wide-open road tested the acceleration of the Polestar 1. This premium sport sedan has a smooth ride that is unaffected by road imperfections. The low placement of the batteries is a big part of why the 5,181-pound Polestar 1 was easy to drive when highway cruising. But the fear was this amount of weight would limit its handling capabilities. The engineers at Polestar made sure this isn’t the case, as it handles like a mid-engine sports car weighing half as much.
The neutral weight balance (48-percent front/52-percent rear) came with a sport-tuned suspension, consisting of double-wishbones up front and a multilink rear with a composite leaf spring design. But this wasn’t all. The manually adjustable dampers (22 settings to soften or firm-up the ride) on all four wheels and the constant torque vectoring between the front and rear wheels delivered a delicious driving dynamic. The electrically-assisted steering was precise and offered excellent road feedback. The staggered 21-inch wheels carry Pirelli P Zero summer tires, 275/30 up front and 295/30 in the rear, were exclusively developed for Polestar.
Stopping was excellent with the Akebono 20-inch discs (six-piston front and four-piston rear) with ABS, which had a high-temperature gold finish setting-off the calipers through the forged aluminum wheels.
Carbon Fiber Exterior
This is a beautiful car. The proportions are perfect, the stance seductive, with an image that captures your imagination. The exterior, constructed completely of lightweight carbon fiber, was responsible for head-snapping whiplash among passersby. Another car we have driven with the same effect, the Lexus LC 500, also shares a sleek design from front to back.
The Polestar 1, with short overhangs and wide rear fenders, has a stance that conveys motion even when standing still. With smooth surfaces, a near absence of chrome, and zero body cladding, the eye is drawn to the strong sculpture line running at the base of the door, stretching between the large tires that fill the wheel arches. The LED head lights incorporate the daytime running lights and turn signals, extend into the fenders, leading to a lightly sculpted hood. The elongated C-shaped LED taillights create a look unique to the Polestar 1.
The 2+2 coupe design gives priority to the front seat occupants, where they luxuriate in Nappa perforated-leather seats that are power adjustable, with heat and memory. The rear seats are best used for tossing in a weekend bag or two, as humans of any normal size will not fit well. The trunk is small, but has an interesting clear panel revealing the bright orange high voltage cables. While visually unique, it doesn’t fit with the overall elegant design found everywhere else in the Polestar 1.
The heated black leather-covered steering wheel, with audio controls, was backed with paddle shifters. Interior trim and accents included sport pedals, Silk Metal trim, carbon-fiber door inlays, and a very cool Orrefors crystal gear shift lever. Make sure to look for the illuminated Polestar logo reflected in the glass roof.
The cockpit design is driver-friendly with the gauges, including the hybrid management system, residing in the 12.3-inch multifunction-information display. The premium 17-speaker system Bowers & Wilkins audio system has a custom designed subwoofer that is integrated into the body and interior. The Polestar 1 features voice command for navigation, Bluetooth telephone and music streaming, all housed in the 9.0-inch touch-screen with 3D graphics, and it creates a Wi-Fi hotspot. Also included are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Additional interior convenience features include the dual zone automatic climate control, power windows with front auto up and down, an integrated backup camera with dynamic gridlines, hands-free trunk opening, head-up display and a 360-degree camera.
The Polestar 1 has active and passive safety features including front, side, driver knee and inflatable curtain air bags, a tire pressure monitoring system, collapsible steering column and a security alarm. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) include adaptive cruise control, collision detection and mitigation, blind spot monitor with cross traffic alert and lane keeping assist.
The 2021 Polestar 1 has a base price of $155,000 and a $1,600 delivery fee. There are few options, such as matte paint at $5,000.
Observations: 2021 Polestar 1
The 2021 Polestar 1 sells against nothing. This car is a technology showcase that never was built to sell in mass numbers. There will be a very small number of people throughout the world having the chance to ride in, let alone drive and own a Polestar 1. I consider myself to be fortunate to have done so.
This luxury sports gran turismo coupe was designed to plant Polestar’s flag as a brand to be taken seriously. As wonderful as the Polestar 1 is to look at it, it is even more so to drive. Trying as I did to force it into a mistake on several hours of tight, fast corners, it never let me win. If a car could laugh at a driver, this one was having a good time at my expense.
The combination of a turbocharger, supercharger, three electric motors and all-wheel drive, makes the Polestar 1 a marvel with superb power and handling. Take into consideration it weighs more than two tons, and that is with the lightweight carbon fiber body that shaved off 500 pounds on what it could have weighed.
Seeing a Polestar 1 on the road will be a rarity as only 150 will make it to America. When you do see one, take a few minutes to check it out to get a feel for what a very nice car it is. The last few will be available at select Polestar Spaces (dealerships) early in 2022.
Make sure to opt-in to the Clean Fleet Report newsletter (top right of page) to be notified of all new stories and vehicle reviews.
Story by John Faulkner. Photos by John Faulkner and Polestar.
[See image gallery at cleanfleetreport.com] The Competition? Other expensive PHEVs.
News: 2022 Range Rover Lineup
Road Test: BMW Takes the Middle Road
Road Test: 2021 BMW 330e PHEV
Road Test: 2019 BMW 745e PHEV
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.
Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at email@example.com.