Not that long ago, it looked like the Volvo brand might not be around much longer, as after passing through Ford’s hands, it was purchased by China’s Geely. Change was slow to come by; but 6-years later, they launched an all-new XC90, and since then, Volvo has charged back in a big way. So much so, they’re adding a whole new brand…and it goes by the name…Polestar.
Volvo has used the Polestar name in regards to racing, and performance prototypes for some time now. But, being its own marque, and one specifically for electrified sporty models, is a big upgrade. The first vehicle to emerge from this sub-brand, the 2021 Polestar 1, is not a fully electric car, but a Plug-in Hybrid. Or, to use Volvo’s terminology, an Electric Performance Hybrid.
However, this handsome 2+2 Coupe does boast more EV range than we’ve seen on any PHEV to this point, 70-miles according to Volvo; which is about what full-EVs managed not that long ago.
A unique all-wheel drive powertrain includes not one, but two 85-kW electric motors set in the rear; one per wheel, and each with its own planetary gear set. In EV mode they do all the work.
Up front, an 52-kW starter-generator and 8-speed automatic are mated to a familiar gasoline engine; Volvo’s turbo and supercharged 2.0-liter I4. This combo sends power only to the front wheels. All told, you’re looking at 619-horsepower and 738 lb-ft. of torque. Volvo claims a 0-60 time of only 4.2-seconds. Now we couldn’t verify that during our early drive time in Northern California, but we did find a driving experience that is equally composed and comfortable.
Chassis engineering reflects the racing heritage of the Polestar name with adjustable Ohlins shocks for the double wishbone front, and integral link rear suspension. High performance brakes were then added for good measure.
But, despite all of that potential; behind the wheel, the vibe is more well-appointed GT car. Which can be either good or bad, as some might be looking for a more visceral experience. And hearing the 4-cylinder rev in full, does cool the luxury theme somewhat.
But, having said that, the “1” does handle quite well. There’s very little body roll, and you have to push ridiculously hard to upset the car’s balance and force it into oversteer. Much credit for that goes to the seamless torque vectoring provided by the dual rear electric motors, helping the car rotate expertly through corners.
There’s not much steering feedback, but response from inputs is decent. Likewise, with accelerator and brake pedals, good reaction, but not much dialog.
Perhaps the most rewarding experience will be showing it off to your neighbors and co-workers, as the Polestar 1’s all carbon-fiber body is gorgeous from all angles.
Carbon-fiber obviously saves weight over steel; here some 500 pounds; but it was used more to give designers the ability to further sharpen lines and create more complex shapes in the bodywork. Inspiration was drawn both from Volvo’s 2013 Coupe Concept, as well as historical vehicles such as the P1800.
The interior layout will be familiar to any owner of recent Volvos; quite luxurious, but not over-the-top; with seemingly more emphasis placed on simplicity and functionality.
Batteries are in two separate locations, to both limit the intrusion into the interior space, as well as spread the weight around. They reside along the central tunnel of the car between the front seats, and directly over the rear axle in the front of the trunk area, where clear panels provide more eye candy for Polestar gazers.
That severely restricts trunk space to 4.4 cubic-ft. But, being a 2+2, there’s plenty of room in the back seat for tossing overnight bags.
Multiple paint colors, interior themes, and wheel designs are available; but no matter how you configure it, a Polestar 1 will cost you $156,500, unless you choose matte finish paint, which does come with a $5,000 surcharge.
So, Volvo is very wise to limit production. Only 1,500 will be made over a 3-year lifespan, and just 150 per year, are earmarked for the U.S. They should have no problem selling them, as the first years’ worth have already been snatched up.
So, you may have to wait a while; and we’ll all have to wait until the Polestar 2 arrives, to get a full-EV from Volvo’s new electrified sub- brand. But, we can’t think of a better way to showcase what this new marque will be all about, than the 2021 Polestar 1, a high-performance luxury GT coupe, that promises just as much as it delivers.
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 738 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds