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2021 Polestar 2 Review: Tackling the Tesla 3

2021 Polestar 2 | Photo: B.Charette
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Benoit Charette
It’s not as fast as the 3, but what the 2 is, is more affordable in base version, more comfortable, bigger and better built

Auto123 reviews the 2021 Polestar 2.

While the Polestar 1 represents the fledgling brand's flagship on the market, its very limited distribution (only 12 units to be sold in Canada per year for the next three years) makes it wear that title pretty awkwardly. The role of brand proselytizer really falls to the Polestar 2, which is unashamedly setting out to tackle head-on the most popular model in the segment, the Tesla 3. But Polestar is using a rational approach: instead taking the bull directly by the horns, the company and its 2 plays on the weaknesses of the 3 to offer a different driving experience.

See also: 2021 Polestar 1 Review: A New Star

Comfort and environment
In other words, while Tesla hammers home the performance capabilities and agility of the 3, Polestar is banking on the comfort and environmental friendliness of its 2. Our single day behind the wheel allowed us to confirm that while this Polestar 2 is powerful and sticks very nicely to the road, its most persuasive arguments are not those. Comfort, always an important element in a Volvo vehicle, is key, and the brand’s trademark sleek, simple elegance is evident everywhere in the vehicle.

My first observation was actually that the Polestar 2 seems smaller in person than it did on the images we’d seen up to now. Likely it's its fairly square shape that gives this larger-than-life impression in photos. Rest assured, though, the interior space is ample and the high shape of the glass roof provides excellent headroom.

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2021 Polestar 2, profile
2021 Polestar 2, profile | Photo: B.Charette

Heavy, but agile
To move this 2,123-kg mass forward, you get two electric motors that produce a total of 408 hp and 487 lb-ft of torque. Clearly, those looking for performance won't be disappointed. To wit, this 5-door sedan is capable of quietly reaching 100 km/h in 4.4 seconds. No, it's not as fast as a Tesla 3, but no one will or should complain about the car lacking character. Like all electric cars, you can feel the weight on the road, but it's not a hindrance to its handling abilities, which are excellent.

Our tester was also equipped with the Performance package. It's one of the few options available (another is the leather seating, for $5,000), and it will relieve you of an extra $6,000. For this, you don't get more performance, but you do benefit from improved better road grip, thanks to upgraded Brembo brakes, adjustable Ohlins suspension and unique 20-inch wheels with Continental Conti 6 performance tires to make sure you stay on the road. Despite the weight and large tires, you lose nothing in terms of comfort.

On getting in, the range indicated to us was 330 km; that figure that climbs to about 375 if you don't take the Performance option on the vehicle.

2021 Polestar 2, three-quarters rear
2021 Polestar 2, three-quarters rear | Photo: B.Charette

The only drawback of the Performance package is probably the manual adjustment of the Ohlins suspension. You have to physically get out of the vehicle and turn a knob to the desired number to obtain a more or less firm suspension. Chances are that most owners will probably never touch this adjustable suspension and leave the original adjustments as they are. A button in the console with a few levels of firmness would have been more successful.

Eco-friendly interior
The choice of materials used by Polestar should bring mist to the eyes of environmentally-minded EV drivers everywhere. The seats are made from a vegan material called WeaveTech; it's water-based, dirt-resistant and waterproof. If you choose leather, it's completely free of chrome additives. As far as wood inserts are concerned, Polestar does not cut down trees – the inserts are made from reconstructed wood, or in other words leftovers that are reused instead of being thrown away. The carpets are made from recycled plastic bottles.

2021 Polestar 2, interior
2021 Polestar 2, interior | Photo: B.Charette

And don't go thinking this approach has a negative effect on the overall presentation. You get the same kind of sleek luxury feel you find in other Volvo products. Minimalism is the watchword. Almost all the buttons are on the steering wheel and the rest can be found in the central screen.

Multimedia system
Polestar has entrusted information management to an Android operating system owned by Google. This means that if you're a Spotify subscriber, you can listen to your music directly in the car. You can ask for anything you want just by saying hey! Google... just like at home.

iPhone owners can also plug in to the system, but they don't have all the services that Android owners get access to. The vertical touchpad is close to the driver, an advantage over Tesla's that's too big and too far from the driver, and is divided into four panels. Those familiar with the Android universe will find their way around more quickly. Our few hours behind the wheel did not allow us to explore the operation in detail, but we do know that, among other things, Polestar allows you to customize the interface according to the priority of use of the buttons and functions.

2021 Polestar 2, central screen
2021 Polestar 2, central screen | Photo: B.Charette

The few hours we spent behind the wheel did not allow us to survey all of this in in detail, but we know that Polestar allows, among other things, to customize the interface according to the priority of use of the buttons and functions.

It should also be noted that everything in the vehicle is automated. There’s not even a Start button. The car detects the key as you approach and automatically unlocks the doors, and the ignition is incorporated in the driver's seat. You get in, put the transmission to D and off you go; when stopping, you press on P and leave. Couldn't be simpler.

Otherwise, I noted that the voice recognition system works better in English than in French, but it does feel there’s been improvement compared to other systems on the market, and the Polestar system is among the most advanced.

2021 Polestar 2, front
2021 Polestar 2, front | Photo: B.Charette

Sold at a starting price of $69,900, the Polestar 2 is not entitled to the $8,000 provincial (in Quebec) and $5,000 federal rebates. To the price of entry, you must add $6,000 for the Performance package, $1,200 for the "Moon Thunder" paint finish and $1,900 for transportation and preparation fees. This makes for a total of $79,000, plus taxes.

If you opt for an equivalent Tesla 3 model with two motors and the Performance option, you have a base price of $73,600.

The Polestar 2 is therefore more affordable (in its base version), in addition to being more comfortable, larger and better built. The people at Tesla will tell you that the Tesla 3 is faster. Ok fine, but personally, I don't know anyone who has purchased an electric vehicle and bragged much about its performance.

We like

Simple, streamlined and comfortable interior
Good acceleration
Generous and modular trunk

We like less

Very limited distribution
Only three sales points in Canada
Product reliability is still an unknown

2021 Polestar 2, rear
2021 Polestar 2, rear | Photo: B.Charette

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Benoit Charette
Benoit Charette
Automotive expert
  • More than 30 years of experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 65 test drives last year
  • Attended more than 200 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists