Driving the Polestar 2 makes me want to own one

If the price was a little lower, this EV could be a home run

The Pros

  • Stunning/premium fit and finish
  • Android Automotive infotainment backbone
  • Smooth driving experience

The Cons

  • Yellow seatbelts only in Performance add-on
  • Average range
  • Slightly stiffer suspension

If you’re just reading its spec sheet, the Polestar 2 doesn’t look like much. However, once you see the electric vehicle (EV) in person and get behind the wheel, it reveals itself to be one of the coolest EVs available today.

Plus, Android Automotive is a great infotainment system that I want to see in all cars moving forward. It’s not perfect yet, and most manufacturers still need to do little work on their touch screen controls schemes, but for the most part, it’s a massive step in the right direction.

The driving experience, design, and overall soul of this car are superb, but it needs to be for its $49,900 starting price in Canada. I’ll also mention that I drove a fully loaded 2021 model that costs closer to $75,000 before taxes. Since this car is just below $50,000, it also qualifies for rebates in Quebec and British Columbia. However, it’s still too pricey to get the $5,000 federal incentive.

I’ll also mention that I was able to test the Polestar through a partnership with the car rental app Turo, and I only had it for about two and a half days, so these impressions are based on that amount of time with the vehicle. That said, I was able to put 400km of road underneath it and spent as much time as I could testing its infotainment system.

Driving to feel alive

Once you’re behind the wheel of the Polestar 2, it comes alive with all of the great features that most modern EVs offer. It includes mind-bending acceleration for a car its size, a low centre of gravity due to its heavy battery floor and a fairly silent ride that just feels cleaner than driving a gas car.

“…if you want to feel like you’re driving in a cool futuristic rally car as you drop your kids off at school or commute to the office, the Polestar 2 is your best bet.”

While not as fast as the Porsche Taycan Turbo, the dual-motor version of the Polestar can hit 100km in 4.5 seconds, which is as fast as the base model Taycan Cross Turismo. The single-motor version takes closer to seven seconds to hit that mark. Nonetheless, that configuration features a slightly longer estimated range of 427km compared to the 400km range of the dual-motor design.

The version I had was able to push the two-tonne car around with ease. It felt more akin to driving a smaller, sportier vehicle since the instant torque that many EVs have makes you feel more like you’re gliding around instead of pushing a car. The Polestar 2’s steering is also quite fluid, adding to the overall feeling of responsiveness.

That said, the vehicle’s brakes were fairly tough, but there’s no denying that those golden-yellow Brembo callipers on the tires look phenomenal in contrast with the Polestar’s rims. The shocks and suspension felt a little stiffer than I’d prefer in a car-sized more like a family vehicle, though I understand that adds to the Polestar 2’s sporty charm. To solve this issue, Polestar does have an adaptive suspension trim model, but you’ll need to tune them yourself or bring them into the shop to have them adjusted. On a futuristic car like this having it be more user-friendly would have been a nice touch.  I’ll also mention that this is specific to the Performace trim I drove.

Still, if you want to feel like you’re driving in a cool futuristic rally car as you drop your kids off at school or commute to the office, the Polestar 2 is your best bet.

Android is taking over cars

This is my second time going hands-on with a car that features infotainment based on Google’s relatively new Android Automotive system, and after spending a little more time with it, it’s grown on me.

The Polestar 2’s implementation is laid out more smartly than the Volvo XC40 Recharge and it provides users with contextual buttons for each part of the system. On the Google Maps square, you can quickly search for chargers or navigate home and on the media square, you can play/pause music or skip tracks.

I should also mention that the interface is broken up into four squares, including one for Maps, one for range info/Google Assistant, another for media like Spotify or the radio and the final section is reserved for your phone when it’s connected. To change the function of a square, you swipe upwards on it to reveal other apps that work in that square. It’s a fairly simple system that is easy to use.

Plus, you can also ask Google Assistant to perform in-car tasks like turning on the seat warmers, navigating to specific locations, disabling the A/C and more. This is very cool and while I didn’t get the chance to test out more wacky commands like asking it to turn on the windshield wipers, it was still a smart addition to the car.

Plus, since you can attach it to your Google account, it also knows how to navigate to your home, work and other frequent locations with ease. I will mention here that in my time with the car, the GPS did glitch out for a few hours at the end of one day and didn’t revert until about 10 am the next morning.

“The car can accept a fast-charge speed of 50kW, which is at the lower end of the fast charging spectrum…”

Still, it’s all a very capable infotainment system that I’m excited to see extend to more cars as other automakers like GM and Ford move to adopt the technology, even if it means we might not see as much of Apple’s CarPlay platform as we have been in the past few years. Unlike in other cars, I rarely found myself missing more traditional Android Auto or CarPlay, since music, maps and my phone all just worked in the vehicle. Also, Polestar says that CarPlay is coming in the spring of 2022.

Charge me up

The Polestar 2 doesn’t offer the fastest charging out there but I found that even though it’s technically longer than several other EVs, since most charges are over 30 minutes, it didn’t feel that different in the long run.

The car can accept a fast-charge speed of 50kW, which is at the lower end of the fast charging spectrum, and it took me about an hour to get from 15 percent to 90 percent. Polestar also recommends you stop charging at 90 percent in most cases to ensure the battery lasts as long as possible. This provides around 380km of range, so it’s relatively reasonable to save charging to 100 percent for long road trips.

The CCS Combo charging port is located at the car’s rear quarter, where a traditional gasoline car has its fuel tank. While I kind of like the placement of the ports on the Taycan a little better, I assume Polestar did this to force drivers to back into charging spots, which is a little safer anyways.

I also charged overnight using a 7.2kW charger, and it took from around 10pm to 6am to hit 90 percent from about a 20 percent charge.

This is a good looking car, inside and out

People really like the Polestar 2. The car features an aggressive yet minimal aesthetic that rides the fine line between looking like a vehicle that people expect, while still offering futuristic vibes.

The fake front grill is a good compromise that makes it almost masquerade as a regular car, but the lack of exhausts, the giant glass roof on this trim and the fantastic-looking light bar that stretches across the rear end, are giveaways that the Polestar 2 is something more.

The performance version I drove also features a really clean-looking matte white wrap, the larger 20-inch 4-Y spoke rims, golden brake callipers, and gold valve caps. Plus, on the inside, it offers really sporty golden-yellow seatbelts. With all of this in mind, it’s not hard to see how this model turned some heads.

The CEO of Polestar used to be the vice president of design at Volvo, so it’s no surprise that this car is so impeccable regarding its look. The curves on the side of the vehicle and the hood combined with how the side panels and front sort of angle in near the bottom of its body, give it a slight bulging look like makes it seem like it’s holding a lot of energy and is ready to pounce.

Yet all of this looks almost effortless and minimal with nothing on the car standing out loudly enough to overtake the full breadth of the design.

On the inside, the Polestar 2 is just as minimal with one main screen for your apps and car controls, and another secondary display behind the wheel to also show maps, your speed, basic car signals and your driver assistance settings. Both screens feature pleasing pixel densities and colours, but I wish that they were a little more reactive since I found the main screen occasionally lagged.

The dashboard surrounding the rest of the car offers a pretty subtle design and my trim even featured a nice dark woodgrain. There are also several fabric elements around the dash and the doors that add to the car’s premium feel. The seats are comfortable in the model I drove and the fabric felt tough in the right places. The back seats feature the same material and when sitting in them, I still had a little bit of headroom (I’m 5’11′”).

Speaking of space, there’s tons in the trunk, and it even features a false bottom, making it way deeper than most car trunks. This makes up for the pretty lacklustre front compartment that houses spare tire equipment and has space for the charger.

The final thing I’ll mention is that the Polestar 2’s frameless mirrors are a nice touch and look really cool when the car is in motion. And, if you look closely at the taillights and headlights, you’ll notice cool Polestar logos.

Renting the car with Turo

I was able to take the Polestar 2 for a spin with the help of the online car rental service Turo. The app offered to cover the rental cost of the Polestar 2 from Friday morning to Sunday afternoon ($600) as long as I included my experience surrounding using Turo in this story. This means that this particular Polestar 2 model isn’t from a press fleet and has been used as someone’s main car for a few months.

Overall, using Turo is a pretty simple process. If you’ve ever used a service like Airbnb, Turo is very similar, only it applies to car rentals. Drivers can list their cars on the app and then other people can then rent those vehicles.

To find a car, you simply search for the city you’ll be in and select a vehicle. There’s a wide range of vehicles in Toronto, including high-end sedans and EVs, to regular cars like a 2013 Ford Escape. This means if you want to drive a really cool car like the Polestar 2, you can do that, or you can also save some cash and rent something a little more standard.

You also need to add your driver’s license to the app to get approved to start using it.

“When it comes down to it, the Polestar 2 is an EV that with a bit more refinement, could be nearly perfect.”

Once you pick a car, you’ll need to choose any extra insurance coverage you want and submit a hold on your credit card. For my rental, the hold was for $1,500. I returned the car on Sunday and the hold was lifted on Wednesday night at around 10pm. The other thing to keep in mind when you rent with Turo is that you’ll also have a kilometre limit and if you go over it, you’ll need to pay an additional fee per kilometre. For my trip, I had 600km to burn over two and a half days.

The app also makes it easy for you to message your host to stay in contact or ask questions if you need anything.

Overall, my experience with the service was good and my rental host was also courteous and even wiped down the car to clean the interior before handing it over. That said, since this is a peer-to-peer service like Airbnb, I’m sure some hosts are less helpful.

However, the next time I go somewhere on a trip I think I’m also going to be checking Turo to see what cars I can rent in that area.

How it all stacks up

When it comes down to it, the Polestar 2 is an EV that with a bit more refinement, could be nearly perfect.

For starters, the Polestar 2’s modern yet simple design is really clean and doesn’t make me feel like I’m driving around in some sort of weird toy spaceship. Instead, it feels like a premium vehicle with several nice dashes of luxury.

Plus, how well the company has implemented Android Automotive in the car on its first try has me excited to see what Polestar and Volvo do in the future. Seriously, Google Maps and Spotify being baked right into the car is a dream come true.

While I wish the EV featured an adaptive suspension, I realize that would add even more cost to the already pricey machine. With all of that in mind, my only significant complaint is that I wish the Polestar 2 charged a bit faster. While 150kW is fine, more cars will release with faster-charging speeds over the next few years, and a quicker top-up would have helped future proof this EV a bit more.

Update 07/11/2021: This review has been updated to fix an inaccuracy with the charging speeds and clarified how the adaptive suspension works in the performance trim.

"Seriously, Google Maps and Spotify being baked right into the car is a dream come true."