With experience as Volvo's performance arm, responsible for racing and souped-up road models like the XC90 and XC60 T8 Polestars, Polestar is now transitioning toward becoming an independent badge with its own lineup of electrified performance cars. This week, the company showed the first model that will bear its name: the sporty, 600-hp Polestar 1. The sleek, two-door 2+2 grand tourer will hit the streets in 2019, the first and flagship of an initial three-model lineup.
Volvo originally announced its intentions to spin Polestar off back in June, so the move doesn't come as a surprise now, but the introduction of the 1 does give the world a better feel for what is to be expected from the newly independent brand. With its two doors and swept-back stance, the Polestar 1 is immediately sportier than anything in Volvo's lineup, clearly identifying Polestar's continued role as a performance-based brand, but with an electric twist.
Volvo and parent company Geely intend for Polestar and Volvo to collaborate and develop synergies that will benefit both. Polestar will have access to Volvo's deep knowledge base, engineering expertise and platform technologies, helping it to launch vehicles more efficiently than a brand-new independent automaker. For its part, Polestar will serve as a technology spearhead, pushing new technologies to market, technologies that could eventually find their way into Volvo's higher-volume lineup.
The Polestar 1 itself was produced from this type of synergy. The sporty hybrid GT, a major step toward Volvo Car Group's first all-electric car, shares its basic Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) with the latest Volvo vehicles. Polestar has reworked roughly 50 percent of the car's structure, however, optimizing it for a sharp, agile ride befitting of a GT performance flagship. It has developed a carbon fiber body, which Volvo says cuts some 507 lb (230 kg) of total weight while boosting torsional stiffness by 45 percent and lowering center of gravity. Weight is distributed within a 48:52 front-rear ratio.
If the 1 looks familiar, it's probably because some of the design language was previewed on Volvo's 40.2 sedan concept last year. The roofline and body have been compacted down and smoothened out into a coupe package, but the Polestar 1's strong belt line, toothy grille and Thor's hammer headlamps show shared DNA with the 2016 concept sedan. While the Polestar 1 won't likely be the sleekest, most beautiful GT on the highway at any given moment, we think Polestar has done a good job of working Volvo's most stylish, modern design cues into a smaller, sportier package, creating a handsome performance flagship.
The Polestar 1 is a hybrid, but Polestar is clearly emphasizing the all-electric half of the powertrain, since Polestar's focus as a brand will be on fully electric vehicles. The battery will offer enough range to keep the dual-e-motor rear axle spinning for an impressive 93 miles (150 km) of zero-emissions, all-electric driving. The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine kicks in to power the front wheels when the driver needs more mileage or wants to crank things up to full performance.
"The Polestar 1 is a performance electric hybrid, but with the longest pure electric range of any hybrid car in the world, we consider it an electric car with support from an internal combustion engine," Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath explains. "All future cars from Polestar will be electric performance vehicles, but the Polestar 1 bridges today's technology with the future, offering the perfect drivetrain for a grand touring coupe that's likely to be used over longer distances as well as shorter, faster, enjoyable journeys."
Along with its green credentials, the Polestar 1 is all about performance. Its particular combination of electric motors and Drive-E engine puts out roughly 600 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque, promising some admirable performance on the street. The double electric axle will also deliver torque vectoring capabilities, helping the 1 power through the curves.
Also helping the Polestar 1 excel on twisty roads, the Öhlins Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension system fits an electronic valve to each Öhlins shock absorber, monitoring driver inputs and road conditions and making adjustments within two milliseconds to provide precisely tailored suspension performance. The driver will also be able to adjust suspension settings manually. A set of six-piston brake calipers and 400-mm discs put a halt to all the hybrid-motivated momentum.
"Most electric cars are fast - that's a product of the attributes of an electric motor," says Ingenlath. "However, for Polestar, performance is far more holistic than just straight-line speed. It's about acceleration, of course, but it's also about cornering, braking, suspension control, chassis feedback and steering feel."
Polestar is currently building a new, state-of-the-art production facility in Chengdu, China, part of a US$750 million investment from Volvo and Geely Holding. Plans call for construction to be completed by mid-2018, with Polestar 1 production to follow in mid-2019.
Also in Polestar's near-term plans are the mid-size battery electric Polestar 2, which will be positioned to compete with the Tesla Model 3. That model is planned as Polestar's highest-volume vehicle and will go into production later in 2019. The Polestar 3 will follow, giving Polestar a battery electric SUV to sit between the flagship 1 and the 2 in terms of pricing and volume.
Interestingly, Volvo and parent company Geely are using the launch of Polestar as an opportunity to step away from the traditional sales and ownership model, toward what could very well become a growing market paradigm. Polestar will offer its vehicles via two- to three-year subscriptions.
A Polestar subscription won't require a down payment, will include additional services and benefits such as rental access to vehicle accessories and alternative Polestar/Volvo models, and won't necessarily entail a trip to the dealership, with the availability of a purely Web-based sales experience. Polestar will build a network of brand-specific retail spaces for those that do want a physical car browsing/buying experience. A single monthly payment will streamline related expenses like insurance and maintenance, and Polestar will offer pick-up/drop-off servicing for when it's time for that oil change or tire rotation.
Polestar 1 order books are open now, for those that want to reserve a Polestar future right away.