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24 hours with the Polestar 2

A welcome offer came out of the blue from a friend who thought I might be interested resulted in the opportunity to test my model 3 back to back with the Polestar 2. He was right of course, I am interested...

I’ve had a few hours of seat time on varied roads and duties, and have a few thoughts. Please bear in mind that this wasn’t an exhaustive test and I’’m not an automotive journalist, but an engineer. I will acknowledge the many faults on my Tesla and not cloud my opinions with a load of ‘yeah but can Polestar land a rocket on a barge’ Tesla fanboy cult rubbish because it’s irrelevant toss and because Volvo was knocking out frontline fighter jet engines and building rocket engines before Elon was wearing long trousers to school. If you feel the need to respond in that manner to what are ultimately just my opinions, offered for you to take or leave as you wish then please don’t expect me to respond. Criticism after all improves the breed...

Also bear in mind that you need to truly live with a car to get to know it’s foibles and come to a really informed conclusion. But since this is the new kid on the block, from a well heeled and well resourced OEM who has historically been very good at taking the alternative route and making a USP of it, I was keen to have a go and see if it might be the potential car to replace my TM3 in a couple of years.

My expectation then was that this would be a case of the old hand Volvo (Sorry, ‘Polestar”) coming out and showing the upstart youngsters at Tesla how to ‘really’ make an electric car for the masses, so I was waiting to be impressed...

So, starting with the obvious, the looks. Mostly, I like it. I cant really put my finger on why, but it has a solidarity to the design that really appeals. Whether you like it or not is up to you, for me it’s a bit tall, a bit chunky in the wrong places, and has some awkwardness about the bonnet and grill, especially where the back of the bonnet meets the doors. That bit is a bloody mess. Even so, I’d argue that it’s probably a better looking car than my Model 3, or indeed anything that’s ever come out of Holtzhausen’s paint pot, and externally it’s definitely better screwed together. For a start, the doors fit, which is more than could be said of my car.

The interior is certainly worthy of note. It’s futuristic in some areas, but rooted in the past in others. This is probably to ensure there is some connection for existing Volvo drivers and drivers of more conventional vehicles. As great as the model 3 interior is, I imagine it’s quite a shock to some less technologically adept drivers. The entire interior of polestar2 is textile lined which is unusual, and leaves me with the impression that there’s a high likelihood that the first spring day, combined with a ‘hands full‘ busy roundabout and a hay fever based sneezing fit will result in immovable stains appearing on the dash. Big snotters that will remain with the car right up to its discovery in forty years as part of some Barn find collection, only to be preserved as part of its ‘patina’... I’m probably wrong and the interior will prove to be as hard wearing as other Volvo products, but leather and hardy wipe clean plastics have featured in cars for years for this reason, and I think we’re beyond the point in EV development where we’re still aiming to sell to eco-conscious lentil eating environmental campaigners. They need to appeal to the mass market, and judging by the shelves groaning under weight of chopped up bovines in my local supermarket, the mass market still enjoys a steak from time to time. Whatever your thoughts on Vegan friendly interior design though, there are pluses and minuses when compared to Model 3. On the plus side, I have a strong fondness for a proper volume knob, and this car has one. Touchscreen volume controls are, for want of a better word, bollocks. I hate the farting about on the Tesla screen at the extreme left side, so that’s a definite one up for the Polestar.

The volume knob is mounted just in front of the gear lever on to top of the transmission tunnel, which is a one up for the Tesla. Why? This is an electric car, and the very different architecture of electric cars means you can be bold and do away with such things as transmission tunnels and the need to locate a lever in the middle of the car just because that’s where it’s always been. Relevant on a 1979 Volvo 240, but an absolute own goal here since that tunnel, and especially the swoopy grey upper part of it that goes on to bracket the central screen, absolutely eats legroom. I’m 6’3” so I’m fairly tall, but I’m by no means a mutant. Even so at all times my left knee was pressed up against the centre console. In this respect my left knee had a similar amount of room as in my MX5, a diminutive, cramped but fun vehicle that does actually house its transmission in a tunnel. The tunnel, console and dash design also conspire to make the driving position much less open plan than the Tesla. Despite the extra height, the tunnel underneath everything means centre console storage is greatly reduced.

The reason of course, is that under these new clothes is an XC40 platform. A cost saving measure that offers reduced costs through platform sharing, but huge compromises since the chassis is ultimately designed to have an engine in the front. The tunnel is put to use as a battery compartment, but if they’d started with a clean sheet of paper and designed it from scratch, I’m sure it would have been very different.

The seats feel slightly narrower than the model 3, with much more pronounced bolsters on the seat back. I liked this. The slightly more enclosed seating position and more supportive backs lending the driving position a bit of sportiness. This feeling extends to the view ahead, with a high dashboard and wide but narrow windscreen reminding you a little of a low slung sports car. The seats adjust electrically in every direction and feature an extending seat base. You do feel rather more supported than in the softer wider seats of the model 3. However, even with the seat base extended to its roomiest, and with my backside pushed right back into the seat in driving test fashion, there was still a full hands width under my legs between the front of the seat and the back of my knees. Another thing that I hope was just a quirk of this particular car, was the seat base was excruciatingly uncomfortable to sit on. Again with my backside pushed firmly back into the seat, I found that some part of the seats structure was pushing up under my upper thighs, leaving me with the feeling of sitting on a park bench with a slat or two missing. The padding in this part of the seat was very thin, and the structure (possibly an anti-submarine ramp) underneath very very solid and immovable. After 30 minutes my backside was numb, after and hour I was absolutely ready to get out and walk off the pain. As I say, hopefully it was a quirk of this one car, but it was bloody uncomfortable.

As is usual on EV’s now, there’s two boots. I won’t be using the term frunk or froot because I can’t stand them, so let’s just call the front one the ‘crumple zone’. That’s about all it’s good for, since the space left up front for luggage is suitable for little more than storing your charging cables. Surprising since the bonnet line is much higher than the model 3, which even in four wheel drive form has far more capacity up front. The boot at the rear is a hatch, with a parcel shelf. Good for practicality, but bad for that signature drumming noise you get in a hatchback when the windows are down. It’s power operated, with either a button on the key fob or waving your foot under a proximity sensor under the bumper. The key fob is the same as current Volvo cars so the buttons are fiddly and not very intuitive, meaning that I had to look at them each and every time I used them. That leaves the foot sensor, which left we swearing under my breath whilst doing an impression of a bad tightrope walker as I waved one foot around trying to find the right spot. You can’t use a handle, lever or concealed hand switch to open the hatch, because as far as I can tell there isn’t one, which is a bloody enormous oversight. On the plus side the boot didn’t appear to leak, or have the built in capacity to dump a bucket of rainwater into the boot when you open it. Here the experience of Volvo over Tesla is very clear. The boot itself is pretty big, and has a useful sized well under the false floor. There’s also anchor points and a useful divider that separates the boot into two areas and stops stuff rolling around so much.

Charging is by CCS under the manually operated petrol flap on the near side rear. I didn’t put a dc charge into it, so can’t comment on the dc charge speeds. However it did accept (with a fair bit of farting about at the dashboard locking and unlocking the charge port to get it to initiate a charge) a charge from my 7kW single phase TWC at home, and from one of my 11kW 3 phase TWC’s at work.

Driving. Obviously it’s not as fast as my Tesla, and I didn’t expect it to be. What is surprising is that despite it being about 200kg heavier than the Tesla and significantly less powerful, it still moved on with considerable verve when you gave it a bootful. It was quick enough through country lanes and had plenty of go at speed, buy one and you should have no complaints in the performance department. What I struggled to get to grips with was the throttle action. The first half of the throttle does very little, so you find yourself adding incrementally more pedal to get a decent amount of shove. I guess this an effort to increase efficiency for the end user and perhaps make it feel more like a ‘normal’ car, but it’s frustrating to use, especially when compared to other end of the scale where controlling deceleration on regen is like walking a knife edge. As a result regen and one pedal driving is not as relaxing as the Tesla. You have to give the pedal an oversized shove to get going, and then to slow down it seems a hairs width of travel is the difference between too much and too little retardation. It’s probably only a software update away from being much better, but that’s by no means a certainty if polestar aren’t offering the depth and frequency of over the air updates common to Tesla.

Straight line performance is good, I clocked it at 4.2 seconds to 60 so it’s bloody quick, but on hard standing starts it always felt like there was a slight delay between you getting the oomph you requested and it actually arriving. This only happened from standstill. The Tesla will respond to your foot with an immediate kick up the arse as it launches itself away from the lights, the Volvo pulls away and feels like it waits a few feet before giving it the full beans. It feels, and probably is, a software based restriction no doubt put in place by worried reliability engineers fearing the costs of replacing truckloads of twisted CV joints. If you’re new to EV’s, you may not even notice, if you’re used to Tesla’s more maverick approach to driveline integrity, you may find it annoying.

Pushing on through bends it feels very front wheel drive in its responses. The steering is inevitably pretty lifeless, as it seems to be almost every modern car. Brakes are decent enough too, although those very pretty bronze calipers run extraordinarily close to the inside face of the wheel. One tiny stone in there would really mar the finish, and possibly even damage the wheel.

Ride quality in this particular car was abysmal. There’s no other way of describing it. It was unforgiving in town and jiggly on the motorways. The car has the optional adjustable Ohlins shocks that are part of a £5k option package, and apparently these were turned up to be very stiff and so feel very sporting. The Tesla even on its performance suspension rides much better. This can perhaps be adjusted out to make them more compliant and forgiving, but it means getting dirty since the valves are all manually adjusted.

Visibility to the front is not as good as the Tesla, the screen is narrow top to bottom, and the bonnet line much much higher. The visibility to the rear though is much better.

What else. The interface on the centre screen and dashboard screen with the driver is a challenge to get used to. It’s phone like in operation, but I found it’s use of unfamiliar hieroglyphs and multitude of steering wheel buttons a bit messy And to be honest, hard to get in with. The basic controls are easy enough though, so it doesn’t take long to get up and running. Could it be better than the Tesla? Maybe, but I doubt it. The binnacle screen in front of the driver does display a very nice moving map, a power meter, and a numerical digital speedo. It strikes me as odd that they’d install this lovely screen and not have the option to display analog gauges. It also brought home the unacknowledged advantage of the central speedo in the model 3. It means you can place the steering wheel where it suits your driving position, and not where it offers you the best view of your speed...

There’s a Spotify app pre-loaded, and an App Store for more stuff. There’s no inbuilt dashcams, and only USB C ports

Noise. The Polestar 2 is, marginally, quieter than my model 3. Less wind noise, less tyre noise. Perhaps the tyres (conti’s on the Polestar, Michelin’s on the model 3) are quieter, but there’s no doubt the framed doors run quieter, and there’s probably more insulation. Neither car is loud though. Interestingly, the noise from the motors and inverters that is probably most prominent in the model 3 under hard acceleration is missing in the Polestar. I rather missed it, since it’s about the only dynamic noise you get in an EV..


The Polestar has some automation features and calibrations that, in my opinion, are way ahead of Tesla. (Cue the Tesla fanboy rage)...
The active cruise control calibration is much better. My Tesla tends to be quite jerky, the Polestar was silky smooth when following traffic.

In terms of lane keeping, then the Tesla Autopilot has the Polestar Pilot assist beaten hands down. The Tesla tracks arrow straight, wind or rain, and never feels out of its depth unless there’s a lane merge or divergence. The Polestar is, again, silky smooth, but wanders quite a bit. It also has the unnerving tendency to drift towards vehicles it is overtaking. It’s liveable, but it’s not great. Perhaps some of this can be cured with software tweaks, but the Polestar lacks the Tesla’s more comprehensive sensor suite, so perhaps it’s a shortcoming in the design.

What I do like though, is the mode of operation on the Polestar;

Set the speed on the cruise control, then click the right arrow on the left wheel spoke. This engages pilot assist. You need to keep your hands on the wheel as per Tesla, and if it doesn’t sense you it gives a quiet unobtrusive warning.

Similar to the Tesla, except for a few key and important improvements;

The Polestar doesn’t announce the engagement with a stupidly loud and annoying ‘BING BONG!!!’.
The Polestar waits until you are somewhere near centre of lane before taking over steering. What it doesn’t do is what my Tesla does, which is suddenly lurch towards the middle of the lane, alarming me, the occupants of the car, every other car around me, and soiling the leathers of any following motorcyclists.

There are other differences of note;

If you want to adjust your line slightly, say to give a little more space to a lorry, just turn the wheel, it moves freely, feeling a little like your working against a light spring. As soon as you adopt a more central line, pilot assist takes back full control. What it doesn’t do is feel like the steering is locked solid, then suddenly release control with a loud ‘BING BING!!!’ and lurch three feet across the lane as you apply more force.

if you want to change lanes, in the Tesla you have three options;

1/ turn off autopilot (BONG BING!!!) indicate and charge lanes, Turn on autopilot (BING BONG!!!)
2/ indicate, turn the wheel, then wrestle with the wheel until Autopilot gives up control (BONG BING!!!) change lanes, turn autopilot back on (BING BONG!!!)
3/ Pay £6700 for FSD.

In the Polestar, you indicate, which pilot assist takes as you requiring control. You change lanes. You cancel the indicator and pilot assist very smoothly takes over control again. It’s seamless, it’s comfortable, and it doesn’t go BING bloody BONG all the time.

In terms of efficiency, it’s up there with the model 3. Not as good, but reported efficiencies weren’t a million miles from what I get in my car.

Would I buy one? Probably not. Not for any particularly glaring fault (except maybe the seat), but because ultimately the Tesla is just that bit better at being an electric car. The Polestar hasn’t moved the game on as I thought it would. It’s improved in detail areas like build quality, but the use of odd software calibrations, and especially the use an existing platform to support a 2 Tonne EV has hampered what could have been a fantastic product. The ride quality in something with this sort of mass is unforgivable, as is the seat and the centre consoles knee knocking “design ahead of practicality” approach.

Be in no doubt though that this car will steal customers away from Tesla, and Tesla will have to buck up their ideas regarding build quality because with the Polestar 2 a real competitor has come their way. Had Volvo committed to a clean sheet design instead of recycling their smallest SUV chassis, they could have blown Tesla’s socks off.
I didn't get your issue with the volume Controls on the M3. Why would you be using the ones on the screen rather than the steering wheel? Surely that is a physical enough button. Sure the passenger has to use the screen Controls but that is why they are on. The left.

Nice Post though.

Two reasons.

1/ the steering wheel volume control is fine, as a supplementary control. But it has an issue common to all wheel mounted controls in that it’s not always in the same place. When manoeuvring for instance, it can be on the other side of the wheel and it’s operation reversed. You get used to it but I’d much prefer to have a primary volume control on the console. It’s a control you use more often than wipers, rear windows, and where I live it seems it’s even used more often than indicators, so a dedicated control would be really nice to have.

2/ I often am the passenger in my Model 3, and even then the screen mounted volume control is rubbish.

You did remind though that I never mentioned the polestars audio system. It’s a set up with input from Harmon Kardon. No idea on wattage or number of speakers, but I can say it lacks the punch of the Tesla system when you crank it up.
thanks for the review, very enjoyable read.
What it doesn’t do is feel like the steering is locked solid, then suddenly release control with a loud ‘BING BING!!!’ and lurch three feet across the lane as you apply more force.

if you want to change lanes, in the Tesla you have three options;

1/ turn off autopilot (BONG BING!!!) indicate and charge lanes, Turn on autopilot (BING BONG!!!)
2/ indicate, turn the wheel, then wrestle with the wheel until Autopilot gives up control (BONG BING!!!) change lanes, turn autopilot back on (BING BONG!!!)
3/ Pay £6700 for FSD.
This had me laughing. BING BONG! In truth I don’t mind the BING’s and the BONG’s (no, not that kind...) but the locked steering on occasion has felt very disconcerting.
2/ I often am the passenger in my Model 3, and even then the screen mounted volume control is rubbish.
This is because the volume control on screen is rubbish. Personally just use the wheel but appreciate your other comment about it moving, especially when pulling up when the music has been loud.


Active Member
Jan 11, 2020
test drove an XC40 a few months ago, the seats in the R-Design trim were outstanding, I have real issues with car seats but these were superb.

Really disappointing to hear they may have ballsed up seat comfort/feeling of awesomeness in the car you drove.

Nice review and meaningful to real drivers rather than the twaddle most magazines/sites come out with. A career with Autogefuhl awaits ....


Lover of Tesla
Supporting Member
Apr 8, 2018
Agreed with @Jason71 regarding volume control. The scroll wheel is very intuitive for adjusting this in the OSD, I've never had to use on-screen controls.

The post was really well thought-out and very insightful, a wonderful read - thanks for sharing it! I'm not sure I entirely agree with your final paragraph, or in particular "Be in no doubt though that this car will steal customers away from Tesla". If Tesla were demand constrained that would be an issue, but the idea of the Polestar 2 and other electric cars isn't really to steal sales away from Tesla, it's to steal sales away from ICE vehicles. I have no doubt both companies will be able to sell every vehicle they make, but it's nice that consumers now have the choice between two quite different but capable vehicles.
Excellent post, thanks for the review.

I also would prefer a physical volume button. My last many cars have had steering wheel controls but I rarely used them. A bit concerning to hear that the audio system isn’t as good as the M3 because I really don’t think mine is up to much at all.

I’d also much rather just be able to open the glovebox with a physical handle. Having to use the touchscreen is an unnecessary faff. And having opened the damn thing via the touchscreen you still have to reach over and close it manually. Stupid.


Active Member
Apr 18, 2019
Cheers for the input, good to read. I'll not be swapping my m3 for a long time, but I have lots of family that I need to persuade into an EV at some point soon and having more than 1 viable option is key I think. Most don't like the saloon of the M3 and are going to want something more like this or the Y.

For the lane changes, my AP (mostly) disengages with signal? Still still get all the bings and bongs, but the TACC keeps going and I just re-engage full AP in the new lane. I actually don't know off hand how to disengage AP but not TACC without just wrestling the wheel for control... That volvo implementation sounds lovely.
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Active Member
Sep 9, 2019
Very surprised to read that about the harsh ride. Ohlins systems are supposed to be the cream, of the cream, of the crop. But then against it depends on your basis of comparison (Model 3 on 18s? or 20s), as ive found perception of harshness to be hugely subjective.
Although +200kg is a huge weight, and they'd have had to stiffen the springs to counteract it.

I have tons of personal thoughts on the car, but they're neither here or there. Just glad that there is finally the first credible competitor to the Model 3 out there. And if they made this car in the V60 estate bodyshell... that would be enticing!

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