Until now, Polestar has been relying on “I didn’t expect a Volvo to drive like this!” to stand out in the auto industry.
This week, we got to see the next act for the newly-established EV automaker. The Polestar 1 may have relatively tiny production numbers in mind – just 500 cars per year – but it stands a chance of starting some big dominos toppling.
Volvo doesn’t have a bad track record with coupes, though they’re hardly the cars the automaker is best known for. The C70, discontinued in 2013, never really set the world alight, despite Volvo paying to have it featured in 1997 Val Kilmer movie “The Saint“. Maybe that’s because the movie itself was pretty terrible.
Look further back, though, and you find the Volvo P1800, made between 1961 and 1973. That was much more appealing – it also got to star alongside Roger Moore in the far-more-successful original TV version of “The Saint” – and there are hints of Pietro Frua’s design in the Polestar 1.
Indeed, though Polestar may be a “new” automaker, you stumble across the Volvo influence straight away. The nose is clearly related to that of the S90 and V90, though the grill obviously does without the Volvo badge in favor of Polestar’s own, vaguely amorphous logo embedded into the hood.
A few people have pointed out some hints of Mustang which to my eye are predominantly found in the side-profile. The area where the C-pillar joins with the rear wheel arches is particularly reminiscent of the pony car. However, Polestar pulls it back at the tail, where the unusual cant of the rear fascia adds some interesting shadows, bracketed by the neon-esque taillamps.
Inside, the Volvo relationship is most clear. Indeed, the design for the dashboard has been borrowed wholesale from cars like the S90, though I’d say that’s no bad thing. Modern Volvo interiors have been a high point in the auto industry for some time now, mixing lashings of technology like the Sensus touchscreen center console with pleasingly honest materials like open-pore wood and real metal.
Like the XC90, the Polestar 1 gets a Swedish crystal shift knob. The seats bear strong similarities to the ergonomic triumphs that you’ll be cosseted by in a Volvo, but with improved bolstering on both the upper and lower sections, plus the extending thigh-support. A glass panoramic roof keeps the cabin airy, and there are some sportier touches like the bright yellow seatbelts and matching LED light strips that span the dashboard (not to mention echoing the brake calipers).
There’s an earnestness in the luxury coupe space right now that could do with a little Swedish whimsy, frankly. Cars like the 911, Lexus LC, Mercedes-AMG GT, and others are all very capable, certainly, but they’re hardly playful. I’m not saying that time behind the wheel of an expensive two-door should be laugh-a-minute, but I also suspect the market can accommodate – and even embrace – something out of the ordinary.
You could make the argument that the Polestar 1 isn’t really the main event, mind. Polestar 2, announced alongside the coupe and set to launch later in 2019, will be the real meat in the automaker’s meal: it’ll be a midsize take on the category many expect Tesla to clean up in with the Model 3. Fully electric, it may not offer the 600 horsepower of the Polestar 1, but it should be a lot more affordable.
Factor in Polestar’s industry-disrupting subscription scheme, offering cars for two or three year contracts with a single monthly payment that includes insurance and servicing, and the Polestar 2 starts to sound very interesting indeed. Sure, it’ll make it to market much later than the Model 3 does, but Tesla still needs to demonstrate it can build its most affordable car at scale. That’s not something either Volvo or Geely have had issues with.
If Polestar can get the subscription price right, and keep the charm and quality levels high, it could have a hit on its hands – both among all those reluctant Millennial drivers and with other demographics tired of the laborious negotiation process in traditional car retail. Until we know more, though, there’s just the Polestar 1 to go on, and while few of us will likely end up behind the wheel of one, it looks set to be a head-turner on the road.
Plans for the introduction of the Polestar 1 in South Africa will be confirmed in due course, depending on the production of right-hand drive models and market demand.