Despite sounding like a reality TV contest featuring lots of body glitter, tassels and perspex high heels (note to self: organise pitch meeting with Channel 10), Polestar is, in fact, Volvo’s equivalent to Mercedes’ AMG or BMW’s ‘M’.
Like them, Polestar offered up hotter, niche versions of Volvo’s mainstream products but while ‘M’ and ‘AMG’ has become ever more enmeshed with their respective parents, and arguably had their brand cachet diluted, Polestar is now responsible for its own, unique product line.
Their first offering is named, with inarguable Swedish logic, the Polestar 1 and is a 440kW and 1000Nm hybrid grand tourer that you won’t be able to buy here because it only comes in left-hand drive. In fact, you won’t be able to buy it anywhere but I’ll get to that later.
First of all, thank you Polestar for not giving us yet another crossover with a sloping roofline and claiming it as a coupé. Yeah, we’re looking at (and judging) you BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC owners. You drive hatchbacks, stop being pretentious. True coupés are lithe, long and low, stylishly impractical and have looks that make you want to drive to the Riviera with your mistress. They also have just two doors. All of which Polestar has definitely achieved straight out of the gate.
Volvos themselves have been getting significantly more handsome of late (the XC90 T8 R-Design comes to mind) without veering over into the flashy, and the Polestar 1 continues this trend. The 2+2 body manages to be muscular and eye-catching by using simple surfacing and the classic long hood, short boot profile without resorting to unnecessary adornment. Even the badges are gone; instead, Polestar uses a simple sans serif font for the name and, oddly, a short description of the car, as if it was one of those cards describing a painting in a gallery. Classy. A nod to the parent company is given by the front and rear lights which follow Volvo’s design language as does the interior which means it is also super-classy.
That body is made of carbon-fibre to drop weight and the centre of gravity while increasing stiffness. It’s built around Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture although apparently, 50% of it is new and unique to Polestar, including continuously adjustable electronic suspension and torque vectoring via the twin rear axle-mounted electric motors. These produce 160kW between them with the remaining 280kW from the 2.0-litre four-pot under the hood. The Polestar 1 has a 150km electric-only range, better than any current hybrids on the market.
The Polestar 1 will be built in a new plant being constructed in China and will be followed by the, wait for it, Polestar 2 and Polestar 3. These will be more conventional, and electric-only, competitors for the Tesla Model 3 and Model X respectively.
Now, back to that ‘can’t buy it bit’ I mentioned earlier. Well, the Polestar 1 will be limited to 500 but I don’t mean that they have all been snapped up already. They won’t actually be sold anywhere. Instead of buying a Polestar, you subscribe to it like Porsche’s new service in the US. And just like Netflix, Polestars will only be available online. The zero-deposit subscription will be on a two or three-year basis and include servicing plus the option to rent accessories – a ski rack say – or alternative vehicles from the Polestar and Volvo ranges.
So, a damn fine looking, damn fast and comfortable car with zero ownership hassle? Sounds like a stellar idea. Oh, except the Polestar 1 is only being built in left-hand drive which, thanks to the world’s nanniest state, means we can’t have it. You can just waltz right off, Matilda.