If the electric revolution has had you worrying that performance cars the way you and I know them are headed the way of the dodo, the 2023 Polestar 2 is a reminder that you needn’t worry because some car companies still have your back. Mind you, you’ll need to tick a few options boxes to get just what you’re after.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that Polestar would be the company to deliver such a car, though, as making serious performance cars is in the Swedish brand’s DNA. Originally founded in 1995 as a company that tuned Volvos, it was then acquired by Volvo in 2015 and the Polestar name became the designation for the brand’s hotter models. However, Polestar became its own fully-fledged brand in 2018 with the limited-run Polestar 1, a plug-in hybrid, before going fully-electric and entering series production with this – the aptly-named 2 – in 2020.
First introduced in Australia at the tail-end of 2021, the Polestar 2 rides on the same ‘Compact Modular Architecture’ platform as the Volvo XC40 Recharge and C40 Recharge, but rather than being a more traditional SUV like those cars, it’s a low-slung liftback with a sporty cockpit that simply oozes concept car cool. Don’t be fooled by how its proportions look on camera – this thing sits long and low.
For 2023, the Polestar 2 has been updated with a range of new interior trims, along with several manufacturing changes that reduce its carbon footprint. However, pricing has risen substantially, with the cheapest Standard Range Single Motor model up $4000, now priced from $63,900 before on-road costs. For Long Range Single Motor and the Long Range Dual Motor model on test here, pricing rises by $3500, meaning the starting price for our tester is $73,400.
But remember those options packages I mentioned before? They drive that price up substantially. For starters, the car you see here was fitted with the $3400 Pilot Lite Pack which adds blind spot warning with steering assist, rear cross-traffic alert with brake assist, a 360-degree camera, auto-dimming side mirrors, Park Assist, LED fog lights with a cornering function, and the Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving system.
Then there’s the $6000 Plus Pack which adds a 13-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, a heated steering wheel and rear seats, WeaveTech upholstery, wireless phone charging, tinted rear glass, an advanced air quality sensor system, ambient interior lighting, and a new and more efficient heat pump.
It’s the $8000 Performance Pack that the drivers out there will be here for, though. Exclusive to the Long Range Dual Motor model, it adds 20-inch forged alloy wheels, four-piston Brembo brakes with cross-drilled discs, manually-adjustable Öhlins Dual Flow Valve dampers with 22 settings, and special ‘Swedish gold’ seatbelts. Add on all of these packages, plus $1500 premium paintwork, and you’re looking at $92,300 before on-road costs for the car tested here; by the time you’re out the door, it’ll be into six-digit territory on the road.
So, is it worth it? Well, if you go by looks alone, the Polestar 2 definitely looks the part. The styling, I absolutely love, with its aforementioned concept car looks only being enhanced by the big 20-inch Performance Pack wheels and golden brake calipers. It’s also a bit ‘style for style’s sake’ at its C-pillar where you’ll find there’s no additional rear side window as you’d normally expect. Even the frameless side mirrors are fabulously stylish – the entire mirror housing moving as you adjust them instead of only the glass moving – and the colour-matched badges only add to its crisp, modern looks. Simply, this thing is a stunner.
Likewise, the interior looks fresh and funky, even with a few parts-bin Volvo items such as the steering wheel, door handles, and indicator stalks. However, the very iPad-like infotainment system is Polestar’s own design that uses the Android Automotive platform, and it’s a real gem. Clear and cleanly displayed and incredibly intuitive to use, it’s everything I wish the system Volvo is using in the XC40 and C40 was.
I also love that it uses Google Maps for its navigation system, as it’s easy to search for any destination, provides live traffic data and route options, and tells you how much battery you’ll have when you get there and get home again. The instrument cluster display is fairly similar to Volvo’s as well, but even that is implemented better here in my opinion with slightly more customisation on offer, although still not quite enough.
The cabin design is utterly different as well – where the XC40 and C40 are very much conventional, the cabin of the Polestar 2 feels far more dedicated and sporty with its low-slung seating position and high centre console (with some handy storage slots on either side of it), meaning you really feel as though you’re sat in a serious performance car here. It’s like a pair of amazing running shoes – they might fit perfectly and offer incredible support, but they aren’t exactly ideal for lounging around in. As such, I had a bit of trouble with my own size 12s in the Polestar’s tiny footwell; my left foot was either on the brake or on the close-by dead pedal with no room to stretch out on a long drive.
I’m also not so sure about the choice of cabin materials. Certainly, I love that this vegan interior utilises renewable, recyclable, and recycled materials, but the quality of those on the dashboard, door cards, and centre console attracted far too many obvious fingerprint marks which left both photographer Marcus and I worrying about their longevity. It’s worth noting that a white Nappa leather interior is available – which also adds ventilated seats – but it costs an extraordinary $6000.
I also noticed a rather ugly joint in the very obvious place that is the middle of the centre console, which is all the most noticeable in a car worth this much. The actual nuts-and-bolts build quality feels solid, however, with no detectable rattles or squeaks and all panel gaps aligning perfectly. It’s also worth noting that the Polestar 2 is built in China (Polestar’s owner Volvo is itself owned by Chinese company Geely) rather than in Sweden as you may expect.
Fortunately, the boot is one thing that’s unchanged from its Volvo siblings, with a retractable cargo divider with bag hooks and an additional L-shaped storage space under the boot floor for keeping cables out of sight. Opening its powered tailgate reveals a 405-litre storage space in total, expanding to 1095 litres with the rear seats down. There’s also a small 35-litre ‘frunk’ as well.
With performance the topic of the hour with this electric sports saloon, it’s worth noting that there’s plenty on offer as confirmed by the nerdalicious sticker applied to the front doors. While lesser front-wheel drive variants make do with a sole 170kW/330Nm electric motor on the front axle, the Long Range Dual Motor adds a second motor to the rear axle to give it all-wheel drive – and, of course, a whopping 300kW and 660Nm, making it good for 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds and a top speed of 205km/h limited by gearing.
If that isn’t enough, you can also get a downloadable performance update which unlocks an extra 50kW and 20Nm, in turn dropping its 0-100km/h time to just 4.4 seconds in exchange for $1600. The extra power is delivered between 70-130km/h to improve its mid-range acceleration as well, which is an area where single-gear electric cars often lack power.
As for the battery, all Dual Motor variants score the Long Range battery which has a 78kWh gross capacity, although only 75kWh is usable. Still, that’s enough to give it a claimed 487km range on the WLTP cycle, although the in-car range estimate is set to only show around 82 percent of that (400km) so as to be more realistic, but you can call it a realistic 386km at the 19.4kWh/100km energy consumption claim.
It’s also worth noting that for 2023 models, Polestar traces the sourcing of the mica and cobalt in the batteries using blockchain technology, while the aluminium for the battery tray and alloy wheels is produced using renewable energy to save up to 1350kg in CO2 emissions per car.
Even without the optional performance boost, the standard 300kW the Polestar 2 delivers is utterly thrilling. The way it’s delivered is smoother than in some EVs, with it still hurling you to the back of your seat when you punch it at the lights, but without the sort of ferocity that causes your neck to ache and your lunch to be deposited across the dashboard which is already hard enough to keep clean.
The throttle tuning feels far more progressive than the on-off switch found in some EVs, as is the feel of the hefty brake pedal that controls those big Brembos which in conjunction with the regenerative braking are table to anchor it to a grand pause. It’s worth noting there are three regenerative braking settings – off, low, and high for one-pedal driving – with the low setting being the best middle-ground and a setting unfortunately not offered in the XC40 or C40.
Like in its Volvo siblings, the steering feel is absolutely sublime with it feeling brilliantly communicative and ideally weighted; it again offers three configurable settings versus the Volvos’ two. However, it’s how this fabulous steering works in conjunction with the Öhlins dampers that’s where the real magic of the Polestar 2 lies. Despite tipping the scales at a hefty 2113kg, the brilliant suspension and its low centre of gravity helps it remain flat and superbly poised in the corners, with this relative heffalump able to carve corners with almost razor precision.
Granted, the compromise is that it feels firm around town in the same way a car riding on coil-over suspension can, but with 21 settings on offer for it, you’ll be able to dial it in for the road or for the track. You’ll just have to be prepared to crawl around on the floor to do so – there are small knobs on the struts to adjust the damping rate, and the rears will require the wheel arch lining to be peeled back – which, while not as convenient as a button on the dash, shows there’s still a place for a mechanical interaction between driver and machine even with EVs.
Keeping in mind that there are some sporty EVs out there in the same price bracket such as the Kia EV6 GT-Line AWD and Tesla Model 3 Performance, none feel like quite as much of an outright performance car as this. It feels purpose-built to put a smile on your face with the way it looks, handles, delivers its power, and feels from the seat of your pants.
Yet, it’s still a practical and rational vehicle that has a big and well-designed boot, plenty of interior storage cubbies, uses no fuel, has a notably reduced overall carbon footprint, and still offers a practical range on a single charge. My testing, which included a fair amount of backroad blasting and highway driving, saw it use 20.4kWh/100km – not much more than the official claim, and enough for a realistic 367km range. Even if you need more range than that, the less-powerful Long Range Single Motor offers 438km at its claimed energy consumption.
Although I have my concerns around the durability of some of the interior materials – something remedied by forking out a bit extra for premium upholstery – the Polestar 2 is an otherwise exceptional car. But that point does touch on what’s perhaps the only other issue with it – so much of what comes standard on the XC40 and C40 needs to be added to this as part of some pricey options packages.
The Polestar 2 is, however, the most thrilling of the trio to drive – truly, it feels like a proper sports saloon. In some ways, it’s to the detriment of its daily usability though – the suspension may only be optional, but the tight and sporty cockpit isn’t quite as open and relaxing at that in the Volvos’. In that respect, I’d say the C40 Recharge Twin is the best compromise of the three models riding on this platform when it comes to blending a sporty feel with daily-driver comfort.
But if you look at the Polestar 2 as the closest thing we currently have to an electric sports car, it’s absolutely awesome. With Polestar planning a proper two-seater sports car further down the track – the Polestar 6, originally the O2 Concept – this is the best sign yet that performance cars are still going to be just as thrilling in the future, if in a different way.
2023 Polestar 2 Long Range Dual Motor List Price: $73,400 | As Tested: $92,300
- Performance - 8.5/108.5/10
- Ride & Handling - 9/109/10
- Tech & Features - 8.5/108.5/10
- Practicality - 8/108/10
- Value for Money - 7.5/107.5/10
Pros: Superb handling and steering feel, smooth but thrilling power delivery, very intuitive Android infotainment system, concept car looks
Cons: Most features that are standard on the XC40 and C40 are optional here, cabin is on the tighter side, some interior materials appear to lack durability
In a nutshell: If you were worrying that electric cars couldn’t be truly fun, look no further than the 2023 Polestar 2 Performance Pack. It might be expensive and requires a tonne of added options to match the spec lists of its rivals, but from behind the wheel it’s a seriously fantastic machine that handles in a way that a two-tonne-plus car shouldn’t be able to. Its Volvo siblings might be better daily drivers, but this is the better drive.
Photography by Marcus Cardone.
Full Disclosure: The vehicle tested here was provided by Polestar Australia for a week with a full charge upon delivery.
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