The engineer, who designed the chassis and happens to be the program’s chief test driver, hammered the handsome, unassuming sedan through every turn, seeming to squeeze every pound-foot of torque from the 78-kWh battery pack and dual permanent-magnet motors. (That’s a very healthy 487 pound-feet, to be precise, complementing 408 horsepower.) Despite damp conditions, the car stayed planted and poised, but still squeaked out a few satisfying hints of back-end looseness in several turns.
By comparison, my laps around Volvo’s Hällered Proving Grounds—Polestar is Volvo’s electric-focused performance division—was a leisurely leaf-peeping tour through western Sweden. And I was going as fast as I dared on a wet, unfamiliar track while adapting to a new EV that I wrongly assumed wasn’t a track beast. Plus, Rydholm, riding shotgun, had mumbled something about a course speed limit, giving me further pause—though he seemed to thoroughly disregard it once behind the wheel himself.
I longed for another crack at the track in the surprising little machine. But excuses aside, I learned enough from my still reasonably spirited time there and on public roads around Volvo’s HQ in Gothenburg to posit that when the Polestar 2 arrives next year, it will be a worthy competitor to the performance-oriented version of Tesla’s Model 3. Granted, the prototype I drove included the optional, $6,600 “Performance Pack,” which provides Brembo brakes, 20-inch alloy wheels, and a set of Öhlins suspension dampers that are tuned manually at each wheel, to better balance the car in the corners. “It makes the car smoother without the driver losing confidence,” Rydholm says.
Drivers uninterested in stomach-churning track expeditions will be glad to know that Polestar’s first fully electric car is a useful, family-friendly sedan. And to go with that performance, it promises a practical 275 miles of range—to be eventually validated by the EPA, of course. Rydholm and his team spent years at the proving grounds, tuning the car’s performance on the handling track I drove and the more varied “comfort track,” which simulates a host of roadway surfaces and anomalies. “Your primary tools are the anti-roll bars, springs, and dampers,” Rydholm says. “If you have head-toss on a bumpy road, you work with the anti-roll bars. Hard impacts, you work with the tires and shock absorbers.”