Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Switch the Polestar 1 on and, assuming there’s charge in the car’s batteries, it’ll start off running on electric power until you either run out of volts or forcibly introduce the accelerator pedal to the carpet. If you want to avoid the petrol engine coming on at all, there’s a ‘Pure’ mode that’s electric-only all the way up to 100mph.
In fact, in Pure, performance isn’t at all shabby. The 1’s pair of electric motors – one for each rear wheel – work together to produce a reasonable 229bhp and, more importantly, 354lb ft of torque. That’s more torque than you get in a Porsche 911. As with all electric cars, though, expect to see the 77-mile range tumble quickly at motorway speeds, so it’s handy that you have the option to conserve battery power for later in your journey. If you’d rather use it all up and charge it when you get home, it’ll take 3 hours to go from 0-100% using a 7kW home wall box, or less than an hour if you can find a 50kW fast charger.
Even though you’ll keep pace easily with traffic in electric mode, you’ll need to wake up the petrol engine for the 1 to feel as fast as its official 4.2sec 0-62mph time suggests. This 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged motor produces 305bhp, while an additional 67bhp electric motor (additional to the two at the rear) can add power or restart the engine far more smoothly than a conventional starter motor. ‘Hybrid’ mode will get the motor running when needed, with ‘AWD’ and ‘Power’ modes keeping it permanently engaged to prioritise maximum traction on slippery surfaces or to maximise performance, respectively.
Now, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that the front wheels receive a fair bit more power than the rears. As a consequence, on slippery surfaces, you can occasionally feel the steering wheel writhing in your hands as the front tyres struggle for traction. Thankfully this is only really an issue when you launch the car from a standstill.
It's still quite a way off the pace of its fastest rivals – as we said that includes the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid but also the Bentley Continental GT – yet there’s no doubting it's still quick. The way the 1 surges past slower-moving traffic when overtaking is addictive. Just be aware that, if you’re cruising in electric mode and want to pick up speed in a hurry, the petrol engine does take a moment to wake up and start producing power. Keep it in Power mode if you’re in the mood for a spirited drive.
And even though (whisper it), the Polestar 1 shares its basic platform with the rather soggy Volvo S90 T8, you’ll certainly feel the temptation to give it a damn good thrashing. For a start, the steering transmits a few subtle messages about the front tyre’s activities and is precise, helping to build up your confidence. The brakes feel much more natural than we’ve come to expect on hybrids, too, although nothing like as progressive as the best sporting coupés', including the Aston Martin DB11.
The 1 is a little on the porky side, so it's not as agile as the DB11, either, but it does a convincing job of concealing its mass the vast majority of the time. While you might expect some clever computer-controlled air suspension system to be behind this, the 1 is actually refreshingly simple; you get conventional coil springs on all four corners, paired with high-quality Ohlins dampers. These are adjustable but don’t expect to change their stiffness from the car’s touchscreen or a button, which is what you do in nearly every rival. Instead, you have to manually adjust them, which believe it or not involves jacking up the rear of the car.
Sticking with the standard settings, the 1 grips the road tenaciously and does a commendable job of resisting running wide at the front. Helping matters are those twin electric motors, which are able to do something called torque vectoring. Without going into too much detail, this means the outside rear wheel can be sent more power during cornering, to effectively push the nose of the car towards the inside of the bend, and even get the tail sliding slightly if you want to.
Now, at this point you’re expecting us to say that agility comes at the expense of ride comfort, right? Well, the 1 is undoubtedly firm, making you aware of the road’s surface passing beneath you, yet those trick dampers take the sting out of even the nastiest pothole or pimple before settling the car back down quickly. That’s impressive for something that wears 21in wheels with tyres like rubber bands.
With cars like the Polestar 1 being designed to cross Europe should the fancy take you, refinement is rather important. Things get off to a good start; the electric mode allows hushed progress, with only a bit of a whine from the motors. Get up to speed and wind noise is well contained, road noise is perfectly acceptable, and the engine is virtually silent at a cruise. Put your foot down, though, and although the engine doesn’t sound bad, it makes a noise that’s more reminiscent of a hot hatch than a big GT – a DB11 sounds much, much more exciting. However, the 1 switches between its power sources and changes gear smoothly.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Polestar 1 gets something called Pilot Assist as standard. This combines adaptive cruise control with lane centring to take the strain out of long journeys and traffic jams. While it has the occasional moment of confusion, it’s a useful extra feature.
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