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A Polestar is born: Volvo offshoot unveils first car

Published: Today 14:50

► Polestar 1 hybrid coupe
► A 592bhp GT from new Volvo spin-off
► Available to order now for 2019

The Polestar 1 makes its first public appearance, and although it looks like a stylish two-door coupe version of the Volvo S90, it’s the first step in a new strategy for this little-known marque. Outside of Sweden, you’re unlikely to have heard of Polestar, and even less likely to have bought one – but this one-time maker of tuning kit for Volvos hopes to become a kind of electrified Scandinavian AMG.

It’s an interesting plan. And based on this handsome hybrid two-door coupe, Volvo’s parent company Geely, thinks it has legs. It’s a digital brand, electric and cool – what Volvo wants to do with Polestar is turn it into a viable alternative to Tesla. The Polestar 1 is available to order today, with deliveries rolling out of a new factory in Chengdu, China, by mid-2019.

Tell me it’s more than just a prettified Volvo

Er, sort of. Thomas Ingenlath, CEO of Polestar, says that three years ago, it started out as a Volvo S90 Coupe. ‘As it evolved, we knew we had something special,’ he says. ‘When we started testing it on Swedish roads, it became our first Polestar.’

The Polestar 1 is based upon Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture, which you’ll find under the S90/V90 and well as the XC60 and XC90. It’s shorter, lighter, and thanks to extensive use of carbonfibre in its underpinnings, it’s stiffer. That shortened chassis is 230kg lighter than the one it’s based on, and around half of the new model is unique to the 1.

Polestar 1 front show

The carbonfibre-bodied car new car looks good – a cross between Aston Martin and Mustang, with plenty of Volvo DNA thrown in. The two-door, 2+2 seater Grand Tourer Coupé with an ‘Electric Performance Hybrid’ drivetrain that will drive almost 100 miles on battery alone. In full-blooded hybrid mode, its 600hp power output is backed up by 1000Nm of torque.

Inside it’s almost pure S90 – a good start, truth be told - with a little jewellery to justify the additional premium.

Will it drive better than an S90?

Undoubtedly. The Polestar 1 has exceptional torsional rigidity, which is 45% stiffer than the car it’s based on. In short, a stiffer body, means more predictable handling. It gains an interesting new Öhlins Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension (CESi) suspension set-up – it’s some way towards an active set-up, and promises to have comfort and handling modes than work.

Polestar 1 rear show

And its carbonfibre body significantly reduces weight compared with the S90 it’s based on. Handling will be further aided by a rear axle which houses a pair of stonking electric motors that push out 160Kw. They are controlled independently to create torque vectoring. Does it rewrite expectations? We can’t wait to be convinced.

When can I buy one, or should I say, subscribe to one?

The dealer won’t be involved at this stage – if you want a Polestar 1, you’ll need to buy it online, and then choose whether you want it on a two- or three-year subscription basis. The zero-deposit, all-inclusive subscription gives you concierge servicing alternative vehicles within the Volvo and Polestar range, should you need something roomier.

To aid this subscription model, a Polestar 1 comes with Phone-As-Key technology that means the owner can share a virtual key with a third party. So, it can be remotely lent out, while being able to access personalised on-demand features. Polestar is confident that it can sell its £120,000(ish) super-GT for an all-inclusive monthly figure – just don’t expect it to be cheap.

Polestar 1 show stand

The dealership isn’t dead, though, because Polestar says it will open a network of what it calls Polestar Spaces. This is where future Polestar customers can interact with products and the brand. Polestar Spaces will be standalone facilities and not within existing Volvo retailer showrooms. But in truth, without RHD, it’s near enough a non-starter in the UK. Shame.

Is Polestar a performance brand at all?

No. Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Volvo may have launched Polestar as its performance brand, but it’s all about electrification. The Polestar 1 is a glamorous 600hp hybrid super-GT, but this is not the main event.

What it really does for Volvo is serve as a brand with which to go chasing Tesla. Early adopters love Tesla for not being part of the internal combustion engine problem – Volvo hopes that start-up Polestar will be seen in a similar way.

Polestar 1 overhead

The real story begins in 2020 with the Tesla Model 3-rivalling Polestar 2. It will be a mid-sized BEV, where big sale potential is anticipated. It will be followed by the Polestar 3, a larger SUV-style BEV, which will also be aimed at drivers.

Can Polestar succeed?

It’s significant that this Polestar 1 is being launched in Shanghai. It’s arguably the capital of the new world, and Volvo’s pumped up Polestar is a local product with added European kudos that could do well there.

Polestar might have had performance beginnings, but it’s clearly gunning for Tesla with its ‘electrified-digital’ message. We’ll see if its innovative purchasing and ownership model takes off, too.

Polestar 1 interior

It’s a crowded market, with mixed success for its entrants. But the electric-focused model lineup and new way of buying these cars adds some variety – whether it can convince more hard-bitten European and American enthusiasts, where brand means all, we remain to be convinced.

When can I buy one?

You can order one now. The order books for the Polestar 1 opened on 17 October 2017, with Polestar able to take expressions of interest from prospective customers immediately. There’s no word on price, but we do know that it will be left-hand drive only, and no more than 1500 will be made.

Get in quick, then.

Read all our Volvo car reviews here

By Keith Adams

Editor of sister title Parkers, devout classic Citroen enthusiast and contributor to CAR