Polestar 1 prototype (2019) review: the silent assassin

Published:17 June 2019

Polestar 1 prototype (2019) review: the silent assassin
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By Jake Groves

CAR's staff writer, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

By Jake Groves

CAR's staff writer, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

► First taste of new Polestar 1
► Prototype drive on the road...
► ...and at Volvo's proving grounds

We’ve waited a while for this. Polestar’s first fully-fledged car is nearing completion, and CAR was given special access to one of its pre-production cars both on road and at Volvo’s proving grounds near Gothenburg.

You’ll probably know all about the 1 by now, but here’s a recap; it’s a two-door GT car with a 592bhp (600 metric horsepower) hybrid drivetrain and all-wheel drive nestled underneath a crisp and clean design. A design that owes most of its handsome cues to the Volvo Concept Coupe of 2013.

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Joakim Rydholm, Polestar’s chief test driver, all-round good guy and a man filled to the brim with pride about something he’s spent years bringing to fruition, told us ‘the Polestar 1 is meant to do everything. It’s meant to be something you can use every day.’

Orders have opened in several markets for the new Polestar 1, with deliveries starting towards the end of 2019. In the UK, buyers will have to stump up £139,995 for one.

I’m sorry, how much?!

Yes, we wanted to get that out of the way first. You can get a very well-specced Porsche 911, an Audi R8 V10 Performance or a Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe for the same amount of wedge. The 1 is also left-hand drive only.

That price tag does obviously account for extensive development work, the complicated hybrid powertrain and the fact that getting the car off the ground and making Polestar a car maker in its own right is rather costly. The car itself is loaded with kit, with the only cost option being matte versions of the paint colours available. Trimmings, wheel types and upholstery colours are all no-cost choices.

Polestar 1 prototype Jake interior

Even so, Polestar seem quietly confident that there plenty of people who have already put their name down for one and that others will be waiting. Given its high price tag, the brand is even considering scrapping the subscription service for the 1, at least in the US, as the kind of punter ordering one is already pretty wealthy, therefore doesn’t really need a pay-monthly scheme.

So, how does the Polestar 1 drive?

Well, first of all, it was rather wet when we drove it. Axel Stenberg, our passenger and the man who just so happens to be the Concept Lead for Polestar 1 (and also helped develop Volvo’s PowerPulse engine system), told us that Volvo’s proving grounds were inadvertently built in one of the wettest places in Sweden. Which is saying something.

Our first experience was on the way to the proving grounds, on a mix of roads including motorways and bumpy, twisty and tree-lined country roads. At a cruise, it’s familiar inside to anyone who’s driven or owns a recent Volvo; the Polestar uses an almost identical cockpit complete with Sensus infotainment, a high centre console with a crystal glass gear selector and digital dials. Supportive seats, a fat steering wheel with decent weighting and precision and a head-up display are all present and correct, too.

Polestar 1 prototype side pan

The Polestar 1 also uses bespoke Öhlins dampers with adjustable stiffness front and rear via some twiddly gold knobs. We left them in the intermediate ‘Sport’ setting – arguably the best balance. Even with fat 21-inch wheels, most road ruts are smothered and the fiercest are just smoothed off – it seemed like there wasn’t much that would unsettle it. Body roll was kept mostly in check, too, but this isn’t a light car. You realise than when stepping on the brakes quite hard, with the discs and electric regen heaving slightly to slow you down. At least the pedal has some decent progression to the brake application – it’s not like you’re trodding on a dog’s chew toy; something that’s quite rare with hybrid cars, even Volvo ones.

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Axel, was keen to point out that the car we drove still had some NVH issues, with a later ‘batch’ of prototypes having some refinement improvements. To our ears, there wasn’t much to complain about anyway; tyre noise regardless of surface is impressively well-muted and the 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is whisper quiet, bar when you boot it in the 1’s ‘Power’ mode. The electric motors whined a lot, mind, which did begin to grate after some time behind the wheel, but Axel told us they had been considerably better insulated in a newer prototype batch.

Is it quick?

Boy is it. But then it would be with 592bhp and 737lb ft. An exact 0-62mph sprint hasn’t been logged yet, but we predict it’ll be four seconds or under, which is, er… not slow. All of that power is just a big toe flex away, even in relaxed ‘Hybrid’ mode.

When shove is applied, it’s done so with barely any fuss, save for a muted bark from the four-cylinder when the revs climb. Point is, the power delivery is slick and precise, like Agent 47 pouncing on his next target. It’s ruthlessly efficient at what it does.

Polestar 1 prototype Jake driving

Polestar might hate me for this, but it gleans a similar reaction to a Tesla in Ludicrous Mode – a mouth agog ‘woah!’ kind of moment as the back of your head smacks the headrest. Properly punchy stuff.

It really grips, too. The torque vectoring at play here is near-wizardry. As we mentioned before, our experience was in the middle of heavy rain. On the handling course at Volvo's facility, there was one particular bend which was a long sweeping left-hander that continually tightened. No matter how fast we went around it, the 1 didn't understeer or oversteer. It just gripped and gripped and gripped.

Polestar 1 prototype: first impressions

Polestar says the 1 isn’t quite to production quality yet, but we’re inclined to say it’s in a very very good place regardless. It’s kick-in-the-back fast and, like most electrified cars, that acceleration is just a clean surge – there’s no let-up in torque anywhere, even with an eight-speed box managing the combustion engine’s revs seamlessly. Grip was infallible when we pushed on, even in the pouring rain experienced during our drive and the bespoke Öhlins dampers work incredibly well.

It lacks drama when driven fast, its weight is felt particularly when you’re braking and £140k is a lot no matter how you look at it. But, from our brief drive, the 1 has become even more of an interesting proposition than it was already. We’re looking forward to a longer test of the production car in the autumn.

Check out our Volvo reviews

Specs

Price when new: £139,000
On sale in the UK: Orders open now, first deliveries end of 2019
Engine: 1969cc turbocharged and supercharged 4cyl plus two 85kw electric motors, 592bhp, 737lb ft
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Performance: 4.0sec (est) 0-62mph, 155mph
Weight / material: 2350kg
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4585/2070/1352mm

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  • Polestar 1 prototype (2019) review: the silent assassin
  • Polestar 1 prototype (2019) review: the silent assassin
  • Polestar 1 prototype (2019) review: the silent assassin
  • Polestar 1 prototype (2019) review: the silent assassin
  • Polestar 1 prototype (2019) review: the silent assassin
  • Polestar 1 prototype (2019) review: the silent assassin

By Jake Groves

CAR's staff writer, office Geordie, gamer, lover of hot hatches

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