This is not a Volvo.
Nascent performance marque Polestar has certainly come in with a bang, unveiling at an exclusive event in Shanghai its first step in establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with. While it’s been known for a while that they’ve been working on something big, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t expecting quite something this big.
This is the Polestar 1, a 2+2 high-performance petrol-hybrid grand-tourer with 600hp (441kW) and 1000Nm.
The Polestar 1, as its name suggests, is the first ground-up model for the company, following the formal split between Polestar and its repositioning as a performance-focused firm, leaving its shell as an AMG-esque division of resurgent luxury carmaker Volvo. An amicable split to say the least, Polestar’s repositioning aims to help define the playing fields that Volvo and Polestar target respectively, leaving the established luxury carmaker to keep making plush and comfortable passenger cars while the new Polestar brand won’t have to make apologies for its performance-first aspirations.
The Polestar 1 not only sets the pace for the company going forward, but it also serves as a platform to highlight the synergy between itself and its parent company, as this car’s DNA is plain to see. Its design is heavily-influenced by the Volvo Concept Coupe that we first clapped eyes on way back in 2013 (which subsequently led the design revolution for Volvo), and retains characteristic design traits from the parent company while adding its own distinct signatures to the mix. This is the first Polestar product that is entirely bereft of Volvo ‘Iron Mark’ badging, and retains just 50% of the Scalable Product Architecture that underpins Volvo’s latest crop of cars.
“Polestar 1 is the first car to carry the Polestar on the bonnet. A beautiful GT with amazing technology packed into it - a great start for our new Polestar brand. All future cars from Polestar will feature a fully electric drivetrain, delivering on our brand vision of being the new standalone electric performance brand.” — Thomas Ingenlath, CEO, Polestar
The drivetrain beneath the Polestar 1 is a heavily-reworked version of the T8 TwinEngine setup currently found in the Volvo S90 and XC90, though it’s been uptuned in this application. As mentioned earlier, the petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain has been engineered further and now produces an astonishing 441kW of power and 1000Nm of twist, which Polestar promises will rocket the car from rest to 96km/h (60mph) in less than 4-seconds.
The potency of the Polestar 1 is hampered somewhat by its 2-tonne weight, a penalty of packing a 34kWh battery (split into two positions in the car for better weight distribution) and two electric motors at the rear, but is offset by the carbon-fibre construction that is a first for the Volvo Group. Amazingly, this hybrid rocket ship will also pander to the environmentally-conscious motorist too, as its relatively-lightweight construction and efficient use of power means that it can travel on battery power alone for as far as 150km on a single charge, the greatest range of any combustion-electric hybrid vehicle in the world.
Because of the extensive use of carbon-fibre, Polestar sought the expertise of fellow Swedish carmaker Koenigsegg in the early stages of the project. The composite top-half is then bound to the platform beneath both adhesively and mechanically to the steel frame of the Polestar 1, which improved structural rigidity by some 45% and reduced weight by 230kg, aided further by the shortening of the S90’s SPA wheelbase by 650mm. The strict adherence to perfect weight distribution means that the mass of the car is split 48:52 front-rear, which should make for a truly engaging drive.
Further enhancing the promised driving experience is the inclusion of an Öhlins-developed chassis control system (called ‘CESi’) that will help give the Polestar 1 the dynamic ability expected of something that looks this good and packs so much power.
While Volvo maintains existing production facilities in Sweden, Malaysia, and China (the former two the only locations that presently manufacture the complex T8 petrol-electric drivetrain), a brand-new facility will be built to produce the Polestar 1 in Chengdu. Polestar is aiming for an annual production figure between 500 to 1000 cars (limited by the time-intensive carbon-fibre construction), with sales expected to come from new ‘Polestar Space’ retail facilities (that, they underline, will be stand-alone locations that have no relation to existing Volvo dealerships). Sales themselves will be fulfilled 100% online, though the Polestar Spaces will act as a medium with which customers can engage with the products and the brand before committing to purchase.
Interestingly, Polestar 2nd-in-command Jonathan Goodman says that while the Polestar 1 will command a price tag somewhere around €130,000 (or a shade under $200,000), Polestar reckons that the bulk of its orders will come from customers who opt for a subscription service to purchase, very much like the ‘Care by Volvo’ scheme that was launched earlier this month with the Volvo XC40 compact SUV.
With that package, Polestar owners will be able to “focus on the joy of driving” by paying a flat-rate every month that covers the costs of maintenance and insurance through either a 24- or 36-month duration. A subscription will also unlock various concierge services that will deliver greater convenience to owners, while also allowing access to the rest of the Volvo and Polestar portfolio for a predetermined number of days annually, letting you enjoy the flexibility of a fleet without actually owning anything.
The Polestar 1 will go into production in 2019, alongside the Polestar 2, at the Chengdu facility that itself will only be completed mid-2018. The bad news is that the 1 will only be built in left-hand drive specification, meaning we’ll have to wait on the battery-electric Polestar 2 saloon (aimed unashamedly at the Tesla Model 3) and the Polestar 3 SUV that will be engineered from the outset with right-hand drive markets in mind.