I went to the second opening day of Polestar’s EV Experience Hub in Milton Keynes, this was the first time (thanks Covid) that I had seen the Polestar 2 up close and personal, even though they’ve been delivering them for some time to owners and I see several driving around my hometown every day.
The idea with this car is to replace our Hyundai Kona EV which is frankly too small for our growing family and to go alongside our Tesla Model S.
The ‘Experience Hub’
As I arrived the crowd of people and staff stood outside and awkwardly all turned to watch my Tesla Model S roll in, thankfully I managed a perfect parking manoeuver, Polestar had taken over 3 or 4 brand new light industrial units and decked them out with endless Type 2 chargers both inside and out, fancy branding/signage, an array of Google tablets, a waiting area and interior trim options on display etc, I was greeted by a friendly team (circa 10 employees) and was then asked the difficult decision on what my hot drink of choice would be upon my return, first impressions were great.
We then were split into two groups (total of 6 people, but they could have coped with double that) and were led into an area with a top spec’d car on display and 2 members of the team walked us around the car highlighting various key selling points, we used tablets (with our own personal stylus) to experience the in-car system, they gave explanations about key features of EVs (e.g. regen braking) etc, as a veteran EV owner this was all quite basic stuff but it was professional, informative and useful.
The Test Drive itself
We then were introduced to our dedicated ‘sales’ person (mine was actually one of the ex Porsche Taycan test drivers, really nice and knowledgable chap), who walked us to the cars whilst asking several questions about our lives/why we’re considering Polestar etc, I took a seat in the test drive car (Long Range Dual Motor) and I had around 5 minutes to get accustomed to the car (primarily whilst the other groups were trying to work out how to put them into drive it would see).
We were told we would be following a lead car but the car navigation would be set up so if we got lost etc we could make our own way along the pre-determined route, I was last in my group which of course meant I lost the lead car almost straight away due to traffic, this felt very much like they couldn’t manage to properly plot out a route via the navigation system using waypoints so had to have a lead car ensure people actually followed the route as the navigation and the lead car were fighting with each other throughout.
I felt that the route was clearly designed to get people accustom to the vehicle (understandable) whilst also ensuring the cars were kept clean and scratch-free, instead of really showing what the car was capable of and therefore I must admit I found it slightly mundane (excluding the last set of B roads) but I guess that depends on how you drive, your driving confidence, if you know the route, traffic on the day and why you’re considering buying the car.
Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) / Pilot Assist
It was not made clear where it should or shouldn’t be allowed and the car allowed me to enable it on a dual-carriageway and also 2-way A road, I was always in complete control but was keen to test it.
We then went along a piece of road that for the last few years I’ve been ad-hoc testing my Tesla Autosteer on, ironically it’s got worse (primarily thanks to UNECE restrictions 🙄) over the years but I know it very well, I know the limitations of my Tesla on it and I can safely do the short stretch of the road safely as I’m in complete control and ready to take over. The Polestar failed miserably with this piece of road but what’s worse is that the ADAS doesn’t give any audio signals that it’s disengaged (the same as Nissan’s ProPilot), frankly, it’s unsafe!
One bend, in particular, I could see the road on the other side was clear of traffic and I had no traffic behind so I let it attempt a corner, it pushed me straight into the oncoming lane and amazingly it still showed as having the ADAS engaged when I brought the car back into the lane!
The ‘please keep your hands on the wheel’ style of message + audible warnings are excellent but the system also seems to randomly turn on/off (without warning) but amazingly it will allow you to excessively turn the wheel (as if you were in a formula 1 car warming the tyres) whilst still remaining (or appearing to be) completely on.
Whilst writing this, I’ve realised it turns out the system is designed to keep you in lane but that’s about it, it’s far from Tesla’s Autosteer sadly.
Getting ‘told off’
To be clear it was 100% my own fault, the staff member obviously has a duty of care and was simply doing their job so no hard feelings, it didn’t change my view on the experience.
For me, a test drive is less about how well the car feels on a dual carriageway at 70mph but more about the performance, handling, autosteer etc, so I ended up pulling into a lay-by along the initial part of the route to then accelerate back up to 70mph, I didn’t think much of this until I found the whole pack of cars waiting for me at the next roundabout! 👀 I then may have got ‘slightly lost’ 😉 on one roundabout, so had to go around it again, when we pulled into the checkpoint the lead driver walked over and questioned my driving (‘swerving into oncoming lanes’, going around a roundabout and losing the pack), I tried to explain but was told to keep with the pack at all times and to not use the auto-steering features, off we went (with my tail firmly between my legs).
Once we got back to the start point, I was told the remaining team had been looking over my Tesla and were impressed, which I think probably saved me from an embarrassing conversation with the manager about my driving as they knew I had experience with Performance EVs.
- Build quality seemed decent (e.g. gear selector and dash) further proving China really can produce some decent quality vehicles, that said I didn’t spend anywhere near as long ‘pulling it apart’ like I did the Porsche Taycan I reviewed on the same day.
- I was led to believe the car would be very small but actually, it was slightly bigger than I thought.
- The throttle response (Long Range Dual Motor) when you’re going above 30mph is impressive
- A boot that opens with your foot and a boot opening that is actually useful (looking at you Model 3).
- The ‘Plus Pack’ which includes heated steering wheel/seats, heat pump, interior LED illumination, Pano Roof seems like a no brainer (albeit a £5,000 no brainer).
- Minimal/Frameless mirrors are a nice touch.
- Intelligent Pixel LED headlights are cool, sadly didn’t get to test them as it was daytime.
- Spotify seemed to work well without requiring me to login etc.
- 3-year servicing, roadside support and connected services included.
- Over-the-air software updates, digital key and USB-C
- Includes a Type 2 3 phase cable + Mobile 3 pin connector.
- Voice control worked well.
- The entertainment system is good (Google), although like any new system took a bit of playing with to find some parts, it wasn’t always obvious what I was trying to find and some pages e.g. car status just said things like ‘Everything is fine’ instead of showing potentially other useful things (e.g. tyre pressure).
- Limited and very muted exterior paintwork colours.
- Decent regen braking but why would I want this setting on the screen as much as it wants.
- The car had QI phone charging but my phone constantly failed to charge.
- The cabin does feel tight, the centre console seems large and rear passengers are going to need to be in the front if they’re tall.
- A fairly compact car, this obviously depends on your needs but my gut feeling was that it’s too small for families.
- The rear seats were HEAVY when folding, I think my wife would struggle to lift it (although she’s 7 months pregnant to be fair).
- A FRUNK, albeit big enough for just one or two charging cables but it requires you to open it via a bonnet release cable/lever in the driver’s side footwell so far from ideal/useful.
- Road noise wasn’t any more or less noticeable than other EVs I’ve driven, although I’ve read reports of it being loud.
- A transmission tunnel in the back seat holding the batteries, arguably this gives more legroom for passengers on either side but obviously sucks if you have 3 people in the rear.
- The internal noise of the indicators, wow, it’s like the speaker was blown, it drove me insane (which sounds like an exaggeration but seriously it was awful). I’ve since listened to a few YouTubers reviewing the car and can confirm they all sound like this! 😳
- There is a dead throttle feeling (where you press the throttle and it simply doesn’t really do anything until you push harder), it only really applies at low speed and I guess that they want to ensure people don’t put it into the back of a wall, it’s the same on the I-PACE. I wish you could adjust this.
- The Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) lack of audio signals, the random turning on/off, the fact you can excessively turn the wheel whilst it stays engaged and the fact it would push you into oncoming traffic without alerting you was frankly shocking!
- Limited space in the boot area (the floor is quite high).
- Just a 3-year warranty!
- What the hell is the key? I can see why they left the key in the cupholder and hoped you wouldn’t see it (although they did stress you use the mobile phone app).
- I suspect it drives like a brick through the air and therefore won’t give as much range as it could.
- Charge cable (Mobile Connector) doesn’t allow for different connectors, requires extra whole cables (~£330)
Summary / tl;dr
It’s a decent all-round well-built car with good performance above 20mph but it just lacks something and whilst I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly this is before, now I’m proofreading this I realise it’s the lack of sex appeal, it just isn’t a sexy car to look at in my personal opinion, but if you disagree then obviously that’s a great thing and you should consider it.
If it were me I’d go for the Long Range (£3000) + Dual Motor (£3000) + Pilot (£3000) + Plus (£4000) packs but at that point you’re hitting £53,800 which isn’t far off a high-spec Model 3 Long Range (with the vastly superior Enhanced Autopilot) or a 6-12 month old Model 3 Performance which really puts a spanner in the works and if you add the Polestar £5000 performance pack it’s close to £60,000 which is almost brand new Model 3 Performance level. Obviously, I have a performance EV background so would personally find the single motor variant way too slow but for ‘joe public’ I’m sure it’s perfectly adequate.
If you can compromise on the boot opening of the Model 3 or wait for the Tesla Model Y that would be what I would go for personally sorry Polestar (although I admit I’m fairly biased) but for someone without a large family that wants to get in and simply drive a car without having to read endless manuals etc this is a great contender, the decent-sized battery (long-range) and decent charging makes it a very capable long-distance vehicle as well (especially with the future of charging infrastructure in the UK improving every week).
Would I buy one? Probably not, but I would recommend one.