Driven - October 2017

Some cars don’t need long titles: Polestar 1

Polestar 1

It’s here. Like ABBA making a return, but better. The day has come and gone and Volvo has finally launched their standalone performance brand, Polestar, after what seemed like many moons and suns.

Many of you may have heard the Polestar name before, and that is because up until now, they have even fettling common or garden Volvo’s and turning them into feisty blue upstarts – think of Polestar as being to Volvo what M Performance is to BMW, until now…

Having completely reinvented the brand, Polestar is now Volvo’s answer to the likes of M GmbH, AMG and Audi Sport, but with a sensible twist – they specialise in hybrids.

Unfortunately for those of us who love a little bit of a performance car here and there, we are headed into a cul-de-sac of woe and misery come the day we run out of petrol and choke all the rabbits and wombats with our noxious gasses. Polestar have seen both the gap in the market and the need for a performance hybrid, and while they most certainly aren’t the first to have done it, they have done a wonderfully good job.

Dubbed Polestar 1, their first foray into big-boy’s territory – think M6, E63S Coupe (when that becomes a thing) and RS7 two-door (when that also becomes a thing) – it’s not only a looker, but a serious bit of kit.

What is it?

Underpinned by Volvo’s SPA modular platform, it shares much of its chassis bits with the S90, however, it the wheelbase has been shortened by 320 mm with the bum, and oh what a bum it is, losing an additional 200 mm. The gents at Polestar most certainly know what they are doing, and they claim that 50% of Polestar 1’s chassis is unique to the vehicle, as well as being 45% stiffer than the S90’s chassis and 230 kg lighter. The majority of that weight saving and extra stiffness comes courtesy of Polestar 1’s carbon fibre bodywork.

What makes it go?

Beneath all that carbon fibre lies a hybrid setup somewhat similar to what you’ll find in Volvo’s current T8 models, but not really. Same same but different in that there’s an electric motor for each of the rear wheels – yay for real torque vectoring – and then the same old poke 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged mill we’ve all grown to love sitting up front. Total output is a staggering 448 kW and 1 000 N.m, which will likely propel the swishy Swede from 0-100km/h in under 4 seconds in ‘Power Mode’ yet should the mood take you, around 150 km in ‘Pure’ mode is possible using electricity only.

Aren’t those batteries heavy?

Well yes, they are, but thanks to the aforementioned carbon fibre, clever weight saving and preposterous amounts of torque, Polestar 1 will definitely not handle like a fat kid on a roundabout. Its centre of gravity is very low and as we all know, that’s a good thing. Not only that, but that other famous Swedish company and long-time friends of Polestar, Öhlins, have developed Polestar 1’s suspension. Dubbed Öhlins Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension (CESi), it’s their first foray into continuously variable suspension and it sounds pretty nifty, being able to make adjustments in just 2-milliseconds, taking into account both road conditions and driver input. Changes to the setup can also be made from within Polestar 1’s exquisite cabin, a first for Öhlins, and will likely feature a range of settings from ‘Comfort’ mode to ‘Race’ mode.

Famed Japanese brake manufacturers, Akebono, have contributed their 85 years of braking expertise into Polestar 1’s braking system, which makes use of 400 mm discs sandwiched between six-piston callipers – serious stuff.

Can I have one?

Sort of, but it’s tricky. Potential customers are only able to purchase the vehicle online – a world first – either via a smartphone app or through an online portal. A smart idea, but don’t expect a Takealot scooter to rock up with your Polestar 1 in tow. It’s far more complex and revolutionary than that and, just like we saw with the XC40 which debuts Care by Volvo, you will be able to ‘subscribe’ to the vehicle for two or three years, without a deposit, and have access to vehicle accessories such as a roof box, the ability to rent other vehicles from within the Volvo stable and pick-up and drop-off assistance when the time comes for your vehicle to be serviced. Polestar 1 will also do away with the traditional concept of a key-fob and will make do with a virtual key, embedded into your mobile phone. This also allows for the owner to send a virtual key to whomever they please, remotely, allowing them access to the vehicle, too. It’s a smart and revolutionary way of thinking and likely to be something that other manufacturers adopt in the very near future.

Where are they making it and are they hiding more Polestars?

Polestar 1 is set to be produced in Chengdu, China at the all-new Polestar Production Centre. Polestar claim that it will be the most environmentally-responsible car factory in China and while initially only geared for low volume production of Polestar 1, it has been designed to cater for larger volumes come the dawning of the age of Aquarius – or a few new models, whichever comes first. We can expect to see both a Tesla Model 3 and Model X competitor from the brand in the coming years, and with BMW’s i Vision Dynamics Concept closer to production than many think, things are about to get interesting…

Now, scroll back and ogle over those images again!