A few hours in a Polestar 2 with a person who doesn’t care for cars revealed what manufacturers should be aiming for.
The Polestar 2 is a deeply impressive bit of kit on paper. It’ll crack 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds, manage nearly 300 miles under mixed driving conditions, and snag an 80% charge in around 40 minutes if you have the right kind of charger.
To drive it’s quick, and comfortable enough. An optional performance kit adds beefy brakes, orange bits, and, for some bizarre reason considering it’s a family car, adjustable Ohlins dampers to tune the ride to your liking (and then, presumably, never touch again). It’s quiet everywhere it goes, and has the same punishing acceleration party piece as every other EV. It’s heavy, and hides most of its bulk well enough when you give it a slug of throttle in the twisties. Though while it leans towards ‘sporting’ you can’t go so far as to say it’s a sports car with rear seats. This is a brisk family wagon.
What it does very differently from its competitors is its look. The thing is dripping in Scandi style. The font used on the dash and infotainment screen is crisp and perfect. The lines outside are sharp, not a single angle wasted. Inside the form is a delight to get lost in. Also to touch – it’s an all vegan interior, and everything feels wonderful to touch. As a work of design the Polestar 2 is unlike anything else out there, and it’s to die for.
Anyway, the reviews of how ace the Polestar 2 are have been out for a while. It seems churlish to add to them when there’s something more pressing to do with it: Show it to an EV virgin who doesn’t care about cars in the slightest.
It’s not hard to find someone who’s never been in a EV before. While EV sales are becoming more and more prevalent, there isn’t one on every street. But what about someone who sees cars as white goods, who sees driving as a necessary evil? There are plenty of them as well. But the kicker? What if that person is so very picky about things that one tiny detail will put them off something forever? Well, friends, we’ve found the perfect person to have a nose around the Polestar 2 and rate it.
The subject in particular doesn’t like driving, has had the same car for what seems like a billion years and sees no reason to change it, and has been my friend since I was four. He’s been in supercars, family cars, sports cars, SUVs… everything. The only car he liked was the Morgan Three Wheeler, until he was driven along the M40 in one and then he hated it. Some would see this as fussy, others as knowing what he wants. Either way, it makes him the perfect judge for the EV of the moment.
He’s also looking at shifting his car. His old diesel is still chugging along, but it may well be time for it to be taken out back and shot. However, he’s convinced his next car will drive itself (it won’t), and make driving in town, a cause of much creative swearing, a breeze (it also won’t). Perhaps an EV will do the business?
What first impressed was the Polestar’s myriad parking sensors and cameras. Its 360 degree view is ideal for street parking outside of his south London flat. With big wheels at risk, they mean he’ll have few worries. What also impresses about them (on any car), is that if you pop your hand under the wing mirror camera you can project a massive hand on the big screen.
What also impressed was the car’s built in Google Assistant. We didn’t need to fiddle with menus to change the radio station, the heater temperature, or to turn the heated steering wheel on. The fact it’s built in to the car’s systems from the off and you can use it without taking your hands off the wheel is a huge plus. It also means he can concentrate even harder on what light-less cyclists are doing on London’s streets and less on where the volume knob is.
What fell flat, and alarmingly quickly, were the orange seat belts. A neat touch courtesy of the optional performance pack that gives a sporty flourish to the inside. This did not meet the tastes of our man, but he’s also not the type to go for a big brake and adjustable damper kit, so they can be specced away for him.
The EV party piece of being staggeringly quick worked well. Having been in quick cars before, our man knows what speed feels like, but not quite like this. A quick blast of full throttle on the motorway make noises come out of his face that I’ve never heard before. He didn’t seem to hate it in the slightest. Though later said he felt touch strange mid-rapid acceleration. I had a ball.
Overall, our tricky customer enjoyed his time in the Polestar 2, albeit from the passenger seat. But for him a couple of things meant it would be a no go – recharge time and infrastructure wasn’t right just yet. He lives in a flat with no way to easily charge a car at home. If he needed to dart to another bit of the UK in a hurry (as happens with work) the need to find a rapid charger potentially out of his way to top up a battery wouldn’t work for him. That goes for any EV at the moment, so it’s no foul on Polestar’s front.
The thing that killed it for him wasn’t anything to do with infrastructure, drive, or aesthetic. It was a sound. In a largely silent vehicle every noise is somewhat amplified. This means lots of engineering goes on to make sure you don’t hear things you’re not supposed to, and that you can clearly hear the things you are. The indicator noise is what put him off. It’s a delicate pop noise, like a drop of water hitting a block of paper, but it drove him mad. “It sounds like a keyring tapping on the steering column,” he said, “and I can’t stand it. I’d have to use it every time I drove it and… just no.”
And with that, we went back to playing with Google, prodding the throttle, and laughing like loons. For most, something small like an indicator sound is just ‘a thing,’ For some it makes all the difference. That doesn’t stop the Polestar 2 from not only being an excellent EV, but an excellent car all round.