January 19, 2021


If just a decade ago you had attended a meeting at Volvo and announced a plan to sell the company to Chinese firm Geely, then spin off the Polestar performance division as an electric car company that starts with a 600-horsepower, carbon-bodied, £140,000 ($155,000) hybrid, you would surely have ruffled some turtleneck jumpers. Thin-rimmed spectacles would be adjusted in horror by the board members of safe, sensible Volvo.

And yet that’s exactly what happened, and Polestar’s first car is just as described. Aptly named the Polestar 1 (the Swedish sensibilities live on in the naming department at least), it is a hybrid with a petrol engine up front, batteries in the middle, and two electric motors at the back. It’s a fiendishly complex car, as the two-litre, four-cylinder engine under that huge bonnet is both turbocharged and supercharged to produce 308 horsepower.

This is aided by an electric motor on the crankshaft delivering an extra 68 horsepower to the front wheels, helping to torque-fill between gear changes and acting as a starter motor. Then there is the battery pack, which feeds 232 horsepower to a pair of electric motors on the rear axle.

Because the Polestar 1 is based on a shortened version of the Volvo S90’s platform, the battery doesn’t sit as low as it would in a purpose-built hybrid or electric vehicle. Instead it runs along the spine of the car through the transmission tunnel, then extends widthways into a T shape, robbing some rear trunk space.

This means you might well struggle with the golf clubs, but at least a glass panel has been installed in the back of the trunk to show off a series of thick orange power cables. It may not look it on the outside, but the Polestar 1 is proud of its hybrid underpinnings.

And so it should be. Like any other plug-in hybrid, the 1 can drive in pure electric mode or a mixture of petrol and electricity either to recharge the battery, eke out extra range, or be as fast as it can. Where most plug-in hybrids struggle to get you across town before depleting their tiny batteries, the Polestar 1 can manage 60 or even 70 miles on electricity alone. So if you plug it in at night, or at the office during the day, most owners could commute all week without once using the engine.

The Polestar 1’s battery is so large, it is slightly bigger than that of some purely electric cars, like the Mini Electric.

All that complexity results in huge amounts of power being delivered to all four wheels. Some 609 horsepower and a whalloping 1,000 newton meters