Shedding light on Volvo’s electric off-shoot.
As a recognised name, Polestar first came to light on the world’s racetracks in 1996, closely collaborating with Volvo. The race team, which had previously introduced official performance enhancements were entered into the Geely fold in 2015. The leap from tuner to manufacturer required a new tangent, one led by former Volvo Design Director, Thomas Ingenlath. “The automotive world is changing”, he offered at the time, continuing by stating, “Connectivity is a basic necessity. We embrace this and will lead the way.”
First stated by Inglenath in a series of online journals, Polestar vehicles would be represented by three main elements: Pure — for product minimalism. Progressive — for scientific purposes, and Performance — being athletic and uncompromising.
As to the emblem the old tuner’s symbol was a star on a cyan background. For the new venture, the stars’ ‘wings’ were to reduced by two, diagonally toward each other, the top surface having a crease “which adds tension without losing connection,” allegedly. And of course, the typeface — one size, one weight. Minimal, consistent and strong. “Unica 77 fulfils our exact needs.”
Polestar’s first bold statement to exit its Chinese factory, built at the rate of just two per day, was actually a hybrid. Exterior designer, Jürgen Josse clearly taking design cues from the concurrent Volvo S90 along with the P1800 to create a progressive 2-door coupé, named Polestar 1. The bonnet housed an in-line four cylinder, 2-litre, turbocharged petrol engine with electric assistance, for over 600bhp along with 1000Nm. Only 1,500 AWD, 8-speed machines were made over a three year timeframe, just 25 painted matte gold for an extra €5,000. Inglenath: “Polestar didn’t design the 1 to compete with others or suit target customers. We push boundaries, make statements. It’s a work of art in its own right.” Arty prices, too; around €155,000 or £135,000.
Polestar 1 sat on the SPA Platform and measured 4,585mm Long, 1,935mm wide and stood 1,352mm tall. Wheelbase being 2,742mm. Much of the 1 was made from carbon fibre reinforced polymer, which Polestar claimed saved over 230Kgs over steel, but still came in a portly 2,345Kgs.
Inside was given over to Thomas Lienhart, of Volvo’s 360 Concept. That vehicle was a fully autonomous and electric alternative to jet or rail travel where the whole day could be (comfortably) spent in the car — commuting, working (on a laptop), relaxing and even partying. Lienhart’s other interior was the S90 Ambience Concept. A chauffeured limo with seven internal visual themes, including scent coordination. For Polestar, he had the symbol projected onto the panoramic roof in roof “binnacle” suggestive of a jet fighter.
The nascent brand garnered much journalistic applause, making good intentions (and profit) to then enter the mainstream with the all-electric Polestar 2. That car first appeared (of sorts) back in 2016 under parent Volvo’s conceptual lineup as its 40.2 Concept. Mounted upon the Compact Modular Architecture, design lead, Maximilian Missoni, tweaked the Concept into Polestar 2, going on sale in 2020. This car measures 4,606mm long on a 2,735mm wheelbase. Width being 1,859mm, height at 1,482mm. Weight at 2,113Kgs being propelled by 400bhp and 660Nm.
Built in the Luqiao, Zhejiang factory, the compact executive vehicle has seen over 100,000 sold to date. And this being Polestar, every vehicle has been upgraded by SOTA (Software Over The Air), including increased charging speeds and real world range. Again, Volvo family traits are visually present — Thor’s cressets for one. P2 stands solid, well engineered and has little surface elements for travel staining to adhere to. Accordant with the brands minimal philosophy, colours are few and muted. Those ambivalent to such qualities may not offer a second glance but this appears yet another Polestar mission — silently creeping into the flow.
Which is more than can be said of the brand’s next offerings, the cunningly titled 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Magnetic as the Pole, the crossover theme could not be ignored with their third iteration. Polestar 3 cleaves closely to its lift back sibling whilst introducing aerodynamic protuberances which indubitably encourage the air efficiently yet reaches into the Rather Dumpy Looks Club. Which also means 3 will probably sell faster than 2.
Similitudes occur with 4. An SUV Coupé shares its Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) with its Zeekr brethren and has, according to Missoni, “more second row headroom and a more dramatic rear.” This refers to 4 having no rear window. “Inspired by fashion, (the 4 is) cocooning, soft and sustainable.” Best keep that rear-view camera clean, Cyril.
Luckily, 4 is a glazer’s dream with its panoramic roof but your author cannot be alone in wondering how the car will feel sans window. Polestar have never been backwards at coming forward. The 4 is a talking point which marketing says is good. Arriving for 2024 in the competitive £55,000 range, the 4’s protreptic may require refining.
Perhaps of more readership interest is the 5 whose code name of Precept can be unfurled in a series of nine short but informative videos:
The 5 is a four door coupé with elegant proportions, fully loaded with materials that only a short time ago would never have been contemplated with automotive use. Flax fibres along with discarded and disentangled plastic bottles then woven into 3D patterns for seats and panels. Polestar’s confidence levels are high enough to produce a car containing technology that could probably aim for the heavens. None of their wares are cheap but one almost expects the 5 to arrive in a well defined box. Sturdy, purposeful, but what else could one store in it — the old petrol powered car, perhaps?
The final Polestar is the 6, a $200,000 2+2, aluminium bodied roadster which has already received the green light for production, due in 2026. Daring in stance, the foldaway roof somewhat atypical of the brand’s ‘No Shouting Policy’.
Many question the relevance of Polestar’s position in the automotive firmament; the proximity to parent Volvo’s range along with the inexorable rise of the innumerable Chinese electric brands must be a concern. Reaching for stars appears easy, currently. One inevitability being all Polestar’s carry wording appearing in locations normally reserved for race cars. How philosophical. How very Polestar.
Data Sources: Polestar.com, Lemonde.fr
 A bitter three year legal battle took place between Citroën and Polestar, concluding in an out-of-court agreement in the summer of 2020. Citroën, and their subsidiary, DS Automobiles, had objected to the Sino-Swedish symbol as being too similar to their own. An early French court ruling initially forced Polestar to pay €150,000 damages to Citroën, blocking the Swedes entering and selling within the Republic. Afterwards Citroën stated this had “ruined their reputation.” Polestar sell in 27 countries, one of them now being France.
19 thoughts on “Philosophy in Unica 77 with Polstjärnan”
Good morning, Andrew. I have yet to see a Polestar 1. It looks great on the photo. The only thing I don’t like is its glass roof. The roof has been integrated nicely here, unlike the Porsche 992 for instance, but I just prefer metal (would it have been carbon here if they hadn’t opted for glass?)
The Polestar 2 is a common sight here. The only thing I like are the rear lights which are a great improvement over the hideous things Volvo uses these days. The cars that haven’t been released yet leave me cold. Daniel’s grumpiness of lately must be contagious.
I´ve seen a Polestar 1, just once. The interior reminded me of the best opulent richness of GM´s 60s cars with simply excellent use of materials. If I really had to have a very, very expensive new car this would be the only one I´d consider apart from, maybe, a Toyota Century. The 1 shows how to do modern luxury in a way that is convincingly different from the paths pursued by RR, Aston Martin, Maserati or Ferrari. The contrast to Ferrari is marked in that Ferrari´s interiors are fussy, complex without being interesting. The 2 is very common around here (Denmark) and probably competes quite well with offerings from Tesla and perhaps Audi. My only puzzle is quite why they had to slap another brand on these designs which could very easily carry Volvo badges – it´s as if Volvo is not adequate to carry all this modernity (which it is is). Will Volvo eventually take on the new technology presented by Polestar? Or will Volvo slip away as a maker of lesser, smaller, cheaper vehicles in the holding company´s range?
There is a financial trick that many newcomer EV manufacturers and tech companies use (public offering through an SPAC) to go to the stock market. They generally bomb the news feed to generate a lot of hype and try to look disruptive and important to fool investment valuations and raise a lot more cash than what regular methods would yield. It sort of explains why the automotive news was full of Polestar despite limited market success so far. 100.000 cars (if true) is not bad, but it’s not a Tesla-rival, which is somewhat of a disappointment when being backed by Volvo and Geely.
The Polestar 1 was pretty exciting – the 2 a lot less -, but selling rebranded Zeekrs? Well, maybe they shouldn’t count further than 2, that’s plenty enough.
Thank you Andrew for a very comprehensive overview. I admit that I haven’t delved far into Polestar before, except for the 2 which I thought looked well enough to be something I wouldn’t mind owning or driving – which faint praise is the most I could muster to pass for enthusiasm among today’s market offerings.
So, uninformed though I was until now, I generally had a positive view of Polestar …. until a couple of weeks back when someone on this site mentioned the lack of a rear window in Polestar 4. It was of course inevitable for so many reasons.
Glass is generally abhorred by manufacturers, and the less they can use the better.
Right or wrong, they assume that their customers are less and less interested, or in fact almost phobic, about engaging with the outside world.
Since no designers ever drive in real world situations they don’t value the ability to look through the car in front to see hazards (because anyway you should be driving a Polestar that takes care of all that safe driving guff on your behalf anyway).
And lastly because all car designers are reaching for the holy grail of automotive design that is Captain Scarlet’s Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle. Devoid of windows, it is the ultimate cocoon, with the added advantage that all those tiresome armchair critics on car websites can’t witter on about DLOs that aren’t actually there.
Polestar 7 anyone?
Very interesting article Andrew so thank you. I have watched the associated videos and find the design process fascinating. I would really like to be a clay modeller please!
I’ve just noted your note about Citroen claiming that Polestar’s logo similarity with DS had “ruined their reputation.” Surely Citroen managed that themselves years ago.
Good afternoon, Andrew, and thank you for the lowdown on Polestar. Coincidentally, I happened upon this YouTube video the other evening, featuring Chris Harris of Top Gear fame and his own Polestar 1:
It looks very nice, but it’s also very expensive.
I like Polestar very much, especially the 2. Funnily enough, my next door neighbour’s relatives are visiting and they’ve hired a Polestar 2. It looks very nice – modern and discreet, although it’s in a boring non-metallic, dark grey colour, which does it no favours. I think the daily rental cost must be very high, too.
Polestar annoys me a bit, as they know how to push my (and others’) buttons, so to speak and can charge accordingly. Yes, I know – how dare they produce something nice and then charge a premium for it? I get the branding, but think it’s a bit OTT – a bit like Lynk & Co, which is also owned by Geely.
The 1 is absolutely gorgeous – almost an SM for our times, and I would love to own one at some point (fat chance). I like the 2 as well, although both of these were originally shown as Volvos.
The newer cars have wondered away from the plot in my view. The 3 is OK, but the 4 has tipped over the edge into becoming something of a ‘pseud’ as Private Eye would categorise it – take away the rear window and add technology to compensate: stupidity! What is it about successful people (Ingenlath in this case), getting carried away with themselves, believing their own myth. The need a modern equivalent of a Momento Mori to follow them around to keep their feet on the ground and ego in check.
I’ve been trying to resist the temptation to mention it, but the videos talk about “shoodin’ for the moon”and “blood, sweat and tears”.
With the greatest of respect to those involved, they’re only designing cars, albeit nice ones and I therefore suspect those are enormous overstatements. A fat salary combined with agreeable working conditions and a generous expenses account is probably closer to the truth.
OK, the Polestar is made in China, yes ? The country that will import one of anything and copy it, yes? The country that is supporting Russia, while Russia is attacking Ukraine and trying to start WW3, yes ? So why would anybody buy a Chinese car ?
Yes. Looked at as an automotive abstraction, the Polestar is interesting. If it were made anywhere else, I might be interested. But in the context of modern Chinese politics, no thank you.
While there are many issues with such deduction, the main concern is that ‘copying’ is often wrongfully depicted as a simple, lazy and low-value task. Mexico could import and copy one of everything, but that’s not so easy with complex systems. Reverse engineering is a hard job, especially with sophisticated technologies such as precision machining, sensors and power electronics. Things like EVs, space stations and high speed rails have all of these and the Chinese were able to succesfully copy them and even improve the original designs. They are not the first to do so – that is the generic Asian economic development recipee pioneered by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan before them and the importance of good public education and collectivist thinking in their success is frequently downplayed.
All of the major EV battery manufacturers today come from these countries – the question is no longer whether they copied the technology (the invention of the Li-Ion battery cell is credited to ExxonMobil), but if the Western world can copy their ingenuity and efficiency? If no, then the answer is that we should buy Chinese cars because they are going to be better and cheaper.
I don’t think China leads in battery technology since companies like LG and Panasonic (South Korea, Japan) dominate, not Chinese companies. But it looks that way because China have smartly bought up mining operations for lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite, manganese, alumina, tin, tantalum, magnesium and vanadium.
One interesting thing I learned from the article linked below is that Western Australia has an abundance of cobalt, but there are no dedicated cobalt mines there. Rather it is harvested as a by-product of copper, gold or nickel mining. It suggests this situation could change
I think it’s obvious then why Chinese companies can sell their batteries cheaper. However, which Western manufactures are buying Chinese batteries? None at this time, and the article linked below probably explains why:
I had indeed heard that SAIC’s BYD brand was on fire… Yikes!
Is the “2” a mutated saloon, or an SUV with an off-road phobia? I don’t know what it is… is it an S90 seen through a fun-house mirror? Would it be correct to say that I don’t understand the semantics? I’d say it’s clumsy looking. While it likely has a relatively low center of mass because of the battery, it looks quite uneasy on its huge wheels, as the body sits very high, suggesting off road capability? No, definately not! What then? I am the Polestar 2, who am I? However, I respect the designers for a very different reason:
This one, the Concept Recharge from 2021 looks very upmarket, extremely elegant, and also a bit utilitarian, and a bit sporty too. Also there should be no question even for non-enthusiasts that it is very much a Volvo. Other than the circus Laszlo suggested above, what is the purpose of Polestar brand? (opinion, someone please explain why I must be blind)
The 2 looks attractive in the photos. I really like it. But down here in Australia it looks awfully similar to a certain well-regarded rear-drive sports sedan I see from time to time. Even the Highway Patrol use them. The DLO we always talk about, the proportions – so similar, just jacked up and on bigger wheels. I’m sure there’s a lot more to it, and technically they’d be quite different (poles apart, you could say) but on first impressions…
Does Kia sell the Stinger in Europe?
This enticing sports saloon? Seems things are worse than I imagined, I shall visit an optometrist post haste!
Yes, the Stinger was sold in diesel form, but is no longer available here.
It’s a brilliant marketing concept – to tap in to the most moneyed and competitive section of society. It’s for people who can refer to dealers as ‘Spaces’, without smirking or hating themselves.
The article below quotes the Head of Polestar as saying their staff ‘get the brand; they understand about giving great customer service – customers aren’t judged when they walk into a Space’. Of course they are – that’s surely all part of the fun.
I was going to try the ‘Is that an S60?’ line on my neighbour’s relatives to see how many milliseconds it took before I was corrected. ‘Is that a Kia?’ will be even funnier, though.
Incidentally, I see the Polestar 3 is now delayed until next year, due to software problems.