Hybrids & Electrics

The Polestar 1 Is a Confusingly Excellent Hybrid GT

Initially, Polestar was the performance division at Volvo, rather like BMW’s M. A few years ago, though, it became a proper stand-alone brand, focusing on EVs. However, before releasing the Polestar 2 electric sedan, the company unveiled the Polestar 1, a plug-in hybrid coupe. But the powertrain isn’t the only surprising thing about it.

2020 Polestar 1 history and specs

A gray 2020 Polestar 1 coupe
2020 Polestar 1 | Polestar

The Polestar 1’s plug-in hybrid status isn’t a misstep, Road & Track explains. It’s actually tied into the brand’s somewhat tumultuous days after being purchased by Volvo.

The coupe started out as the 2013 Volvo Concept Coupe, Roadshow explains, which was an S90-based plug-in hybrid. Unfortunately, at the time Volvo was reworking the rest of its lineup, and couldn’t pursue it further, R&T explains. However, the designer of the concept is now the head of Polestar. And since the concept’s initial reception was positive, it morphed into a production-ready form.

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Like the Concept Coupe, the Polestar 1 borrows certain elements from the S90, Motor1 reports, such as the touchscreen infotainment and some switchgear. But underneath, the hybrid coupe is markedly different.

Firstly, though it rides on the same platform as the S90, much of the metal is replaced with carbon fiber, Cars.com reports. Basically, everything but the floor and the roof are made of carbon fiber, to save weight and lower the center-of-gravity. It even has a carbon-fiber structural brace to make it stiffer. But even so, the coupe still weighs almost 5200 pounds.

A 2020 Polestar 1 coupe body hovering over the car's hybrid powertrain
2020 Polestar 1 exploded powertrain | Polestar

That figure is mostly due to the hybrid powertrain. The Polestar 1 has a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder, which produces 326 hp and 384 lb-ft on its own, Motor Trend reports. But that’s supplemented by 2 rear-mounted electric motors and a front-mounted integrated starter/generator. With all that, the coupe puts out 619 hp and 738 lb-ft. And thanks to AWD, it can do 0-60 in 3.8 seconds.

The suspension also demonstrates Polestar’s performance roots. The 1 coupe has regenerative Akebono brakes, and rides on fully-adjustable Ohlins coilover suspension. Plus, the rear motors provide a torque-vectoring function, even at low speeds.

What’s it like to drive?

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Despite the weight, the Polestar 1 is a properly sporty grand tourer. The steering is somewhat numb, Roadshow reports, but Motor1 and R&T find it very responsive. In addition, the coupe has a 48:52 weight distribution. Plus, with those Ohlins shocks and rear motors, the Polestar 1 combines genuinely fun handling with a comfortable and compliant ride. It’s a canyon carver that won’t beat you up on a potholed road. You could even lap the Nürburgring with it, Motor1 reports.

The hybrid powertrain also gives you a few driving-mode options. Thanks to 34-kWh lithium-ion batteries, the Polestar 1 has a claimed pure-electric range of up to 78 miles. Said mode also makes the coupe RWD-only. For long-distance highway driving, though, Roadshow recommends Hold Mode, which maintains battery charge and only uses the four-cylinder to power the front wheels. And if you don’t want to use Charge Mode, the 1 is DC-fast-charger-compatible.

The powertrain components do intrude on trunk space—R&T reports the 1’s trunk is smaller than a Miata’s. And for adults, the rear seats are best-suited to short trips. However, the Polestar 1’s interior-material quality is excellent, and the front seats are extremely comfortable. It may use some S90 switchgear, MT reports, but in the 1, it feels more luxurious. Not to mention almost as quiet as the Bentley Continental GT.

The standard features list includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, and a Bowers & Wilkins audio system. Plus, it comes with Volvo’s full driver-assistance suite, which includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot detection, lane-departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. It also has a 360° camera to help with parking.

Unfortunately, all of this doesn’t come cheap.

Pricing and the hybrid competition

There’s only one option available for the Polestar 1: matte paint. But even without it, the hybrid coupe starts at $155,000. Plus, Polestar is only making 1500 coupes total. The company will make up to 500 examples annually, but only 140 of these will make it to the US.

2019 Acura NSX
2019 Acura NSX | Acura

For roughly the same price, you can get an Acura NSX, which is a full-on supercar. And if you’re chasing performance and fun, MT reports the NSX is “quicker, sharper, and sportier.” Though admittedly, it only has 2 seats, and it’s not a plug-in hybrid.

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If you want a hybrid GT, though, the Lexus LC500h is about $55,000 cheaper. But even so, it rides comfortably and comes with an extremely well-made interior. Plus, you can get it as a convertible. However, MT reports its hybrid powertrain is significantly less-refined than the Polestar’s system. And while the Polestar 1 can go up to 99 mph in EV-only mode, the LC500h tops out at 15 mph.

Given its limited production and high price tag, the Polestar 1’s existence is a bit odd. But if you’re looking for a luxurious, exclusive, sporty, and comfortable hybrid GT, it’s perhaps the best one on sale right now.

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