Sleek GT to be Volvo-owned firm’s flagship; Polestar sales online by subscription only
The Polestar 1 is a 592bhp four-seat hybrid GT coupé that will, the brand says, act as a halo model for its future range of electric performance cars, which will be sold via subscription only. Hakan Samuelson, Volvo CEO describes Polestar as “a new brand that relates to a major strategy of the Volvo Group. We want to be leaders in electric cars, and Polestar will play an important role in this strategy”.
Due to go into production in mid-2019, the 1 is labeled by company boss Thomas Ingenlath as “an electric car with support from an internal-combustion engine”. It will be the only hybrid to carry the brand’s new badge. All future Polestars, beginning with a Tesla Model 3 rival and a larger SUV-style machine, will be full battery electric vehicles (BEVs).
The 1 will be powered by two electric motors that drive the rear wheels, producing a combined 215bhp with the support of an integrated starter/generator. The car will have a range of around 93 miles in pure-electric, rear-wheel-drive mode. That system will be twinned with a Volvo Drive-E 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine, which sends around 377bhp to the front wheels. When combined in Power model, the hybrid system can produce 737lb ft of torque.
The styling of the 1 draws heavily on the Volvo Concept Coupé, unveiled in 2012, which was the first to be penned by Ingenlath in his previous role as Volvo design chief. Although the front end retains Volvo’s grille styling, the Swedish firm’s badge has been removed, with the Polestar logo subtly placed on the front of the bonnet.
“Polestar will not have a front grille, it will have the grid,” explained Ingenlath.
The grid at front is designed to house sensors. The coupé also features distinctive, thin light strips both front and rear.
Although future Polestar models will be full BEVs, Ingenlath said the decision to make the 1 a “performance electric hybrid” was to “bridge today’s technology with the future, offering the perfect drivetrain for a grand touring coupé”.
Although it won’t carry a Volvo badge, the 1 is still underpinned by the Swedish firm’s technology and Polestar will serve as a “technology spearhead” for its parent company. Samuelson said “making an electric car is not just about putting an electric motor into a car. To make it electric, you need to make it exciting, and Polestar will share this with the group”.
The 1 is based on Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture, although the firm says around 50% of the structure is new. The 1 is 4.5 metres long, making it nearly 0.5m shorter than the S90, with the wheelbase reduced by 320mm and the rear shortened by 200mm. Major body parts are made from carbonfibre, helping to cut weight by 230kg, increase torsional rigidity by 45% and lower the centre of gravity compared with the S90.
Ingenlath said the new coupé is designed to showcase the brand’s “progressive performance” concept, which aims to balance the fast-accelerating attributes of an electric motor with strong handling and steering feel. The weight distribution has been set at 48/52 front to rear.
The car is the first to be fitted with Ohlins’ new Continuously Controlled Electronic Suspension. With this system, each shock absorber is fitted with an electronic valve that constantly monitors and adapts to driver inputs and the road surface. It is the first Ohlins system that can be adjusted by a driver from within the car.
The coupé uses Akebono-produced six-piston brake calipers with 400mm discs. It also features torque vectoring, using the double electric rear axle’s planetary gears to split the power from the electric rear motors when in corners.
“When Hakan ask me about car as a Polestar I was not convinced. It felt wrong,” said Ingenlath. “But a couple of weeks later I went to a test for an early prototype in Sweden, and it was clear it was not an S90 coupe, it was a GT, a sports car. It was not fit to be a Volvo any more. It was something new, something exciting”.
A maximum of 500 of the 1 will be produced per year, the company said. They will be left-hand-drive only due, it is believed, to the small production scale. All the cars, along with the brand’s future models, will be made at a bespoke Polestar production centre currently being built in Chengdu, China. Volvo is owned by Chinese firm Geely and a joint venture has been established between Volvo and two investment companies owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding to support future Polestar development.
The 1 will be sold online via a subscription scheme, with Polestar Spaces established for those who prefer to shop in person. Subscriptions will be on a two or three-year basis, although pricing has yet to be announced. Polestar is now taking orders following the car’s launch in Shanghai, China.
Ingenlath said Polestar is aiming high so will also launch two more models, the Polestar 2 and 3. He explained “We don’t want to shy away, hide in a comfy niche of low volume, we want to go all-in where it’s happening. We have also decided to build an electric car that will join the competition around the Tesla Model 3, we will bring an exciting approach. We design cars for people who love cars as much as we do”.
Volvo has invested £570 million into the new performance division.
Subscription-only deal for all Polestars:
Polestar will sell the 1 and future models via a subscription service – and it will forgo a traditional dealer network in favour of online sales.
Cars will be offered on an all-inclusive subscription basis, with a two or three-year fixed term, set monthly payments and no deposit. The fee, which has yet to be disclosed, will include pick-up, delivery and servicing at selected Volvo dealers.
The fee also includes a number of car rental days, allowing 1 owners the use of larger Volvos. Through an app, Polestar will offer a range of concierge services, including extended hire of larger cars and items such as roof boxes and the ability to book valet cleaning.
Once the subscription term is completed, Polestar takes the car back, with vehicles then refurbished and sold second-hand.
Polestar cars will also feature ‘Phone-as-Key’ technology, which will allow app users to operate their car without a key or give a ‘virtual’ key to other users when needed.
Polestar isn’t entirely moving away from traditional showrooms and will open a small number of Polestar Spaces in various locations, but none will be connected to current Volvo showrooms. The first Polestar Spaces are due to open in early 2019. Given the popularity of performance cars in the British market, it is likely that at least one site will be in the UK.