Polestar 2 Long Range EV RWD review: backwards thinking

David Linklater
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  • Dramatically improved driving experience
  • Headline-making range
  • One of the classiest EVs at any price
  • Looks hardly any different
  • Digital Key has its moments
  • Weird cupholder arrangement remains

Meet the new Polestar 2. How new? Well, our test car still had the plastic on the sills and seatbelts. That’s fresh. And in fact, New Zealand customer deliveries of this model don’t even start until March.

Polestar 2 Long Range RWD.
Pretend grille replaced by this SmartZone sensor cover. And that's about it on the outside.

Even then, the neighbours may not be that impressed. The new 2 looks hardly any different to the old, save the addition of the SmartZone panel at the front in place of the faux-grille, which houses driver-assist sensors and the mid-range radar. It’s one visual feature that aligns the 2024 Polestar with upcoming models like the 3 and 4 SUVs.

But underneath, it’s all change. Incredibly, the single-motor 2 has switched from front to rear-drive, with a new electric motor and new CATL battery modules. Capacity is up from 77kWh to 82kWh, with the new technology giving a claimed WLTP range of 655km – the longest of any EV currently on sale in NZ.

So it goes 22 per cent further, is 9 per cent more efficient – and can now also charge 34 per cent faster, at a rate of up to 205kW.

Polestar 2 Long Range RWD.
Still an interesting blend of genres: part sedan, liftback and SUV.

There’s also higher power, up from 170kW to 220kW (so that spec sticker on the door is another key thing for Polestar spotters). It’s 1.2 seconds faster to 100km/h and with rear-drive, the idea is that it’s a whole lot sportier, making it a more convincing rival for the likes of the BMW i4 and Tesla Model 3.

It goes 22 per cent further, is 9 per cent more efficient – and can now also charge 34 per cent faster.

With all this technical change and the demise of the Government’s Clean Car Discount comes a realignment of the range. Polestar NZ no longer sees a need for a sub-$80k model so the Standard Range (69kWh) is not included in the new lineup, making this Long Range single motor the entry point at $93,990.

Polestar 2 Long Range RWD.
This premium brand doesn't approve of showy model badges. We reckon that's pretty cool.

Previously, Polestar NZ provided option packs to allow buyers to mix and match what equipment they wanted and still duck under that $80k cap. Now, the Pilot Pack (pixel LED lights, LED cornering lights, the complete suite of driver assists) is standard, although our car also had the $6000 Plus Pack, with panoramic roof, Harman Karmon audio, vegan WeaveTech upholstery, heated steering wheel/wiper nozzles, extra air quality assistance, power tailgate with foot sensor, heat pump, detail touches such as “lid in lid” boot storage and the Digital Key remote control phone app.

With the immediacy of torque from a BEV, having the car pushed rather than pulled gives it an immensely more composed character.

The dual-motor version has also benefitted from the about-face, in less obvious way. Power is up 10kW/80Nm to 310kW/740Nm and there’s now a rear bias to the drivetrain. You can still tick another box and add the Performance Pack, which raises power to 350kW.

Polestar 2 Long Range RWD.
Change to RWD does make a massive difference to the driving experience. Of course.

We got a chance to really settle into the new 2 Long Range single motor, with a three-week loan period that was longer than the normal media-review timeframe and allowed us a bit more of an ownership-type experience, with the full access to the car’s online features, including Digital Key.

The previous FWD Polestar 2 was pretty slick in its own right, but this is something else.

Dynamically, the change to RWD is immediately apparent. Not in a drift-to-the-shops kind of way; but with the immediacy of torque available from a BEV, having the car pushed rather than pulled gives it an immensely more composed character.

Polestar 2 Long Range RWD.
Frunk provides an extra 35l of storage space.

While the Volvo connection (read a brief Polestar history in our 2021 launch story here) was probably the catalyst for the first Polestar 2 being FWD, RWD has fast become the norm for even mainstream BEVs – everything from the MG4 to VW ID.4.

The Polestar 2 still doesn’t set out to be deliberately sporting. There are no drive modes to play with beyond tweaking the steering weight and dialling back the stability control (you can also switch one-pedal driving on and off); but it’s still a really rewarding machine in the corners, with a beautiful sense of chassis balance and a naturally smooth gait. The previous FWD model was pretty slick in its own right, but this is something else.

Polestar 2 Long Range RWD.
Stunning cabin as ever, and full Google integration.

With prices starting at $94k, the Polestar 2 is now positioned as a much more premium model. But this car carries it well. No major changes to the interior, but the cabin has the kind of understated class and quality of materials that makes many $200k luxury cars seem positively dowdy.

Full Google integration (as with Volvos) is brilliant and of course you can sign in with your personal account if you want the car to be a rolling portal to your digital life. YouTube is a new addition to the OS since our last Polestar 2 test. If you’re an Apple type, there’s still CarPlay on offer (but you’re probably already using Google Maps anyway, right?).

Polestar 2 RWD.
Is it a sedan, liftback or crossover? No need to decide.

Speaking of being connected, we got fully hooked up with Digital Key. It’s a simple app with a tile-like appearance that mimics the appearance of the car’s instrumentation (pop of colour, orange) and allows you operate and monitor certain aspects of the car.

It’s literally a key: when you’re close to the car it uses Bluetooth to communicate, lock and unlock. When you’re not, it uses the cellular network and the car’s live connection for the same. And for basic functions like turning on the climate control for up to 30 minutes before you get to the car.

Polestar 2 RWD.
Tiny strut holds boot floor up for access to extra storage. Now that's attention to detail.

Mostly, Digital Key works really well. Although the app did struggle at times transitioning between wi-fi and cellular (like when you walk out of the house and up the driveway towards the car). And we did get stuck once when we entered an underground inner-city parking building: when the app lost network connection it froze and as a result, it couldn’t lock the car even with Bluetooth. Luckily, we had the actual key with us (presumably a phone restart would have also done the trick). First world problems?

The 2 remains a fascinating design blend of sedan, crossover with slightly raised ride height and liftback. Attention to detail everywhere: there’s an underfloor storage area in the boot (frunk up front, too), but when you lift it up there’s also a little strut to keep it in place.

Polestar 2 RWD.
Second cupholder still underneath the console lid. Weird.

Given how extensive the changes underneath are, we’re surprised Polestar didn’t tweak at least a couple of things on top. It still has the Volvo-style Thor’s Hammer headlight signature, when we know that future models will have a unique dual-blade design; so why not change that?

And there’s still that cupholder annoyance that was so well publicised at launch. There’s one in the centre console but if you want another nearby, it’s further back underneath a storage bin lid, which doesn’t make sense at all. More first world problems.

If you like your luxury cars to be a bit showy, this might not be for you. What other company would make such major changes underneath and do so little to show the world on top?

Polestar is all about understatement, with carefully crafted design and technology. This car just oozes sophistication and if there’s any model that comes closer to executive-EV perfection, we’re yet to drive it.

BATTERY: 82kWh battery with single electric motor POWER: 220kW/490Nm GEARBOX: Single-speed automatic, RWD 0-100KM/H: 6.2sec RANGE: 655km (WLTP), maximum charge rate 205kW PRICE: $94,000

How much is the Polestar 2 Long Range?

The Standard Range model is no longer available, so this $94,000 Long Range single motor is now the least expensive in the range. If you’d like an extra motor and AWD, that’s $110,000.

What are the key statistics for the Polestar 2 Long Range powertrain?

The new battery is 82kWh, up from the 77kWh unit of the previous FWD model. There’s also a lot more power and torque: 220kW/490Nm from the new electric motor, which is now at the back.

Is the Polestar 2 Long Range efficient?

Polestar can put a number on that for you: the new model is 9 per cent more efficient. The official WLTP distance on a charge is 655km, making this the longest-range EV you can buy in NZ.

We didn’t do quite that well, but with the emphasis on motorway/open-road driving (which is not kind to electric cars) we achieved an indicated range of up to 530km during our test, which is pretty impressive.

Is the Polestar 2 Long Range good to drive?

It always has been, but the new RWD model really takes things to the next level. It’s super-sporty, just beautifully judged and balanced – a highly composed car with a premium feel.

Is the Polestar 2 Long Range practical?

It’s kind of a sedan and kind of an SUV and kind of a liftback, so yes. The cabin feels quite low, like a conventional passenger car, but the car itself is slightly raised so visibility is good and it’s easier to get in and out of.

It’s a five-door liftback so loading is easy. The boot is not massive (405l) but there’s good load-though and we love the storage knooks underfloor-back (complete with struts to hold the boot floor up) and front (another 35l of “frunk”).

What do we like about the Polestar 2 Long Range?

The sheer class of the whole experience, the vastly improved driving dynamics, beautifully integrated technology and online services and the way it offers everyday practicality without having to go the whole SUV route.

What don’t we like about the Polestar 2 Long Range?

Not a lot to be honest. Some might like a bit more visual differentiation from the previous model, and the Digital Key had a few wobbly moments during our test.

What kind of person would the Polestar 2 Long Range suit?

A luxury car buyer who doesn’t want or need to be flashy, but appreciates class and quality. It’s also currently bragworthy as the longest-range EV you can buy in NZ right now.


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