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2021 Polestar 1 review: The ultimate expression of Swedish grand touring

Concept cars rarely make it to production unchanged so when the unthinkable happens, it’s a big deal. The 2021 Polestar 1 is the result of the Volvo Concept Coupe turning into the first vehicle for a new nameplate with Swedish roots. Built on a heavily modified carbon fiber-intensive version of the SPA architecture, this plug-in hybrid coupe serves as the Polestar brand’s flagship and a rare beast limited to 1,500 units built between 2019 and 2021. As production ends, we’re paying homage to the Polestar 1 to commemorate this milestone and for setting the brand’s direction as the child of Volvo and Geely.

2021 Polestar 1 exterior

2021 Polestar 1 rear three quarters 05
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

The 2021 Polestar 1 is a concept car for the road with sleek lines and a timeless, graceful look. Like the show vehicle, there’s no mistaking that the inspiration is the legendary Volvo P1800. From the silhouette to the curvature, the Polestar 1 is a retro-modern interpretation of that classic. The Thor’s Hammer headlights and C-shaped LED taillights rounds out the Volvo/Polestar family look together with a grille finished in black and silver. The only hint that the Polestar 1 is electrified is the charging port on the rear left side of the vehicle.

2021 Polestar 1 interior

2021 Polestar 1 dash 02
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Getting inside the Polestar 1, you’ll notice the extensive use of carbon fiber trim to remind you that the car’s body is made of the stuff while adding a sense of restrained elegance. Otherwise, the cabin is impeccably finished with high-quality materials. Everything you touch feels expensive and the controls are satisfying to operate. There’s plenty of sound insulation, too, because the interior stays quiet even at highway speeds. However, we wish the interior came in other colors; a lighter hue would complement the black bits and the gold front seat belts.

Although there are four seats, it’s best to treat the Polestar 1 as a 2+2. Those in the front will enjoy the sport seat’s supreme levels of comfort as they hold you nicely in place during enthusiastic driving. Leave the rear seats to children or use them as additional cargo space because the battery takes up most of the trunk. There’s only enough room for two squishy weekend bags or your weekly groceries. Small-item storage is also lacking due to the shallow center console bin, meaning you need to put your mobile phone in the cupholder.

2021 Polestar 1 tech features

2021 Polestar 1 main display 01
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

The Polestar 1 is the only Polestar model to use the Sensus interface used in Volvo models before the 2022 model year. It features a portrait-style 9.0-inch touch screen that doesn’t have too many submenus. While not as responsive as the Google UI on the Polestar 2, it’s quick enough that you’re not waiting too long for it to load. The 16-speaker, 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins surround sound system is a highlight thanks to its clarity, customizability, and immersiveness. Even in a small cabin like the Polestar 1’s, the audio system manages to not sound overkill.

As with every model wearing a Polestar or Volvo badge, safety is paramount and is one of the reasons the Polestar 1 gets the full suite of driver assistance features as standard. The system works well in the majority of situations and reacts without feeling like an overprotective parent. Corrections from the lane centering and steering assist components are gentle and free of any jerkiness. Pilot Assist, Polestar’s semi-autonomous system, combines adaptive cruise control, lane centering, traffic jam assist, and steering assist. They work admirably, maintaining your set distance from the vehicle ahead and adjusting promptly if needed. The system also helps you navigate gentle turns on the highway as long as the cameras and sensors detect the road markings.

2021 Polestar 1 driving impressions

2021 Polestar 1 front three quarters 03
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Getting behind the wheel of the Polestar 1 reveals a well-balanced driver’s car. The chassis is supremely capable, offering sharp handling through your favorite winding roads. Body roll is nearly nonexistent, adding to the coupe’s confident demeanor. Accurate and communicative steering lets you toss the car around without much effort, helping mask the Polestar 1’s 2.5-ton curb weight. The big coupe shrinks around you and acts as an extension of the driver.

All of that handling prowess and sportiness don’t cost you in the ride quality department. Despite wearing 21-inch alloy wheels shod with staggered Pirelli P Zero summer tires, the Polestar 1 remains supremely comfortable over rough pavement and big impacts don’t upset it. The manually adjustable Öhlins dampers stayed in their normal setting throughout our time with the car and they did a fantastic job filtering out any harshness. It’s just firm enough to let you know you’re in a performance car yet so compliant that it’s viable to drive the Polestar 1 every day.

The Polestar 1 is the only plug-in hybrid that Polestar will ever produce. It couples a 2.0-liter turbo and supercharged four-cylinder with two electric motors mounted on the rear axle, a 34-kWh battery, and an eight-speed automatic transmission. The result is a combined output of 619 hp and 738 lb-ft of torque for effortless acceleration at all speeds, further enabling the car to hide its hefty curb weight. You get linear, relentless power delivery thanks to the two electric motors’ instant torque and the four-pot’s flat torque curve. Quick shifts and instant responses from the gearbox mean you have power the moment you drop a gear or two using the paddle shifters or put your foot down on the accelerator.

Like Volvo’s T8 models, the Polestar 1 uses an e-AWD setup, meaning there’s no drive shaft connecting the front and rear axles. You won’t notice it though. Hammer the throttle and the powertrain responds immediately, giving you traction at all four corners, preventing the car from feeling like it’s struggling to grip. This also gives the Polestar 1 a playful yet neutral character; the electric motors can overdrive the rear wheels, allowing the car to rotate better or get a little sideways action when stability control is in Sport mode. In all-electric mode, the Polestar 1 effectively becomes an RWD vehicle. This is most obvious from the driver’s seat because you feel the pushing sensation associated with rear-drive cars.

The Polestar 1 uses a blended braking system and thankfully the pedal operation feels natural. Handoffs from regenerative to mechanical braking are seamless and you can’t tell where they occur even during hard stops. Putting the car in B mode provides more energy recuperation, which is enough to bring the car down to city speeds. You can use it to go faster on your favorite winding roads because it reduces the speed enough to enable you to maintain momentum through corners. When going downhill, you can regenerate enough to gain a few miles back after climbing up a steep grade.

Thanks to its large 34-kWh battery the Polestar 1 can travel up to 52 miles in all-electric mode according to the EPA. When driven as a hybrid, it’s good for up to 470 miles or 22/31/26 mpg city/highway/combined. The Polestar 1 is one of only a handful of plug-in hybrids with DC charging capability. It can charge to 80 percent in less than an hour at peak rates of 50 kW. A level 2 AC charger will require you to keep the car plugged in overnight to get to 100 percent.

2021 Polestar 1 pricing

Sold as a fully loaded model, the 2021 Polestar 1 starts at $156,500. Choosing the available matte exterior color adds $5,000 to the sticker price, bringing our test car’s total to $161,500. The Polestar 1 is eligible for the full $7,500 federal tax credit plus local and state incentives.

2021 Polestar 1 final verdict

2021 Polestar 1 front three quarters 07
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

The 2021 Polestar 1 is the rare GT that manages to blend fun, luxury, power, agility, style, and exclusivity all in one vehicle. It’s a halo product that makes a statement by paying homage to its heritage. The fact that Polestar doesn’t shy away from its Volvo roots adds to the appeal. Between its timeless design and substance, the Polestar 1 defines the Scandinavian take on grand touring. Beautiful yet restrained, potent but not shouty. It doesn’t need to scream at the world to look at it because everyone around will do so when it rolls by.

At a glance

  • Year: 2021
  • Make: Polestar
  • Model: 1
  • Type: 2-door coupe
  • Combined horsepower: 619
  • Combined torque: 738 lb-ft
  • MPG ratings (city/highway/combined): 22/31/26
  • EV range: 52 miles
  • Pros: Outstanding ride and handling balance, potent powertrain, long all-electric range
  • Cons: Battery eats into trunk space, tight rear seats, minimal small-item storage
  • Base price: $156,500
  • Price as tested: $161,500
Written by Stefan Ogbac
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