Behind the Wheel

2021 Polestar 2 Review: Good ride, great quality interior

The Polestar 2 is a new electric vehicle option for U.S. buyers.

Photo courtesy of Polestar

I've spent a lot of time behind the wheel of various electric cars. Tesla, Hyundai, Chevrolet, and now Polestar — the new electric car brand from Volvo and their parent company Geely.

Polestar began life as a racing team that later built speedy versions of Volvo's wagons and sedans for folks looking for a more performance-oriented ride. Then Volvo bought the whole company and spun it off as a separate premium brand focused on EVs. It's not quite the Lexus to Volvo's Toyota, given that both marques are rather premium — but there are certainly differences even with a lot of shared DNA.

2021 Polestar 2 The car is of the fastback design.Photo courtesy of Polestar

2021 Polestar 2

Polestar's first effort was the Polestar 1, a $155,000 grand touring coupe with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder super- and turbocharged engine borrowed from Volvo combined with an all-electric driving range higher than 52 miles and a total of 619 horsepower. Only 1,500 will be made. It's Polestar's halo car and you might never see one on the road.

Then there's the Polestar 2, which the company hopes you'll see a lot of. It's a five-door fastback that starts at $59,900 and sports a 78-kilowatt-hour battery. It also has a 233-mile range according to EPA tests, which is a bit lower than competing vehicles — in particular the Tesla Model 3.

But range isn't everything, and the overall experience of the Polestar 2 is fantastic. First are the looks — it borrows a lot from its Volvo siblings, which is always a good thing. The interior is very Scandinavian, with clean lines and sharp edges. The fully-loaded Launch Edition that I drove sported a vegan textile interior and the brilliant golden seatbelts that are a hallmark of the Polestar brand these days.

The car features a number of golden accents, one of Polestar's hallmarks.Photo courtesy of Polestar

There was an excellent place to put my phone to charge, in a deep bin set just ahead of the gear shifter. There are two cupholders, but one is covered up by the center armrest and is rather inaccessible. I hope the designers do better next time on that particular element. The seats are comfortable and I'm calling out the manually-adjustable thigh bolster as a worthy feature that every car should have. The rear seats have terrific legroom even though the car isn't particularly large, thanks to clever packaging and the battery location below the passenger compartment.

Trunk space is incredibly spacious as one would expect in an EV, and there's an extra bonus storage area under the trunk floor that can be accessed by lifting up on a handle on the floor — and then there's a cute little kickstand to hold the floor panel up. There is a "frunk" front-trunk, but it's very small and meant to hold charging cables and the car cover.

It's also a hoot to drive. The launch edition has the $5,000 Performance Pack fitted, adding adjustable Öhlins dampers, four-piston Brembo brake calipers up front (in gold!), those golden seatbelts, and matching golden tire valve caps which will probably be stolen at the first opportunity.

The interior of the fastback features vegan leather.Photo courtesy of Polestar

Between the two electric motors, the Polestar 2 boasts 408 horsepower and an even-more impressive 487 pound-feet of torque, pushing from zero to 60 mph in under 4.5 seconds. That's a lot of oomph and like all EVs, the torque is the most intoxicating part. It'll rocket from 70 mph up and over 100 mph with startling quickness, so watch out when you're passing on the highway.

I really like EVs. Aside from the (arguable) environmental benefits, they provide instant torque and acceleration, tend to be very safe because of packaging advantages, and, if you charge them at home, you almost never have to go to the gas station unless you're looking to pick up some Mega Millions or Powerball tickets.Tesla is the king of the roost of EVs of course, and I've taken extended drives in the Model S, Model X, and Model 3 — and without question the best feature of a Tesla isn't the car at all: it's the company's network of ultra-fast Supercharger stations.

I used a regular DC fast charger during my time with the Polestar and it was fine. But I had to set up an account with ChargePoint and enter my credit card number and all that, which admittedly I'd only have to do once if I owned the car — but I feel strongly that until the friction is removed from the charging experience, EV adoption will continue to be limited.

The Polestar 2 has a sizable trunk.Photo courtesy of Polestar

Tesla achieves this with the Supercharger — they're all over the place, and you simply pull up and plug in. The charger recognizes the car and charges you appropriately. There's no logging in or tap-to-pay or anything of the sort. You just show up.

Charging in the wild right now is like needing to download all the apps for different brands of gas station and then figuring out which one you need before buying gas rather than just swiping a credit card. It's not simple, and it's not frustration-free and it just makes the ownership experience that much more difficult. That is if the charger is operational and not occupied - a situation that is, unfortunately, far from common.

Someday I believe we'll have all this figured out and charging will become more seamless, but until then I have to give Tesla the advantage in overall ownership experience. This isn't a problem unique to Polestar, and the Polestar 2 is probably the best EV I've driven to date — but when people inevitably say "should I get this or the Tesla?" I'm going to have a hard time when it should be a very easy pick.

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The Nissan Ariya has wind glide over it in the testing tunnel.

Photo courtesy of Nisan Motor Company

Nissan is targeting a drag coefficient (Cd) of 0.297 for the Ariya all-electric crossover. If it can make that number, it will be the company's most aerodynamic crossover to date. What does that mean? Let's take a closer look.

What is drag?

Simply put, drag is an aerodynamic force. It's mechanical in nature, so it is the result of the interaction of a solid body and a liquid. In the case of a car, this liquid is air. (Yes, air is a liquid.) It only occurs when one part of the equation (the solid body or the liquid) is in motion. If there is no motion, there is no drag.

Drag only occurs in the opposite direction of the object's movement. Think of a car cutting through the air as it drives down a north-south road. As the car heads north, the air it passes through is pushed south. The car is in motion; there is drag.

2022 Nissan Ariya

Photo courtesy of Nisan Motor Company

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What is coefficient of drag?

The coefficient of drag, also called a drag coefficient, is a number that aerodynamics professions (aerodynamicists) use to determine the shape, inclination, and flow conditions on a vehicle's drag. The shape of an object (bullet vs. square vs prism, etc.) has a large impact on the amount of drag created by airflow surrounding a vehicle. Objects with narrower front ends tend to have a lower coefficient.

Scientists and vehicle designers want to keep air moving around the car for maximum efficiency. The inclination of the airflow to either move in a smooth, connected pattern, or to be broken up with air sitting, stalling in one particular part of the vehicle, lessening airflow and making the vehicle less aerodynamic.

A vehicle's Cd is determined by plugging various measurements into an equation. Cd is equal to drag (D) divided by the quantity of density (r) multiplied by half the velocity (V) squared multiple by the reference area (A). As an equation, it looks like this: Cd = D / (A * .5 * r * V^2).

The smaller the Cd, the more aerodynamic a vehicle is.

2022 Nissan Ariya

The Nissan Ariya employs aerodynamic wheel design, made to help it cut though the air with greater ease.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

What is the coefficient of drag of the Nissan Ariya?

"With the growing shift towards electric mobility, aerodynamic testing is becoming increasingly important. The aerodynamics of electric vehicles are directly linked to how efficiently the vehicle moves – less drag and better stability allows the customer to drive longer distances before having to recharge," said Sarwar Ahmed, Aerodynamics and Aeroacoustics Engineer at Nissan Technical Centre Europe.

Nissan is targeting a 0.297 coefficient of drag for the Ariya. How will it achieve that number? By utilizing precisely shaped body lines and strategically placed air ducts, among other components. There's a bonus to better aerodynamics when it comes to EVs.

"Following official homologation of the Nissan Ariya later this year, we anticipate the range to improve compared to the 310 mile figure shared in 2020 during the World Premiere. This will give drivers more efficiency and confidence to go even further on a single charge," said Marco Fioravanti, VP Product Planning, Nissan Europe.

How does the Ariya's coefficient of drag compare to other Nissans?

The newest Nissans, the Kicks, Pathfinder, and Frontier, don't have their Cd publicly available yet, but other models have their results. The targeted 0.297 Cd in the Ariya is less than that in the 2021 Armada, Murano, and Rogue. But, it's higher than the Nissan Leaf.

The fact that it's higher than the Leaf is not surprising. Shorter cars tend to be more aerodynamic because they sit lower to the ground and have a smaller profile. That also explains why Nissan's largest and boxiest SUV, the Armada, has the highest number on the list.

How does the Ariya's coefficient of drag compare to numbers from other EVs?

The Nissan Ariya's coefficient of drag is higher than that of most other electric cars, crossovers, and SUVs sold in the U.S. Here's where the others measure up:

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The 2021 Cadillac XT6 has familiar familial design attributes, inside and out.

Photo courtesy of Cadillac

When people shop for a new SUV, especially a premium one, they're looking for style and sophistication as well as good seating, a modern infotainment system, and excellent safety features. Cadillac hits most of those checkboxes right on the nose with its 2021 Cadillac XT6. But all that gleams under the spotlight is not a star.

The Cadillac XT6 is mostly unchanged for the 2021 model year. That's both good and bad. The three-row SUV suffers from the sameness factor that many General Motors SUVs do and along with other weighty issues.

The face of the SUV features the same styling cues as the Cadillac XT4 and XT5, which slot lower than it in the company's lineup and the interior is much the same. Sort of a "if you like one Cadillac SUV you'll probably like them all" scenario going on here. That includes the less-then-premium dashboard and infotainment system surfaces.

2021 Cadillac XT6 The dashboard of the 2021 Cadillac XT6 is outfitted in less-than-premium materials.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

2021 Cadillac XT6

The 2021 Cadillac XT6 's upgraded engine option is a 3.6-liter V6 power plant that comes paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission in the Sport and Premium Luxury trim levels. It's powerful enough to get you going with ease and the tranissmision smoothly shifts through the gears.

The all-wheel drive-enabled XT6's biggest struggles are in terms of drive dynamics. The tester XT6 Sport felt too heavy for its frame. At 4,690 pounds the Sport model is the SUV's heaviest variant, by about an NFL lineman. In the XT6, the weightiness came from the mid-rear, where the SUV's AWD mechanics would be located. This made the XT6 less dynamic at nearly every turn from roadway to parking lot.

Small item storage in the XT6 is not ideal, but rear cargo space is better than average. A power liftgate is standard and power-folding third-row seats make reconfiguring the area easy.

The 2021 Cadillac XT6 offers a good amount of rear cargo space.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The Cadillac XT6 is a good vehicle for its target audience, but it could be better. While there are high points, like the comfortable seats that can be equipped with heating in the first two rows, the low points are mainly when the XT6 is considered versus the competition. Other premium SUVs, like the Acura MDX, have far more comfortable and plush seats.

Another plus is that adults can fit in the third row of the XT6. This is something that older midsize SUVs struggled with but has become more common in recent years with the emergence of the Kia Telluride, Subaru Ascent, and Hyundai Palisade, as well as the redesigned Highlander. However, the XT6 still has less head-, leg-, shoulder-, and hip room than many of those models, in all three rows.

There's nothing cutting edge about the tech in the Cadillac XT6 and that's okay. It's not the Escalade. What is there is perfectly suitable compared to the XT6's main rivals. The main pain point is the SUV's infotainment screen, which is smaller than other offerings in the segment and can appear crowded with information, or lacking information, depending on the use case scenario.

2021 Cadillac XT6 The 2021 Cadillac XT6 has seating for up to seven. Here, it's configured for six.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

All Cadillac XT6 models come with automatic emergency braking, forward collision alert, following distance indicator, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, following distance indicator, a high-definition rearview camera, Safety Alert Seat, and IntelliBeam headlights with rear park assist. Premium Luxury and Sport models also get lane change alert with blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert as standard.

As in the XT5, the XT6 struggles with its lane keeping assist and departure warning technology, which rarely reads the lines until the vehicle is well over them, even in excellent driving conditions (new pavement, fresh lines, bright but not glaring sun). At night, just "fuhgetaboutit", as they say in any number of Martin Scorsese films.

The 2021 Cadillac XT6 starts at $48,990. General Motors loves to get buyers to add on packages and equipment to up the price of their model. All-in, the XT6 Sport tester Cadillac leant for this review had a MSRP of $70,570 after $13,375 in options were tacked on. That's a steep price to pay for this SUV. For that amount of money, it should be better.

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