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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OTA software updates

Tesla rolls back FSD beta before issuing fix

Tesla issued a beta update but quickly pulled it back.

Tesla

Tesla's Full Self-Driving tech is currently in public beta testing, which means that the automaker allows a subset of its owners to download the software to their cars. Over the weekend, Tesla released FSD beta 10.3 and users started reporting issues almost immediately. Since Tesla's PR department is essentially CEO Elon Musk's Twitter account, he took to social media to outline the process to fix problems with the beta.

Tesla FSD Drivers reported issues with vehicle safety systems after updating.Tesla

Musk tweeted that public beta version 10.3 was rolled back to 10.2. "Please note, this is to be expected with beta software," he said. Issues began popping up with Tesla owners on various forums and on social media. Drivers reported that cars shut off active safety features without their input and some noted that their forward collision warnings and automatic emergency braking systems malfunctioned, causing the cars to apply the brakes without any apparent danger in the road ahead.

Tesla FSD A new beta was released this morning with fixes for the problems.Tesla

Early this morning, Musk tweeted again to note that beta version 10.3.1 is rolling out now, which would re-update users to the latest version with fixes. All of this illustrates how FSD is not final and has a way to go before it's ready for showtime. Developing software of any type is difficult work, made even harder by the fact that public roads are so unpredictable at times. So, while Tesla's public beta approach, which puts unproven functions into the hands of everyday drivers, may not be the most palatable for many of us on the roads at the same time, it's certainly netting the company plenty of data to work with.

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The AWD ID.4 model is on its way.

Volkswagen

There was a lot of buzz when VW introduced its 2021 ID.4 all-electric crossover with rear-wheel drive earlier this year, but there's plenty more now that the Wolfsburg automaker has added an all-wheel-drive version. The 2021 VW ID.4 AWD gets another motor onboard this compact SUV that brings all-wheel-drive traction. The SUV appeals to buyers in the snow belt states but will also tickle the fancy of performance enthusiasts. Now with motors on both the front and rear axle, there is nearly fifty percent more power, with impressive gains to horsepower and torque as well as the added battery-electric boost to that scoots the 5-seater from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds (the RWD model took 7.5 seconds to achieve the same).

2021 VW ID.4 AWD An extra motor brings AWD to the ID.4.Volkswagen

On sale now, the 2021 VW ID.4 AWD Pro starts at $44,870, before federal or other incentives; this is a $3,680 premium over the rear-drive model. The AWD Pro S starts at $49,370; both models are eligible for $7,500 income-tax credits. It's worth noting that current delivery estimates for the AWD Pro are running into 2022. The AWD Pro trim has been rated by the EPA at 249 miles (only 11 miles less than the Pro RWD) while the AWD Pro S has been validated at 240 miles (as compared to 250 miles). The AWD Pro has been rated at 102 MPGe for city driving/90 highway/97 combined; the Pro S gets 93/98/88. Both are rated at 2,700 towing. Competitors include the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y.

While the AWD and RWD look the same outside, one exterior badge designates the newest variant with an "AWD" badge, plus it gets 0.6 inches of added ground clearance, slightly bigger brakes and sway bars. From the front, the electric SUV has smoothed jelly-bean styling that is highlighted by standard LED headlights and standard black roof rails that sit atop the body-colored roof. From the rear, it wears hatchback-like looks.

2021 VW ID.4 AWD The ID.4's cabin is tidy and upscale, no matter the model.Volkswagen

We drove both the Pro and Pro S versions, with different premium interior trims and found the Gradient Package ($1500) visually upscale and appealing. It brings a black roof with silver rails, along with 20-inch wheels and the availability of King's Red Metallic paint, as a $395 option. The Pro is well-equipped with attractive trim elements and an impressive collection of communication and infotainment technologies. Pro S comes with a glass roof with an electrically-retractable shade and front seats with leatherette upholstery and 12-way power adjustments (including four-way lumbar support and a massage system).

We drove the new ID.4 AWD over a course of 160 miles along a variety of roads to sample its handling and ergonomics. The interior has a clean and open feel with good visibility. Controls and gauges are well-placed and the seatbelts are height-adjustable, while a configurable console holds different drink sizes and has removable cupholders. A futuristic LED "Light" strip with 10 different ambient lighting selections extends across the dashboard and pulses with directional signals, incoming phone calls, navigation prompts and other in-cabin inputs (optional is 30-color lighting selection on the Pro S). Driving is also a bit futuristic with no stop/start button; the vehicle senses the approaching key and can start climate control, unfold side mirrors, unlock doors and illuminate door handles at night, among a number of other high-tech features. There is 30.3 cubic feet of stowage behind the rear seats and up to 64.2 cubic feet with the second row folded. Under the floor storage holds the charging cable and small items. Pro S has an adjustable trunk floor that can be raised and lowered and a ski passthrough.

Pushing the brake pedal triggers the ID.4 to begin motoring, with the option of a "D" mode for typical driving or "B" for a more regenerative driving experience. Travel Assist brings semi-autonomous driving. Notable is the fun and responsive torque-on-tap, well-balanced direct steering and a suspension system that allows the small compact to maneuver well through traffic and along twisty roadways, as well as an impressive turning radius. The vehicle dynamics control system is integrated with the stability control system and an electronic differential to seamlessly engage the front axle, when needed. Volkswagen has added a different asynchronous motor to the front with a permanent-magnetic synchronous motor at the back for a combined 295 hp. and 339 lb.-ft. of torque.

2021 VW ID.4 AWD The ID.4 AWD will start shipping in early 2022.Volkswagen

Carried over are 82-kWh battery packs and the 5 to 80 percent fast-charging time of 38 minutes, when using 125kW fast-charging. VW says it can add 62 miles of range in 10 minutes; home charging on a Level 2 charger is projected to take approximately 7.5 hours for a full charge.

Of note: VW includes three years of complimentary charging up to 125 kW, with any ID.4 purchase or lease; VW Group's Electrify America charging network has over 650 stations and more than 2,700 fast chargers.

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