From Petrol to Electric: A drive with the Polestar 2

I’m not much of a car person. So you won’t find me talking with the bros about the latest Mercedes released or gushing about a sick Lamborghini that roared past. But I would like to be one. Electric Vehicles (EVs) might be my gateway.

YouTuber Marques Brownlee had a succinct observation about electric cars — they are basically tech products. With how they combine technology into motor vehicles, they are increasingly becoming more similar to an iPhone than your typical car. In fact, tech companies are going into the space themselves, with Sony developing a concept car and Apple rumoured to be working on an electric vehicle. 

Singapore has typically been quite fast with getting new tech over the decade; not the case with the adoption of electric cars. But it has been catching up in recent years. BlueSG’s fleet of EVs is a common sight on the roads or within car parks. Getgo, another ride-sharing platform, offers several EV options alongside their standard slate of cars. In terms of owning an electric vehicle, there is of course the Tesla brand, who are adding to their roster after officially arriving in 2021. But other companies are also making their presence known, not least Polestar.

The Swedish automotive company may be aligned with Volvo, but they are very much their own brand, with their cars focused on delivering performance. The latest jewel in their lineup is the Polestar 3, an electric performance SUV slated to come out at the end of 2023.

But that is for the future. So instead, I’ll talk about what the company have now, specifically the Polestar 2. The Polestar 2 is a fully electric fastback sedan that arrived in Singapore near the end of 2021. But just like any tech product, it has its star features.

Recently, I had the opportunity to test-drive the Polestar 2 for about two and a half days. Of course, you would think that a non-car lover like me would not be in the least bit interested, but I must admit, it had my fingers twitching a little. 

The car I currently drive is about five years old — not old, but not new either. It lacks the nifty features that more recent cars now have. Like other electric cars, though, the Polestar 2 is a more overt marriage of tech and automobile. And if there’s one thing to snag a tech enthusiast like me, it is to use plenty of numbers and stats, which are plastered all over the car’s page. Polestar got me; hook, line, and sinker.

I arrived with colleagues along the automotive belt of Leng Kee Road, where Polestar’s retail showroom resides, which recently opened this year. This is the place to go for those wanting to see and test-drive the car. As for me, it was where I would be picking up the Polestar 2.

The showroom itself is quite unlike anything I’ve seen. If not for the cars on display, you might mistake the space for a gallery. It features a minimalist design, using stark white and concrete walls and a bare metal showpiece housing various components from the car. 

The salesperson there alluded that the design encouraged visitors to interact with the space, just like one does when they enter an Apple Store. Aside from seeing and sitting inside the displayed cars, people can go ahead to touch and feel samples for the interior and paint finish, or they can try their hand at personalisation with the digital customiser.

In my case, no customisation was needed; the car was already decided for me. Awaiting me right at the garage was the Polestar 2. An expert was on-site to go through all of its bells and whistles. A mere ten minutes later, the keys were in my hands. Thus begins my time with this EV.

Now I may not be able to appreciate the inner workings of cars, but I can at least appreciate how one looks, and the Polestar 2 is a beauty. Though it is a sedan, there is a little bit of extra bulk on the car, but it is an aspect I personally like since it gives the illusion of power behind the bigger size. 

Polestar 2: Design
Despite its bulkier design, Polestar 2 is a classy modern automobile that is easy on the eyes

And it is a vehicle that goes all in with illusion. Even though it is an electric car, Polestar still included grilles and vents in the front for its design. Combined with its big presence, it is a visually sleek vehicle overall — it even goes borderless for its side mirrors, just like laptops do with their display design. The car is aesthetically very much in line with the premium category within which the Polestar 2 exists. 

As you would expect, the Polestar 2 uses modern capabilities for opening the boot. You can either press a button to open it or opt to ‘kick’ the underside, where a sensor would react and open it for you. If you’re like me though where your car requires you to manually lift the boot lid, both methods seem almost magical. 

Either way, it reveals a decent amount of boot space — around 405 litres. In terms of real-world use, it is enough to fit roughly two medium-sized pieces of luggage. Of course, you can also knock down the back seats for even more space to add your items. Still not enough? There’s a hidden storage compartment underneath as well.

Arranging your storage is also relatively flexible. For example, you can lift a divider to separate different items from one another, and hooks and straps are available to securely fasten them to ensure they don’t get tossed around during transport.

In terms of unlocking and locking the car, it likewise uses a modern approach, with the Polestar 2 being keyless. Technology is similarly at play here — the car keys have a proximity sensor that detects when you are in the range of the car. So if you want to start your journey, you just need to grip the door handle, and the Polestar 2 will unlock for you. Once you’ve reached home, simply tap on the slit right at the handle, and it locks it. As a safety measure, the doors will also automatically lock after two minutes.

Now you get access to the inside. The interior has a very premium feel to it all around. The seats use something called WeaveTech for its upholstery, which is this vegan fabric material that feels great to the touch. It is markedly better than the usual fake leather in cars; I’ve never been much of a fan of those, anyway. The seats also have this racing-car-like design, with the darker grey patterning at the sides accentuating the look.

I’ve been in the passenger and driver’s seats for the Polestar 2, and I’m happy to say there’s ample space for comfort. For passengers in the back, there’s enough room to stretch the legs, which proves handy for long trips. Height-wise was not a problem for me, but I have to preface by mentioning that I’m only of average height (1.7m), so those on the taller side may feel more claustrophobic being closer to the roof.

Polestar 2: Seating
Premium upholstery and generous legroom ensure a comfortable ride for all passengers

In general, all’s well and good if you only have three passengers; the trouble comes when there is a fourth. There is a significant hump right at the middle seat, which you can’t rest your foot over, resulting in needing to eat into the spaces of the two other passengers in order to place your legs comfortably. 

Besides the seat spacing, Polestar 2 has several quality-of-life features for passengers to take advantage of. Two USB-C ports are located at the centre air-conditioning vents that can be used for charging. Right next to that, there is also a toggle switch to turn on heated seating. I wonder why you would need that in a place like Singapore, but hey, the option is there.

Above is a massive sunroof that gives a peak of the outside. At least in theory, it is a significant car feature that adds to the premium riding experience. It has a filter that blocks UV, but you can still feel the heat radiating off the top, especially on hotter days. So I imagine you might not want to use the car too much in June.

Still, the sunroof is a sight to behold, especially for riding passengers. If the conditions are right and the sun is out, it provides a stunning view of the skies as you make your way to your destination. Perhaps turn up the air-conditioning as well for those occasions.

Polestar 2: Sunroof
Polestar 2’s panoramic sunroof is an incredible sight, but it brings in heat despite its UV film filter

From the outside, the Polestar 2’s simple but sleek interior design certainly evokes a luxurious riding experience. As a passenger, it does deliver on that — at least for the most part. But enough about the passenger experience, let’s talk about what it feels like to drive the Polestar 2.

I’ve only ever driven two cars in my life, the vehicle I used to learn to drive and my family’s car — suffice it to say that I’m still green regarding automobiles. And the Polestar 2 is my first experience with an EV; I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Well, as people like to say: Same, same, but different — that was my verdict on trying out the electric car. And that, in my eyes, is a good thing.

Let’s start with the difference, then. The Polestar 2 utilises One Pedal Drive when you take the car on the road. What is it? It is a regenerative braking system that is controlled by the accelerator. Essentially, when you apply less pressure to the accelerator, the car will use a breaking effect to slow down. It very much functions as a convenience feature, and you’ll see this included as part of most EVs.

My colleague is a fan of it, citing it as particularly useful when driving in heavier traffic. “It’s more relaxing just relying on the accelerator in a jam,” he remarks. I see his point, but I still need to become a fan myself after my time using One Pedal Drive. 

First off, it takes some getting used to. You’ll be surprised by how much the car decelerates after easing off the pedal, so the ride can sometimes feel jerky. The other concern I have is safety. I still need to figure out if the car can brake fast enough to avoid a collision if another vehicle suddenly cuts in. I had a minor scare when this happened during a drive; thankfully, I was not going that fast. It is possible that One Pedal Drive can handle these types of situations, but I’d rather not try to test its feasibility.

On an ending note, maybe I’m just a purist, but using it also feels very lazy. I already felt automatic driving was quite lackadaisical after being taught to drive manually, and One Pedal Drive adds another layer of laziness to the driving experience. But it is a feature that people do want.

Perhaps I need to get used to it. But I’ll stick to the usual driving style first. Luckily, the Polestar 2 does offer that in the car menu. Under the Drive tab, you can toggle the One Pedal Drive off. There’s also an option to have the car idle creep if you are used to it, like me. Polestar lets you personalise the car into functioning as a regular petrol-fuelled car if you like, so there’s no transition period needed if you are changing to the Polestar 2 from that.

If you do want to learn the One Pedal Drive, the car features a Low setting to ease you in. The braking effect isn’t as much as the Standard, but from my experience using it, it still comes in a bit strong. Something to keep in mind.

Polestar 2: Drive Menu
The ‘Drive’ menu allows you to set the car the way you want to drive

Since this is an electric car, you can’t not talk about the acceleration. The Polestar 2 model that we drove was the Long Range Dual Motor version, and the key highlight is that it can go from 0 to 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds. This car gets off the mark very quickly, and you feel like you are in a race car whenever you punch in the accelerator as you feel the G-force kick in. It is an exhilarating feature to have, when used legally of course.

In terms of handling, the Polestar 2 does well in turning, particularly for corners. The car felt responsive and stable when navigating U-turns or tight corners, even if I was driving at a higher speed.

However, I’m not the biggest fan of the car’s suspension. I’ve found that you tend to feel everything when going over bumps or humps on the road. And if you combine that with the One Pedal Drive’s strong braking effect, drives can turn out to be quite bumpy.

So that’s the driving experience; what about parking then?

Parking with the Polestar 2 blows is mostly good except for one aspect. Good first. The car has a 360-degree camera that gives you a top-down view of everything within your surroundings. For trying to centre your vehicle into a lot, this feature is handy — since the camera shows where the lines are, it is more accurate than relying on the side mirrors to line the car.

The 360-degree camera isn’t exactly for everyone. Another colleague who tried out the Polestar 2 still said he preferred to use the side mirrors. No problem. You can toggle to a specific camera (in this case, the rear camera) through directional arrows shown on the menu. The camera will revert to the typical live feed seen in other cars.

The problem is that you must readjust using the camera for parking. I’m old-school; I’ll physically turn to see what is behind me whenever I park. With how the Polestar 2 is designed, however, your peripheral view is quite limited for the car’s rear screen; you are only getting a small window of sight. I would even say that this also hinders driving safety on the road.

Polestar 2: Rear view
It is a peripherally small window at the back, which provides a sense of frustration and danger when needing to view what is behind

Now, the infotainment system is a big part of why electric cars are starting to blend into tech. Tesla also popularised the tablet-like display to control your vehicle, which is a feature here on the Polestar 2. Right at the centre, there’s a 12.3-inch touchscreen display that handles pretty much everything for the car — GPS map, entertainment, car settings, you name it.

The key thing about the infotainment system is that Google powers it so that drivers can take advantage of its features. That’s right, the Google suite — Google Maps, Google Assistant, and the Google Play Store — is all here. Audiophiles also get representation with the equipped Harman Kardon sound system, with decent equaliser settings included.

That’s where the techy fun comes in. It’s like a gigantic phone; you can use Google Assistant to give directions on Maps to get you to your next destination or grab Spotify off the Play Store as you blast your playlist through the very capable sound system. You can even set multiple profiles on the car if you have more than one driver in the family, with the car remembering each of your personal settings, from app downloads to how you’ve set your seat position.

It is very much like what you get with consumer tech devices, and If you are already familiar with how it all works, then the system used here is straightforward. It gives that extra level of convenience. 

Polestar 2: Infotaiinment
The Google integration is a great step at further bridging the gap for convenience

Unfortunately, the tech quality isn’t quite there yet. 80% of the time, the OS works fine. But there are occasional bouts of lag, particularly if you have just started the car. It is like the system is trying to catch up. The responsiveness is also less fluid than what you find in a phone or tablet, so it just comes off as slow.

For iPhone users like me, you can still connect to the car through Bluetooth or CarPlay, though for the latter, you would need a wired connection to your device for it to work.

Something I do appreciate about the Polestar 2 is that the infotainment system is not limited to the centre display. Instead, a digital screen on the dashboard extends the information from the infotainment system. Here, you can monitor your speeds, map, and charge without turning and looking at the main screen. It is a pain point that I heard Tesla users had, and I’m glad that I didn’t need to worry about it here.

Polestar 2: Dashboard
The digital dashboard works just like how a standard instrument does, just that it is now dynamic

The final thing to talk about the Polestar 2 is its most important, the car’s battery. It comes with a 78kWh battery, which should last about a week in layperson’s terms. However, Polestar says that when charging the vehicle, it is best to limit it to 90% instead of a full charge for the battery to last longer. You can set all of this in the menu options.

I’ve found that it does live up to the estimate. We had the car out and about to do some filming with it, which required heavier battery usage than usual. However, it still had plenty of juice left in the tank to spare another two to three days. So driving from Pasir Ris back to the Polestar showroom only took a few per cent off its charge. 

The tricky part is the charging itself. The Polestar 2 allows for both DC and AC charging for the car. The faster DC charging is estimated to take 35 minutes, while charging with AC is said to take 8 hours. However, we ran into trouble when trying to charge at a Shell station. Shell offers fast 50kW DC charging, but after leaving the car for half an hour, the charge percentage only filled up a little. My colleagues and I are curious if this was a problem with the vehicle or with the station itself. 

So we weren’t able to test out the fast charging capabilities. But the sure thing is that charging is a time sink. Even fast charging takes much longer than refuelling with petrol; it is an undeniable fact. Then there are the limited EV chargers available as well. Seeking a second try, we planned to go back and use Shell’s fast charging station but found another person was using the lot. So with few nearby options, in the end, we had to settle for the slower AC charging at one of the public charging lots. 

This isn’t a Polestar 2 problem but an EV problem. As it stands, the climate isn’t populated enough to transition over easily. So you will have to make concessions. However, keep in mind that this is likely to be temporary, and as the government starts to support EVs in the country, things will be easier.

I’ve learned a lot in my time with my first experience with an electric car. As a hybrid of automobile and tech, the Polestar 2 has a coolness that makes you want to go out and try it. And for the most part, it delivers on those aspects with its classy look and raw performance. Right now, though, maintaining the car is an extra trouble I would want to avoid undertaking. 

That being said, EVs will be the future in Singapore. The Polestar 2 is in the premium range, so it is unlikely that I will ever be able to afford the car myself in the future, but I might still cheekily try out a test spin with it.

Updated pricing for the car can be found on sgCarMart. If you would like to try out the Polestar 2 yourself, be sure to visit Polestar’s Official Website to book a test drive. 

Photos by Russell Loh of the DANAMIC Team.

Russell Matthew Loh

Watcher of films and player of games. Dabble with writing in between.

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