BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. -- The present seldom offers perspective for the moments in which we live. Fleeting instances grow with time and hindsight. Such is the case with the Polestar 1.
The first model from Polestar as a standalone premium brand, the aptly named 1 is a contradiction. It’s the halo for a lineup of electric cars, yet the 1 is actually a plug-in hybrid. A spectacularly powerful one -- to the tune of 619 horsepower -- but a red herring nonetheless. Polestars will be all-electric going forward.
It’s stylish and has presence like the Mercedes SL, but with a price of $156,500, the Polestar is even more expensive than the Benz, as well as the BMW M8 or Lexus LC500. The Polestar 1 costs more than three times as much as the understated Polestar 2 sedan, which is aimed at a vastly different audience.
So what, exactly, is Polestar’s creation? After a few days behind the wheel of the 1, the car's contradictions and spectacular attributes blend together and I’m left with the conclusion that the Polestar 1 is a success. It launched a brand to significant acclaim and cast a premium halo, signaling to all that Polestar aspires to be aspirational.
If the 2 had launched first in a bid to gain scale, we’d all be comparing Polestars to the Chevy Bolt. In that sense, Polestar succeeded.
Rolling around suburban Detroit on a warm spring morning offers a taste of the 1’s varying personalities. In Pure mode, the car has about 60 miles of electric range, which is vast for a plug-in hybrid, but using that all-electric mode creates a more lethargic driving experience. The Hybrid mode represents the Polestar 1 at its best as the electric motors team with the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder as needed. Sport mode sees the engine interject more often for an even livelier experience, and cueing up the all-wheel drive mode creates balanced dynamics for twisty roads. It’s something not often seen in a GT and it’s enjoyable.
The Polestar 1 is a great grand tourer, offering power, sporty handling and comfort for the driver. Visibility is excellent and the steering and suspension deliver a dynamic character, yet the car is still relatively easy to drive. The panoramic roof creates an airy setting, and touches like the yellow seat belts and Orrefors crystal shifter add panache in a way that jibes with Volvo’s heritage.
With a long hood, short deck and sloping roofline, the carbon-fiber bodied 1 treads in Lamborghini territory by combining aggressive style with advanced materials. This creates a GT that is classically beautiful, yet lightweight enough to be driven athletically. It would be a waste to do otherwise.
There’s a note of surrealism to this experience. We’ve already done a ‘final drive’ for the Polestar 1, and it’s out of production. My test car is actually a 2020 model. This is sort of a bonus experience from the afterlife.
Motoring past one of Michigan’s swankier country clubs that has hosted U.S. Opens and other golf tournaments of note, my mind wandered to Pebble Beach, where I'd expect the very first Polestar 1 off the line to quiet glide down the 18th fairway for the 2072 Concours d’Elegance. It’s a bit odd to know you’re driving automotive immortality, but that’s my sense of the Polestar 1. It will be the sportiest and most luxurious Polestar for years to come, and it created the proper image for what was previously a racing brand that now faces off against Tesla. For that mission, the Polestar 1 has succeeded. The rest is up to its successors to build upon its legacy and create something lasting. That will be the next chapter and determine whether the 1 sits in the 18th at Pebble with lasting significance or as a gorgeous answer to a trivia question.