First ride: New 2023 Polestar 4

2023 Polestar 4 at Shanghai motor show 71
2023 Polestar 4 at Shanghai motor show 71

The Polestar 4 will be priced between £50,000 and £65,000

The Polestar 4 will be offered with "eyes-off" autonomous driving technology, touted to deliver "centimetre-level" precision, shortly after it goes on sale as the brand's "reinvention of the SUV-coupé”.

Revealed at the Shanghai motor show, it will enter the premium crossover segment as a pure-electric car to take on the Porsche Macan as the Swedish firm's fourth model.

The 4 will eventually be offered with a high-level of automated driving technology that will allow for "eyes-off, point-to-point autonomous driving on highways, as well as eyes-on automated driving for other environments".

The more sophisticated advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) in development uses the new Chauffeur system from leading ADAS-supplier Mobileye (which builds on the SuperVision system that will be available in the 4 from launch) and lidar from autonomous vehicle technology company Luminar as part of a set-up that mixes various sensors, radars and cameras to allow the car to see up to 600m away and provide "centimetre-level" precision so it can map the environment around it.

That distance translates to a view 7.5sec ahead of the car at highway speeds to allow it to bring itself to a safe stop if necessary.

The 4 will be built in China initially from mid-November and be delivered to Chinese buyers first by the end of 2023. European sales are set to begin next spring.

In China, the 4 has been developed with its own operating system specifically for Chinese buyers, who will also be able to purchase a Polestar phone that runs the same system for seamless integration of the car into the rest of the owner's digital life.

Said to have the smallest carbon footprint of any Polestar model to date, the SUV-coupé was tested during Polestar's life cycle assessment (LCA) earlier this month and found to produce 19.4 tonnes of CO2 over its lifetime, including production. The firm has been publishing LCAs for each of its cars since 2020.

Production takes place at Geely's SEA factory in Hangzhou Bay, which uses both solar and hydroelectric power and is said to employ production techniques that reduce emissions, such as low-carbon aluminium for smelting.

Fredrika Klarén, Polestar's head of sustainability, said: “To support our net zero goal, we set carbon budgets for all our cars. Throughout the product development of Polestar 4, its carbon budget has influenced everything from material choices to factory energy sources. Sharing the LCA enables us to show that we can strive for net zero.”

The firm has published individual CO2 figures for each specification of the 4, with the entry-level standard-range car producing 19.4 tonnes, the long-range car 19.9 tonnes, and the top-rung dual-motor car 21.4 tonnes. That makes it more carbon efficient than a Volkswagen ID 3.

When it arrives next year, the 4 will join the Polestar 3 SUV as one of the firm’s bespoke offerings, in contrast to the Volvo-based design roots of its first two models, the 1 and 2.

Like the £78,900 Polestar 3, the rakish, electric-powered 4 is positioned as a premium model to rival the likes of Porsche, BMW and Genesis. As such, it will be priced between £50,000 and £65,000, depending on whether a single- or dual-motor powertrain is chosen.

A focus on maximum range has shaped the design, according to head of Polestar design Maximilian Missoni. This is due to the positioning of the header rail, which most cars have and is sited around the rear roof area to add rigidity and strength to the vehicle’s structure. Notably, it will not come with a rear window.

The rail’s position is pivotal: lower it too much to ensure a slippery vehicle and the rail impedes head room, but keep it high for more interior space and it impacts performance by affecting aerodynamics.

Polestar’s solution for the 4, which is based on Volvo/Polestar’s largely aluminium PMA platform, is to both lower the header and move it behind the rear passengers’ heads. Doing so sites the header rail where the rear window would normally be, so a roof-mounted camera now aids rear visibility in lieu of the rear glass. The 4’s drag coefficient is 0.269. The Tesla Model S’s, for comparison, is 0.208.

Polestar CEO Thomas Ingenlath, formerly design head at Volvo, has been an influencing factor in how the 4 looks. Ingenlath joked that more conservative car makers would still be gauging reaction to the idea at customer clinics. “You are not a design leader if you have to go out and clinic,” he said.

Polestar 4 side
Polestar 4 side

The 4 crossover is just under five metres long, with a 102kWh battery pack (94kWh of usable capacity) and 268bhp in single-motor form or 537bhp as a dual-motor model. In dual-motor form, it pushes to 62mph in 3.8sec. “It’s a very good addition to the 3,” said Ingenlath. “Polestar will cover the premium SUV segment in a comprehensive way, from €50,000 to, well… Does it ever end?”

Polestar’s designers say the 4’s interior has been inspired by fashionwear. The materials used are typically modern in feel but minimalist in design. Aside from one rotary knob on the centre console, there are no separate buttons for the climate or infotainment. It’s all touchscreen. Missoni said he thinks it’s more usable.

The rear cabin, which has a backlit panel stretching behind the seats, is “a modern elegant cabin with a button-free layout”, according to Missoni. The rear-view mirror can be flicked from camera screen to mirror so drivers can check on rear-seat occupants.

First ride: new 2023 Polestar 4

Polestar has only a few models but the naming structure already needs some explaining. The 1 was its first model, a performance coupé, and the 2 is a smaller crossover. The 3 is a large premium SUV and the 4 is smaller than the 3, but bigger than the 2. Then the 5 is a saloon and the 6 is a sports car. All clear?

The 4 is tipped to be the brand’s biggest seller, with company CEO Thomas Ingenlath expecting it to take top honours when the firm is selling 155,000-165,000 cars per year by 2025. It’ll be built in both China and Korea and, intriguingly, cars for the Chinese market will get an entirely different operating system, so bespoke are the market’s requirements.

We’re in the front seat for a short ride around Santa Monica and up front the 4 feels like a bigger 2, the interior wrapped around the driver for a sporty feel.

It’s a different story in the back, where Polestar has ditched a rear windscreen entirely in favour of a rearview camera as it believes the lack of a screen allows for better seating positions and more space for rear passengers. It does: the car feels far more spacious in the back than it might otherwise.

Although the 4 arrives at a similar time to the 3, the two models are very different in their feel, positioning and execution. While the 3 is based on a Volvo platform, the 4 uses a Geely one, which naturally causes divergence anyway.

It feels modern and elegant inside, and while there’s no rear screen, there’s a large panoramic roof that makes the cabin feel bright and spacious. Whereas the touchscreen in the 3 is portrait, it's landscape in the 4.

The 4 is rear-wheel drive as standard and offers a twin-motor version for four-wheel drive and then a Performance version on top of that gets upgraded brakes, wheels and tyres as well as a different tune for the steel suspension (there’s no air suspension offered on the 4) and steering.

We ride in a dual-motor version that feels firm, but suspension settings can be changed on the touchscreen rather than having to get your spanners out as with the 2…

There is still plenty of software tuning to be done but the car is actually going into production as soon as next week in China. The 4 feels like it has far more in common with the 2 than the 3 but all share a firmness to the ride that’s becoming a Polestar trait.

Ride impressions by Mark Tisshaw