Now to the juicy tech. The Polestar 1 is one of the most technically interesting cars I have ever driven, not just because it’s a performance hybrid and they tend to be rather complicated, but also because the powertrain is just so unusual.
Under that lovely bonnet lies a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged. Backing that up are two 85kW electric motors and a crank-integrated starter generator motor, with the batteries nestled between the two front seats and behind the rears for a total capacity of 34kWh. All in all you have 609PS (448kW) and 1,000Nm (740Nm) of torque, and you can plug the car in at home or at a charging point.
The performance is impressive, given the car’s weight of 2,350kg. Zero to 62mph takes 4.2 seconds, the top speed is 145mph, there’s an electric-only range of 77 miles and the electric-only top speed is limited to 99mph. See why this is a bit of an attention grabber? On top of that there’s torque vectoring, 22-way adjustable Öhlins Dual Flow Valve dampers, double wishbones and 400mm Akebono discs at the front, and a multilink set-up and 390mm discs at the back. All Polestar 1s are left-hand-drive.
To drive it is a curious machine. You start the car in hybrid mode, the default of five (the others being AWD, Pure, Power and Individual), and in most cases you’ll be greeted by no noise at all. When the four-cylinder engine does kick in, at idle at least it sounds not too dissimilar to a diesel, but with more revs there’s a delightful thrum unlike any other four-cylinder motor around – it is closer in sound to a three- or even a two-cylinder engine. What’s more, with anything more than half throttle there’s a subtle whine from the supercharger.
There are the options to charge and hold charge while on the move, using the engine to top up the battery should you know you want a certain range for a part of your journey or want to maintain what power there already is. And when you do decide to cruise around sans-petrol the car is as serene and relaxing as you’d hope it to be. The performance in electric-only Pure mode isn’t bad either, with a linear pull from the motors that feels like it could tow you well beyond the 99mph EV top speed. The 77-mile EV range is achievable, too.
With the engine and motors working together is where the Polestar 1 really wakes up. In the dry the whole car just sits up and takes off, pulling through the eight-speed gearbox quickly and efficiently with no let-up whatsoever, that thrummy four-pot singing happily to 6,000rpm.
I didn’t find it necessary to use the paddles to control the gearbox, which is not to say the ‘box is bad, because it isn’t. There’s just nothing to be gained by going up and down through the gears yourself – best let the car do its own thing.
The steering communicates very little at all but you can trust it to do what you ask of it, and at higher speeds you really can feel the torque vectoring system getting to work; one of the Polestar 1’s true strengths is how well it hides its mass. The brakes pull you to a stop quickly and without drama, and those incredible dampers do a good job of ironing out imperfections in the road, a tough task with those huge 21-inch wheels.
Driving the Polestar 1 in the wet, though, highlighted perhaps how unconventional the drivetrain is. It’s not to say something like a similarly hefty Bentley Continental GT is an overly adjustable machine, but its simplicity brings a degree of predictability – try to use the throttle to adjust the Polestar 1 and you’ll likely get a small dollop of torque steer.