After months of teases, Polestar finally pulled the curtain back on its third-ever vehicle, the Polestar 3, a 300-mile range SUV that is priced to compete with the big German luxury brands like Mercedes, Audi, and BMW.
And much like the Polestar 2 broke new ground by being the first vehicle to ship with Google’s native Android Automotive operating system, the Polestar 3 also aims to lay down new mile markers in performance, design, and processing power.
The Polestar 3 marks the Volvo-backed brand’s attempt to break into the highly competitive – and highly lucrative – SUV market in the US. But unlike most of those luxe land yachts with their crystal knobs, gratuitous screens, and falcon-wing doors, the Polestar 3 is a study in Scandinavian minimalism. (Recall this is the brand that paid millions of dollars for an austere Super Bowl ad that promised “no epic voiceovers” and “no greenwashing.”)
The Polestar 3 marks the Volvo-backed brand’s attempt to break into the highly competitive – and highly lucrative – SUV market in the US
Whether these types of proclamations will pique the interest of customers and help differentiate the Polestar 3 from the rest of the pack remains to be seen. Demand for electric vehicles has never been higher, and the Polestar 3 will have its work cut out for it in order to stand out in a crowded market.
Polestar is positioning the Polestar 3 as its most advanced EV to date (which isn’t that much of a stretch considering the automaker has only released two other vehicles). The SUV will run on Nvidia’s Drive computing platform, processing sensor data to power the vehicle’s advanced driver-assist system (ADAS).
The Polestar 3’s standard driver-assist package includes adaptive cruise control, blindspot detection, lane centering, and other features that are common in most modern vehicles. Starting in mid-2023, customers can option up with the Pilot Pack, which includes an additional control unit from Nvidia, three cameras, four ultrasonic sensors, and a cleaning system for the front- and rear-view cameras.
The SUV will run on Nvidia’s Drive computing platform
The Pilot Pack also includes a laser-powered lidar sensor from Luminar, which has a range of 250 meters (or up to 500 meters for larger objects) and will help set the stage for more semiautonomous features, such as hands-free highway driving. Volvo, which jointly owns Polestar along with its parent company Geely, has said that it will roll out a hands-free highway driving feature as part of its next big platform update, the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA2), which will arrive with the next -generation EX90 SUV.
But Polestar is backed by Volvo, and Volvo is serious about maintaining its reputation for safety, so the Polestar 3 even includes interior radar sensors that can detect “sub-millimeter movements” to ensure no one leaves children or pets inside a hot car. Most vehicles these days include notifications or warnings about leaving vulnerable passengers inside a hot car – the Polestar 3 takes that a step further.
The infotainment system, meanwhile, will utilize Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Cockpit platform, which Polestar promises will “provide immersive in-vehicle experiences” for drivers. (Hopefully not too immersive, though; drivers still need to pay attention to the road.)
In addition to Nvidia, Luminar, and Qualcomm, Polestar is also tapping other high-tech partners, including Zenseact and Smart Eye to power various sensors and driver-assist features. And on top of all that, the Polestar 3 will continue to operate with Google’s native Android Automotive, which includes voice-activated Google Assistant and other useful features.
The Polestar 3 is the latest vehicle to basically bid farewell to the physical button
All of those features will be accessible on the Polestar 3’s portrait-style 14.5-inch center touchscreen. A nine-inch instrument cluster behind the steering wheel will display pertinent information like speed and drive mode as well as offer turn-by-turn directions. And over-the-air updates will ensure the Polestar 3 is always running on the latest version of the company’s software.
Aside from a few touchpoints on the steering wheel, the Polestar 3 is the latest vehicle to basically bid farewell to the physical button. This has been a trend in the auto industry that has frustrated no small number of safety experts who like to point out that touchscreen controls are more distracting and time-consuming than physical buttons. But every button lost is money saved, and car companies are famous for pinching pennies, so let’s move on.
The Polestar 3 will have more giddyup than its predecessor, with 517 horsepower and 671 pound-feet of torque for the performance trim and 489 horsepower and 620 pound-feet for the long-range dual-motor version. It will also be a speedy sucker, galloping from zero to 60mph in 4.6 seconds or 4.9 seconds, depending on the trim.
Extra oomph also means slightly diminished range, with the performance version getting an EPA-estimated 270 miles, while the long-range version was rated at an estimated 300 miles. That should be more than enough for most people’s daily needs and even a few modest road trips.
The Polestar 3 will have more giddyup than its predecessor
The 400-volt battery nestled in the floor of the vehicle is manufactured by CATL, one of China’s largest battery makers. That’s a fairly typical level of voltage for an EV but falls short of higher-voltage batteries, such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5’s 800-volt one, which enables much higher rates of charging.
That said, the Polestar 3’s battery (which is composed of nickel, manganese, and cobalt) has a nominal capacity of 111kWh, 107kWh of which is useable. When sipping energy at an 11kW rate, the battery will take 11 hours to go from zero to 100 percent. Charging at the max rate of 250kW will take the battery from 10 to 80 percent in 30 minutes, Polestar says.
Unlike some of its competitors, Polestar is sticking to a modest battery size with normal voltage and charge rates. That may make it difficult to compete with other EVs, some of which sport bigger, heavier batteries with higher voltages and longer ranges. But Polestar thinks it can win customers with its attention to detail and its commitment to an austere design as well as with its powerful computing package.
As previously reported, the Polestar 3 will come with a rear-biased dual-motor power train with electric torque vectoring via a dual-clutch system on the rear electric motor. Adaptive dual-chamber air suspension and active dampers will come standard, allowing the Polestar 3 to switch between comfort and firm suspension dynamics while adjusting to the road conditions once every two milliseconds.
An adjustable one-pedal driving mode is included as well as an electric torque vectoring dual-clutch function on the rear axle. Polestar calls this an “evolution of what was first developed for exceptional driving dynamics on the Polestar 1,” which was the company’s first (and now discontinued) hybrid sports car. A decoupling function is also available for the rear electric motor, allowing the car to run only on the front electric motor to save energy under certain circumstances.
The Polestar 3 carries over a lot of the stark, clinical design of the Polestar 2
The Polestar 3 carries over a lot of the stark, clinical design of the Polestar 2. Small captions describing certain features can be found on the exterior, including the “Smart Zone” on the grilleless front end. Unlike the Polestar 2, though, the company went with a monochrome look for the face of the Polestar 3 – though not quite as unblemished as the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y.
The design language is inspired by the Polestar Precept, a concept sedan that was meant to set the stage for the company’s commitment to technology, performance, and sustainability. Polestar has made further commitments to environmental production, claiming that it will eventually build the world’s first truly zero-emissions vehicle without relying on carbon offsets, which it described as a “cop-out.”
The upholstery, which comes in white, black, gray, or a combination of all three, is made from Microtech, a suede-like textile made from recycled polyester. Unlike the Polestar 2, which comprised 100 percent vegan materials, the Polestar 3 will contain leather and wool materials, though the company assures they are welfare-certified and traceable. Polestar’s signature Swedish gold details are also added, including valve caps, seat belts, and a laser-etched interior light strip.
The vehicle will start production in mid-2023 at Volvo’s Chengdu factory, with deliveries expected to begin in the fourth quarter of that year. By mid-2024, the Polestar 3 will begin rolling off the line at Volvo’s Ridgeville, South Carolina, facility, with customer deliveries soon to follow. As Polestar’s first EV made on US soil, it will likely qualify for the federal tax credit of $ 7,500.
That should help take some of the sting out of that starting price of $ 83,900, which will put the Polestar 3 in competition with other luxury EVs like the Tesla Model X, Audi E-tron, Mercedes-Benz EQB, Rivian R1S, and BMW iX .
The newly public Polestar is more of a boutique operation, though, having only shipped around 30,000 vehicles in 2022 so far. The company claims it will hit its goal of 50,000 deliveries for the entire year, despite COVID shutdowns in China and supply chain woes continuing to take their toll. Quality also remains a challenge for the relatively new company.
All of which highlights the importance of Polestar’s move to open up production in the US. Unlike other EV startups like Rivian or Lucid, Polestar can lean on Volvo’s manufacturing footprint as well as its dealer network to make and sell its vehicles. That doesn’t guarantee a sales victory for the still rookie company, but it certainly gives it a leg up over the competition.
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