These are very different EVs. They are quite similar as well.
In Canada, the 2021 Polestar 2 starts at $69,900, $59,900 in the US.
The 2020 Tesla Model 3 is priced from $52,990, $37,990 in the US.
The greatest takeaway from this experience is that, like ICE cars, EVs can and do have personalities despite the absence of typically character-full petrol engines. While the Tesla Model 3 caters to genuine driving enthusiasts and manages all other tasks, the Polestar 2 is more about the premium driving experience, within a conventional environment, with a penchant for spirited country-road jaunts.
Even so, there are still numerous elements about both cars, in the right trim, that line them up almost exactly, while there are others that seriously separate them. The Tesla Model 3 has set a bar by which all other like-minded, priced and sized EVs will be measured. Let’s see how the Polestar 2 (P2) manages.
Powertrains, Range And Drive
If we focus on the dual-motor Long Range, the total system output was rated at 346 horsepower and 376 lb.-ft. of torque. Since 2018, two OTA updates have increased output by 5% and 5% again (estimated at 381 and 415 respectively). These numbers pushed the car to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds (0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds). The Polestar 2 is rated at 408 horsepower and 487 lb.-ft. of torque however the car is no faster. In fact, with a time of 4.7 seconds to 100 km/h (4.45 to 60), it’s actually slower.
The main difference lies not in the motors or tires but in weight. The Model 3 tips the scale at under 4,100 lbs, while the 2 is just over 4,700 lbs. The near 650-lb difference handicaps outright performance however there’s a plus side.
Compared to the Model 3, the Polestar 2 feels moored to the road – the old tank-like sense that all have come to appreciate from Volvo. The 2 is quieter, with better overall soundproofing. The vault-like feeling delivered by the P2 could be enough to get Model 3 buyers to reconsider their selection.
However, the Model 3 drives as though it was stripped to its bare necessities. The chassis, the driving experience, is more engaging, be it through the steering wheel or the occasional “graininess” in the car’s communications with the driver. The P2 filters most of that out, for that premium driving experience.
The tested Model 3 Performance was, without a shadow of a doubt, massively faster.
When Elon Musk said that the Model 3 was going to match and surpass the BMW M3, he wasn’t mincing words. But it looks as though he may have overlooked one crucial element: Brakes. Despite having upgraded braking components, the Model 3’s brake pedal response felt distant and provided little initial bite. The Polestar’s optional Brembo brakes delivered nothing short of monumental stopping power.
As tested, the Polestar 2 featured the optional Performance Pack which included said brakes (on the front wheels) and multi-adjustable Öhlins dampers. These manually alterable units were set to “medium” (from up to 20+ settings) which delivered a surprisingly stiff yet comfortable ride. This one aspect is very close to what the Model 3 feels like. It too rides firmly but it’s never “crashy” or jarring.
The biggest difference between the Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD and the Polestar 2 is range. Despite the Model 3 sporting a 75 kWh and the P2, a 78 kWh unit, the Tesla’s range crushes the Polestar’s.
At a rated 518 km, the model 3 will travel roughly 150 km further on a single charge. The P2 will go from 0-80% on at 150 kW in about 40 minutes whereas the Model 3 will accumulate up to 180 miles (290 km) of range in 15 minutes on one of their superchargers. This means that the 0-80% will take less than 30 minutes. Both include an 11 kW onboard charger.
In both cases, 1-pedal driving is available as brake-regeneration can be set in a few modes. The P2 and Model 3 also have a “creep” off or on mode, which is brilliant.
Pricing And Availability
In Canada, the 2021 Polestar 2 starts at $69,900, while in the US, the base price is $59,900. There are only a few colours to select from and a less than a handful of options. They are wheels, Performance and interior leather packs. In Canada, at $6,000, the total cost of the reviewed P2 was $75,900.
The Polestar 2 is available for reservation now. First deliveries begin shortly. IF you reserve a P2 now, you can expect your car sometime in December, or perhaps even early 2021.
The 2020 Tesla Model 3 is priced from $52,990, $37,990 in the US. The dual-motor Long Range Plus starts at $64,990 in Canada, $46,990 in the US. Like the Polestar 2, there are only a few options including colours, wheels, and Autopilot.
The can be ordered today with deliveries occurring in five to nine weeks.
Styling Inside And Out
Visually, these two EVs come from very different schools of thought. Where Tesla goes for the ultra-minimalist approach, Polestar wants its customers to feel at home both when standing beside or sitting inside their car.
The Polestar 2 is a cross between an SUV and a 5-door sedan/hatchback. The rugged and raised luxury sedan look works for the car if mostly to make it unique. Which it does despite the presence of numerous Volvo design cues throughout the body.
Sliding aboard reveals a driving position that is slightly raised, much like an average SUV. The cabin is a mix of familiar displays especially if the new owner is stepping out of a Volvo. The 12.3-inch digital driver display is typical in many luxury and mainstream cars today, as is the larger centre 11.15-inch touchscreen. It is through this screen that the occupants can navigate the included infotainment system powered by Android. In the little time I had with the car, I discovered a system that is intuitive and very quick.
The Model 3 is more super-sleek sports sedan as proven by how aerodynamic it is (0.23 Cd) and by how close it hugs the surface beneath it. The P2 is not especially attractive, and nor is the Model 3. Although it could be said that there’s beauty in simplicity, the only way to add some personality to the Model 3 is by adding the 19-inch wheels and an actual colour.
Here, getting in the car is like sitting in a vacuum, or a void. With only the 15-inch central touchscreen display available to access everything, getting used to the Tesla’s unusual layout can take some time to adjust to. The void is also a result of the nearly completely unobstructed view ahead for the driver. It’s clear that one sits lower and closer to the front wheels in the Model 3, once more lending credence to the fact that this is a sports sedan.
Although both cars are “premium”, the Volvo’s materials, attention to detail, fit and finish as well as overall quality shines through. Even if Polestar is also a start-up car company, Volvo’s near-century of experience in building cars is evident. And this applies both inside and out.
How important are these vehicles for their respective brands?
Polestar is in an enviable position where it benefits from Volvo’s knowhow and Geely’s enormous resources. Even so, the P2 is crucial in moving forward as it will represent “volume” for the near future for Polestar. The P1 and the Precept are not.
The Polestar 2 is also serving as something of a real-world test-bed for both Polestar and Volvo as its powertrain and platform will be featured in the upcoming Volvo XC40 P8 and potentially other Volvos.
The Tesla Model 3 was destined for greatness, and massive volume, the moment it was announced just over five years ago. Teething problems, delivery and quality issues did little to dissuade interested parties for the simple fact that there were no alternatives, and there are still very few.
There was immense pressure on the Model 3 and despite the bugs, it carried Tesla into the Model Y which now shares much of the burden.
Our Thoughts On The Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3
They certainly are different cars, and are aimed at different buyers, but given that there literally are no other options at the moment, to are mortal enemies. In reality, the Polestar 2 has no hope to upset the Tesla Model 3’s position as the best-selling electric car in the world and history no matter how interesting it is.
The comparison comes down to what the buyer wants out of their EV. The P2 is nearly a conventional car that happens to be electric while the Model 3 is a spaceship. If the goal is to purchase an EV without completely acclimatizing yourself to your surroundings, the Polestar is the wiser choice.
Now, if you’re looking to join a lifestyle, a cult even, and fast-forward yourself into what most of us imagine what the future will be like, the Tesla Model 3 is the car for you.
Personally, the “old” man in me enjoys the refined and premium Polestar 2. He loves the seats, the surroundings and the serene driving experience. The “younger” me lusts after the Model 3’s sharper reflexes and power, especially the Performance trim.
Full disclosure: The Model 3 I drove back-to-back with the new Polestar 2 is a two-year-old example. Given that Tesla no longer has a PR department and that communications with them come in batches with huge gaps between them, I did not attempt to get my hands on a new Model 3. I drove this same Model 3 Performance when it was only days old and the experience remains fresh in my mind.
While I’m being upfront, I’m also aware that the Polestar 2 is more a match for the dual-motor Long Range Model 3 and not the Performance.