Polestar unveils the Polestar 2: the first serious Tesla Model 3 competitor

Polestar unveils the Polestar 2: the first serious Tesla Model 3 competitor
It's pretty amazing that the established car manufacturers have been so slow to react to Tesla. But actually it is not - we see it again and again when a new disrupting competitor enters the scene. You'd think the industry would have learned something from all the other disrupted industries? One did: Volvo, who has dedicated its Polestar brand to compete with Tesla directly.

To be fair, the Germans are acknowledging Tesla as a serious competitor, but we've yet to see a Tesla killer emerge from the land of precision engineering. No, the first ones to throw down the gauntlet are the Swedes (along with the Chinese), who today unveiled the Polestar 2, an all-electric "fastback" with two electric motors and a 78 kWh battery capacity.

It sounds really sweet: the dual motors in the Polestar 2 produce a combined 408 hp (that's 300 kW) and 660 Nm (487 lb-ft) of torque. The two electric motors distribute their power to all four wheels too, and they can get the car going 100km/h in under 5 seconds.

The price, after a 12 month period of being set at 59,900€, will go down to an a bit more affordable 39,900€. That's definitely Tesla Model 3 territory and this should be quite the fight. Edit: it is not confirmed whether the lower price will concern a new model of the Polestar 2 with a lower spec, or if the one unvieled at this time will simply get a price reduction. Based on the initial marketing material I assumed the latter.

It's a looker

Polestar 2

I'm a huge fan of Volvo's design, and the Polestar 2 is no different. The design is sporty and tough, contrasting the Model 3's curvier and more elegant design language. It seems to have a little higher ground clearance than what cars usually go for, but it certainly won't be an off-roader. You'll just sit a bit higher and prouder in your Polestar 2.

Polestar 2 - interior

The insides look very cool as well, borrowing a large (11 inch) center-mounted display from Tesla. The infotainment system is powered by Android, bringing Google services like Google Assistant and Google Maps directly into the car, without you needing to somehow mount your phone somewhere. It looks clean and very high tech.

Polestar vs Tesla

So how does it compare to the Model 3 which is squarely in its sights? Glad you asked. They seem very equal on paper (at least comparing what's available here in Europe), so we'll have to wait for actual reviews to know which one wins this round.

But until those come out, I think a pro-vs-pro list is in order, where I highlight the main specs that are better in one car over the other. Note that there are several versions of the Model 3, and I'll list specs from the less expensive "long range" model which matches the Polestar 2 in price.

Tesla Model 3 pros vs Polestar 2

  • 560 km range
  • 4.8s 0-100km/h time
  • Tesla Autopilot (not sure if the Polestar 2 has an answer to Autopilot)
  • Very good safety

Polestar 2 pros vs Tesla Model 3

  • 78kWh battery capacity
  • "Under 5s" 0-100km/h time (might end up being better than the Tesla, we don't know yet.)
  • 408 bhp
  • After 12 months the price will go down to 39,000€, which is almost 20,000€ less than the Tesla. Before that they cost basically the same.
  • Very good safety (Volvo is known for their safety so I'm assuming that that carries over to Polestar)

The cars are direct competitors, and they both have very compelling pro's. What can't be found on the spec sheets is the special, "bleeding edge industry disruptor" feeling of a Tesla, or the cool confidence that a vehicle from an established and reputable car manufacturer brings. That's basically up to the customer to decide.

The price

Edit: reworked this part to include the recently announced $35,000 model 3.

The pricing model of the Polestar 2 is interesting. I get it too - they probably need some time to ramp up production and figure things out, so they don't even want a high volume at the beginning. The Model 3 also needed some time to gel, so to speak. But the cost of being an early adopter is not usually spoken of, and here Polestar is saying that in a year, we'll get a sizable and permanent price decrease. Early adopters always know that they are paying a premium to be first, so the people who want and can afford the Polestar 2 will not be dissuaded by this.

The Tesla Model 3 was always promised to be a $35,000 car and I have no doubt in my mind that Polestar is deliberately trying to match its price. The Polestar 2 is poised to compare very favorably against the newly-announced $35,000 Model 3, and it already beats it on paper. 35,000 dollars easily becomes 40,000 euros on the way over the Atlantic, so Polestar will have a much better product for roughly the same price as the most basic Tesla.

One question mark remains, and that is the timetable in which the Polestar 2 can make it to the States and the $35,000 Model 3 can make it to Europe. I expect the cheapest Model 3 to make it to Europe before the Polestar 2 lands in the US, but they may both have a considerable amount of time without competing directly with each other in their respective markets.

What this means for you

Even if you are not currently in the market for a new car, the arrival of the Polestar 2 should be a very welcome thing indeed. Tesla was in sore need of a good competitor, and it will make all parties put their game face on and their best foot forward. Technology will advance and the price will come down on all sides. Just wait until the Germans arrive!

So I wouldn't buy a Tesla or a Polestar... right now. Electric vehicles are the future and this is just the beginning. They will be better and cheaper in just a few years.