Don’t get that Tesla Model 3 until you’ve given this entry-level EV a look.
Alex Leanse - Writer; William Walker - Photographer | Mar 31, 2022
We've had several opportunities to assess the Polestar 2 in its Single and Dual Motor setups. But even with options inflating their bottom lines, those cars didn't exactly leave us starstruck. So when we got a chance to have a go at the no-frills 2022 Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor, we didn't think it would wow us, either, and that largely turned out to be the case at the test track. Still, we wanted to see how well this particular 2 stacked up against a similarly specced Tesla Model 3, and the overall results turned out to be far closer than we expected.
Base Price Battle: Polestar 2 Vs. Model 3
OK, the Polestar 2 Long Range Single Motor we had in for testing isn't exactly a no-option car. Its pearly Magnesium paint cost $1,200, just like every color Polestar offers besides black. Otherwise, it represents the Polestar 2's bare essence by eschewing the $3,200 Pilot (expanded driver aids, surround-view cameras, auto-dimming side mirrors), $4,000 Plus (glass roof, heated rear seats, upgraded speakers), and $5,000 Performance (Öhlins dampers, Brembo brakes, summer tires) option packages. Standard equipment highlights included 19-inch wheels, heated front seats, and a digital gauge display on our $48,400 test car, though available tax incentives will lower that final price. (Tesla's base model, the Standard Range Plus rear-motor Model 3 priced at $48,190 to start, isn't eligible for the federal credit.)
Half The Motors, Half As Good?
The 2 Single Motor sends 231 hp and 243 lb-ft to power the front wheels. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 6.8 seconds, with the test team reporting notable torque steer and an otherwise demure off-the-line response. We've also tested the all-wheel-drive Polestar 2 Dual Motor, which brings performance to match its $4,000 premium: 408 hp and 468 lb-ft of torque to be exact, enabling a swift 4.0-second 0-60 launch. Meanwhile, the Model 3 in its single-rear-motor configuration makes 283 hp and 307 lb-ft and hits 60 mph in a solid 5.0 seconds.
In our quarter-mile testing, the 2 in Single Motor spec crossed the line in 15.3 seconds at 93.4 mph, far behind the 12.6-second, 110.0-mph run in its Dual Motor setup. The equivalent single-motor Model 3 also out-dragged it, with a 13.4-second run at 104.9 mph. Our test team noted how acceleration waned in the 2 Single Motor after about 50 mph. We also detected the same in freeway merging and passing situations, though the accelerator pedal is more reactive once underway.
Despite its torque steer downside, front-wheel drive presents a potential advantage in electric vehicles. As deceleration naturally shifts a car's weight forward, regenerative braking can be made stronger given that the front wheels bear the brunt of slowing power. We aren't sure if any of that had a real effect during our testing, but the 2 Single Motor hauled down from 60 mph to 0 in a more than reasonable 114 feet. Its regen tuning makes one-pedal driving highly intuitive, and switchovers to friction braking are imperceptible. Not surprisingly, the 2 Dual Motor stopped quite a bit shorter at 102 feet, thanks to its larger Brembo brakes and stickier tires that come with the Performance package. Bringing up the rear in a big way is the 128-foot result we recorded back in 2019 for the rear-motor Model 3.
Outright grip is good in the 2 Single Motor, coming in at 0.88 g average around the skidpad, slightly higher than the Model 3's 0.84 g result. It's close in the figure-eight test, too: 26.6 seconds at 0.65 g average for the Polestar and 26.4 seconds at 0.69 g average for the single-motor Tesla. In these measures the 2 Dual Motor's Performance package delivers big numbers: 0.95 g on the skidpad and 24.7 seconds at 0.79 g average on the figure eight. Even though the 2's chassis feels rigid and balanced, the Model 3's beautifully precise steering adds enthusiastic verve to an already competent dynamic setup.
Polestar 2 Range And Charging
Regardless of motor arrangement, every Polestar 2 sold in the United States is powered by a 78-kWh battery. Level 2 charging takes about 8 hours at 11 kW, while a 150-kW fast charger can juice a drained pack to 80 percent in around 40 minutes. Given the Long Range in its name, predictably, the Single Motor version goes farther on a charge (270 miles) than its Dual Motor sibling (249 miles). The entry-level Model 3's 272-mile range rating is a negligible advantage.
Star Styling, Eco-Luxury
The Polestar 2's concept car looks are no coincidence. We're taken by its crisp bodywork, with its wide taillight assembly and wraparound window graphic adding modern flair. Sure, it resembles a Volvo, but that's hardly a bad thing in our view. The Model 3 seems plain and incognito by comparison.
Simply put, the 2 is assembled to a higher standard of quality than the Tesla. Everything feels solidly built, unlike the chintzy bits and inconsistencies that compromise some Model 3s. Polestar's commitment to recycled and vegan materials reduces the 2's overall environmental impact while giving drivers a convincingly premium cabin. Additionally, its hatchback cargo area makes the Polestar 2 far more practical than conventional sedans.
That there's an information readout ahead of the driver—unlike in the Tesla—is infinitely appreciable. Even though the Model 3's touchscreen is larger, the 11.2-inch unit in the Polestar 2 works at least as well, with its Google-designed user interface and impressive voice recognition capabilities. Like Tesla, Polestar promises future improvements via over-the-air updates. Unlike Tesla, Polestar charges extra for driver aids like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring, features that come standard on every Model 3.
Despite its alluring cabin, the 2022 Polestar 2 isn't always a comfortable place to sit. This particular Single Motor car with the standard suspension and smaller 19-inch wheels suffers from a firm, springy ride, much like the adjustable-damper, 20-inch-rim-equipped Polestar 2 models we've tested previously. Although there's less harshness, we wouldn't call it plush. It's so stiff, in fact, choppy pavement can reduce accelerative traction, as if the drive wheels are bouncing off the road.
2022 Polestar 2 Or Model 3?
The Polestar 2 lineup as a whole is impressive in many ways, but it isn't quite the match of what Tesla brings to the table with the Model 3, and the 2022 Polestar 2 Single Motor Long Range doesn't tip that balance. Yet it's an intriguing alternative, whether weighed on price, styling, practicality, or simply the fact that it's different. Even as Polestar's future glows with promise, its entry-level car meets the moment for EV intenders and is a more than credible alternative to its closest Tesla competitor.