I don’t call myself an SUV lover, but I can admit that maybe it’s a strange business decision to start out your fully electric (or electrified) brand with a sedan and a coupe. In case you haven’t noticed, the SUV-shaped Tesla Model Y is the best-selling vehicle in the world. Hell, most of the biggest-selling vehicles today are of the light truck variety, regardless of propulsion type. So there’s no doubt the Polestar 3 is a long time coming, primed to pick up all the consumers waiting for a crossover from the Sino-Swedish brand.
But the crossover’s introduction shows there are a lot of looming questions. Is this truly what Polestar needs to get out from under the shadow of its Geely Group corporate cousin Volvo? I couldn’t get actual driving time behind the wheel, but the brand offered ride-a-longs of the 3 during this year’s Polestar Day event – along with its sleeker sibling, the Polestar 4. There’s still a lot to be said, even as a passenger.
Polestar’s First Crossover Ain’t Cheap
Even as a person paid to understand, write, and comment on the EV market, I can admit that it can be hard to keep track of the onslaught of new EV nameplates about to hit the market. Heck, Polestar showed off three new models all at the same time – all very stylish and painted in white. So, I wrongfully assumed that the Polestar 3 and 4 were variations of the same chassis, a two-pronged approach aimed at that magical $50-65,000 sweet spot occupied by the Tesla Model Y, Cadillac Lyriq, Genesis GV70 Electrified and more.
I was mistaken. The Polestar 3 and 4 actually aren’t all that similar at all under the skin. They’re even on different platforms, with the 4’s also underpinning China’s Zeekr 001 and the new Volvo EM90 van. And to top it off, Polestar’s aiming for a much higher price bracket with the Polestar 3, especially compared to the downright budget Polestar 2.
At a base price of $83,900, before destination fees or any options, the Polestar 3 is aimed upmarket against EVs like the Audi Q8 E-Tron or BMW iX. It’s a big car, meant for big budgets, looking for a taste of slightly sport-oriented Swedish luxury.
Up Close and Personal: The Polestar 3 Is Sharp
This isn’t the first time anyone’s seen the Polestar 3. It’s been unveiled for a while, and a select few Polestar stores across the United States have had examples in showrooms for Polestar fans and customers alike. But they aren’t in every showroom, nor do most of us make a habit of visiting car dealerships on a regular basis to take a gander at new products. I’d wager that this was the first time that most folks in attendance had seen the Polestar 3 in person, since the Polestar Day event was full of fans and investors as well as journalists.
And it looks great. True, Polestar still has yet to beat the “this is just a Volvo” allegations, but the Polestar 3 has strong, clean lines and a presence that’s all its own. The upright, practically minded rear hatch area feels downright novel compared to the kind of hackneyed coupe-like rooflines of so many EV models on the market. The Polestar 3’s hood is long, the car feels wide, athletic, and svelte despite being dimensionally a stone’s throw away from the visually gargantuan BMW iX. In an era of overstyled EVs, the Polestar 3 feels refreshing.
Likewise, the interior feels wide and airy. I’ve previously described the Polestar 2 as if it were a car made by Crate & Barrel, but the 2’s kind of mediocre packaging could be accused of making the car feel confining. That car’s interior is snug, featuring a big center tunnel that pushes the occupants to the outside of the car, and tiny windows that make the interior feel cavern-like.
The Polestar 3’s interior is much better in that regard. The freestanding center console juts into the front passenger space but doesn’t connect with the 14.5-inch infotainment display. So there’s a big open space near the driver and front passenger’s feet – coupled with the clean, unencumbered dashboard and elevated driving position inherent to the SUV form factor of the Polestar 3, this crossover’s interior might be the most comfortable feeling interior the brand has produced yet.
With that said, some potential buyers may be a bit off-put by the Polestar 3’s comparatively sparse feeling interior considering the car’s price. It’s a little unfair to critique a preproduction example too closely with regard to material quality or fit and finish, but the Audi Q8 E-Tron and BMW iX interiors look more plush than the Polestar’s.
Swift And Smooth Riding
Unlike the Polestar 4, the Polestar 3 uses the same SPA2 platform as the Volvo EX90, but I get the gist that the Polestar 3’s strictly five-passenger form factor and optional performance pack place it above the family-oriented Volvo. Of course, the Polestar 3's key features are its sleekly integrated LIDAR features that the brand says will enable semi-autonomous driving really soon. Unfortunately, that part wasn't tested, so we can't comment on the effectiveness of that system.
Our test ride was short – only about 10 minutes – but it did encompass actual city roads and traffic. The short jaunt revealed a ride that was well-composed and comfortable, albeit on the firm side. The crossover handled the streets of Santa Monica with grace, with no awkward bouncing or rattle inherent to a preproduction car or underdeveloped suspension where the spring rates and dampers are mismatched, barely coping with the more than 5,500 lbs of electric crossover. The 487 horsepower twin-motor AWD setup flung the crossover to illegal speeds within the blink of an eye, as is the custom with modern EVs these days. It all felt very nice – albeit I'm not entirely convinced that it was an experience worth $83,000.
And I think that'll be the crux of the Polestar 3's issues when journalists and customers alike can finally get behind the wheel. For example, the BMW iX is ugly as sin, but it is secretly one of BMW's best-driving cars, managing to strike a well-considered balance between driving engagement and comfort. In its current state, the Polestar 3 feels impressive and likable, but will the rest of the driving experience live up to the high price tag? Are consumers really in search of yet another nearly $100,000 EV crossover?
We'll soon learn when the Polestar 3 goes on sale in 2024.