Polestar is, really, really desperate to prove to everyone it isn’t Volvo. I was scrolling through my endless feed of TikTok only to stumble on a clumsy attempt at self-deprecating humor by the brand, lampooning the fact that people really might not be convinced that Polestars aren’t just Volvos via that currently viral Modern Family meme. I guess it was kind of funny; brands leaning into memes are almost certainly the kiss of death for that particular meme, but I digress. At least someone on the Polestar team has acknowledged the elephant in the room.
Regardless, Polestar is attempting to distance itself from Volvo’s more demure style. The latest Polestar models throw caution to the wind, they take risks and make decisions that Volvo would never do. Like, selling a car without a rear window.
Polestar says you won’t miss that pane of glass in a camera-filled, self-driving future. Is it right? I attempted to find that out during my ride-along in a preproduction prototype of the Polestar 4. I did so at the recent Polestar Day event, where the brand unveiled some of its future plans to journalists, investors and some fans.
This might be one of the only first drives (um, er, rides) where the perspective was generated mostly from the back seat.
Polestar’s First SEA Platform Effort
If you’re like me, you probably mistakenly thought that the Polestar 3 and 4 were mostly sister cars, akin to the relationship of the BMW X3 and X4. Those two cars are mostly the same, but one has a sportier roofline, crafted to dupe SUV owners into seeing their high-profile, tall crossovers as sporty coupes. However, the relationship between the Polestar SUVs is more complicated. On some level, the Polestar 4 is also a coupe SUV, but it doesn’t share much at all with the Polestar 3.
For example, while the Polestar 3 uses the same SPA2 platform that underpins the Volvo EX90, the Polestar 4 is based on the SEA (Sustainable Experience Architecture) that is used on the Zeekr 001 and the Volvo EX30.
Gallery: Polestar 4 Live Impressions
Even the price points are way different; the Polestar 3 starts at a surprisingly high $83,600, whereas we expect the Polestar 4 to clock in at the $60,000 range. They’re completely different cars, at different price points. They aren’t sisters. They’re cousins. (Maybe niece and nephew.) But the point is, the Polestar 3 is meant to be the brand's halo SUV, while the Polestar 4 is the volume-seller. The Polestar 4 also is said to clock a preliminary range target of over 300 miles on the long-range, single-motor variant, using a 102-kWh battery pack.
In-person, the Polestar 4 is a bit odd-looking, but I think generally it’s a sharp-looking car. As is the trend with many modern EVs, it can be hard to gauge the physical size of the 4 in pictures; is it Honda Civic-sized? Is it BMW X4-sized? Did Polestar just decide to fill in the rear window of a normal sedan and pretend like it’s a crossover? Hmm, not quite. The Polestar 4 is definitely on the lower-slung side of the EV crossovers, about two inches shorter than the Hyundai Ioniq 5, but the rest of the dimensions are fairly girthy. The Polestar 4 is about 8 inches longer, and 5 inches wider than the Ioniq 5. It’s a car that is shockingly imposing when viewed in person. Think Toyota Crown, but electric and Swedish.
Whatever the Polestar 4 purports itself to be, it’s definitely a stylish thing. It’s wide and low, with good proportions, although some may feel the rear end ends a little too abruptly. Like all the other cars in the Polestar showroom, the Polestar 4 is cleanly styled, with neat side surfacing. Every line has a purpose, and all the minor details are masterfully crafted and seamlessly integrated into the vehicle’s body. Even the 4’s lack of a rear window feels outrageously chic.
So, no rear window, huh?
As explained once before, Polestar had some engineering and style goals for the preorder for the Polestar 4 to have an SUV-like raised seating position with adjustable rear seats, glass roof, and strong safety ratings without being overly tall and cumbersome, something e tolse had to give.
Polestar pushed a main support beam as far back as it would go, allowing for a large, unbroken glass roof (when equipped), at the expense of a rear window on the hatch door, since a big structural beam now cuts through what would be the rear driver’s line of sight.
Polestar says the lack of a rear window isn’t a big deal, and they’ve rationalized it (or maybe, just flat-out using some clever PR spin) by extolling the benefits of a lack of a rear window. For example, Polestar representatives insist that the lack of rearward visibility, but adjustable rear seats, and glass roof make the car feel more expensive to ride in, akin to a chauffeured private car ride.
Also, because there’s no rear window, owners are free to pile as many items as possible in the cargo area, since there’s no rear window line they have to accommodate. Rear visibility is handled via a camera that Polestar claims gives the driver a wider field of vision than rubbernecking and looking out a tiny rear window.
With those things in mind, I intentionally chose a rear seat when it came time for the ride-along.
I’m not sure I buy Polestar’s rationale. Sure, the 4 feels about as nice and as spacious as the 3, but I’m not convinced that the lack of a rear window adds anything to the experience. Sure, the 4 has a coupe-like roofline from the outside, but inside, things feel so much different. The roofline comes down abruptly behind the rear seats, meaning there’s a huge bulkhead directly behind the rear passenger’s heads. It’s a little claustrophobic and oddly reminiscent of the 1980s-era “formal” rooflines found in cars like the Chrysler New Yorker, with an abrupt roofline that came straight down behind the rear headrests. Except the Volvo’s interior cabin doesn’t match what the exterior body panels are doing.
All the cars on the test were single-motor, RWD units. Obviously, they were much slower than the twin-motor nearly 500 horsepower Polestar 3, but the 4 felt quick enough. The ride was composed, but I did notice that the Polestar 4 wasn’t quite as quiet, and its ride was not as sophisticated as the Polestar 3. It could be some preproduction woes, but the 4 had a little more jiggle and shake compared to the solid 3. That all could be ironed out by the time the final models reach journalists and owners.
What is the Polestar 4, even?
I’m not quite sure what I should even take away from the Polestar 4, or Polestar Day as a whole. The brand itself will claim that the 4 is just an EV crossover coupe with a funky twist, but I think it's attempting to be something else. It’s straddling a lot of lines, between coupe, SUV, and passenger-oriented luxury sedan, but I’m not sure if it successfully blends all of those things. It feels like Polestar’s design team had an idea, and they were determined to get it on the roads, come hell or high water. Will drivers warm up to it?
We’ll see when the Polestar 4 officially goes on sale in 2024. Pricing isn’t official yet, but at an expected $60,000 starting price, the car faces a lot of competition from EVs that don’t have as many hate-it-or-love-it design choices.