Wait, what is that under the camouflage?
That swoopy Scandi thing is the all-new Polestar 5. Kind of. This is actually one of the early prototypes of the all-electric four-door GT, and we’ve managed to blag a passenger ride at Polestar’s UK R&D centre on the MIRA proving ground.
Of course, there’s only so much you can tell from not being in the hot seat, but the 5 is a proper passion project for Polestar boss Thomas Ingenlath and the small engineering team based near Coventry. Heck, this is a team that comprised just 50 people in 2019. That number may have grown to around 500 now, but it’s still mightily impressive that they’ve managed to develop a brand-new electric car platform from scratch in that time. And as it edges ever closer to production, we couldn’t miss the chance to get a glimpse of what the Porsche Taycan rival – set to go on sale in 2024 – might be like…
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What are the specs, then?
Well, back in June last year Polestar confirmed that there will be a 5 with an all-wheel drive, twin-motor powertrain that produces 872bhp and 664lb ft of torque. All 5s will get a lightweight bonded aluminium chassis too and pressed aluminium panels, but Polestar hasn’t confirmed many more details than that.
And yet, this very car that we’re in is a Vehicle Dynamics Development car which has done 13,000km of testing so far, and it’s running a rear-wheel drive, single-motor setup without any kind of Performance Pack. That’ll be the other end of the range then.
We’re told that this prototype has been through between 200 and 300 different setups so far too, but it’s currently running a completely passive suspension system with clever damper tech. Unlike with the Polestar 2 there hasn’t been any work with Ohlins on the 5, but there will be another option that’s likely to be an active, semi-active or perhaps even manually-adjustable setup. Sounds like it won’t be loaded with fancy electronics and won’t use heavy air suspension, though.
How does it feel from the passenger seat?
Well, we’re sat next to Chris Baguley, a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer and designated Polestar 5 prototype driver. He’s lapping the handling circuit at MIRA, and clearly neither him nor the car are averse to a bit of sideways action.
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“I’ve been on this since the platform concept phase,” says Baguley. “I know that we’re the vehicle level team, but we’ve been actively involved from a blank sheet of paper. We’re working with some fantastic vehicle dynamics specialists and chassis designers, but I can count the team of people that brought this to life on one hand. That level of ownership reignites the passion in people.”
And it certainly seems like that passion has translated into something very competent indeed. The 5 reacts to inputs in a natural, controllable manner and its playful side hides what is surely quite considerable mass.
This particular prototype does have ABS, but there’s no stability control and only a very lenient traction control system. Because of that and its rear-wheel drive setup it smoothly transitions into power oversteer, and it’s more than happy to flick the tail out for some lift-off oversteer too.
It isn’t all big skids and tyre-shredding though, there is a little understeer if you head into a corner too quickly. “We need to make it accessible for everyone,” says Baguley. “But for those that want it to be playful and want to explore the opportunities then that’s what we’re trying to do.”
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It’s not like there’s no roll either. The body control and the damping is fantastic, but it doesn’t feel overly stiff to achieve that and there’s very few crashes or rattles despite this being a proper testbed.
The brakes are strong too, which you’d hope given that the front discs are massive. It’s not running any here, but there will be three levels of regen once the 5 hits the streets and the R&D team is working to get the maximum amount of energy back into the battery as you slow the car down. Watch this space.
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The first thing to note is that it’s actually a five-seater. It may look like four, but the folding central armrest can be used as an extra space for short hops. The seats themselves are interesting too. Polestar has collaborated with Recaro for the chairs in the front, while the rears it has developed itself. Both are thin but comfortable bucket-style seats without an excess of padding. You sit low despite the battery under the floor, and there’s a slight racecar feel to the position it puts you in.
Oh, and there’s no rear window. Like the 4 SUV it gets a massive panoramic roof as standard and then uses a camera as a rear-view mirror. This gives you more headroom, but it is a strange feeling being sat in the back and not being able to look behind.
You do get the luxury of what Polestar is calling a ‘foot garage’ back there though. Sounds a bit creepy, but essentially it’s a 400mm gap in the battery pack that leaves you room to put your feet right on the floor of the car. That means rear space is impressive and your knees aren’t up by your ears like they are in lots of EVs.
There looks to be decent boot space too, hopefully with space to take at least four suitcases given the 5’s GT credentials. There’s actually a Ford Puma-style bin with extra space underneath part of the boot floor too, plus there’s a frunk with enough space for the charging cables.
What about the tech?
Again, nothing is confirmed just yet, but above the piano black-heavy centre console is a large, portrait-mounted screen. There’s also a smaller screen mounted behind the steering wheel for your speed and state of charge etc.
Anything else I need to know?
The big thing to point out is that this is the scalable platform that will underpin the Polestar 6. That’s the production spec version of the O2 Roadster concept, which could be very desirable indeed.
Other bits? Well, this platform has also been designed to accept rear-wheel steer, although this prototype doesn’t have it and Polestar hasn’t confirmed whether or not the 5 will get it at all. In fact, the team made a last-minute decision to chop over 40mm out of the wheelbase because the car was too long. Plus, the trick front suspension allows for an impressive amount of steering angle, so the turning circle isn’t massive.
You like it so far then?
Everything points to the 5 being a very sorted and expensive-feeling four-door GT, and we know that Polestar can do posh because it began its ‘brand journey’ (we’ll fetch our coats) with the Bentley Continental GT-rivalling 1.
We do expect the finished thing to be fairly pricey though, so perhaps the single-motor entry-level car that we experienced might be the purest and best-driving of the lot? We’ll have to wait and see, but first impressions are good.