There’s a long-held notion in the car business that hybrids and electrics should have a certain “look.” At a glance, these vehicles are supposed to appeal to our better natures—and cast their builders as practitioners of enlightened engineering. This approach, however, has not traditionally yielded pretty results. Many hybrid and EV manufacturers presume that environmental stewardship is the paramount consideration for their would-be customer, aesthetics be damned.
Flying in the face of that tendency comes Polestar 1, the first car from Polestar, a newly created electric-performance sub-brand from Volvo Cars. A sensuous, broad-hipped luxury GT, Polestar 1 could be fairly described as a 600-horsepower hybrid sex bomb.
“We create cars based on what we, as automotive and design enthusiasts, would want to use and live with all year,” says Thomas Ingenlath, Polestar’s German-born chief executive. The coupe is based on a Volvo concept car from 2013, which at the time read like the wishful fever dream of a brand known for bricklike, boxy vehicles. It also seemed like beautiful folly from Ingenlath, then just one year into his tenure as Volvo’s senior VP of design.
In subsequent years, however, Ingenlath has led a design renaissance at Volvo, such that Polestar 1 represents a progression, not an aberration. Its long hood, high hip, and raked canopy deliver a classic coupe silhouette, while its broad haunches give it a feline, Jaguar-like presence.
Ingenlath abdicated his design perch at Volvo in June to become chief executive of the newly created Polestar sub-brand, but that’s not to say he has lost his eye, or his opinions. He chafes at the idea that a hybrid or EV requires visual signifiers like acid-green brake calipers or garish “Hybrid” badges—or an unsightly silhouette—to broadcast its ecofriendly bona fides. “We would never express the nature of the drive-train with a ‘green’ or ‘blue’ color code,” he says, with textbook German reserve. “Instead, Polestar will develop its own design language—one that bridges its electric, futuristic identity with classic, sporty automotive aesthetics.” Indeed, the fastback proportions of Polestar 1 may evoke the timeless 1965 Ford Mustang, but the icy smoothness of its surfaces owes more to the iPhone X.
Don’t expect the mother ship’s aesthetics to go entirely MIA, though. Ingenlath notes that the “Thor’s hammer” headlight array on Polestar 1 comes from the new Volvos that the designer had such a hand in creating. The grille also echoes Volvo’s signature slats—albeit without the brand’s telltale circle-and-arrow logo. Instead, Polestars wear their own badge: a deconstructed starburst that could, given Polestar’s wired guts, suggest a splitting electron.
Polestar is targeting a mere sliver of the total car market, but the brand experience is designed to resonate globally. “We will not make market-specific adjustments,” Ingenlath says. “The same goes for how we present the brand physically in Polestar Spaces,” he adds, referencing the sub-brand’s showrooms, which will operate outside the traditional Volvo dealer network.
“Pure, progressive performance,” Ingenlath says, is Polestar’s north star. It’s also a universe removed from the stolid, conservative Volvo of old.