The striking Polestar Precept concept debuted at a tough time. Polestar originally planned its unveiling for the 2020 Geneva Motor Show, but that show was cancelled, and the car premiered via virtual conference. After finally spending some time in person with the Precept, and chatting with Polestar CEO Thomas Ingelath and design lead Max Missoni, there's a lot to be excited about with the latest Polestar.
The Precept was initially pitched as a concept car that would preview the brand's future designs, starting with next year's Polestar 3 crossover. But now, the company has decided to put it into production. It's set to arrive in 2024 as the all-electric Polestar 5, and the company is spending a lot of money to make it more than just a fancied-up Volvo. "It's not about just building a tophat and using technology that exists," Ingenlath says. "It's about building a holistic car experience."
The Polestar 5 will use a bonded aluminum space frame—the sort pioneered by Lotus, which is now owned by Geely, parent company of Volvo and Polestar. It will use a developed-in-house motor called P10 that puts out more than 600 hp in its most powerful guise. The 5 will also use a lower-power front motor for a total all-wheel output of 872 hp. In concert with Lotus, Polestar is developing a new 800-volt battery architecture, which should allow ultra-quick recharging in the 5. And interestingly, the 5 is being developed by Polestar's new U.K.-based research and design team.
"The U.K. is a place that definitely has incredible expertise, talent, and of course, history in great car engineering," Ingenlath says. "And that is a very creative source for us. For me, one of the most joyful things is to work with these engineers, especially when it comes to cars like this. That type of sports-cars engineering—lightweight, aluminum—that is a great history and tradition we can tap into."
Both the Precept concept and the production 5 represent a big step forward in design. Missoni reminds us that the Polestar 1 started life as the Ingenlath-designed Volvo Concept Coupe of 2013, a car that referenced the P1800 without being retro. "There, the whole idea was, how can we combine these iconic elements from the sixties in a shape with a modern design?" That concept was never meant for production, but when Polestar was launched as its own brand with Ingenlath at the helm, the big two-door was adapted for limited production.
The Precept has a different mission. "Here, it was a clean slate," Missoni says. "This was really to venture out from Volvo, and nobody would say 'Oh, this is a Volvo.' It's clearly a different animal, and that was the point here." The idea was to create something that looked similar to the Polestar 1 and 2, but that moved away from those car's clear Volvo origins. (The Polestar 2 started life as the Volvo 40.2 concept of 2016.)
Missoni also said that the Precept concept allows Polestar to define itself more clearly. In the concept car, many of the usual trappings of traditional luxury—chrome, leather, wood—are replaced by sustainable materials. The car displays its technology proudly, with what Polestar calls a SmartPanel—a narrow strip housing sensors and cameras—taking the place of a traditional grille and a lidar sensor jutting from the roof. Eventually, that sensor will allow for fully autonomous highway driving.
The story goes that Polestar first presented the Precept concept as a preview of design elements coming to the Polestar 4 and 5 crossovers. But Missoni says he and Ingenlath always design their concept cars with an eye towards production. "When we did the concept car, we wanted to keep it in the realm of possibilities, so we know that we can get it," he says. "Thomas and I have a bit of a track record of doing [concept] cars that are quite close [to production]." When the Precept got positive reactions, Polestar was ready to make it real.
The all-electric Polestar 5 will arrive in 2024, and the company says it will carry a price tag similar to that of the Porsche Panamera. (The Precept concept has a much larger footprint than Porsche's EV, the Taycan.) Next year will see the debut of the Polestar 3, aimed at the Porsche Cayenne, and 2023 will mark the launch of the Polestar 4, targeted at the Macan. When Polestars 2 through 5 are all in production, the company hopes to sell 290,000 cars a year by 2025—about as many cars as Porsche sells now.
Maybe it's a good thing that it's taken us so long to get a good, hard look at the Precept concept. Now, we can fully appreciate what's coming.
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