New Polestar 4 ride review
We take to the streets of LA in the passenger seat of the new Polestar 4 to see how this crucial but unorthodox new model is shaping up ahead of its 2024 UK launch…
We were invited to Los Angeles to take a ride in a near-production prototype of the new 4 and learn more about a car that was first revealed in April 2023 at the Shanghai Motor Show, but is due to be on sale in the UK just over a year later.
First, some background. The 4 will follow hot on the heels of the Polestar 3 in the second half of 2024, but while the 4 is larger than the existing Polestar 2, the 3 is bigger still. The 3 is a premium SUV rival for the likes of the BMW iX and Audi Q8 e-tron starting just under £80,000. The Polestar 4 is midsize coupe-SUV set to cost from around £55,000. It’s going to be 2, 4, 3 in the model range hierarchy, so if you thought you could count on Polestar to make things simple to understand, think again.
According to Polestar head of design, Maximilian Missoni, the Polestar 4 is “a new category, a very low SUV. A hybrid". If you define an SUV by its chunky, off road-inspired styling and raised ride height, those elements are largely absent here. Like the Polestar 2 before it, the 4 looks like more of a super-sized hatchback.
One area where the Polestar 4 defies comparisons with other family car models is its complete lack of a rear windscreen. Instead of glass to provide a view out of the back, Polestar has adopted rear-facing cameras that project a video feed of what’s behind you into the rear-view mirror.
Polestar believes this approach has solved the problem of cars with curved coupe-like rooflines offering poor rear visibility with Missoni explaining: “our conviction was that the technology has reached a point where it can be used to replace something that brings real limitations”.
The bigger benefit comes in the way the absence of a rear window has boosted the Polestar 4’s back seat passenger space. With no rear glass to accommodate, the point at which the roofline starts to fall away to the rear can be pushed back behind the heads of rear seat passengers, maximising their head room. In combination with the 4’s huge panoramic glass roof, this really enhances the feeling of space and goes firmly against what we’d expect from a model billed as a coupe. The rear seat backs can even recline to spoil rear seat passengers further.
How does it work in practice? The screen definitely gives you a wider view to the rear of the car than a mirror and a back window would. The downside is the same one that we’ve experienced in other cars using camera technology in place of mirrors, your eyes take more time to adjust their focus from the road ahead to the display than they would if it was a real mirror. The screen can actually be flipped to become a mirror but with no window, all it will show you is what your kids are up to in the back. The screen brightness can be adjusted, too.
Putting the Polestar 4’s most novel design feature to one side, what else did our ride reveal? It was the long range, single motor version that we tried, fitted with conventional dampers. It’s a rear-wheel drive car as opposed to the all-wheel drive dual-motor models that also come with adjustable dampers.
Even without the clever suspension, the ride quality impressed. The Polestar 2 has long been criticised for its firm ride and from the passenger seat, the 4 seems to have gone some way to addressing the issue. On the relatively smooth roads around LA, the ride was firm but supple, and noticeably less harsh than that in the Polestar 2 that ferried us back to the hotel afterwards.
Improved ride quality has been a focus in the development of the Polestar 4 but that has had to be balanced with the need to retain the sporty driving experience that the brand sees as central to its identity. From what little we can tell after a short passenger ride, it seems like a decent balance has been struck. The car felt relatively composed through the few corners we encountered and the refined powertrain delivered acceleration in a strong but smooth manner, without obvious jerkiness.
We were told that some of the cabin materials in this pre-production model weren’t quite the finished article but the environment still lived up to the Polestar 4’s premium billing. The huge central touchscreen runs Google software, but Polestar has refined the user interface and applied its own design flavour to the menus. The display is extremely crisp and seems fast to respond, while thought has obviously gone into creating large button areas that can be more easily pressed on the move. As usual, we’d prefer more physical buttons for key controls but the system does look straightforward to use.
The cabin’s ambient lighting is also worthy of note because Polestar has applied the technology previewed in its Precept concept car, adding backlighting that shines through the porous material lining the doors. In low light it looks very effective, and does a lot to change the feeling of the interior when you select different lighting colours.
Polestar has taken a bold design approach with the 4, yet while the camera-based rear view might be suboptimal in many people’s eyes, it has enabled the car to combine a curving coupe roofline and genuinely spacious rear passenger accommodation. That’s a rare combination in a car of this size, and with our passenger ride suggesting improved comfort levels that work in conjunction with Polestar’s focus on driving enjoyment still intact, we await a proper drive with some optimism.