Home » 2024 Polestar 2 Makes Unprecedented Switch To Rear-Wheel Drive In Mid-Cycle Refresh

2024 Polestar 2 Makes Unprecedented Switch To Rear-Wheel Drive In Mid-Cycle Refresh

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The Polestar 2 electric sedan — which competes with the Tesla Model 3 — has been out since 2019, and is now getting what the auto industry calls a “mid-cycle refresh.” As is typical for mid-cycle action (MCA), the Swedish EV gets revised exterior styling, more power, and various performance improvements, but in addition to those, the revision brings a change that I’ve never seen before in an MCA: a change from front-wheel drive to rear-wheel drive. This is extremely unusual, and possibly an industry-first for a mainstream car. Let’s talk about it.

First things first: Here’s a look at the outgoing Polestar 2:

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And here’s a look at the upcoming 2024, post-refresh model:

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The rear end looks pretty much the same, but the nose does look quite a bit different, ditching the grille-like section between the headlights for a big panel that Polestar calls the “SmartZone.” From Polestar:

The SmartZone makes its debut on Polestar 2, signifying the shift from “breathing” through a front grille to “seeing” the road ahead reflecting the high-tech nature of Polestar vehicles. Like on Polestar 3, the SmartZone hosts some of the vehicle’s most important active safety features, including the front facing camera and mid-range radar.

Other changes include 205kW charging power (up from 150 kW) for a new 82kWh battery. Up until this point, the largest battery was a 78 kWh, which offered up to 270 miles of EPA-estimated range:

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The 2024 Polestar 2 cranks things up a bit, with “preliminary” EPA range estimates hitting 300 miles, per Polestar:

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You can see revised horsepower numbers for the 2024 model as well. The single motor car now makes up to 299 horsepower and 361 lb-ft of torque, while the dual motor offers 421 hp and 546 lb-ft of torque. The most powerful Polestar 2, the long range dual motor, makes up to 455 horsepower and 546 lb-ft of torque, with performance pack. The outgoing vehicle only made  231 horsepower  and 243 lb-ft in single motor guise; the outgoing dual motor offered just 408 horsepower and 467 lb-ft; and the outgoing dual motor with performance pack made…actually, it made even more power at 476 hp but much less torque at 502 lb-ft.
But the big change is the move from front-wheel drive on single-motor models to rear-wheel drive — something I’ve never seen before in a mid-cycle refresh. In addition, all-wheel drive models get a rear torque bias (of up to 100 percent rear-wheel drive!) for more exciting handling. From Polestar’s press release:

Next-generation electric motors and inverters are fitted to both Polestar 2 variants, offering increases in both efficiency and performance. The single-motor variant is now rear-wheel driven, powered by a newly developed permanent magnet motor and silicon carbide inverter. The new motor has a power output of 299 hp (increased from 231 hp) and is optimized for maximum efficiency and high torque (361 lb-ft, up from 243 lb-ft) to further increase the dynamic performance of the car. The 0-60 mph sprint time has been reduced by as much as 1.1 seconds, down to 5.9 seconds.

The dual-motor version now has a rear-drive bias that increases driving pleasure and performance thanks to a completely re-balanced drivetrain setup and torque-ratio. The new rear motor is the primary drive source, supported on the front axle by a new asynchronous motor. This enables higher total system output of 421 hp and 546 lb-ft (increased from the original 408 hp and 467 lb-ft), vastly improved traction, greater overall efficiency and higher performance – with 0-60 mph now achieved in 4.3 seconds. Supporting efficiency gains, the front motor can now be disengaged completely when not needed. When the driver wants more power, the front motor re-engages instantly and seamlessly.

Polestar’s press release continues with head of chassis development discussing the handling benefits of the change to rear-wheel drive:
“Changing from front- to rear-wheel drive in the single-motor variants, and re-calibrating the torque ratio in the dual-motor variant for an increased rear-wheel drive feel, elevates the Polestar 2 driving experience to a whole new level,” says Joakim Rydholm, Head of Chassis Development at Polestar. “The updated Polestar 2 is an even more playful and agile car, retaining its compactness and complete sense of control, while at the same time becoming more mature with added comfort.”
Changing the driven wheels on a car with an internal combustion engine is difficult, since ICEs need to send their torque through a rather large transmission. There are some instances where a single model has switched from front engine, front-wheel drive to rear engine, rear-wheel drive (see Renault Twingo), but this requires a major chassis change so drastic it would never happen on the same generation of car. This is a bit of an aside, but here’s a look at the front engine, front-wheel drive Renault Twingo II. The big void up front is for the engine, while the rear clearly only has room for cargo
Screen Shot 2023 01 24 At 2.54.37 Pm
And here’s the modern, rear-engine, rear-wheel drive Twingo:
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You now need big cooling lines from that rear engine to the front of the car, you now need space at the rear for that transmission and big engine, the exhaust no longer needs the big tunnel, etc.
It’s probably be more appropriate to compare an all-wheel drive/four-wheel drive ICE car that offers a two-wheel drive variant, but I can’t think of one that has changed which wheels the two-wheel drive versions drive. Typically an all-wheel drive car has a “primary” set of wheels, usually based on the orientation of the gasoline engine; a transverse-engine car would primarily power the fronts, and a “north-south” engine would primarily power the rears. These primary wheels are the ones that would be powered in two-wheel drive guise. Changing which one is primary usually involves a major drivetrain change.
Electric cars don’t have to deal with this complexity, since the front and rear drivetrains are entirely mechanically independent. If you want to make your all-wheel drive car rear-wheel drive, just remove the front motor. If you want to make your all-wheel drive car front-wheel drive, just remove the rear motor. Obviously, it’s more complex than that from a development standpoint, particularly when it comes to suspension and steering behavior, which is highly dependent upon which wheels are driven, but at least relatively speaking, changing from front-wheel drive to all-wheel drive is fairly straightforward on an EV with provisions for a motor on each axle, as major changes to the driveline (driveshafts, transmission, etc) as well as to the packaging environment are just not necessary.
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76 Responses

  1. The Triumph 1500 was a front wheel drive car from 1970 to 1973 when it underwent a “mid-cycle refresh” and was renamed the 1500TC. The adverts at the time failed to mention that, along with reclining seats, velour upholstery and twin carburetors the refreshed car was now rear wheel drive. It was superseded by the Triumph Dolomite in 1976.

    1. Beat me to it too. The Rover was a significant effort too with RWD versions produced alongside FWD ones. There is at least one ZT-T tourer used on track here in the USA.

      1. I’m pleased it existed, but how it came to exist was always a bit of a puzzle. I assume the word ‘skunkworks’ was involved heavily.
        Fairly brutal suspension and handling compared to the Rover equivalent, as you might expect, but seen to recall seeing a thoroughly tweaked variant with a landspeed record at a few car shows.

  2. Neat. I already thought the Polestar 2 was the most desirable “attainable” (by EV standards that is) electric vehicle by a wide margin due to its unique but timeless styling, the Volvo adjacent interior, and performance per dollar ratio. This only makes it more appealing. A true RWD architecture will dramatically increase the driving pleasure and now that it’s got a range of 300 or so miles it’s a bit more competitive.

    I’ll be curious to see how it drives. It’ll undoubtedly be better, but will it actually be…well, fun? That seems to be what they’re going for here and it’s what EVs outside of the ridiculous unobtanium coated ones lack. Between this and the N versions of the Hyundai EVs I’ll be very interested to see how the reviews go. Volvo isn’t exactly known for driver engagement but Polestar has been messing around in the performance realm for years now so they have a base to build off of.

    I’d consider an EV as my next car but it would have to at least come close to the engagement levels of similar sporty cars in the price range…and when you’re sitting around 60k there is some STIFF competition from cars like the M340i/M2, RS3, IS500, TLX Type S, CT4V Blackwing, etc. But I’m willing to keep an open mind.

            1. They should lean into their history and do some beautiful boxy RWD (or RWD-biased) wagons and call them Polestar 245 (single-motor) and 265 (dual-motor) with all of the legacy DL/GL/GLE/GLT trim levels. Ahhh.

      1. I was originally going to wait for the Ioniq 5 (I5) to replace my old Sonata Limited PHEV. I wanted a little more fun and need space (6’4″ and I carry growing kids and gear a lot outside of commuting hours). It needs to be a do it all car and drive 70-80 miles per day comfortably, efficiently and without being boring.
        I was scared by the long wheelbase published and thought the I5 would be too big (wheelbase is longer than the Palisade by comparison). I initially thought it would be too big for what I wanted, really a sedan or wagon. So, I went with the Sonata N Line in the meantime and after 38k miles on it in under 2 years, it checks most of my boxes but I still dream of EV, having liked the EV portion of my previous PHEV very much.
        I was finally able to sit and then drive the I5 last week, it was great! It would easily fit 4 of me in the car comfortably, the cargo area is decent enough and with the seats down it has a ton of room, easily accessible by the hatch. I am hoping that the tax credits get extended and Hyundai feels pressure from Tesla pricing to drop it a bit. Even as is, it is a solid value. The SEL has most of what I want as the sunroof likely would rob needed headroom like it does in my N Line and I would like a better stereo, something that could at least be modified with some better speakers and amp if that really bothered me.
        Back to your Polestar comment, I wish that was a hatch too. It sits up so high that it might as well be shaped like an wagon/hatch, keep the general design, it would be great with a hatch. Then again, the I5 exists right now and all of the design elements really work great inside and out and give you the form factor you are after.

    1. I drove a Polestar 2 early last year (had to wait for a Polestar dealer to open up in FL) and I was pretty happy with the way it drove. In that respect, I thought it was a great car. Unfortunately, the cabin felt cramped and while I had high hopes for Android Automotive the implementation was pretty basic and not what I expecting. I was also surprised to see what looked like a driveshaft hump in the back seat. I looked it up when I got home and saw that the chassis has an I-beam running down the center of it which explains why there was so little foot room in the back.

      I would really like to have an EV that’s fun to drive and had high hopes for the P2. In the end, I couldn’t get over the cramped/bland interior and UI. I’m open to taking another look at the refresh though…

      BTW, I drove a Kia EV6 a couple weeks after that. The tech in the car was pretty amazing, but I did not care for the way it drove. I also drove a launch edition and the whole car looked like cheap plastic and the black, ribbed cladding was horrible. The later models look much better, but there’s still something about them in person where I couldn’t help feeling “how is this car $60k?”

      Looking forward to checking out the Ionic 6 when it comes out, but for now, I’ve given up on finding a reasonably priced EV with some snap. They just seem to be getting more and more expensive.

      1. Someone’s gonna abuse this service. Start faxing over photos from the Gameboy camera/printer. Giving you vague descriptions to see how many car photos you will send, sending each back with helpful notes like “I only saw the back end, but this grill doesn’t make me think it’s the car.” Sending you pictures of vehicles so far modified as to be unidentifiable.

        I look forward to hearing about all the weird things you manage to successfully identify despite that someone.

  3. I wonder if we will ever reach the point where EVs are modular.

    Going to the track? Pop in the performance motor(s).

    Going on a long trip? Remove the first performance motor completely and replace the other one with a less-powerful (and less power-hungry) motor for enhanced range.

    I wouldn’t expect motor swaps to be an everyday occurrence, but being able to do one relatively easily in one’s own garage (e.g. with an engine hoist) would be a very handy feature. Expensive, from a design standpoint and from a spare motor standpoint, but handy.

    1. I’ve been around EVs in OEM workshops for 15 years or so. You are insufficiently scared of high voltage. We had to go through HV training just to stand in the same room with an EV that’s being worked on. At least with gas and fire you can see the danger.

      Plus I’m not sure you’d see an improvement in economy that would be worth fitting your road-trip motor. Road-trip tires and aero wheels would be worth it though.

      1. The high voltage concerns can be designed around though. Plenty of people have replaced the high voltage batteries in their old Prius without killing themselves, and while those may not be 800 V, they have plenty of volts to kill you if you touched the wrong thing at the wrong time. The design of the safety plug and battery enclosure makes it very difficult to do that though. I expect some sort of safety system could be designed to allow DIY motor swaps too.

        Whether it’s worth doing that is a whole other question, but it’s not impossible.

      2. Thanks for the assessment of my mental state, random internet person, but my brother has been a high voltage electrician for 30+ years: I am well aware of the risks and required precautions.

        And you don’t see how changing from two performance motors to a single not-performance motor would result in improved economy?

        1. Apologies, I assumed my conceptual dread of 800V flexible cables that random car owners re-wire unsupervised in their garage was universal. As it’s you I’ll assume it’s all basically fine.

          I can’t see that running a 400bhp motor at 30bhp (which is enough for a 60-70mph cruise) is going to make enough of a difference in range compared to running a 150bhp motor at 30bhp to make it worthwhile swapping the motors.

          As for the motor you’re removing all together, all you save is the weight, a lot of motors already disconnect when not in use. Is that worth taking out the motor and driveshafts and safely terminating the HV lines for? Saving 40kg from a car you’re about to road-trip full of luggage?

          It’d be easier to just take out the big motor from your dual motor EV and use just the little one that’s left. People with dual motor EVs could do this right now, but they don’t.

          1. Further, a larger electric motor can actually be slightly more efficient than a smaller one assuming the same type, winding, pole pairs, ect. Additional copper mass results generally in less resistive losses. The difference is marginal, that being said.

  4. TBH FWD doesn’t make sense for MOST BEVs. When you accelerate your weight shifts aft over the rear wheels, which in a FWD car they’re undriven, but most FWD cars have an ~70/30 weight distribution (empty) which helps make sure there’s enough weight over the drive wheels. For most FWD BEVs they have a 60/40 weight distribution which hurts the traction the front wheels have, but if you have a low power BEV like a Nissan Leaf, Nissan e-NV200, Fiat 500e, etc. you don’t notice it. It’s the high powered FWD BEVs that have the traction issues.

    Optimally for a FWD BEV you’d put as many batteries as possible over the front wheels to increase traction.

      1. Except with every pound you put in most FWD vehicles you’re taking weight off of the front (driven) wheels, so with a fully loaded FWD BEV you may end up with more weight over the undriven wheels than the driven wheels.

        Personally I think all FWD vehicles should be of cab forward or COE design because as it currently stands FWD cars only lose traction for the front wheels for every pound of weight put in the car because there’s no provision to put more weight over the driven wheels.

  5. This trend of stuffing a bunch of sensors in the area formerly known as grill reignites the old debate of where the eyes go on cartoon cars. Previously it was between the headlights and the windshield (Cars style). Now the grill might be the eyes?

      1. Reference to Cars®? That was a Pixar product before Disney purchased them (released in ’06 which is when Disney acquired them as well, but film would’ve been completed by then).

        Disney did own Herbie, which I believe never put eyes anywhere but the headlights. So I don’t feel Disney ruined this, just practically everything else.

    1. Given the amount of “eyes”, cars are becoming more like spiders. With that said headlights are still the main eyes for driver visibility, so maybe more akin to that lizard that has 3 eyes but the third one isn’t for direct vision.

  6. Something else cool with the Polestar 2 is that its the first EV to use a dual clutch torque vectoring drive module. It would be technically possible for the Polestar 2 to be 1 wheel drive.

      1. This is better than one motor per wheel.
        1. You can fully decouple without having to add additional hardware (Rivian)
        2. You can apply more torque per side with this than dual motor. I.e. if you have 2 x 100 kw motors per wheel only 100 kw can go to any one side. With a single 200 kw motor and dual clutch, 200 kw can go to a single side.
        3. You can fully lock the axle for instantaneous torque transfer without software – this is a problem Rivian/GM have solved.
        4. Smaller packaging per KW to have a large single versus 2 smaller motors.

        1. “3. You can fully lock the axle for instantaneous torque transfer without software – this is a problem Rivian/GM have solved.” HAVEN’T solved. We needed comment editing.

  7. So all they need is to make it a proper wagon so we’re back to 80s Volvo territory. Bonus points if it comes with wipers on the headlights (just for nostalgia)

  8. I’m just waiting for BMW to decide to just put dual motors in everything, and then whether your car is FWD, RWD, or AWD depends purely on how much you pay for your monthly subscription package.

      1. There is a lowering option available if you opt for the Performance Package. I wish they offered it on every model, because it’s just a little too jacked up.

    1. I won’t say it looks like shit, but it does lack the personality of the outgoing one. Even in black-on-black it has enough texture to give it some visual interest.

  9. Good, it should have been RWD to begin with. There is no reason for new EV platforms to ever be stuck with FWD-only other than laziness and cynical cheapness.

    1. I’d argue it’s not even cheaper… The whole EV business being a totally different package, and assembly method (I imagine) it seems more expensive to force FWD..

  10. My 2023 dual motor Polestar 2 arrives in the next week. In the current 50:50 drive configuration, it’s already the best-handling car I’ve ever had the pleasure to drive, and even at full-send there was no detectable torque-steer. I can only imagine that the new RWD biased drivetrain will be even more fun. Living in Colorado, I want the AWD capability for wintertime, so I’m assuming there’ll be some kind of automatic slip detection to send electrons to the front motor, or maybe a “snowdrive” setting or something like that.

    Not a huge fan of the “dental dam” look, but it’s growing on me a bit. I get that they’re trying for a more coherent look between the 2 and the 3 and their Volvo siblings, but I really like the original toothy grille.

    1. Welcome to the PS2 club. I got mine this summer after Tesla canceled my model 3 order while I was on vacation (and kept my deposit). Was lucky enough to find the exact model I wanted on the showroom floor.
      Other than range, I like everything about it better than the Model 3.

      1. Thanks! I’ve driven the Model 3 and the Model S as well as several other modern EVs (including the Mach-E) in the past 6 months and the Polestar was hands-down the best. I’ll give up a little range for superior handling and build-quality. Honestly, though, I’d love an AWD version with ~300 HP and longer range. 0-60 in 6 seconds is plenty for me.

  11. Renault had a front-engined FWD 5 in production at the same time as their mid-engined RWD 5. They did the same thing with the Clio and Clio V6.

    Huge chassis changes though.

    It’s much easier with an EV that’s designed to have front and rear motors to pick which one you delete for the base model.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some one brings out an EV that’s FWD base, then RWD with a bigger motor for the middle models but with a 4WD twin motor top spec. It could all go down the same production line, and you get to increase volumes on the front motor to bring costs down.

    1. I have to turn right a lot. Big, sweeping , 270 degree off ramps, every night. I’m willing to spec it at the dealer and wait for it to come in, but I want both motors on the left side.

    1. There’s room for debate whether RWD is more desirable, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason for the switch is unruly handling with that much more torque going to the front wheels.

      Whatever the reason, it’s a great demonstration of the benefits of a modular platform design and the flexibility an electric drivetrain provides – there’s no realistic way to do that with an ICE drivetrain.

      1. I have mixed feelings. The enthusiast in me says great! But with the snow I’ve been driving through lately if I had to choose only one axle to motivate I’d make it the front.

        1. A FWD EV with an underfloor battery won’t necessarily have the hugely front heavy weight distribution you get with an ICE FWD car to give it traction in snow.

          Similarly a RWD EV won’t have a light rear end that a front engined RWD ICE car might have (depending on how empty the gas tank is).

          So front or rear drive will matter less with EVs in snow.

          1. I think it’s less weight distribution concerns, and more “what’s less disastrous if the wheels break free, oversteer or understeer?” People more used to understeer can let off the accelerator, straighten the wheel, let it grip, and turn again, hopefully before hitting anything on the other side of the intersection. With oversteer, well, now you’re sideways under the traffic lights and you look a damn fool, don’t ya.

            (Not that many people, aside from young an inexperienced drivers, are breaking free in such intersections, but… well there’s some personal experience here.)

            1. I’m more inclined to think the inherent torque steer tied to a fwd. The power is still driven through some cv’s and the front wheels can rotate on the steering plane, so the car is still going to yank side to side without some good stability control. Then you run into cut power in order to keep the car straight.

              I had a focus st and even with the ~80 fewer hp and the non-instantaneous torque, it pretty regularly would pull on launch. I can’t imagine how 300hp (with the new motor) with instantaneous torque trying to launch with just the front wheels.

              1. As someone who owns and frequently launches a FWD car with 289 pound feet of torque at low RPM I’ll sum my experience up for you: it’s a hoot. As long as you’ve got a firm grip and a limited slip diff you’ll be fine.

                1. Agreed. And, with my Sonata N Line, I can’t say that I feel any real torque steer, even without an LSD, despite what some youtube reviewer folks think. Sure, it would make it a little faster and easier to launch but it is plenty fun the way it is and by not having an LSD I get to be a more engaged driver knowing how and when I should apply power.

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