If you’re like most new car buyers, you’ve been excited by the latest crop of advanced, long-range, fast electric vehicles, all of which look sleek and modern. You walk around them with delight and interest, until you get to the rear. Then, whammo, you’re confronted by that cruel, vast expanse of glass, making a mockery of everything you know and believe in with its flashy, showy transparency. Yes, a rear window. Grotesque, isn’t it? Why can’t any carmaker find the courage to free humankind of from the tyranny of rearward transparency? Well, finally, one company has taken that bold step, and there is now a new car you can buy unburdened with a rear window: the 2024 Polestar 4.
Oh, it’s also a fastback battery-electric SUV with up to 544 hp in dual-motor configuration and a range of 348 miles (well, on that Euro WLTP cycle, at least). But let’s be honest: everyone’s going to be talking about the lack of a rear window.
We’re all talking about it, sure, but I’m not exactly sold on the idea that not having a rear window is a good thing, at least not yet. It’s not exactly the first time this has been attempted in a passenger car – cargo vans, of course, have gone without rear windows for decades—and cars like the Tatra T87 didn’t exactly have a rear window, at least not externally. The T87 actually had two rear windows inside, one in front of the rear luggage compartment, one behind it, and then you could sorta see through the vents on the rear engine lid, but it wasn’t great. The prototype Volkswagen Beetles VW30 series had no rear window, either, and plenty of mid-engine cars have had, at best a little mail slot rear window. So it’s not like there’s no precedent at all here, but in the modern era, no one has really attempted this.
Legally, it should be fine, surprising as that sounds. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMSS) Number 111, Rear Visibility really just sets a lot of requirements for being able to see objects behind the car, and not so much about how those objects need to be visible:
(b) Final requirements. Each passenger car with a GVWR of 4,536 kg or less manufactured on or after May 1, 2018, shall display a rearview image meeting the requirements of S5.5.1 through S5.5.7.
S5.5.1 Field of view. When tested in accordance with the procedures in S14.1, the rearview image shall include:
(a) A minimum of a 150-mm wide portion along the circumference of each test object located at positions F and G specified in S14.1.4; and
(b) The full width and height of each test object located at positions A through E specified in S14.1.4.
S5.5.2 Size. When the rearview image is measured in accordance with the procedures in S14.1, the calculated visual angle subtended by the horizontal width of
(a) All three test objects located at positions A, B, and C specified in S14.1.4 shall average not less than 5 minutes of arc; and
(b) Each individual test object (A, B, and C) shall not be less than 3 minutes of arc.
S5.5.3 Response time. The rearview image meeting the requirements of S5.5.1 and S5.5.2, when tested in accordance with S14.2, shall be displayed within 2.0 seconds of the start of a backing event.
S5.5.4 Linger time. The rearview image meeting the requirements of S5.5.1 and S5.5.2 shall not be displayed after the backing event has ended.
S5.5.5 Deactivation. The rearview image meeting the requirements of S5.5.1 and S5.5.2 shall remain visible during the backing event until either, the driver modifies the view, or the vehicle direction selector is removed from the reverse position.
S5.5.6 Default view. The rear visibility system must default to the rearview image meeting the requirements of S5.5.1 and S5.5.2 at the beginning of each backing event regardless of any modifications to the field of view the driver has previously selected.
S5.5.7 Durability. The rear visibility system shall meet the field of view and image size requirements of S5.5.1 and S5.5.2 after each durability test specified in S14.3.1, S14.3.2, and S14.3.3.
We reached out to officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation to confirm all of this, but they said they couldn’t get back to us immediately.
Interestingly, side mirrors are still not permitted to be cameras in the American market—see how the Hyundai Ioniq 6 had to adapt for the US—but the internal rear view mirror can be a camera, no problem. That’s why the Polestar 4 has actual mirrors on the sides but a camera on the rear.
Personally, I don’t like the screen-and-camera-based rear view mirrors, because screens simply don’t work the same way mirrors do, and if you’re over 40 and have to wear reading glasses for close things but not distance things like driving, a real mirror will still look clear while a screen will look blurry. I go into all of the science behind that in this other article, but the point is that there is no other rear-visibility option other than a camera/screen setup in the Polestar 4.
Design-wise, the lack of a rear window does make the rear end distinctive. The glass roof extends quite far back, almost into rear window territory, but not quite, and the transition between roof and body is handled by blacked-out panels that contain the rear camera. The rear hatch seems to have another inset shutline that could be a deployable wing or maybe a separate opening panel, like an opening window would be on a more conventional hatch? It’s not clear just yet.
The inside does seem roomy, and the huge glass roof (which can be made opaque via electrochromic magic as an option) should help keep passengers from feeling claustrophobic back there.
The rearward visibility is shown on a conventionally-placed screen standing in for the rear-view mirror, so at least you don’t have to re-train your eyes where to look.
Here’s what Polestar has to say about the design, from its press release:
“With Polestar 4 we have taken a fundamental new approach to SUV coupé design. Rather than simply modifying an existing SUV, giving it a faster roofline and as a result, compromising elements like rear headroom and comfort, we have designed Polestar 4 from the ground up as a new breed of SUV coupé that celebrates rear occupant comfort and experience,” says Thomas Ingenlath, Polestar CEO.
Hear that, rear occupants? You’re going to be celebrated! Oh, and also, it’s still not a coupé, and I’m not going to call it one.
The front end is clean and revels in hard angles and crisp edges, with the distinctive Volvo-derived Thor’s hammer-like headlamps now being divided into four L-shaped units. There is a bit of a shark’s nose look about the front, which I kind of like.
The Polestar 4 is built on Geely’s Sustainable Experience Architecture (SEA) platform, which is the same family used for some Zeekr SUVs, Smarts (they’re partnered with Daimler), and even Lotuses.
The Polestar 4 will be the fastest car Polestar has made so far, getting from 0 to 62 mph in 3.8 seconds, which should be enough to put lots of cars behind you, where your back seat passengers will not be able to see them since, again, no back window. That’s for the dual-motor, 544 hp version; a single motor, RWD version making 272 hp is also available.
Long-range cars will have a 102 kWh battery pack, and EPA range estimate goals are expected to be over 300 miles.
Polestar is targeting a base price of $60,000, putting the Polestar 4 confusingly between the Polestar 2 sedan at $48,000 and the upcoming Polestar 3 SUV at $84,000.
The Polestar 4 seems like a competitive and attractive battery-electric SUV, but I bet salespeople are going to spend a lot of time convincing potential buyers that they won’t be running over kids and pets on a daily basis or smacking into so many phone poles that they’d just include a set of replacement bumpers when you buy one. I’m sure the no rear window will be polarizing, but maybe in this crowded and harder-and-harder-to-differentiate market, that’s a good thing.
I’m excited to try one out and see.
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Can we attribute this glaring defect to the engineers in the home country of Volvo’s new overlords?
And what is the justification for an all-white interior, except for the yellow seat belts?!
I own a Volvo and have great respect for the brand and its history, but its future looks rather uncertain. It’s becoming less and less Volvo every day.
So having no rear window is objectively stupid, but let’s not pretend this is a new thing. Realistically, this isn’t any worse than a rear window like the ID.4 has that’s uselessly tiny.
Doesn’t really matter to me since the lack of window is far from the only thing keeping me from driving one of these.
I do quite enjoy my single cab pickup’s rear window. My center rearview mirror has almost as much field of view as the side mirrors, and I mostly use it in place of the side mirrors.
Removing the rear screen was the inevitable step once cameras started being used instead of rear view mirrors. I don’t understand it, but maybe it be less nonplussed if the omission of the rear screen looked better than it does on this.
The issue I have, beyond the entirely reasonable points made by Jason, is having a rear view screen where the mirror normally is gives me motion sickness in less than a mile, same as having a dash cam playing live in my peripheral vision. I instantly feel sick, and won’t stop feeling so until a good half hour break out the car.
Now you could argue you don’t need it while driving forwards, but this is not an improvement. If you’re on a motorway for example and the car that was following you is suddenly no longer in your mirror, you have an early warning that it’s likely in the process of overtaking etc.
I would bet that most people who have been using a rear camera for a decade now, about the time they became widely available, don’t look out the rear window anymore. I always thought I would be a diehard user of the rear window but I honestly just look out the sides and rely on the camera for the back since the field of view is better than what I can see out of most cars these days.
Thanks for the info about another interesting Polestar product Jason. 🙂
I assume it’s intentional, but of course I get a very Archeresque vibe from the last image. 😉
I can’t believe no one posted that clip for this article
A quirk of EU regulations means that any vehicle with a glass rear window must have a rear view mirror. Even if it’s a van with a full height steel bulkhead behind the passenger compartment.
It also applies to supercharged S2 Lotus Exiges which have a rear view mirror that only shows the intercooler scoop above the engine.
Hard pass on this. No rear window will always be a hard pass from me, even if it is, otherwise, an amazing car at an amazing value. Why?
It’s just hilarious when you keep removing headspace and pulling the vehicle belt-line to the limit that you actually need to extent a freaking glass roof over the back seat for rear passengers to actually see anything outside the vehicle.
Research on digital mirrors have shown that they simply do not work with eye focus issues already mentioned in the article, as well as the inability for the driver to change angle of view depending on head/gaze position.
If you want to experience terrible screens, just go and drive an Audi with the digital side view mirrors. Stupid durch technik…
Surely this is an overripe April Fool’s joke from the brand whose parent company uses SAFETY! as its brand?
Is this some kind of insane way of distancing Polestar from Volvo? In 2023, I would believe that far more than any unconvincing blather about headroom.
Would be true if ‘Volvo’ Were the parent brand…
Geely is the parent, both Volvo & Polestar are both child brands.
Volvo is about as much Sweedish as Ram is American
I have one of those GM cameras in my Buick Escalade, but it’s optional – it’s the kind where you flip the mirror in or out of camera mode. I get motion sickness just backing up with the thing. Fortunately, I haven’t had to use it much, just a couple of time when the back was overpacked. But I could never use one of those constantly as a rear-view mirror.
It’s distinctively ugly, that’s for sure. Just hideous. One big slab of ugly on an otherwise unremarkable, bland design.
Also, it’s a problem if that rear-view camera malfunctions. There’s no backup. A window and mirror will always operate as intended. A camera relies on functioning as designed, or at least on not being pooped on or obscured by crud.
I can see you
Your silver paint shining in the sun
I see you driving real slow and
Smiling at everyone
I can tell you, my love for you will still be strong
After the EVs of summer have gone
Out on the road today
I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Polestar 4
A little voice inside my head said
“Don’t look back, you can never look back”
So…..if the camera breaks suddenly you have no vision behind you whatsoever other than side mirrors which are not SUPPOSED to be looking behind you but in your blind spots anyway…? This seems like a pointless idea to me…
If cameras are truly acceptable substitutes for rear windows when it comes to driver situational awareness, then doesn’t it follow that windshields are unnecessary, also? Why have any windows at all? Just pipe visual feeds from all around the vehicle to a screen in front of the driver and away we go.
Of course, traffic cops wouldn’t be able to see if you’re wearing a seatbelt if they pull you over for another offense, or know how many people are traveling in vehicles in the carpool lane. Unless, we put cameras on the inside, too, that can be accessed by police.
Hey, great, more expensive technology. Pretty soon cars will cost as much as buying a third world country.
This is probably the IIHS’ desired end game
You’re confusing required technology with allowed technology.
Nobody is forcing automakers to replace mirrors with cameras; this is not a mandate, it is simply something they are allowed to do.
If you don’t like it, don’t buy one.
You are unlikely the target market for this kind of car anyway.
“You are unlikely the target market for this kind of car anyway.”
Then who is?
Rich people who:
I think that extra shutline is just the leading edge of the trunk lid. In this case, I don’t think fastback = liftback. I mean, why add utility to one part of the car when you’re already on the path to remove it from other parts?