Polestar 3 first look: Possibly the best-looking EV for 2023

And because the Polestar 3 is based on the same platform as Volvo's EX90, it's got some some slick tech too.

Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Polestar started out as a racing team that was then turned into a performance tuning division for Volvo before becoming its own brand in 2017.And after testing the waters with the Polestar 1 and Polestar 2, the company is poised to take another big step forward with the upcoming release of its first EV SUV: the Polestar 3. So when the car recently came to New York City for its North American debut, we couldn’t pass up the chance to check it out because it might just be the best-looking new SUV in 2023.

The Polestar 3 is built on the same platform as the Volvo EX90, but the company has made some significant changes that ensures there won’t be confusion between the two. Instead of three rows of seats, the Polestar 3 maxes out at two, with slightly less rear storage in favor of a more spacious cabin. So despite a relatively low roof line, the combination of a glass roof, a long wheelbase and rear seats that are reclined a bit more than usual gave me and my 6-foot frame a very relaxed seating position with tons of leg room. There were even a couple throw pillows in the back seat, which might be a bit unnecessary, but really adds to the premium loungey feel Polestar is going for.

Meanwhile, in front the Polestar 3 features a more enclosed cockpit-style layout, mixed with a bit of Scandinavian minimalism. There’s a big armrest and an extended console featuring a built-in wireless charger. As for infotainment, Polestar is continuing to use a system based on Android Automotive centered around a big 14.5-inch touchscreen with Google Maps as your default navigation system and a very familiar touch-based UI. Like in a lot of modern cars, pretty much everything from climate control to music is handled on the display, with the only physical controls being a big knob on the console for volume/play/pause along with some additional haptic touch points on the steering wheel.

On the outside, the Polestar sports a much more aggressive design than the EX90, thanks to dual wings (one on the hood and one above the rear window), a front splitter, big wheels (either 21 or 22 inches depending the spec) and a new two bladed-version of the company’s signature Thor’s Hammer headlights. I know not everyone will agree, but I think the Polestar 3 looks fantastic. It’s got just enough futuristic sci-fi design cues without going overboard like Tesla’s Cybertruck.

Powered by Android Automotive, the Polestar 3 has a very intuitive UI centered around a big 14.5-inch touchscreen.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The Polestar has the tech to back up its sci-fi looks too. In addition to things like automatic lane keeping and blindspot detection, it features a bevy of monitoring components including 12 ultrasonic sensors, five exterior radars, five cameras, two driver monitoring sensors and even four interior radars spread throughout the car. The most important use of these new sensors is that alongside the EX90, the Polestar 3 will be one of the first cars to offer an onboard passenger detection system as standard.

This means in the event a child or a pet is left in the back seat (or the trunk), the car will warn the driver, prevent the car from being locked and will continue to maintain a safe climate unless a manual override is given. The goal is to prevent any occupants from overheating if left in the car, which is sadly a very preventable cause of death that’s occurred to more than 900 children in the U.S. since 1998.

Another interesting feature is the Polestar 3’s headlights which feature a 1.3-megapixel DLP sensor that allows the car to more easily focus and adjust its beams to suit the driving conditions. And while it wasn’t on the model we saw, Polestar says the 3 will also have an optional Pilot Pack that includes a LiDAR sensor from Luminar and an NVIDIA Drive Orin chip, which will support some level of autonomous or semi-autonomous driving capabilities.

Finally, as part of the company’s commitment to making a fully carbon-neutral car by 2030, the 3 also includes a number of sustainability features including paneling and pieces of trim made from flax fiber, “Microtech” upholstery made from a pine oil-based vinyl (instead of petroleum), and floor mats created from recycled PET bottles.

That said, possibly my favorite thing about the Polestar 3 is the way the carmaker has integrated the vehicle’s design, tech and sustainability into a single cohesive package. Little elements like labeling the size of the Polestar 3’s battery on the outside of the car, right next to its name, help add a sense of transparency to its construction. As a part-time design nerd, the little labels everywhere are like a typographer's dream. On top of that, Polestar is even using blockchain technology to trace the origins of the components that go into the car's battery, to make sure they are coming from conflict-free regions. And when you pair all this with a striking design, you get a really enchanting vision of where the EV market is heading.

However, I still have two main concerns about the Polestar 3: its pricing and its energy efficiency. With the standard dual-motor long-range model starting at $83,900 or $89,900 for the Performance Pack model, this clearly isn’t an EV for the masses. And with the number of luxury electric SUVs like the BMW iX and others hitting the roads, Polestar is wading into an increasingly competitive market.

Hands-on phots from the Polestar 3's North American debut in New York City.
Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget

On top of that, despite costing $30,000 more than a Tesla Model Y and having a big 111 kWh battery (versus just 75kWh for the Tesla), the Polestar 3 is currently only expected to get around 300 miles of range compared to 330 for the Model Y. And it’s a similar situation for the Polestar’s 250 kW DC charging, which isn’t quite as fast as what you’d get from a similar but less expensive rival like the Hyundai Ioniq 5. Granted, the Polestar has yet to receive its final official range figures from the EPA, but just going by the numbers we have so far, its battery and charging tech aren't quite as impressive as you might expect. Still, the Polestar 3 looks great and hopefully we'll know more later this year when the car goes on sale for real sometime in Q4.