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The Polestar 3 is the famous Swedish car manufacturer’s impressive new electric SUV offering, with innovative traction software and a powerful engine. Perfected amid Sweden’s icy conditions, this stylish and elegant vehicle is tough enough to succeed anywhere.

I’ve never been a fan of IKEA; indeed I think it was invented as a way of punishing husbands for suggesting they don’t care about furniture, although it might equally be seen as a place of deserved torment for tightwads.

You can imagine my alarm and confusion then, when I was invited to drive a new electric SUV from Swedish brand Polestar in Jokkmokk, which according to the top hits on Google is a ‘simple and sturdy setting’ of four chairs and a table with an antique stain from my least favorite furniture retailer.

For one brief moment, I dared to hope that they were going to let me drive the new Polestar 3 – an elegant, sophisticated and expensive-looking SUV that represents a step up in class and price for the brand – over a Jokkmokk, to show how tough it was.

This, then, is very much a driver’s car, or a driver’s SUV.

Further research revealed that Jokkmokk is also the name of a tiny town in Swedish Lapland, just inside the Arctic Circle, and also the place where Polestar likes to do much of its intense research and development work on new vehicles.

This seems like a strange choice, not just because it’s a difficult place to get to – the nearest airport is almost 200 kilometers south and the drive north on snow-smashed roads would best be described as harrowing yet beautiful – but because it’s such a difficult place to be.

For much of winter it is dark, and for much of the year it is freezing, or Arctic. Two weeks before we arrived the temperature plummeted to –52 degrees Celsius, and yes, the Polestar people went to work that day anyway.

 A Driver’s SUV

The thinking of these deeply committed engineers and chassis tuners is that any vehicle that can survive and excel up there, in some of the world’s most punishing conditions, will be tough enough to succeed anywhere. It’s also the most difficult place to test electric vehicle (EV) batteries, of course, because there is nothing that drains and dismays them more than extreme cold.

Polestar claims a range between charges of 610 kilometers for the Polestar 3’s 111 kilowatt-hours lithium-ion 400-Volt battery, but on a –20 degrees Celsius day like the one we drove it in, you’d be doing well to get half that far, depending on how you drove it.

The other advantage of Jokkmokk is that it offers a vast frozen lake into which three enormous – and enormously entertaining – test tracks of varying speeds and corner variations have been cut and carved.

The engineers, all of whom seem to be frustrated rallyists who love the thrill of driving – particularly when they’re doing it sideways at wild speeds – insist that this kind of surface makes it easier to tune things like traction software and the Polestar 3’s clever new Dual Clutch Torque Vectoring system, which is designed not only to always provide the best possible grip, but to make cornering more fun.

There is simply no way to drive a vehicle this powerful on a surface this slippery, and speckled with fresh snow, without being mostly sideways.

Further to that end, the Polestar 3 has been given the lowest possible center of gravity – it’s at the same level as a Polestar sedan, which is impressive – a 50–50 weight balance and seats that are bolted into the chassis as low as physically possible.

This, then, is very much a driver’s car, or a driver’s SUV, and you can feel it as soon as you get brave enough to head out onto the ice and apply its phenomenal 910 newton meter of torque and 380 kilowatts of power to the hugely slippery surface beneath you (on a normal, dry surface, it’s enough to hit 100 kilometers per hour in 4.7 seconds).

The steering has various settings, but ‘firm’ is the best, and it’s clearly been set up to provide “the kind of feeling that makes you smile”, as the Chief Chassis Engineer, Joakim Rydholm, enthusiastically described it.

There is simply no way to drive a vehicle this powerful on a surface this slippery, and speckled with fresh snow, without being mostly sideways, and spinning the steering wheel like a toy.  The inherent balance of the car shines in these challenging yet hugely fun conditions.

Everything happens, each slide and counter flick, in semi-slow motion, which apparently means that the engineers can analyze what’s happening in moments of traction loss and adjust the software with ease. I can report that the traction-control systems are very close to idiot proof, because I drove like a complete idiot at times and still didn’t manage to crash.

A Step Up in Class

While previous Polestars were reasonable cars, it’s worth remarking on the fact that the Polestar 3 is so much better to drive and more impressively fitted out inside – spacious and sleek and not at all like an IKEA car – despite the fact that it’s an SUV and the company’s first efforts were sedans.

The next vehicle from the brand, the coupe-like Polestar 4 mid-size SUV, is genuinely stunning to behold, looks nothing like an SUV and takes yet another step up in class.

Up until now, Polestar has felt like a brand that’s aimed itself at offering an option for people who want something electric, like a Tesla Model 3, but didn’t want to be seen in a Tesla, at least partly because everyone else had one.

While it might be born in one of the coldest habitable places on the planet, the Polestar 3 is my hot tip to do very well.

Polestar is moving away from its most obvious competitor not only in quality and presentation. On price, the Performance Pack version of the Polestar 3 sits comfortably but, realistically, most versions sold costing a lot more with some options added.

A Polestar person patiently explained to me that Tesla is “a volume brand”, like Volkswagen, while the Swedish carmaker, which like Tesla is exclusively an EV maker, is “a European brand” (despite being essentially owned by Chinese giant Geely) and thus wants to be considered in the competitive set of BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Porsche.

You might think those brands already have a lot of runs on the board, but when it comes to making electric cars rather than the roaring combustion-engined ones they’re famous for, the playing field is a lot more level and, in a market like ours, being the first to deliver an SUV that’s also an EV, and is a vehicle you actually want to own, will be vital.

And while it might be born in one of the coldest habitable places on the planet, the Polestar 3 is my hot tip to do very well indeed.

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