Nice Drives – 2024 Polestar 2 & Toyota Prius Prime SE

Electric car makers Polestar and Toyota are leading the charge

By Isaac Bouchard

Arriving in 2020, the Polestar 2 was one of the first valid Tesla competitors, as well as being a great inaugural effort from an almost all-new company (it is part of Geely, who also owns Volvo and Lotus).

For 2024, substantial upgrades to its electric motors and the battery of the 2-wheel drive model make it even more competitive. But this is an all-wheel drive country, so that’s the focus here. AWD Polestar 2s normally come with 416 hp and 546 lb-ft of torque; the test vehicle had the Performance Pack, upping horsepower to 455.            

Rated range as well as real-world traveling distance at highway speeds both are better for new Polestar 2s. On smaller wheels, the basic model goes 276 miles according to the EPA, and only loses 10 miles on the optional 20-inch footwear. The Performance Plus is rated at 247 miles but actually will travel 250 at highway speeds. Most 2s go farther than similar Teslas do at 75mph. The Polestar is also Tesla-fast, with seemingly limitless sprinting ability. While the new battery charges faster than before, it still takes twice as long to go from 10-to-80 percent as the Hyundai Ioniq6.

The updated Polestar has superb steering: direct, linear and accurate, and excellent body control and handling. The downside—at least on the Performance Plus—is a ride that, while never devolving into juddering harshness, is quite firm. The normal AWD model is smoother overall.

Polestars have had better cabin quality than Teslas since day one, though Elon’s revised Model 3 is much closer. The 2’s finishes are unique and pleasing to the eye and hand, with a fabric-like molding for the dash and door tops, white-washed wood and metallic trim that looks and feels like metal. The Polestar is very solidly constructed; it feels more expensive than most anything from Mercedes or BMW at its price point. Infotainment is from Google (and yes, you can watch YouTube while stationary) and integrates fine with iPhones. However, the 2 has less passenger room than the Tesla, though it does have a large cargo area.

The biggest issue is the lack of airflow on a hot day from the Polestar’s dashtop-mounted HVAC registers, which, combined with a fixed glass roof with no power shade, lets in too much Colorado sunshine on hot days. Having a layer of ceramic tint applied to all the glass substantially reduces this issue, allowing one to enjoy the myriad charms of the Swedish charger.

Toyota is a leader in hybrids and PHEVs, which comprise 29 percent of their sales. The Prius was the first popular hybrid and is still among the best-selling. What’s new in this latest generation is sex appeal; this is one really good-looking automobile. The Prius is now available in three forms: normal hybrid, AWD hybrid and a plugin version, the Prime.

The Prime’s combined 220 horsepower is almost 100 more than the last version; 60mph now comes up in a fleet of 6.7 seconds. This Toyota can also go up to 44 miles on electricity alone in mixed driving, and up to 33-35 on a highspeed highway run. The Prime is fairly refined and quiet, too, making it a good commuter car. Also making it a good road warrior are driver aids like standard adaptive cruise control and supportive and comfortable front seats.

The cargo room is also excellent, though that slinky roofline eats into rear seat headroom.  The Prius eats up corners too, with flat cornering and accurate steering. Though it isn’t really a sports car, it performs like one, while also offering one of the lowest lifetime carbon footprints of any automobile, thanks in part to its incredible reliability.

The Prime fits neatly into the trend towards plugin hybrid electric vehicles. PHEVs have a bigger battery and more powerful electric motors than “regular” gasoline-electrics. Their batteries can be charged on a traditional 110v household outlet overnight, and top up in 2-3 hours on a 240v Level 2 charger.

Toyota Prius Prime SE

Their range of 20-40 miles can often cover a daily commute, and their internal combustion engine (ICE) allows them to keep on truckin’ when there is no charger around. While more complex and heavier than gas-only vehicles, their blend of attributes—which also include instant torque, often-silent running and generous tax incentives, often match those of full EVs and make them incredibly compelling. Between state and federal programs, it is possible to get over $19,000 off the price of a plugin hybrid for Colorado residents.

The best way for most consumers to benefit is to lease one; there are no income restrictions that would otherwise keep wealthier clients from getting these monies. The one exception is Colorado’s new VXC exchange program, which is designed to get old cars—especially those that cannot pass emissions—off the road. VXC has strict income limits, but for those who qualify, it is worth $6,000 off the price of a qualifying new PHEV or full electric. These incentives drop lease payments by $200-400 per month, meaning something like a six passenger, three-row Mazda CX-90 leases for hundreds less than gas-only competitors. Then there’s the savings that comes from using electricity to bolster (or even replace) the ICE on the daily commute. Many report not even needing to put dino juice in more than once a month, and even for those who do combined fuel economy can be amazing. The Dodge Hornet R/T (twin to the Alfa Romeo Tonale), can hit 60 in 5.5 seconds and go 31 miles on electricity only—or average 40mpg in hybrid mode.

The only real downside to a plugin is that they don’t make economic sense if one doesn’t (you guessed it) plug them in regularly. Skip that step and they are just a heavier, more complex alternative to a regular hybrid or ICE machine. But use them as intended and they are the perfect bridge to an electrified motoring future, for those who can’t make a pure EV fit into their lifestyle. Though plugins only comprise two percent of new vehicle sales right now, the number of available models is growing rapidly, and they are expected to make up a substantial slice of vehicle sales over the next several years.

Toyota Prius Prime SE

Polestar 2

EPA MPG Ratings: 112/100/106e

0-60mph: 3.8sec (est)

Price as tested: $69,650

 Rating: 4 Stars


EPA MPG Ratings: 127MPGe/52mpg (gas)

0-60mph: 6.7sec

Price as tested: $34,184

Rating: 4.5 Stars


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