Polestar made a choice with the 4 – it eschewed the rear window entirely with the debut of its coupe-sized electric premium crossover. When it was first shown off, most of us probably handwaved away the lack of a rear window, figuring that Polestar designers were dead set on proving they weren’t Volvo by integrating a contrarian design quirk on one singular model that would fly in the face of the textbook utilitarian nature of most Volvos.
Then, just yesterday during the brand’s first-ever Polestar Day event, it showed off the production-intent design of the Polestar 5 sedan. Like the Precept concept before it, the Polestar 5 does not have a rear window. Clearly, Polestar had committed to this new future, one in which our sedans and coupes don’t have a rear windshield. If you need to put it in reverse, cameras (supposedly) have you covered.
That all sounds, in the words of TikTok food critic Keith Lee, “unique to me,” a genteel way of saying “This is kind of stupid.” But, there’s got to be a method to the madness, right? Surely, Polestar isn’t simply cutting rear visibility and the amount of light let into the cabin solely for fashion, right? It’s a little more complicated than that. There is a reason for this rhyme.
I got a chance to speak briefly with Graeme Lambert, the Design and Technology PR lead for Polestar Global, and learned that there’s more of a reason than you’d think for cutting the rear window. Yes, part of it is style; the transition to that low, striking coupe-like roofline was hard to pull off. Polestar designers wanted a low and sleek roofline but wanted the cars (particularly the Polestar 5) to actually be fairly low-slung, and have a full-length glass roof.
That’s a really tall order. Designers and engineers were faced with a challenge: how do you make all of those things happen, without compromising style, or most important to the Volvo-adjacent brand, without compromising safety? Should they make the car bigger and taller, making it uglier and potentially less efficient? Compromising structural members to make that striking design happen was definitely out of the question.
Instead, the team opted to rejigger how the car was designed, removing the rear window. Because the rear window is gone, Lambert says that the team was able to put the structural member that ties one side of the car to the other further back on the body. Thus, the roofline could be low, without compromising the body and chassis rigidity necessary for both solid handling, and strong crash ratings.
It makes sense, though. Put aside your feelings about the Polestar 5’s lack of a rear window, and consider the design as a whole. It’s amazing how low-slung, wide, and mean the car looks. It looks legitimately svelte in the metal, unlike the out-of-scale designs seen from other manufacturers. These are cars that look small in photos but are actually surprisingly tall and imposing in person, like the Hyundai Ioniq 6. Likewise, the Polestar 4’s full-length, unbroken glass interior panel might be one of the largest and most impressive displays on the market.
Lambert continued to drop more food for thought with respect to the 4 and 5’s lack of rear window. For example, in the era of thick pillars both because of design, but also because of structural concessions to y’know, make a safe and rigid body, it’s common that rearward visibility isn’t all that great on modern crossovers.
So, do you really need a rear window? “How often do you really look behind you, anyway?” Lambert said. I’m not sure I agree with that sentiment, but in order to not compromise safety via reduced visibility, Polestar has replaced the rearview outward with an absurdly clear camera that sits in the same space as the rearview mirror. In theory, it should give the driver a greater field of vision than simply looking behind them through a tiny piece of rear glass.
Has Polestar set a new trend of curtailing glass in the name of safety and style? We’ll just have to wait and see if anyone else follows along. At the very least, the Changan and Huawei-controlled AVTAR 12 also does not have a rear window. Odds are, we haven’t seen the last of this idea.