Meet Joakim Rydholm, rally driver and also chief test driver at Polestar, the performance division of Volvo Cars. Rydholm’s rally career began in 1987 when as a 15-year-old boy he built his first rallycross car. With a little practice under his belt he progressed in 1998 to podium finishes in various Scandinavian rally events, and today races a Mitsubishi Evo X Group N rally car in the Swedish Championship.
He started applying his expert knowledge in chassis and performance tuning at Volvo Cars in 2008, with the C30 Polestar Concept being his first project. Subsequent R&D projects included many of Volvo’s recent Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) cars, but he returned to Polestar engineering in 2013 when he was responsible for the chassis development of the now-outgoing S60 and V60 Polestar performance models, and in 2016 he became responsible for all Polestar-developed chassis components for Volvo models, including the recently announced Polestar Engineered derivatives of the S60, V60 and XC60 ranges, and the development of the Polestar 1 performance hybrid car.
Rydholm seems to find the vehicle dynamics package of the Polestar 1 rather good, even if he does say so himself. “The ingredients for creating the best driving dynamics in a car are the same, whether it has an electric drivetrain or an internal combustion engine,” he says. “An immediate damper response from the suspension, direct and predictable feedback from steering inputs and consistent, powerful brakes are the key attributes that all the world’s best driver’s cars have in common. That’s exactly what we are engineering into the new electric performance cars from Polestar”.
Rydholm cites his rallying experience as a key factor in chassis tuning. “The fast pace of rallying, and the need to react very quickly to changing conditions, has taught me to listen very carefully to the chassis and feel what it is doing at all times. I have learned how to fine-tune various aspects to change the way a car behaves depending on what needs to be achieved.”
Rydholm recently drove the Polestar 1 prototype up the famous ‘hill’ at the UK’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, stating afterwards, “I absolutely love this car! It was so much fun to drive it at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, an event I have always wanted to drive at. It was a very special experience. I have spent every recent waking hour in the Polestar 1, so to take it to England and drive it amongst some of the most famous names in motorsport was a truly life-affirming experience.”
“In the 22 years of my career developing the chassis for all sorts of cars, I have never experienced a package and drivetrain as thrilling as the Polestar 1. The electric performance is so immediate and exciting, plus the torque vectoring technology gives such engaging handling. When you then factor in the Öhlins suspension, Akebono brakes and light-weight carbon fiber body, the Polestar 1 delivers truly outstanding performance. Yet we have also been able to tune the chassis so accurately that it produces a superb everyday ride quality, while also being ready for a spirited drive at any time.”