Tesla released the final specs for its long-awaited Model 3 on Friday,
which means we can start to assess whether it really is the best, mass market electric car on the market.
As predicted, the Model 3 most closely competes with the Chevy Bolt. That’s because both cars are Tesla’s and Chevy’s first attempt to appeal to a consumer segment without compromising on range and the in-vehicle experience.
It’s too early to tell whether there’s high demand for the Bolt because it’s been slowly rolling out to select dealerships since December. Chevy’s strategy appears to be paying off as sales have grown month-to-month, with the automaker selling some 1,642 Bolts in June.
Tesla, on the other hand, has secured at least 500,000 pre-orders for its Model 3, which is sold out until at least mid-2018. CEO Elon Musk is already predicting Tesla will struggle to fill the hefty order on a timely schedule.
There are immediate pros and cons to both vehicles.
If you’re looking for an electric car now, it’s worth going for the Bolt. It’s a zippy and affordable car that, at the very least, will last until the Model 3 becomes widely available. Tesla is known to struggle with timely deliveries, and if Musk’s comments are any indicator, we can expect more of the same going forward.
That being said, the Model 3 is arguably a better car, but that depends on whether it fits your definition of mass-market.
The $US37,495 Chevy Bolt can drive 238 miles on a single charge, accelerate to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, and reach a top speed of 91 mph. That’s not bad by any means and will serve the average driver well in typical scenarios.
The base Model 3, however, beats on specs.
For $US35,000, the Model 3 can drive 220 miles on a single charge, reach 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, and reach a top speed of 130 mph.
When it comes to everyday driving, an 18-mile range difference is unlikely to make a real difference. It’s not going to change overnight charging habits for everyday commutes. On a road trip, the Bolt can last a few more exits on a highway before pulling over for an inevitable charge.
Tesla has another big advantage over the Bolt: Enhanced Autopilot.
For $US5,000 more, the Model 3 will match its speed to traffic conditions, automatically change lanes without driver input, merge on and off highways, and park itself. Standard safety features come free.
For just $US44,000, Tesla offers a lot without breaking the bank. But that only applies if you forgo other upgrades.
Other options, like a paint job outside the standard black or a tinted glass roof, will easily kick up the price to $US50,000. Go for Tesla’s Premium trim (310-mile range) and the Model 3 could become a $US60,000 purchase all in.
That’s where the Chevy Bolt starts to beat the Model 3.
Chevy’s Premier trim comes with all the available bells and whistles without surpassing $US42,000. That includes safety features like lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, side blind zone alert, and rear-parking assist.
This isn’t to say that Chevy’s safety package is a competitor to Enhanced Autopilot, but the Bolt is arguably more consumer friendly than a fully optioned Model 3. With the Bolt, buyers can elect to get the most high-end version available and stay well within the mass-market price range.
For those on the market for an affordable car, the Bolt is the safest purchase for today. It has all the necessities, performs well in average driving scenarios, and doesn’t surpass $US42,000. You’re also guaranteed a more streamlined process to actually getting the car in a timely fashion.
Still, it seems safe to say most people opting for a Model 3 are intrigued by Tesla as a cutting-edge, futuristic company rather than a budget-conscious provider. Tesla buyers aren’t just purchasing an electric car, but an entire driving experience grounded in revolutionary tech.
If Enhanced Autopilot isn’t in the budget now, it can always be added via a quick software update later. Either way buyers are getting a high-performance car with a respectable range, basic safety features, and access to Tesla’s Supercharger network. This is not a bad investment.
We’ll be sure to get our hands on the Model 3 for a weekend drive for a more thorough comparison.
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