Ford detailed a bunch of its roadmap for the next few years at a special media event today, and one of the key takeaways is that it’s going all-in on hybrids with its SUV lineup. Ford estimates that SUVs could make up as much as half the entire U.S. industry retail market by 2020, and that’s why it’s shifting $7 billion in investment capital from its cars business over to the SUV segment. By 2020, Ford also aims to have high-performance SUVs in market, including five with hybrid powertrains and one fully battery electric model.
These will include brand new versions of the Ford Escape and Ford Explorer that are coming next year, and two entirely new off-road SUVs, including a new Bronco, and a small SUV that has yet to be named. There’s also that “performance battery electric utility” that will make up part of its overall SUV lineup, which is set for a 2020 release and will spearhead a plan to release six electric vehicle models by 2022.
With this big hybrid push on the SUV side, Ford expects to go from second to first-place in the U.S. hybrid vehicles market by sales, surpassing current leader Toyota by 2021, thanks also to the forthcoming hybrid Mustang and F-150.
Automaker Volkswagen’s ramping up for its big EV push, with $25 billion in committed battery supplies and plans to outfit 16 factories to build electric cars by the end of 2022, up from three with that capacity in the VW stable right now. Thus far, Volkswagen’s focus is on battery suppliers in Europe and China, its two largest markets, and likely the two that will be most important… Read More
Tesla’s Model 3 is making progress heading out to customers (though not as much as either Tesla or those on the waiting list would like) and as a result, we got a chance to spend some time in one of the new production models that just rolled off the line. The Model 3 is a much more affordable car from Tesla than either its Model S or Model X, and it hopes to one day achieve true mass market success.
Tesla managed to amass somewhere around 500,000 pre-orders for the car, so it’s definitely a hotly anticipated item. This is the kind of enthusiasm generally reserved not for vehicles, but for high demand consumer electronics. Make no mistake, however: The Model 3 is a car first, and a gadget second, and probably the most fun you can buy on four wheels on real roads at this price point.
As equipped, the Model 3 we test drove had a retail price of around $57,500, which includes all the upgrade options, Autopilot and longer driving range thanks to an enhanced battery pack. It also includes a panorama-style all glass roof and leather-appointed seating. For the time being, the extended range option is the only choice for new Model 3 buyers (the basic model will be available once there’s more production volume), so at the very least your starting price is going to be $44,000 for now.
That puts the car in a class with other entry level luxury vehicles like the BMW 530e hybrid, for instance, so it’s not exactly an ‘affordable’ car in the traditional sense. But it’s still potentially going to be able to net you some tax incentives, and it’s about half the price of a similarly appointed Model S or Model X.
And while driving the Model S and Model X is definitely a different experience, there’s a lot more similarity between driving one of those and driving the Model 3 than you might expect.
The all-electric rear-wheel drive powertrain, which provides instant acceleration that feels like more power than you have any right to expect from this kind of car. To me, its acceleration felt more manageable than the truly awesome amount of power present on the Tesla Model X P100D I tested out last month – but still truly thrilling measured on any scale.
In fact, the most fun I had with the Model 3 while testing the car was in driving it up and down a windy road with a few clear straightaways in a sleepy Northern California rural town. The roadway was empty save for me and the Model 3, and I got the chance to see how it did getting up to 60 from a stop start, and how it handles those curves. Bottom line: It’s quick to achieve speed, and it hugs the road like it’s glued to the thing (the bottom-heavy design thanks to the battery pack helps), so you can really take the corners in stride.
On the highway, the quick acceleration helps when you’re dealing with tricky merges, and of course the Model 3 has Autopilot on board, which works just as it does in other vehicles in Tesla’s lineup. It’s a godsend in California traffic, and likely just as effective anywhere you’re stuck with stop-and-go freeway or highway driving.
Driving is where the Tesla Model 3 excels the most, which is why I wanted to lead with that in this review – this is a driver’s car, built not just for people who know they love to drive, but also for people who might not be aware of how much fun it can be, especially if you’ve never had the pleasure of using a vehicle with an electric powertrain before. Cars including the BMW i3, the Chevrolet Bolt, the Tesla Model S and Model X, and now the Model 3 have all ruined me for internal combustion engine cars: One you’ve gone electric, you can’t really go back.
The Model 3 also does as much as possible to draw focus to the driving experience. In large part, this is due to the spare cockpit design, which moves all instrumentation and information display to the single, 16-inch touchscreen panel mounted in the center of the dash. This screen is occupied on the left third by key information relevant to the driver (and indeed sits just in your peripheral view while looking straight out the windshield) and the remaining two-thirds is taken up by information display about routing, media, car settings and more.
It’s a bit of a mixed blessing in terms of a vehicle interface: On the one hand, it’s terrific to have an unobstructed view of the road – it’s as pure as driving experience as rolling down the track in the soapbox derby car of your youth, and it really leaves you feeling connected to the road itself. The effect is aided by the lack of any obvious vents, since the dash has one full-length break that handles all of the air circulation by pitting two air foils against one another to direct air very precisely where you want it to go.
The steering wheel is still there, of course, and it features a stock-mounted lever for putting the car into drive, reverse and park, and for controlling Autopilot if enabled. The wheel also has two multipurpose, multidirectional controllers both right and left of center. The left controls volume and track skipping, as well as play/pause for media by default. The right doesn’t do anything by default right now, but Tesla is considering using it for managing speed when Autopilot is engaged (currently handled via touchscreen).
Those two controls are contextually variable, so they can control the angle of your rear view mirrors when you’re adjusting those via the center screen, for instance. Tesla left them unlabeled by design because they wanted them to be flexible, and in general it seems like a good idea, if it still needs a bit of working out in terms of how it works in practice.
The Model 3’s biggest weakness, overall, is the touchscreen interface. It’s actually an excellent touchscreen, with very responsive scrolling and touch detection, smooth animations and zero missed taps during my usage. The problem is that there’s a lot to wade through to find just what you’re looking for, and it doesn’t do enough to simplify and declutter the experience for use specifically while driving.
I actually got used to a lot of the system’s quirks quicker than I thought I would, but it’s still definitely something where I would’ve appreciated a few physical controls for specific functions, including windshield wipers, even if it spoiled the cockpit’s otherwise excellent minimalist design.
That’s actually the only real issue I had with the Model 3 during testing, and it was not negative enough that it would prevent me from buying one of these, were I in the market for a new car, with available funds and availability of stock on Tesla’s end. This is easily the most fun car I’ve driven in this price range that I can recall, and while occasionally clunky, the touchscreen didn’t impede my enjoyment or my ability to drive the vehicle safely at any time during testing.
Other reviewers have noted some problems with body panel fit and finish on their review cars; Tesla said mine was freshly entered into the press fleet, so that might be why I didn’t notice any of said problems, but I genuinely didn’t see any of those flaws even if they existed. Tesla’s biggest issue with this vehicle is that it can’t make enough to come anywhere close to satisfying demand. The Model 3 is finally in more showrooms across the country, but it’s still going to take a while to satisfy existing orders, let alone to begin filling new ones.
The bottom line is that if you need a car in the next few years or so but you’re happy to wait (potentially) that long, it might be worth putting up a down payment to save your spot in line. The Model 3 is a solid piece of eccentric joy in a market filled with staid and boring choices.
Tesla is putting its new electric Semi to work, with its first run as a “production” vehicle — for a familiar client. Tesla itself is the customer, as the trucks were equipped with trailers loaded up with battery packs fresh from the Gigafactory assembly line, heading to the Tesla Fremont car factory in California. Read More
Volvo turned its race-tuning sub brand Polestar into its own company with a focus on electric performance last year, and at the Geneva Motor Show this week it revealed the Polestar 1 GT, a hybrid electric car that’s designed to go toe-to-toe with Tesla for performance-loving customers eager for alternative powertrain options. In person, the Polestar 1 is quite fetching, especially in… Read More
Renault’s EZ-GO is less concept car than a full transportation service concept design. The vehicle revealed at the Geneva Motor Show this week is a fully autonomous electric car that can’t travel fast, but that does fit as many as six passengers through a big, almost garage-like door that opens up to load people and goods easily. The EZ-GO is designed for use in urban… Read More
Honda’s adorable little Urban EV Concept stole hearts at last year’s Frankfurt Motor Show, and at the Geneva Motor Show this week, the automaker confirmed that it’s making a production version of the car, with a target street date of late 2019 for the cute little guy, though it’ll be a European exclusive at first. The Honda Urban EV concept features a two-door,… Read More
Porsche unveiled a new concept version of its forthcoming Mission E all-electric car today at the Geneva Motor Show. The Mission E Cross Turismo is a crossover utility vehicle with all-wheel drive, four doors and a larger cargo capacity for making sure you have plenty of room to stow your skis before you hit the slopes since this is definitely the kind of car that appeals to people who ski.… Read More
Volkswagen’s big centerpiece for this year’s Geneva Motor Show is the I.D. Vizzion, the latest in its I.D. EV lineup and the car that’s designed to lead the pack as a premium offering. Volkswagen talked a lot about the Vizzion’s future-focused design and features yesterday during a special pre-show press unveiling, but on Tuesday it also detailed some more realistic near-term goals for the Vizzion, including a target 2022 production date.
The sedan, which combines ample interior space with a Passat-style exterior footprint, will eventually come in a version without any physical steering wheel or pedals, according to Volkswagen, but the 2022 version will feature a more traditional cockpit since Level 5 autonomy in the way envisioned by VW in its concept video for this car likely isn’t feasible until at least 2030.
The Vizzion is a very attractive and contemporary sedan in terms of design, however, so it makes sense that the company would be looking to put it on the street before full autonomy and a fully control-free cockpit is a practical reality. The car just plain looks like something you want to drive now, and something to draw the eye of any potential Tesla Model X buyers.
It’s based on Volkswagen’s modular MEB platform, which will provide the baes for all of its I.D. lineup, including the Crozz and the Buzz microbus. The MEB is also the future of electric cars from other brands in the Volkswagen Group, like Skokda, which is also showing off some of its future EV designs at Geneva. Central to the MEB is the flat, under floor ‘skateboard deck’-style battery, which can be paired up with a variety of drive options.
In the case of the Vizzion, the MEB features a dual motor design with a 200 HP equivalent one on the rear axle and a 100 HP version on the front for over 300 HP combined. It’s definitely a car that seems like it would appeal to drivers in the family way who also want to have a good time when on the road.
Jaguar has finally fully revealed the official I-PACE all-electric SUV, a vehicle with just under 240 miles of range and a 0 to 60 mph time of under five seconds. The car can also charge to 80 percent from empty in 40 minutes using special quick charger hardware, and a 15-minute top-up is good for around 62 miles of additional range. The I-PACE looks like Jaguar’s best attempt to do a… Read More