After taking a test ride in the Tesla Model 3 last year and test driving the Chevrolet Bolt a couple times at my local Los Angeles Chevy dealer this week, here's my take on the two high-profile EVs.
I'll preface this by saying that I'm probably one of the few people in America who has both ridden in a Tesla Model 3 (albeit a prototype) and test driven a Chevy Bolt, the just-released 230+ mile range $37K MSRP electric crossover. And I'm a long-time owner of a Chevy Volt (which, for me, is in effect a pure electric).
Chevy Bolts have been pouring into my local Los Angeles Chevy dealer, Rydell Chevrolet, over the past of couple of weeks. Rydell is a serious seller of electrified vehicles. It averages about 80 Volt (a plug-in hybrid) sales a month and has already sold 60 Bolts, according to the salesman (who I took the test drives with). And its lot is brimming with Bolts. A rare sight indeed, considering most parts of the U.S. will not see any Bolts for months.
Bolt vs. Model 3
Model 3: As I said above, the Tesla Motors Model 3 test ride (embedded below) was last March and it was brief. I will be repeating (mostly) what I said at that time. I was completely sold after the test ride. No, it's not as upscale as the Model S or Model X but it has the same look and feel. That is, it's a Tesla through and through. That's important considering there are almost 400,000 reservations for the Model 3 to date.
To a car nerd (which I'm not) there will of course be differences between the Model 3 and more upscale Model S and Model X. Things like the ultra-minimalist dash might come as a shock: gone is the second display behind the steering wheel in the Model S. It's now just a single 15-inch landscape display in the center of the dash. We'll see if that holds for the production version.
But I was too enamored by the giant panoramic glass roof, comfortable seats, and speed to notice imperfections. In short, you're paying a lot less but still getting a Tesla with all of the styling, speed, and status that go with it. And speaking of speed, part of the test ride was punching it so you could experience the straight-line Ludicrous Mode-like acceleration. And it felt like Ludicrous Mode (which I've tried on the Model S P90D). "We don?t make slow cars," as Elon Musk put it. (The slowest base Model 3 will do zero to 60 in under six seconds.) Oh, and it's surprisingly roomy. I'm tall (almost 6' 3") and had no trouble slipping into the back seat. That's possible because the Model 3's front seats are pushed forward a bit more, opening up more room in the back.
About the Tesla Naysayers: they (e.g., contributors at message boards and stock-gyration blogs) crank out daily doom-and-gloom prognostications about Tesla's impending demise because they short the stock or think the Model 3 or Model X, or both -- depending on what kind of FUD the writer wants to fling on a particular day -- will bring down the company. Don't believe it. There will be bumps along the way as Tesla retools its factories and gets a handle on its Las Vegas gigafactory but the Model 3 will eventually be delivered in large numbers with the company intact.
Chevy Bolt: The Bolt, to say the least, is a different beast. It screams practicality. The very fact that it's a crossover is a big indicator: it can appeal to women and (small) families. And let me say up front that if I didn't have a Volt, I would buy a Bolt in a heartbeat -- that's after two test drives, the latter an extended drive.
And I think I'm in good company, considering that it is Motor Trend's 2017 Car of the Year and the 2017 North American Car of the Year. (And for anyone who wants to push back, i.e., "How can you compare a Tesla to a Bolt? You're an idiot!" ...be my guest.)
Probably more than anything, it's the 240 mile-ish battery range that makes the Bolt so remarkable. General Motors beat Tesla by probably a year (we'll see) to deliver a reasonably priced (aka mass market) long-range EV, which, with incentives, can be had for under $30,000. As Motor Trend said, "the Bolt EV has made just about every other electric vehicle on sale obsolete," and adds: "It?s twice the car for half the price of a BMW i3...A better car, better package, much better handling, with twice the range."
But back to my test drive. I drove it up a long uphill stretch near my home in Los Angeles (where I've driven my Volt hundreds of times) and acceleration is smooth. The instant EV torque is palpably better than my Volt (whose acceleration, for an EV, isn't bad). It handles well too, aided by its stocky design.
And its' quiet. This is where traditional muscle car enthusiasts and EV lovers butt heads. I love the absolute quiet of an electric car. And the Bolt is even quieter than my Volt. (And another upside to EVs: my garage doesn't immediately fill up with noxious tailpipe emissions when I turn on the car.)
Interior: this is decidedly low-key, no-frills (aka, utilitarian). A lot like my Volt in fact. But a better version of the Volt's interior. (See below for Bolt test drive video, which has a link to a video of the interior.)
The bottom line is the Bolt is available now and the Tesla Model 3 isn't. And as good as the Model 3 should be, I would be perfectly happy owning a Bolt for the next four years. It's that good.
Finally, let me point you to the Bolt test drive video below (which has a link to a "walk-around" video).
Read more on Forbes.