For nearly two years, my daily driver was a Chevy Bolt. It was — and now is for someone else — a truly great car. Not just as a commuter car, but for our whole family. Despite’s its small overall footprint, the car’s interior was maximized to easily accommodate two adults and two kids in bulky child safety seats while still easily hauling two strollers in the back.
But when I heard Tesla’s tax credit was expiring, I figured it couldn’t hurt to to finally head down to the local showroom to check out their offerings. Well, it did hurt…my wallet. Our family now owns a Tesla Model 3.
Here’s the thing: We weren’t going to make the switch unless we got a very specific trade-in value for our Bolt. And not only did we get that amount, Tesla even offered us more than I was expecting — and more than Carmax was offering.
We love the new car. By just about every measure, the Model 3 is an upgrade. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things I’m missing about the ol’ Bolt, like…
A Charge Port in the Front of the Car
Just about every public charger is located at the head of a parking space, and the cables tend not to be very generous in length. Don’t park just right in an EV with a rear port and a long-ish wheel base (like a Tesla) and the cord might not reach.
I totally get that there are technical reasons (not to mention political ones) why we shouldn’t expect to see an option for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in a Tesla anytime soon…but that doesn’t mean I still can’t miss it.
Standard Charge Port
Teslas work like magic with their own Superchargers, but when charging anywhere else things can get a little annoying. Not only is there an adapter involved, but the Tesla’s charge port has a locking mechanism that needs to be manually disengaged (an extra step) on some occasions.
The good thing about Teslas is their range is so good, charging anywhere but at home (or at a Supercharger during road trips) is usually avoidable. But when you’ve already got a CCS standard charging station in your garage from your previous electric car purchase…
The Key Fob
The Model 3 is designed to use your smart phone as its key, unlocking the car and even starting it without you having to do a thing. And as a backup in case your phone is dead, missing, or incompatible, it uses a credit card-sized keycard that easily fits in a wallet. It’s great not having another bulky item on my keychain. The problem? The phones themselves differ in their reliability as a key. My phone, for example, frequently won’t unlock the car when it’s in my back pocket. So I do have to take out my phone (or make sure it’s in my front pocket) before approaching my car. I get Tesla’s impulses here, but they are basically ceding control of one of the most important features of the car to a third party (Apple, Samsung, HTC, etc.).
Yes, you can get an optional key fob, but it’s not perfect either. It will allow you to manually unlock and the start the vehicle, but it doesn’t do those automatically via proximity alone. (Why? For security reasons — the Model 3 uses a wireless standard that isn’t has hackable as typical auto key fobs. That’s why it requires a newer smart phone with the latest, most secure wireless protocols to work as a key.)
Oh, and get this: If you do shell out $150 for the key fob, it doesn’t even come with a way to connect it to a key ring! I had to do some Googling to find something on Amazon that’d allow me to add the Tesla key fob to a key chain. (I had to buy a bag of 30 key chain loops, so if anyone out there needs one, drop me a line!)
360 Surround View
Tesla uses a “radar” sensor that’s got its plusses — like giving you an exact distance from obstacles as you park — but I still miss being able to see a live-view of the street/curb around me when I want/need it.
The “Bird’s Eye View” is especially great for parallel parking, as it lets you see when you’re in the red of a curb or not, as well as other visual details that the Tesla’s system misses.
Proper Blindspot Detection
Tesla’s blindspot detection feels like an afterthought. It lives in the center console, not on the sideview mirrors, where it belongs.
Behind-The-Steering-Wheel Instrument Cluster
Yes, I know the screen is one of the Model 3’s signature features, and something you quickly get used to. Your eyes only have to shift a couple degrees to get a quick glance at the odometer. And Mr. Musk makes a compelling argument against a traditional dashboard when he asks why would you ever need to look at one when the car is driving for you. But the car isn’t fully autonomous yet and won’t be for a long, long time. I might not even still have the car by the time self-driving becomes a functional reality.
A Range of Range (Estimates)
In a Chevy Bolt, right behind the steering wheel you’ll find three numbers — your estimated range based on driving habits and current conditions, a max range under ideal circumstances, and a minimum range if you blast the AC while driving only uphill without making any stops (i.e. terrible conditions for an EV). The center number is also quite dynamic. For example, when you turn the AC on, you instantly see how much it affects your estimated range (upwards of 20-30 miles on a full charge).
The Tesla offers the same amount of data, but it’s buried behind a couple menus. The only number that the Model 3 offers at a glance while driving is the “best guesstimate” (i.e., the equivalent of the number in the middle). Very useful, and pretty darn accurate, but the other numbers were nice to have, too.
Stronger Regenerative Braking
The Bolt offers what feels like true one-pedal driving. You can bring the car to a stop in almost any circumstance without ever having to engage the brake. The Tesla’s regenerative braking is pretty strong, too, but it won’t bring the car to a stop all on its own. (Side note: My passengers, on the other hand, are glad to say good-bye to the Bolt’s regen, as it made them a little nauseous…)
The Bolt’s More “Practical” Exterior
Tesla’s striking looks come at a cost — a literal cost — as even minor repairs can be quite costly. I now worry about potential scratch and ding in a way I didn’t with the less attractive Bolt, and its more practical exterior.
And one thing I definitely don’t miss…
The Bolt’s “Rear View Camera Mirror”
One of the Bolt’s premium features is the ability to flip a switch and turn your rear-view mirror into an actual video feed from the back of the vehicle. Sounds cool, right? A way to see what’s behind you with zero blindspots, even when the rear window is blocked by taller items?! In practice, I didn’t find it useful at all — and discomforting at worst. Simply put, it didn’t agree with my basic human biology. With an actual mirror, your eye doesn’t have to change focal points when you glance from the windshield to the rear-view mirror. But with a video screen, your eye DOES have to change focal points, readjusting its focus every time you take a peek to see what’s behind you. I kept the rear view mirror camera turned off.
Here’s where I reiterate that most of these are issues I knew to expect, and none of them are dealbreakers soiling my overall enjoyment of the car. The Model 3 is really a spectacular auto filled with some cutting edge tech the Bolt can only dream of — not to mention some standard car tech features that are inexplicably missing from the Bolt (like the ability to open a garage door). If this post hasn’t dissuaded you from your interest in getting a Model 3 (or any Tesla), feel free to use my unique Tesla referral link to get 6 months of free Supercharging: https://ts.la/eric64615
(Apparently, if you use my referral link and wind up buying a Tesla, not only do you get free Supercharging for half-a-year, but I get to send a photo into space, though I’m not entire sure what means! But here’s to SpaceX/Tesla synergy!)