Displaying items by tag: Electric Vehicle

Wednesday, 08 September 2021 07:45

Toyota Prius Plug-In review

Though it's been around a while, PHEV Prius still returns impressive numbers


  • Potential low running costs
  • Generous standard equipment
  • Quiet and relaxed at a cruise


  • Extremely shallow boot
  • Not as good to drive as more modern rivals
  • Underwhelming performance

Is the Toyota Prius Plug-in any good?

The Toyota Prius is the archetypal hybrid car, and its plug-in sibling aims to expand the range’s appeal by offering a meaningful amount of all-electric miles that mean drivers can cover their commute or local trips without ever resorting to the petrol engine.

The engine, meanwhile, stays in reserve for longer trips, meaning the Toyota Prius Plug-in can still cross continents without needing to stop and charge like a fully electric car would.

When the Prius Plug-in launched it didn’t have too many rivals – five years on, that’s no longer the case. To make the most of generous company car tax breaks for plug-in hybrids, there’s a smorgasbord of PHEVs to choose from in 2021, from sporty hatchbacks like the Volkswagen Golf GTE to large family SUVs like the Hyundai Santa Fe PHEV.

Toyota Prius Plug-in - side profile
The Prius’ age also counts against it in a few key areas – how it drives, how it’s packaged, and some of the tech inside. Yet despite this, it remains one of the more efficient plug-in hybrid cars you can buy. So if low running costs matter to you more than anything else, the Prius Plug-in could still be in with a chance of getting your approval.

What’s it like inside?

The interior of the Prius Plug-in looks pretty high tech, with its striking use of different coloured plastics and unconventional instruments. Instead of traditional gauges, you get a pair of 4.2-inch screens closer to the centre of the dashboard that deal with all your driving data.

This is an arrangement that harks back to the first Prius, and it does work quite well – the screens are clear and easy to read and you can keep a look at your speed through the corner of your eye instead of having to move your head totally. However, it does look a little basic in comparison to some of the digital dashboards we’ve seen in rival models.

Even if the gauge cluster is a bit too far to look, there’s a head-up display that projects important information directly into your eyeline. There’s also an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen, but this feels particularly slow and unresponsive, especially compared to rivals. For a long time it wasn’t even available with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, though this has happily been remedied for the latest models.

Toyota Prius Plug-in - interior
Some might complain about the driving position. There’s plenty of adjustability in the seat, but the steering wheel despite moving for both rake and reach doesn’t have a great range of motion. Another oddity is the foot-operated parking brake, which is a real throwback in the age of electronic alternatives.

Quality is at least a strong point – while some of the plastics are rather hard and unyielding, everything is put together solidly with the quality feel you’d expect from a Toyota. It is, however, rather dark inside on most models – optionally available for Business Edition cars is a lighter trim package that really brightens things up.

What’s it like to drive?

The Prius Plug-in uses a 1.8-litre petrol engine, just like the standard hybrid – but it has an extra boost in power from twin electric motors. That doesn’t manifest itself in particularly sparkling performance – 0-62mph takes more than 11 seconds, but more pertinent is that the electric boost gives it strong acceleration around town, and the extra grunt makes it better than its sibling at overtaking or joining faster-moving traffic.

Compare the Prius to a more modern hybrid, though, even one of its siblings such as the RAV4 SUV, and it’s not as impressive. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) has a habit of sending the engine revs spiralling at the merest flex of your right foot, which is noisy and unpleasant. It also suffers from rubber-banding, which is the rather nasty sensation where the engine speed seems unrelated to the speed of the vehicle.

Cars such as the Skoda Octavia iV, with its six-speed dual-clutch gearbox, feel more natural to drive, while even PHEVs that retain CVTs such as the Ford Kuga PHEV have engineered out most of this dynamic weakness.

Toyota Prius Plug-in - front driving
It’s not all bad – the Prius’ slippery shape and narrow tyres mean once the engine’s settled down, there’s very little wind or road noise to worry about, and the ride on the motorway is comfortable.

Thanks to standard-fit 15-inch alloy wheels (which are tiny by today’s standards) there’s plenty of tyre sidewall to absorb potholes, too. However, the soft suspension and additional weight of the batteries mean the Prius Plug-in rolls about a lot in corners and doesn’t grip particularly well.

As for driving on pure electric mode, a careful driver will be able to eke out around 30 miles of range from a full charge – the official figure is 34 miles. That’s not bad at all, and plenty for a commute. Top speed in EV mode is 84mph, and engine noise obviously disappears improving refinement further.

Charging up will take around four hours from a three-pin socket, or 2.5 from a domestic wallbox.

How much space is there?

Space in the passenger cabin is good – there’s a reason Uber taxi drivers love the Prius so much, and you’ll find space for four six-foot adults in a relatively compact space. You can find more room in a PHEV, but the Prius cabin is well judged, with good legroom in the back if slightly limited headroom.

Storage space is an issue, though. The boot is officially only 191 litres in capacity – there are convertibles on the market with more space than that. That’s due to the very high floor, as Toyota’s placed the larger battery pack under there.  It makes the boot extremely shallow under the parcel shelf, though if you don’t mind reducing the already-rubbish rear visibility you could potentially load up higher.

Toyota Prius Plug-in - boot
It is useful, though, that there’s a dedicated underfloor storage area for the charging cables, which keeps things tidy.

Fold the back seats down and you’ll see the space increase to 1,204 litres, which is better but still less than even a supermini can muster. Certainly, the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV or Skoda Octavia iV provide much more space in the boot.

What models and trims are available?

It’s easy to pick a Prius Plug-in – there are only two trim levels and a minimal options list, and of course both have an identical powertrain.

The entry-level model is known as the Business Edition and comes well-enough equipped that most should be satisfied. Keyless go, a wireless phone charger, touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a reversing camera, blind-spot monitor, heated front seats and head-up display is an excellent standard equipment list.

Toyota Prius Plug-in - infotainment
Stepping up to Excel grade gives you all-round parking sensors, a 10-speaker JBL sound system, navigation for the infotainment, automatic parking assist and, perhaps crucially if you’re looking to use the Prius Plug-in as a taxi, leather upholstery that’s more hardwearing and wipe-clean than fabric.

How much does it cost to run?

As with any plug-in hybrid, charging habits and journey type are key. The Prius Plug-in will respond best to a majority of short journeys with a fully-charged battery. Plug in at home and get used to setting off well-charged and you might find your own fuel economy figures approach the official 217mpg that the Prius Plug-in achieved during WLTP testing.

Toyota Prius Plug-in - charging
No matter how you drive the Prius Plug-in, you’ll benefit from its low official CO2 figures of just 28g/km. That means a low first year VED bill and super-low company car tax.

Other running costs should be minimal. Toyota’s reliability record is excellent, and the firm recently introduced a warranty policy that offers up to 10 years of cover if serviced at Toyota garages. That’s the longest warranty in the business and shows serious confidence in both the brand’s cars and its service centres.

Should you buy a Toyota Prius Plug-in?

There are more modern plug-in hybrids, there are more practical ones, and there are certainly better ones to drive – the Prius Plug-in has been around for quite a while and in several key areas it’s been surpassed by its competition.

For company car users, cars like the Skoda Octavia iV or BMW 330e aren’t as fuel efficient but are far better to drive and more spacious. As an alternative, several fully-electric models can be had for a similar price to the Prius Plug-in – such as the Skoda Enyaq iV or Kia e-Niro.

In isolation, though, the Prius Plug-in’s low running costs and strong reliability record could still be enough to sway some into going for it.


Published in Toyota
Friday, 02 July 2021 05:46

Toyota Mirai first drive

Welcome to the future: the hydrogen-powered Mirai is the EV you fill up in just five minutes

 At a glance

New price £49,995 - £64,995
Lease from new From £672 p/mView lease deals
Used price £36,295 - £44,220
Used monthly cost From £906 per month
Fuel economy
Not tested to latest standards
View pre-2017 economy specs
Insurance group 34How much is it to insure?


  • The most ecologically sound car on sale?
  • Zero tailpipe emissions except water
  • A relaxing and comfy car to drive


  • Rear seats are cramped and the boot is small
  • Extremely limited refuelling infrastructure
  • A rare-groove car – but a taste of the future?

Is the Toyota Mirai any good?

Just as the world is cottoning on to electric cars, along comes the Toyota Mirai to provide a sneak peek into what could come after the current crop of battery electric vehicles (BEVs). The Mirai and Hyundai Nexo are the only hydrogen fuel-cell cars currently on sale in the UK, using a radically different engineering solution to the question of how to store electricity on board.

Instead of requiring a large battery like a conventional electric vehicle (EV), the Mirai generates its own electricity in something called a fuel-cell stack. Three small gas tanks store up to 5.6 kilogrammes of hydrogen where a petrol car might store its fuel and this feeds the fuel-cell, where a reaction takes place between oxygen in the atmosphere and the hydrogen to create the energy to drive the electric motor. It’s an elegant engineering solution and Toyota claims a range of 400 miles between refuels. That’s considerably longer than most comparable battery electric vehicles.

The great thing is that you’re rarely aware of the clever-clogs science taking place under the bonnet when you drive along. To all intents and purposes the Toyota Mirai feels like a normal electric car to drive: it’s hushed and quiet, with instant acceleration at low speeds and there are zero emissions of carbon dioxide or nasties apart from water, giving you a smug feelgood glow behind the wheel. Best of all? It’s simple and straightforward to drive, with no confusing buttons other than an H2O switch on the dash to discharge the water from a pipe under the car.

What’s it like inside?

The second-generation Toyota Mirai is less weird to look at than its gangly, angular predecessor – both outside and in. Exterior styling is much softened to give a more premium, European flavour of design, while the interior is bristling with technology, features high-quality materials and is commendably roomy in the front row.

Toyota Mirai interior

Accommodation is less generous in the back seats. Because of the need to package those three gas tanks and all the associated plumbing for the fuel-cell technology, it’s really quite cramped in the second row for a car of this size, and bootspace is compromised too.

Rear-seat passengers are disappointingly squashed in what is a 5m-long car where you might normally expect to find generous space for luggage and limbs.

Many adults’ feet and legs will rub the seatback in front of them, while taller passengers’ heads will strike the rooflining (this is compounded if you choose the top-rung Design Premium Pack’s Toyota Skyview panoramic glass sunroof). Note also that a 321-litre boot in a car this big is disappointing.

Toyota Mirai boot space

Cramped rear dimensions aside, the Mirai boasts a welcoming cabin in which front-seat passengers can enjoy spending time. You won’t mistake it for anything other than Japanese and there’s a range of graphics and switchgear that could only hail from the makers of Toyotas and Lexus products. For instance, there’s the same style of stubby gearlever that you’ll find on a Prius: it’s short and used to nudge forwards or back into Drive or Reverse (all Mirais are automatic).


Toyota Mirai comfort is first-rate: this is an extremely pampering car and one whose priorities are clearly aimed at soothing the occupants, not providing any sports-car thrills. When you first climb in, access is easy thanks to wide-opening doors and you sink into super-comfortable front seats with electric adjustment, making it very easy to find the right position.

As noted elsewhere in our Toyota Mirai review, the rear seats are less satisfactory owing to the cramped packaging, and we don’t rate your chances of using the third central rear seat, owing to the large transmission tunnel bisecting the rear compartment and tight headroom. 

Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell

Operating the controls is pleasingly straightforward. Press the start button, select D and pull away: you’re transported into the wonderfully peaceful world of full electric cars, the Mirai gliding along in near silence. The party trick here is the sublime refinement all the way up to and including motorway speeds – there are few more hushed and relaxing cars on sale today. 

Driving along with a virtual halo above your head is an oft-forgotten attraction of EVs. There’s a high feelgood factor in this car and equipment levels are generous, from the excellent 14-speaker JBL stereo to the wireless phone charging and 10.1-inch head-up display that projects speed and satnav instructions up on to the windscreen, so drivers don’t have to dip their head to read important information.


The Toyota Mirai is a rare-groove car and hasn’t been through the independent Euro NCAP test procedure yet. It is hard therefore to judge its safety credentials in isolation. However, you can take faith in the fact that this is essentially the top-of-the-range technology showcase from the world’s biggest car manufacturer: it’s dripping with technology to keep you and your loved ones safe.

The three hydrogen storage tanks are nested deep in the centre of the chassis, away from the risk of prangs or prods in an accident, and they’re built of super-tough ballistic material. 

Toyota Mirai fuel-cell

The Mirai’s bodywork is blistered with cameras, radars and sensors to observe the outside world and the data is used to keep the car on the straight and narrow. The Blind Spot Monitor monitors that awkward over-the-shoulder space where danger can lurk, warning if you’re about to pull out into an oncoming vehicle on a dual carriageway, while Rear Cross Traffic Alert does the same when you’re reversing at low speed from a parking space.

If the worst happens, a Pre-Collision System predicts an impact is looming and will warn the driver, prepare the brakes for an emergency stop and – if the driver ignores the warnings – will brake for you, to wipe off speed before a crash. Eight airbags are fitted across both rows of seats to protect occupants in the event of an accident.

Isofix child-seat attachments are fitted to make it easier to fit infant carriers in the back seats.

What engine options are there?

This is a delightfully simple range to browse: there is only one single Mirai powertrain option available, with a 134kW electric motor equivalent to 182hp. Your only choices are to pick between three different spec levels, depending on how much equipment you’d like.

What’s it like to drive?

The Toyota Mirai is wonderfully relaxing to drive most of the time. The sense of quiet, the refinement at all speeds and the satisfaction of knowing you’re driving such a futuristic car whose only emissions are water make for a great experience. 

Toyota Mirai review 2021

Acceleration at low speeds is brisk, in that way that all electric cars are. Pulling away from traffic lights or out of a T-junction, there’s an immediate surge of power, but after that initial hit of speed, thrust quickly tails away in the Mirai. That’s because this has been tuned as an executive car, not a performance saloon, as the 9.0sec 0-62mph time demonstrates. Top speed is limited to 108mph.

It’s big and heavy – measuring nearly five metres long and weighing the best part of two tonnes – and performance is well judged for its target market. You’ll keep up with the traffic but it’s at its happiest wafting along at a gentle cruise, the pliant ride soaking up most bumps in the road despite the sizeable 20-inch alloy wheels. This is not a car that rewards driving hard or fast.

Another reason not to thrash the Mirai is its range. Toyota claims up to 400 miles between refills, but we managed just shy of 300 miles. If you drove around town at creeping urban speeds, we suspect that official claim would be achievable and the manufacturer recently set a world record for the distance travelled by a fuel-cell car when a standard roadgoing Mirai drove 623 miles. But in mixed, real-world driving conditions involving a mix of urban, motorway and cross-country roads we’d caution that 250-300 miles is more readily achievable between top-ups. 

Range anxiety kicks in only too quickly when the UK has only /eleven/ hydrogen refuelling stations.

Ownership costs and how to refuel a Toyota Mirai

Electric cars are typically expensive to buy and cheap to run – but the Mirai flips that logic on its head a little bit. Costs have fallen substantially on this second-generation model, whose price tumbled by a quarter to just below £50,000 at launch in summer 2021. The reality is that many of these cars will be bought by corporate customers with ready access to private or local H2-refuelling systems.

Because this is a full zero-emissions electric car, you pay no road tax and company car drivers will benefit from a pleasingly low benefit-in-kind rate of just 1%. The taxman favours cars like this at present, saving you money on your tax return. However, refuelling costs are more akin to what petrol and diesel owners are used to: we paid £12 per kilogramme when we filled up, with a total bill of £44.52 for 3.7kg of hydrogen.

Refuelling a Toyota Mirai

It’s very simple and easy, although we were surprised to find on test that the volume of hydrogen inserted can vary depending on atmospheric pressure, temperature and other variables. Even when ‘brimmed’, we were unable to get anywhere near the 400-mile claimed range; our test car showed just 252 miles of range once we’d topped up, rising to 276 when we flicked the climate control off. This is disappointing. 

What models and trims are available?

There is only one technical spec of Mirai available, but you can choose from Design, Design Plus Pack and range-topping Design Premium Pack specs.

Every model comes with electric windows all-round, keyless entry and start, electrically adjustable steering wheel and eight-way adaptable front seats, plus a rear-view parking camera and wireless phone charger for compatible mobiles.

Also standard fit on UK-spec Toyota Mirais are LED lamps front and rear, Bluetooth phone connectivity, satellite-navigation and alloy wheels, starting with 17-inch rims rising to larger 20in items on higher-spec models.


Published in Toyota

The Roadster will be a new addition to Tesla's offer after it enters production, resurrecting the nameplate that was worn by the first generation back in 2008.

It seems that the second generation is not at the top of Musk's list of priorities, considering that it is scheduled for this year, but we have not heard anything since 2017. This is expected considering that this is a special model of a California company with a high price, which is not sold as much as its mainstream colleagues, such as Model 3, writes Jutarnji.hr.

Namely, the 'killer' of super and hyper cars was discovered back in 2017 together with SpaceX's package for improved handling. However, rocket technology has another advantage - insane performance. We expected acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h in about 1.9 seconds, however, no one from Tesla provided a figure after the news of the SpaceX package. It seems that the second generation of Roadster, in addition to rocket technology, will also have rocket acceleration.

The exact acceleration time was revealed without much fanfare, so who noticed. Namely, one individual, who visited the Petersen Automobile Museum in California a few days ago, took several photos of the Roadster prototype, with the following description in the frame: '(...) time from 0-100 km / h for 1 , 1 second '.

To get a ‘bigger picture’, we will state that Rimac C_Two will reach the hundredth in 1.85 seconds, while Lotus Evia will do the same in less than 3 seconds. The second generation of Roadster is not worth comparing with hyper cars with internal combustion. We seem to be expecting a road car with the fastest acceleration in the world.

We learn that the base model will start at $ 200,000, while the Founder’s Series version will be $ 50,000 more expensive. Still, all 1,000 copies will probably be sold with the SpaceX package, for which the price is not yet known, but this tells us that it is worth every dollar.

Published in Blog/News

Another Bavarian brand is currently working on several purely electric models that will debut in the next 10 years. However, the ambitions of the producers from Ingolstadt are much bigger. According to the head of the company, Marcus Disman, Audi plans to become purely "electric" in the next 20 years.

In fact, it is a time frame that is conceived as necessary to complete the transition, write Vrele Gume. According to Disman, Audi is currently setting a deadline for the phasing out of current models with internal combustion engines. The cars in question will either become purely electric or will be euthanized.

By the end of 2021, the Ingolstadt brand will have six purely electric models on offer, along with 12 plug-in hybrids. However, that is just the beginning. Audi wants to have twenty electric cars on sale by 2025, and if it succeeds in achieving that, it could become a manufacturer like Tesla sooner rather than later.

However, it should not be forgotten that Ingolstadt announced that they will continue to develop internal combustion engines, in an attempt to make them as efficient as possible. So, regardless of the fact that Audi will start phasing out the SUS engine, petrol engines will still have their place in the portfolio. "Plug-in" hybrids are likely to serve as long-distance models, giving customers who frequently travel hundreds of miles "from the train" the opportunity to own usable vehicles. Those who are not outspoken "long-distance runners" will be able to rely on electric cars. At the moment, there are only four different electric models of Audi on offer, with two being actually model variants. The Audi e-tron, e-tron Sportback, e-tron S and e-tron Sportback S are currently the only ones of their kind in the Ingolstadt range. However, by the end of the year, the Audi e-tron GT and Audi Q4 e-tron will enter the scene, with probably a couple of new "plug-in" hybrids.

Given all the above, the goal of the "four rings" brand to become purely electric in the next 20 years is not so unattainable. Will other premium manufacturers follow this matrix?

BMW also has ambitious plans when it comes to electrifying its models, although it seems that the latter has arrived "at the party". The BMW iX is the first true electric car from the Bavarian manufacturer since the i3, and it is not yet officially on sale. Although Audi’s e-tron models on the market rest on existing platforms, they are not just electrified versions of existing models, as is the case with the BMW iX3. The same can be said for the Mercedes-Benz EQC. Of course, Munich also plans to fill the electric offer in the near future, including the i4, the electrified series 7, the iX1 and possibly even the electric M5. BMW also wants to phase out internal combustion engines, although the deadline for achieving that process could be slightly longer than Audi's.

Published in Blog/News
Tagged under
Tuesday, 19 January 2021 07:02

Rimac C_Two will soon start mass production

Rimac Automobili announces that it will soon begin mass production of their C_Two model. The pessary phase of production began in December.

"I walk here and see how after 10 years of blood, sweat and tears, all this is coming together - what a feeling. Pre-series production is growing and we are preparing to produce cars for customers. Hats off to the people who made this happen. All their signatures will be on to every customer's car - both figuratively and literally, "Rimac wrote on Facebook.

"We are looking to the future. We started production of pre-production vehicles in December, and now we are progressing towards serial production of C_Two. Pre-production cars will be used for further minor adjustments, homologation and durability tests, trim experimentation, NVH adjustment and global rating We have an important year ahead of us. We appreciate your support at every step, "Rimac Automobil announced at the beginning of the year.

Mate Rimac himself wrote on Facebook that, if everything goes according to plan, he will produce numerous cars in this line in 2021.

Assembling each C_Two car will take approximately five weeks, halving production time compared to the principle of static off-line production, used by some other supercar manufacturers. The new process will enable the construction of four final production vehicles per month at full capacity.

However, in Rimac, the production process begins much earlier before assembling the finished components on the line, since a large number of components and systems are produced in the factory in Sveta Nedelja and Veliki Trgovišće, after which it is delivered to the vehicle assembly line.

The complete homologation procedure without any shortcuts, from the first concepts, through complete prototypes to cars on the road, is a three-year process. With the introduction of the new production line, Rimac Automobili will deliver the first cars to customers in 2021, unlike the original plan before the covid-19 crisis, which foresaw deliveries in 2020. The final design and name of the car will be revealed this year.

Published in Blog/News

But we're still waiting for Tesla's Full Self-Driving feature to materialize.

20,000-Mile Update
With more than a year and 24,000 miles logged with our Tesla Model 3, we're way past the honeymoon phase. Our initial 12 months of included premium connectivity has expired, which means in-car audio and video streaming now only works with a Wi-Fi connection. And since not one of our area Superchargers has it, we are no longer whiling away the time spent charging our car by streaming Netflix.

Our maintenance costs thus far have totaled $313, which is on par with the cost for many gas-powered vehicles. That includes two rather steep charges from Tesla's in-house service network: $103 for a tire rotation and $210 for an unusual service to lubricate our car's brake calipers, which is called for annually on cars that reside in a state like ours that uses salt to rid the roads of ice during winter months. That service is to prevent the brakes from seizing, as they don't get much use when regenerative braking from the electric motors is employed more often to slow the car than the conventional friction brakes. Also unusual, though not expensive, is that the key fob has already burned through a battery. We also spent $1088 to replace a cracked windshield, but that was our fault.

What never gets old, however, is plugging in while out running errands and getting fuel for free. Even 14 months in, that perk still feels novel. We haven't had any other significant issues with our car since the replacement of the rear motor assembly that happened a year ago. The trim on the driver's side B-pillar—the piece you tend to bump getting in and out of the seat—came loose and was fixed under warranty. We noted squeaks and rattles that materialized early on, but those don't seem to have worsened with the additional time and miles.

The spring and summer months substantially improved the Model 3's energy consumption. In the most efficient month, June, we averaged 267 watt-hours per mile (Wh/mile), while in December—with winter tires installed and the average temperature plummeting to 34 degrees compared with June's 81—it increased to 354 Wh/mile. That equates to a 60-mile swing (or 20 percent) in expected range, depending largely on the outside temperature. And that's if it's plugged in overnight. Otherwise, the Model 3 can easily shed an additional 10 or 20 miles of range. Our overall average consumption is 316 Wh/mile, and our average efficiency—unlike consumption, which includes charging losses—has bumped up by 10 MPGe to 84 MPGe.

At the current national average residential electricity rate of 13.6 cents per kWh, it's costing us 5.5 cents per mile to power our Model 3. If we instead relied entirely on Tesla's Supercharger network, the cost would nearly double, to 10.4 cents/mile, almost matching the price of keeping our long-term BMW M340i filled with 93-octane premium (10.7 cents/mile). That may be an extreme example, but it proves the point that having a high-voltage charger at home or at your office is critical if you want to reap the potential financial benefits of going electric.

Although our Model 3 was dispatched to our annual Lightning Lap event at Virginia International Raceway, completing each 635-mile leg of that trip from Ann Arbor and back with three stops to charge, we have still yet to beat our previous best of 221 miles between plugging in. That's partially because, according to the TeslaFi tracking tool we're using, our battery has lost 7 percent of its capacity, or 22 miles, since it was new.

We're still smitten with the Model 3's swiftness. And we're intermittently impressed and befuddled by the varying experiences of its Autopilot feature. Sometimes it seems that fully autonomous driving is nearly upon us. At other times the system bobbles a seemingly straightforward maneuver so badly that we think the promised Full Self-Driving (FSD) capability that we paid for more than a year ago—and are still waiting to materialize—is much further off than Tesla would have the world believe.

Instead of meeting its self-imposed 2020 deadline to release FSD, Tesla deployed a new feature at the tail end of last year, called Boombox, with which we can now assault the outside world with music or various noises—including, naturally, a whoopee cushion—using the car's external speaker. That update also rejiggered the layout of the central touchscreen, giving more real estate to the area that depicts the car's surroundings, which will likely become more important when hands are no longer on the wheel. Both of these are changes that we haven't seen in any other car, proving yet again that the Tesla experience is definitely not car-making as usual, for better and for worse.


10,000-Mile Update

The updates on many of our long-term cars, particularly the trouble-free ones, tend to be as much about us as about the vehicles. In the absence of reliability or service drama, the focus instead becomes the places we visit, plus whatever new annoyances we find over the course of 40,000 miles.

But the Tesla ownership experience is as different as the driving experience. A Tesla actually changes over time with the company's steady stream of software updates. In the six months and 10,000 miles since we've taken delivery of our Model 3 Long Range, there have been 12 software updates, or an average of one every 16 days. Not all of them are substantial, however; many are small, follow-on updates to fix issues after a major update is released.

We already mentioned that the update to version 10, a major one, was ready when our car first arrived, and it added Smart Summon and Theater mode, which allows streaming of Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu. It's a great way to pass the time while charging. Since then, we've seen a flurry of changes, such as the addition of true one-pedal driving. (Before the update, the car would slow to about 3 mph but wouldn't come to a complete stop.) There's also Dog mode for maintaining a comfortable cabin temperature while us humans are running errands (and displaying a large message to assuage any window-smashing would-be do-gooders passing by). Dashcam and Sentry mode security features also have been added. Sentry mode stores clips from the array of exterior cameras, either at the driver's behest or when the car detects motion while parked. Just this week, Tesla righted a wrong by adding the ability to view that footage on the car's center screen.

Although the Model 3's acceleration—and particularly its responsiveness—was already garnering universal praise by our staff, one of the updates included a claimed five-percent power bump, which improved our car's performance across the board, including a 0.1-second improvement of its zero-to-60-mph time to 4.0 seconds.

Then, on Christmas Day, disaster struck. While parked in a driveway, a short in the rear power inverter triggered a pyrotechnic fuse, which prevented an even worse outcome. Following a tow-truck ride to the closest service center about an hour away, the entire rear-motor assembly was replaced. We received plenty of emails and DMs from other Model 3 owners sharing similar stories of getting stranded at the hands of a Model 3. But we've had zero reliability issues since, related either to this event or anything else.


How Much Does Climate Control Affect EV Range?
Complaints about the automatic wipers have continued despite an update meant to improve them. Given the poor performance we've experienced, we question Tesla's choice to rely on the front cameras to control their operation rather than a rain sensor like every other automaker employs. Print director Eric Tingwall elaborates: "The wipers often lay dormant as the windshield becomes nearly opaque with spray from surrounding traffic. Then you wake them up by tapping the stalk for a single wipe, and they unnecessarily run at full speed for several minutes." Many also have commented on the difficulty in locating the wiper settings in the center screen.

This brings us the most regular logbook refrain: the Model 3's near complete reliance on the center screen to control its various features and functions. "I now know how my grandma felt when we got her an iPad," said staff editor Connor Hoffman after driving our Model 3. "Every time I get in it, I find something new." Road-test editor Becca Hackett admitted to tinkering with the center screen for an hour in her garage as she tried to acclimate herself to the setup when she drove the car home for the first time. And staff editor Colin Beresford asks an existential question: "If a member of Gen Z can't find a feature on the screen, does it even exist?" Some of the few physical buttons that do remain are in odd locations, too, such as the hazard button up on the headliner. Other regular comments include the disconcertingly loud clunking noises that happen while plugged in at one of Tesla's fast-charging Superchargers. Although this doesn't happen in the Model S, it seems to be normal for the 3.

We've also done some experiments of our own. We discovered that the Model 3's plastic wheel covers improve range by up to 10 miles. And although the near-instant warm air blowing from the Tesla's HVAC system is welcome on a cold morning, we found that cranking up the climate control alone can reduce range by 60 miles. We also recently compared the charging speeds on one of Tesla's new 250-kW V3 Superchargers versus the older 150-kW units.

We're still waiting for substantial updates to the full self-driving option that added $6000 to the purchase price. Although Tesla has added more features to the visualization that appears on the left side of the screen while driving—including displaying traffic lights and construction cones—we're waiting for a real improvement in Autopilot's capability that Tesla has been teasing of late.

Not making it easy to keep up with the frequent updates is the fact that Tesla requires a Wi-Fi connection to download software and won't do so through the built-in data connection. Plus, the Model 3 only connects to simple Wi-Fi sources like the typical home router with a network name and password. Anything more complex, such as a network that requires a username and password, or if you need to open a browser window to agree to legal boilerplate, won't work.

So, where have we driven our Model 3? Not very far. We've mostly stayed in our home state of Michigan as we've soldiered through winter. Its logbook is full of anxiety-ridden comments about near misses on range, which we've been chewing through at a rate that's roughly 50 percent higher than predicted. Our farthest drive thus far was a 221-mile run from our office to northern Michigan. Longer road trips with multiple stops—such as Hoffman's recent 520-mile drive to St. Louis—generally don't allow attempts at range maximization since pit stops have to occur where the Superchargers are. And it's not time efficient to wait to recharge the battery all the way to 100 percent.

But we'll certainly be trying to improve upon that that as the winter tires come off, the temperatures continue to warm, and we're once again free to roam the country.

Months in Fleet: 6 months Current Mileage: 10,626 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 74 MPGe
Battery Capacity: 75.0 kWh Observed Fuel Range: 236 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0

One of the most interesting things about the Model 3, and Teslas in general, is just how much it deviates from the norms of autodom. Unlike other automakers, which often wind up creating very similar entries by carefully tracking and matching features and equipment relative to the competition, it's refreshing—and occasionally annoying—how Tesla simply does its own thing.

As we're embarking on a 40,000-mile evaluation of a 2019 Model 3 Long Range, our second long-term Tesla after a 2015 Model S P85D, it's impossible not to notice this electric vehicle's vast differences compared with other compact-luxury sedans that exist at a similar size and price. There's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto here, although the feature has become nearly ubiquitous among its luxury-sedan peers, nor even a gauge-cluster display in front of the driver. However, there are lots of wowing tricks up the Model 3's sleeve to win over people coming into contact with a Tesla for the first time, such as Emissions Testing mode, with six different fart-noise options, and Dog mode to keep our furry friends comfortable. And its phone-as-key feature works completely seamlessly, unlike more recent attempts by traditional automakers, such as Hyundai, that require awkwardly getting out a phone and holding it to the door handle. Plus, there's the very capable suite of Autopilot driver-assist features, which is now standard and generally works impressively to reduce the amount of steering, braking, and accelerating the driver needs to control.

Quick and Enjoyable
Especially when viewed from the front, we wouldn't call the Model 3 attractive, but the low cowl and large glass area make for an expansive forward view. And that is one of a flurry of positive comments about driving the Model 3; it's extremely quick, with direct steering and even a willingness of our all-wheel-drive model to rotate under power. We're suckers for its instant response and forceful acceleration—at 4.1 seconds to 60 mph, this latest 3 is 0.9 second quicker than the initial Model 3 Long Range we tested, which only had a rear motor, and it's also just 0.3 second off the pace of the swift BMW M340i. What's more, the Tesla's power delivery sets itself apart by its instantaneousness, which is demonstrated by our 5-to-60-mph rolling-start test. The Model 3 nails it in 4.2 seconds, whereas today's highly boosted gas engines often have a significant gap between their standing-start and rolling-start metrics (the difference on the M340i, for example, is 0.9 second).

The Model 3 stacks up less well in other areas against the usual luxury players—BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-class—where its plasticky seat material, fixed and narrow headrests, and ultracheap, cardboard-like cover for the large bin under the trunk floor don't live up to its luxury price point. The Model 3 also isn't as hushed over the road as the traditional players; there's a lot of wind noise at 70 mph, and at 70 decibels, it measures one to two decibels louder at that speed than the segment norms. And that's not including the way it clomps loudly over lateral pavement seams, which is partly a result of its high, 42-psi tire pressures that help manage the Model 3's 4038-pound curb weight (that's 141 pounds heavier than the rear-drive Model 3 we tested in 2018) and boost its range.

Among the oft-discussed issues on early Model 3s were panel gaps and overall build quality, and in that area, this latest car is far better than our earlier example. However, the hood wasn't quite level on our car when it arrived, so we adjusted the hood grommets to make it so. We're already noticing some squeaks and rattles emanating from the instrument panel, particularly in the cold weather that has descended on our Michigan HQ.

Data Tracking
We're using third-party software called TeslaFi to corral a staggering amount of data streaming from our car, including its whereabouts, mileage, charging and charge efficiency, temperatures outside and inside the vehicle, and climate-control usage. In our first two months, we've spent 85.5 hours behind the wheel of our Model 3 over 280 drives and a total of 3867 miles. However, partly due to an average outside temperature of 43 degrees, we've used nearly 50 percent more rated range than miles actually driven. That has led to complaints that the main range readout does not adjust downward when using up the battery at a quicker rate than its EPA rating suggests. However, there is a running average figure based on recent driving, found on the Energy screen. We've also noted that the battery's state of charge can drop by 5 percent or so when the Model 3 sits outside overnight in 40-degree temperatures without being plugged in.


Tesla Smart Summon Feature Is Looking Reckless
The only options on our test car are its $1000 Midnight Silver Metallic paint and the $6000 Full Self-Driving Capability, bringing our total sticker price to $57,690. While the latter feature—currently priced at $7000—promises at some point in the future to actually fulfill its name, for now it enables advanced Autopilot moves such as Smart Summon, where the Model 3 will drive itself to the location of the owner's smartphone in a parking lot, and automatic lane changes around slower traffic on the highway. Our car has the base 18-inch wheels with all-season tires and the aero wheel covers, and we tested just how much slipperier those covers are through the passing air than the better-looking aluminum wheels hiding beneath.

What has become a Tesla trademark is continual upgrades, and in the two short months we've had our car, we've downloaded Version 10 software, which added Smart Summon, and built-in Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and Spotify streaming. Very recently, we updated to 10.1, which promises a 5 percent bump in horsepower. We'll be headed back to the test track to see how much that improves the already very quick acceleration numbers. No doubt there will be lots to talk about.

Source: caranddriver.com

Published in Tesla
Thursday, 31 December 2020 08:02

New Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus 2020 review

The updated Standard Range Plus version of Tesla's Model 3 is the most accessible in the line-up but still shows that star quality

None of the changes to the latest Model 3 transform the car in any way, but nonetheless they’re all welcome. It still remains Tesla’s best car and a brilliant package overall, and this entry level point in the range should be considered as a hugely tempting alternative to traditional compact execs like the BMW 3 Series - especially for company car drivers.

This is the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus. Newly revised for 2021, it’s the entry point to both the Model 3 lineup and the Tesla family as a whole in the UK, with prices starting from £40,490 - tantalisingly close to the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid. So is it worth ditching the traditional compact exec of choice to go fully electric?

There’s quite a few changes introduced in this round of updates, but from the outside they’re rather tricky to spot. A new black pack replaces some of the chromed exterior details like the door handles, door mirror stalks and window trims, and the wheel choices are refreshed with more aero-efficient 18- and 19-inch designs, plus new optional 20 inch items. Otherwise, those vanilla looks mean that the styling isn’t the reason to go for a Model 3.

The interior just might be however. Whether you think it’s a triumph of minimalism or just a bit too plain compared to alternatives, it’s hard to argue that the cabin is unique. It’s got better in the most recent round of changes, too, particularly around the centre console.

Previously, the Model 3 had an odd and needlessly overcomplicated flip lid beneath which it was possible to store a smartphone. This has been replaced with a simple pad, which has a couple of grooves which not only keep two devices in place, but can charge them wirelessly.

Further along, a huge deep cubby space remains, but now it’s accessed through a much more straightforward sliding lid. The easily scratched piano black surface is gone, too - a more subtle and more durable grey finish takes its place.

The steering wheel looks similar to before, but the two scroll wheels have been tweaked for a more expensive feel. Depending on which menu is selected on the huge 15-inch central touchscreen, each of the wheels adjusts one of a multitude of functions: the door mirror adjustment, the steering column position and the media functions among them. Assuming you do all of the prep before you set off, they work really well, though condensing so many functions down into two controls is not particularly intuitive on the move.

That huge display is brilliant, though. Whether judged on its graphics, processing power or user interface, it’s among the best infotainment systems available in any car. Of course, there’s no traditional instrument panel either, so it also displays all of the vital driving functions like speed and remaining battery charge.

The boot lid is now electrically operated. While the volume is on a par with manu rivals, the opening is small - though the Model 3 looks like a hatchback, it isn’t. The front boot, meanwhile, has shrunken slightly. This is because some of the space has now been occupied by a new feature to the Model 3: a heat pump.

First used by Tesla on its Model Y, a heat pump takes the place of the previous resistive heater. Put simply, the new system works a little like a fridge, compressing a fluid which generates heat. This heat can then be used to warm the cabin or, by reducing the fluid’s pressure further along the system, produce a colder flow of air instead. The main plus point of a heat pump is that it’s more efficient than the resistive heater to warm the cabin, which reduces the range impact when trying to keep toasty in colder climates.

Along with some subtle software tweaks, the new heating system means that range has improved slightly across all of the Model 3 variants. In the case of this entry level SR +, the resulting 267 mile figure is 13 more than before. In our experience the real-world figures came close, if not completely matching that number, even on a day when temperatures barely made it above freezing.

Unlike the top end Performance versions, the Standard Range Plus makes do with just one electric motor driving the rear wheels. While the drop in acceleration is noticeable compared to the twin motor setup, the Model 3 is still, put simply, a fast executive saloon.

A 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds really doesn’t do the Model 3 justice. At any speed, the lightning fast throttle response and instantaneous torque gives proper hyper hatch eagerness. It easily has the legs over the BMW 330e.

It’s also wonderfully easy to drive at low speeds. The Model 3 has possibly the smoothest integration of a one pedal driving system of any EV on sale: while some rivals decelerate quite harshly and then creep at low speeds, with the correct mode selected, the Tesla will trim of speed gently and come to type of gentle halt that would make a chauffeur proud.

When it comes to fun, it’s closer to the BMW than you might think, too. It’s certainly not as sophisticated, for the most part due to damping that feels a little loose compared to the 3 Series. However, this translates into a chassis that can be quite playful if provoked and, thanks to a kerb weight that dips 219kg below that of twin motor Model 3s, it’s fairly agile, too. That weight is low down, so stability is a strong point in everyday driving.

The steering is a weak point though. Even in its lightest “comfort” setting, the heavy feel and gloopy feedback isn’t pleasant, and it only gets worse in the sportier settings. The chunky steering wheel rim doesn’t help its case either - robbing what little information that could be transferred from the front wheels.

The lack of any combustion engine highlights another area where the Model 3 needs work. On the move, there’s plenty of road noise transferred into the cabin, and despite the addition of acoustic glass in the latest round of updates, it’s one of few aspects of the Model 3 where Tesla still has room for improvement.

For company car users, the Model 3 will prove to be a bit of a bargain. In the current tax year, Model 3 drivers will not have to pay any Benefit in Kind rates at all, and though costs will increase slightly over the next couple of years, the zero-emission Tesla will still only demand annual costs of a few hundred pounds. Even the BMW 330e, whose plug-in hybrid powertrain makes it significantly cheaper than conventional petrol and diesel options, will cost upwards of £1,600 each year for a 40 percent earner.

Then there’s the greatest Tesla benefit of all: the Supercharger network. An abundance of chargers are available all over the country, and it’s so incredibly simple: turn up, plug in and drive away once you have the range you need. Users are billed by the kilowatt-hour, with a 26 pence per unit figure very competitive with other charge companies suppliers. It means a full charge of the SR+’s battery costs £14.04. That’s not only cheap by the standards of other charge suppliers, but much cheaper than similarly sized combustion-engined cars.

Model: Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus
Price: £40,490
Drivetrain: Single electric motor
Power/torque: 292bhp/376Nm
Transmission: Single speed, rear-wheel drive
0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 140 mph
Range: 267 miles
On sale: Now

Source: autoexpress.co.uk

Published in Tesla
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