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Polestar

Polestar 2 vs. Tesla Model 3: How do these EVs stack up?

We throw in some details about the Audi E-Tron, Jaguar I-Pace and Mercedes-Benz EQC, too.

The Polestar 2 arrives in the US this summer.

Polestar

Though many automakers have launched cars that sort of compete with the all-important Tesla Model 3, none of them have exactly matched that car's formula. The Polestar 2, however -- a fully electric four-door from Volvo's spinoff brand -- has Tesla's baby squarely in its sights.

But Tesla isn't the only automaker that should be worried about the new kid on the block. With its recently announced $59,900 starting price, 275-mile range and slick, Google-based infotainment system, the Polestar 2 brings a lot to the table.

The competition

The Tesla Model 3 has been king of the midrange electric vehicles pretty much since Tesla figured out how to build them en masse. There have been others that have sought to take the Model 3's crown, but none have sold with the same kind of vigor nor pushed the envelope quite as far as Tesla's people's car.

Aside from the Tesla, the Polestar 2 will have pretty close competition from the Audi E-Tron SUV. Audi's more functional hatchback does come at a bit of a price premium, though, at $74,800 to start before incentives.

The next viable competitor for the Polestar 2 would be Jaguar's I-Pace SUV. In some ways, it's superior to the Tesla but in others -- most notably sales -- it lags pretty far behind. It's still a fundamentally solid car for the class and presents as a fun-to-drive and nice-to-be-in package for the base model's $69,850 asking price.

Mercedes-Benz' forthcoming EQC electric sport utility vehicle isn't available yet, but we've spent some time in it and have all of its specs handy, so we think it may put up a good fight against the electric Swede. The EQC packs all of the things we like about modern Benzes into a relatively staid-looking body and offers decent (if not class-leading) performance.

The powertrain

The Polestar 2 isn't messing around with any weird motor or battery layouts. It's packing two electric motors that produce a combined 408 horsepower and 487 pound-feet of torque, and a 78-kilowatt-hour battery pack that as a structural part of the vehicle's floor. Polestar is targeting a vehicle range of around 275 miles under US testing.

Audi's larger E-Tron has a 95-kWh battery, with 402 hp on offer. Audi even offers a tow package for its E-Tron, which makes the SUV capable of pulling a 4,000-pound load behind it. Disappointingly, though, despite the large battery, the E-Tron is only rated for 204 miles on a single charge.

The Tesla Model 3, by comparison, is available in a bunch of different range and performance variants but the one that most closely matches the Polestar 2's price is the all-wheel drive, long-range model which, when optioned comparatively, sits at around $56,900 before any incentives. The AWD Model 3's dual motors put out around 350 horsepower combined and the car's 75-kWh battery offers 322 miles of range.

Jaguar's I-Pace lags behind the Polestar and just ekes out the Tesla in terms of power, with 394 electric ponies on tap and a very robust 512 pound-feet of torque available. Where it really suffers is in the range department. The Jag is only good for around 234 miles despite packing a 90-kWh battery.

Mercedes' EQC is arguably the highest-performance model in our group with a pair of motors delivering 402 horsepower and 564 pound-feet of torque. That performance comes with a price, though, and we're not talking money. Mercedes estimates that the EQC will have an EPA range of around 200 miles, which puts it squarely at the back of the pack, despite having an 80-kWh battery.

The tech

Infotainment and driver interfaces are becoming increasingly complex and increasingly important in today's car market. Traditional gauges are going the way of the dodo bird and are being replaced by screens of ever-increasing size and different placements. The Model 3's massive center screen has been polarizing since the car's introduction, while the Jaguar's dash is more traditional. How do these compare to the Polestar and the Mercedes?

The Polestar 2's infotainment system is based around Google's Android platform to a degree that the automotive world hasn't seen before. The system will run on a vertically oriented 11-inch touchscreen with a separate digital driver instrument binnacle. And yes, despite all of the Google Android mechanicals, this system will still play nice with Apple CarPlay.

Audi's E-Tron uses the same MMI Touch tech we've seen in the brand's other products, and that's a good thing. The system is super easy to use, with colorful tiles on its home screen and quick responses to inputs. CarPlay, Android Auto and a Wi-Fi hotspot are all enabled, as is handwriting recognition through MMI's secondary screen below the main display. Don't forget, Audi's always-great Virtual Cockpit is here, too. All the screens!

The Jaguar's Touch Pro Duo system is similar to what you'd find in other Jags as well as the Range Rover Velar. It's slow to respond to commands and takes forever to switch between screens. It's not a terrible looking system, but it's probably the worst of this bunch.

The Mercedes EQC may not be on sale in the US yet, but it's infotainment system sure is. The EQC will run a version of MBUX which we've already experienced in the new A-Class as well as the new G-Class. It's easy to use, relatively snappy and looks super futuristic thanks to the massive dash-spanning screen. We're not entirely sure what special tweaks, if any, MBZ will make for its EV, but MBUX gets a thumbs up from us.

Finally, we come to Tesla's Model 3 and its vast landscape-oriented center screen. The interior of the Model 3 is pretty spartan, having ditched all physical controls that aren't required by law. Some people have a hard time adjusting to doing everything with the center screen, but we found ourselves adapting quickly to it and, to Tesla's credit, the system is smooth, clear and quick to respond to inputs. Tesla's music player is kind of crappy, but the rest of the system sets a high bar for the industry.

The conclusion

Given what we know so far about the Polestar 2, it's looking like it will represent decent value for money in the face of stiff competition. All of Polestar's unique design touches combined with the super unique (and we're sure polarizing) styling could help carve it a niche in an increasingly crowded market.

Now playing: Watch this: The Polestar 2 EV is gorgeous in Geneva
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First published on Feb. 27, 2019.