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A battle to the death on paper! Polestar 2 Vs Tesla Model 3 Standard Range.

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Now granted, I think the Polestar 2 is by far one of the best vehicles you can buy these days. It offers great looks, astounding build quality and is a real design nerd’s paradise. However, I am going to advise that you don’t actually buy one. The reason? It’s simply not a good deal. In this little article, I’ll try to keep things short and sweet, and compare the American-Chinese Model 3 to its Scandinavian-Chinese rival in a bit of a digital game of Top Trumps.

Part 0: The rules of the game. 

So pretty much, the aim of this game is simple, it all comes down to the price versus what you get for that price. We’re going to assume a couple of factors here. 

  1. We are not factoring any incentives or discounts as of the time of writing into the overall cost of the cars. 
  2. We are also going to assume that we are going to try and get as close as possible to each car’s overall featureset. This means that we’re going to spec the cars as close to eachother as we possibly can to make the overall comparison fair. 
  3. Both cars will also be priced as if they are in Western Australia, my home state. WA tends to have higher car prices on average due to higher insurances and stamp duties. The price as a result will be a driveaway price, which includes all taxes and insurances. 
  4. We will also factor in the cost to insure said cars later on, and convert the overall cost as a monthly cost assuming a $30,000 deposit and relevant finance through Westpac, one of the big four banks in Australia. 
  5. If there are missing features from either car that are not standard accessories, ie, they require aftermarket options to bring them in line with their competitor, then those will be included in the second round, which covers their overall comparison cost, as we want to try and be as fair as possible when it comes to the overall feature set. 

Round 1: Putting our fighters into the ring as they are. 

Challenger 1: Tesla Model 3

The base spec for this particular comparison will be as follows:

Model Year: 2024 (Codename Highland)

Trim level: Standard range RWD

Colour: Pearl White (Free colour) 

Wheels: 19” ($1500)

Options: White interior ($1500)

Base Price as specced: $72399 (including ORCs) 

Features that the specced Model 3 does not have that the specced Polestar 2 does have:

  • Dashboard Display
  • Physical Gear Selector
  • Physical controls for Media
  • HEPA filtration and PM2.5 sensor
  • True 360 camera
  • Ultrasonic sensors
  • Indicator Stalks
  • Included Charger
  • More Aerodynamic wheels

Challenger 2: Polestar 2

The base spec for this particular comparison will be as follows:

Model Year: 2024 (Refreshed model)

Trim level: Standard range RWD

Colour: Magnesium (Free colour) 

Wheels: Standard (19”)

Options: Pilot pack, Plus pack, Nappa leather upgrade (for ventilated seats)

Price as specced: $91079 (Plus ORCs) 

Features that the specced Polestar 2 does not have that the specced Model 3 does have:

  • Sentry Mode (360 degree dashcam) 
  • Camp Mode (climate control when car is off and occupants are in the car)
  • Supercharger Network access on V2 and below Superchargers
  • Flat rear floor
  • LCD Display for rear-seat occupants
  • RGB interior lighting

Round 1 winner before accessories: Tesla Model 3

The sheer gulf in pricing between the two models is absolutely absurd. If you compare these two vehicles on a pure price point, the Tesla is already coming out of the gate absolutely swinging. There is an $18000-plus price difference between the Model 3 and the Polestar 2. The primary reason for this? The Plus and Nappa leather seat upgrade. The latter of which is a really, really stupid spec decision for any Polestar, as you’d honestly take a slightly bigger battery over fancypants seats any day of the week. 

Granted, the Polestar 2 is a much, much better screwed together car. It feels genuinely solid and it has some features that simply cannot be fixed with accessories that the Tesla unfortunately omits, like Ultrasonic sensors and forward facing radar for Radar-guided cruise control. Now, Tesla stans will stamp their feet and state that the simple fact that the Model 3 uses its triplet of cameras in the windshield (two of which are identical for stereoscopic 3D rangefinding), combined with its newer and more powerful vision processing computer to basically make radars obsolete, but it is better to have a redundant system that rarely gets used than no system at all. Does this justify an almost $20,000 price increase? Hell no. 

Model 3 in its refreshed guise is a much, much better built car than the early 2019 Model 3s. Consider the difference in build quality between a Silver-trim Model 3 and the 2024 Model 3 the same as the difference in build quality between a Series 1 VE Commodore, and a VF Series 2 Commodore. I use this comparison because early fourth-gen Commodores suffer from the same horrible plastics that’ve plagued GM cars for decades, and seeing as Teslas are American cars (albeit made in China), you have to compare them not to European cars, but to their American counterparts. So, if you compare them to the likes of say, a Holden Commodore? Yeah. Teslas are well built. 

Comparing the Tesla to the Polestar in terms of build quality however, is like comparing a VF Commodore to a BMW 5 Series. The difference in build quality is subtle but noticeable. The Polestar is less creaky. It is, however, not $20,000 less creaky. I would happily deal with this price difference if it means I can buy a longer-range Model 3 for the same cost.

Now the reason why the Polestar loses here is purely on a spec-by-spec basis. We have to equip all cars with similar features in these comparisons, so if Tesla decides to offer ventilated seats in this comparison, we have to spec the Polestar 2 with ventilated seats. The only way to do this is to go with the Plus Pack (which gives us a glass roof, heat pump HVAC system and the App Key which are standard features on the Model 3 anyway), and then proceed to get the Nappa Leather seating upgrade which gives us light-coloured Nappa Leather seats for a combined cost of $12000. This means we have to now buy White seats for the Model 3 to put it on a spec-for-spec comparison. We also then have to upgrade the Model 3’s wheels to 19” (at a cost of $1500) as the standard wheels on the Polestar 2 are 19”. We also have to equip the white interior into the Tesla as the Polestar gains a rather handsome light grey interior with the Nappa Leather seats. 

The Polestar also has to have the Pilot pack equipped to get matrix headlights, basic autopilot (which they call Pilot Assist), and foglights (which no Tesla can be optioned with, but it’s a nice-to-have feature, I guess). As the Tesla has two of those three options. These three packs alone put the Polestar 2 in a $14,000 worse off position, just on options alone, and this is before taxes.

Round 2: Accessorising to make the fight fairer. 

So to make up for the deficits in the featuresets of both cars, we’re going to put some accessories on these vehicles. In particular the Tesla is going to have to cop a lot of mods in order to make it similar in appearance and spec to the Polestar 2. I’ll do some research and pick the best potential options in terms of accessories for these Vehicles.

Accessories for Model 3

So to make up for the lack of certain features that the Polestar has over the Model 3, we’ll need to do a few upgrades. 

  • Dashboard Display
    • The Polestar 2 has the ability for Google Maps to be projected onto the dashboard, which in my opinion is an incredibly good thing to have. Seeing as there isn’t really an aftermarket dashboard cluster that allows for this available for the Tesla, we’ll keep things fairly simple and go with a stripped back dashboard cluster instead, which just provides us with our speed, state of charge and range. 
    • One option is to go with this compact unit from Tita, a Taiwanese company specialising in EV accessories, which incorporates a MagSafe-compatible phone mount and uses an OBD dongle to provide data to a small puck that seamlessly clips onto the mount. This dash will cost you $250.
  • Physical Gear Selector
    • There’s a couple of options here. If you want to do it right, wait for Enhance Auto to release the S3XY Knob. This has yet to come out for the Highland but it will set you back about $500 for older models. 
    • Alternatively, you can go with this option, which looks a bit like the S3XY Knob, however it removes the ability for it to control your media and HVAC and do other cool stuff. This will set you back about $250, and works through a direct wireless connection to your overhead shifter. It also looks a wee bit Aliexpressy.
    • You can always just use the overhead shifter, however this is ergonomically a bad idea. 
  • Physical controls for Media
    • There is no real need for this in the Tesla. Whilst it is nice to have a separate volume knob, volume control and track selection is handled through the steering wheel as the default selection. As such, seeing as the Polestar also has media controls on the steering wheel, we’ll drop this from our comparison. 
  • HEPA filtration and PM2.5 sensor
    • HEPA filtration can be added to any Tesla Model 3 using a simple cabin filter upgrade. This will set you back around $50. There will unfortunately be no AQI sensing, but you will at least have the confidence that your car will have HEPA filtration… to a point.  
  • True 360 camera
    • Whilst the Tesla does have usable blind spot cameras and a nice rear view camera, it does not have a usable Bird’s Eye 360 Camera despite having the hardware for it. The Polestar does. L for Tesla because of Lazy programmers. 
    • In saying that, Tesla sacrifices its true “360 camera” for perceptive object awareness in the driver’s display using something called Tesla Vision. W for Tesla for a lack of Lazy Programmers. 
  • Ultrasonic sensors
    • Whilst there is a kinda dodgy way to add sensors to any car using a third-party sensor kit, none would be a direct comparison to the Polestar’s ultrasonic sensor kit as it displays distances on the display. We will skip this one and let the Tesla take the L on this front, however Tesla uses its vision system for rangefinding, at least from the front and rear with its stereoscopic cameras. 
  • Indicator Stalks
    • This is being worked on by Enhance Auto, the same guys who make the S3XY Dial. We are expecting this to cost about $1200 upon release. Now whilst they did say it’d be released in March of 2024, it’s now April of 2024, and it hasn’t hit the market yet. Expect a late 2024 release, in my opinion. 
    • As for wiper controls, you can get bars that sit under the screen for around $250-$300. 
  • Included Charger
    • I am in an Australian market, so all new EVs use the Type 2/CCS2 connector, which like how we drive on the correct side of the road, this is the correct connector. Friggin’ Seppos and their NACS connector… smh.
    • Tesla’s UMC2 is going to be our connector of choice. This will cost you $550 from Tesla. 
    • We will also add a 1M long, 15A IP66 rated tail for said charger from EVChargers for $260. 
  • More aerodynamic wheels
    • Now to get these, we’re going to go down a spec and order our Tesla Model 3 with the stock 18s, dropping the base price down $1500. To keep things fair, we’ll order a set of Rotiform LAS-Rs with Aerodisc caps. Including new Michelin Primacy EV tires, this will set us back about $3000 more than our base price. 
    • Alternatively, just get it with the stock 18s. They look alright and make the car way more efficient. However, we have to play fair. 

In both cars, we will also factor in the cost of “darkest legal” window tinting. This will cost around $1200. 

Total cost of Tesla Accessories including window tint: $7260
Total cost of newly specced Tesla: $78109 Inc. ORCs. 

Accessories for Polestar 2

There really isn’t much to accessorise on the Polestar 2. Most of the accessories that are needed to be added to the car already come in the option packs. 

However there isn’t much that can really be done to address the Polestar’s shortcomings when compared to the Tesla’s when it comes to the remaining featureset. There is however, some accessories you can consider to bring it somewhat up to par with the Tesla.

  • Sentry Mode (360 degree dashcam)
    • To make the Polestar 2 have some sort of dashcam capability we’ll be speccing in a Blackvue Front, interior and Rear dashcam kit. From our mates at Dash Cam Owners Australia. This’ll give the Polestar the closest thing that’s available on the aftermarket to both Sentry Mode and Dog Mode, and it’ll cost you $950 plus the cost of a SIM card of your choice. 
  • Camp Mode (climate control when car is off and occupants are in the car)
    • Polestar is apparently working on this feature. For now, Probably the best way to do this is to trick the car into thinking that you’re still sitting down. Best way to do that is to chuck a couple of bags of rice on the driver’s seat. Cost? About $40 from your local Asian grocer. Just make sure the car is stuck firmly in park when you do this.

      Just kidding. We’re not including this in our pricing. Although a few bowls of Claypot rice wouldn’t go amiss on your next camping trip. 
  • Supercharger Network access on V2 and below Superchargers
    • There is nothing that can be done about this until Tesla gets around to upgrading existing V2 superchargers to V3s. You will just have to get by with the non-tesla chargers for now. Not that this matters, most of the time you’ll be charging from home using the included charger anyway. 
  • Flat rear floor
    • This is practically impossible to overcome due to the fact that well, the Polestar 2 is based on the Volvo XC40, which as an ICE Car, uses the transmission tunnel to accommodate for the exhaust pipe. Polestar packs batteries into this little transmission hump, which is pretty neat. But yeah, nothing we can do about this one. 
  • LCD Display for rear-seat occupants
    • Idk, give your kids a couple of iPads. The rear seat display is pretty useless in a Model 3 anyway due to its position. A Base model iPad 10th generation is about $699, so we’ll factor in the cost of two of these plus a couple of cases, because of course your kids aren’t sharing… And they’ll probably be pretty rough on them.

      Let’s disregard them. 
  • RGB interior lighting
    • ….You wanna put Rainbow vomit interior lighting? In your Polestar 2? Heaven forbid, you’ll ruin the Scandinavian Design! There doesn’t appear to be any upgrades that let you change these out. So, we’ll leave this alone. 

And of course, in both cars, we will also factor in the cost of “darkest legal” window tinting. This will cost around $1200. 

Total cost of Polestar 2 Accessories: $2150. 
Total cost of Newly Specced Polestar 2: $93229

Round 2 Winner after accessories: Tesla Model 3

Once again, there is absolutely no contest here. The Polestar 2 comes out $14,000 more expensive than the Model 3, even when we swap out the wheels on the Tesla for aftermarket 19s with brand new tires. For this price gulf, you could potentially even scrap the mods and buy a Model 3 Ludicrous for the cost of our specced up Polestar 2, and have a car that gets 620km of range on the WLTP cycle, and can do 0-100kph in less than 4 seconds, compared to the Polestar’s paltry 6sec 0-100. 

As I mentioned before, it is better built, but it is not $15,000 better built, and I honestly think losing access to Tesla’s supercharger network (in particular their older V2 chargers) is going to be a real dealbreaker for the average driver. Put it this way, thanks to the Supercharger network The Base Model 3 is a perfectly roadtrippable car, and is more than able to do a lap of the great southern region of WA, purely on Superchargers, with plenty of range to spare. Once the gaps in the Nullabor are filled by the WA and South Australian governments, the Tesla will easily make it across that too. As of the time of writing, the big lap is doable in an EV, but it’s not that easy. Long Range teslas will easily take the W on this front due to camp mode. 

The best part about the Tesla in my opinion is that it’s more or less a blank slate. The idea with that car is that you can pick and choose what mods you want to make it yours, to make it usable as your car. Want more buttons? Want a dashboard display for speed? Want little cubby holes and trim piece modifications? Companies are out there, making a ton of mods for Teslas, both in Europe, China and America. 

Support for Polestars however sits mostly in the Nordics where they are more popular, and the large majority of accessories available for Polestars revolve around the kind of lifestyle lived in those regions, with carry racks, dog carriers, lighting and off-road accessories taking up the bulk of the options. 

Granted too, Polestar is attempting to go more upmarket with its options, aiming at BMW and Mercedes, whereas Tesla is mostly targeting the middle market sweet spot, people who would normally be looking at say, large american cars, small and medium korean and Japanese SUVs and so on. 

This is not to say the Polestar 2 can’t road trip. If you’re willing to go without the Nappa seats, honestly the long range looks like a great option for the same scratch as it does pack a longer range than the Model 3 Long Range… Then again you could just buy a Tesla Model 3 for your around-town luxury car, and have money left over for a used Lexus IS300h as your second car for long distance trips if you are really concerned about range anxiety and have $90,000 to burn on a car… or two. 

Or hell, buy the Polestar if you can justify the price gulf. It’s a damn nice car. In some ways I like it more than the Tesla… Just not $15,000 to $30,000 more. 

Round 3: Battle for the Monthly Cost Crown. 

So, This is where things could be made or broken… The monthly cost battle.  As such, we are going to set a few rules for this round. 

  1. We are not factoring in the price for mods. No accessories, no nothing. We assume you’re going to buy your mods aftermarket, with cash, outside of the finance. 
  2. Financing will be quoted using Westpac’s financing calculator, since it’s by far the easiest to use. I would advise you to speak to a broker before pulling the trigger on any car loan. I am not a financial advisor. 
  3. The loan term will be the maximum possible term. The intent is to keep this car for as long as possible. So, we’ll be quoting on an 86mo term. 
  4. There will be no discounts factored into the overall pricing. Polestar in particular sometimes shaves off huge amounts off the cost of their cars, so if you want a good deal, wait until they do a promotion. Tesla changes prices depending on how many K-Bags Elon Musk has decided to do in that particular quarter and how long he can distract TSLA shareholders.. This round will assume you’re buying the cars at full price
  5. We’ll also factor in an upfront deposit and/or Balloon Payment of $30,000 at the end of the loan. Because let’s be real here. It’s 2024. Who has the headroom for a full-priced loan, especially on a Polestar, jfc. 
  6. Insurance will be quoted as a single driver, who is male, over 30, no crash history, living in the eastern suburbs of Perth, who carport-parks his car. 
  7. Registration will be calculated on a yearly basis and then divided by 12 to give you an average monthly cost of registration. 
  8. Electricity costs will be quoted on a daily commute of 60km, and at $0.33c/kWh. Power prices will be cheaper overnight on Synergy’s Midday Saver Tarriff with EV charging. Solar chagring will be about as “free” as you can get, however let’s assume we’re using the car daily and charging at night on the standard A1 tariff.  
  9. We are also assuming an Australian winter range for the entire year. Australia gets hot so you will use the AC more in summer. EV’s “Mild combined” figure will be used here, as “European mild” is Australian “Bloody cold” 
  10. Registration is calculated at $26.52/100kg, plus $400/yr for passenger car CTP, with a $13.20 processing fee, as the cars will be registered in Western Australia.  

Overall running costs for the Tesla:

  • Finance
    • Financed amount: $72,405 – $30,000 = $42,399. 
    • Repayments over 86mo @ 7.2% Comparison Rate = $636/mo 
  • Insurance
    • RAC Insurance: $166.31/mo. 
  • Registration:
    • GVM of 1,611kg = $427.23
    • CTP = $400
    • Total cost for Rego: $840.43/yr
    • Monthly cost for Rego: $70.03/mo
  • Charging
    • Average Efficiency: 11.7kWh/100km
    • Charge consumption over 60km commute: 7.02kWh
    • Charge cost for 60km commute: $2.31/day
    • Monthly cost (averaged over a 365 day year): $70.26/mo
  • Overall monthly running costs: $942.60/mo

Overall running costs for the Polestar:

  • Finance
    • Financed amount: $91,079 – $30,000 = $61,079
    • Repayments over 86mo @ 7.2% comparison rate = $909/mo
  • Insurance
    • RAC Insurance: $223.35/mo
  • Registration
    • GVM of 1,940kg = $514.48
    • CTP = $400
    • Total cost for rego = $927.68
    • Total monthly cost for rego = $77.30/mo
  • Charging
    • Efficiency: 14.4kWh/100km
    • Energy consumed over 60km commute = 8.64kWh
    • Charge cost for 60km commute = $2.82
    • Monthly cost (averaged over 365 day year) = $86.72/mo
  • Overall monthly running costs: $1296.37/mo

Winner of the monthly costs round: Tesla Model 3

…By a hair over $353/mo! The reason why the Model 3 takes a Hat Trick is because it’s cheaper to insure, cheaper to run, and cheaper to register due to its much lower weight, Easier to fix due to higher commonality and cheaper to run due to greater efficiency. This is of course based on figures provided by EV, and the financial data based upon the rules in the start of the comparison. 

Put it this way. The price difference between the two means that on the same budget, you can buy a Tesla Model 3, and a brand new pair of Apple Airpods Pros every month for the next 8 years, with the difference in cost between these two vehicles. 

…Or save your laundry quarters for a couple of maxed out Mac Pros at nearly $15k a pop. 

Now quantifying your savings in terms of Apple Products is one thing, but if you really nail it down to something that’s… A bit more close to home, $350 is a whole two weeks worth of shopping for the average family here in WA. If you’re using this car as your daily driver, and more importantly to save costs on fuel when compared to a comparable new ICE car, (let’s say hypothetically you had to somehow replace what you currently drive right now, for example) you really need to make sure that your savings actually matter. Put it this way. The Tesla Model 3 needs to directly compete with ICE cars. 

Over the life of the loan, assuming a $30k deposit, that Tesla Model 3 will cost you $90,432 (+$30k for the balloon ofc). The Polestar on the other hand will cost you a total of $124,481. By comparison, a similarly priced car, a Camry Hybrid SL, will cost you roughly the same as far as repayments and rego are concerned as the Tesla, but factoring the fuel cost, This means that Camry will cost you around $12k for the fuel over the cost of the loan… Compared to say, $1400 in electricity. That and the Camry just screams… “I’m an accountant, but fancy!”

Now, nothing is going to compare in cost to a car that has already been paid off and is completely owned by you. Nothing at all. The ultimate score would be, say, a used 2021 Model 3 (the first of the heat pump equipped Model 3s) that’s a bit ratty and rough around the edges for say, $50k, that you just go ahead and pay off in cash. However, this score of the century moment is rare, and Teslas, sadly, are a crapshoot. Then again so is any Camry, especially those owned by Uber/Taxi drivers. 

So, what’s the take-off of this? If you are looking at a brand new, off the showroom floor EV, and you’re considering the Polestar? You have to really be an idiot to buy one… But damn you’d be a cool looking idiot if you did. 

Then again, there is a way to justify buying the Polestar 2. If you can go without Pilot Assist, an App Key and a Heat Pump, and if you are willing to deal with the range hit that its sexy, but inefficient design, and its… well, lacking of a heat pump, has to offer; as well as deal with a slightly spartan interior, the Polestar 2 at its base price of around $75,000 is a pretty neat car. It’s even neater if you can find it lightly used for about $55k, hell you might even get a Plus Pack car at that price, just don’t expect it to be RWD. 

Just understand as well, that even if you buy used, that you are going to get a much better equipped electric vehicle with a Tesla. Teslas kinda get better as they age. Software updates, upgrades and the aftermarket mean that Teslas often get better as they get older… Not necessarily in terms of body wear and tear, but in terms of the overall experience. 

The Polestar 2 is indeed a damn, damn fine car. If it was $30k cheaper? I’d absolutely get on it in a heartbeat, but to me, the Polestar 2 is absolutely not a Model 3 competitor. Think of it more as a Mercedes EQC or BMW i4 competitor. Now when you stack it up against those cars? Gimmie that big, silver, swedish brick any day of the week! 

If you’re a Model 3 buyer looking at a Polestar? Look at a used one. Wait for some other sucker (or more likely, a lease buyer) to take the depreciation hit. 

Overall Winner (on paper): Tesla Model 3. 

I gotta drive the new versions of these cars to give you an idea as to where your $15,000 to $30,000 sits. Is there $30,000 of styling, or suspension tuning? Is there $30,000 in extra raw materials being used because of the design being inefficient? The paper figures will tell you and your broker/accountant one thing, but your butt dyno will tell you another. There is a reason why I like the Polestar 2 so much as a car. It’s solid, both in driving and in design. It’s full of really nerdy little design details that me, as a graphic designer by trade, absolutely loves. The practicality is there, it behaves like a normal car, albeit electric. The Tesla basically describes what a car is in this modern world of cars. It’s a platform. Bland, blank and empty, but the aftermarket exists to make it your own… to a point. It’s sorta like the way you buy a case for an iPhone? Like hell you can even get rim cases for the Model 3’s Uberturbine wheels to protect them from kerb rashes, kinda like how you’d get a case for your phone… Sounds silly, but hey. That’s Tesla for you. 

I drove the older Model 3 and the older Polestar 2, and I have to say, the older Model 3, with the stalks and such, was a better car. Better interior ergonomics, better liveability, and of course, a better charging network. As a platform, it’s better. As a car? Well, it’ll frustrate some legacy car owners, especially with the dumb-as-all-frig decision of Tesla to drop the stalks from behind the steering wheel, and the dropping of Ultrasonic sensors and Radars as a redundant safety system in lieu of leaning harder into Tesla Vision. But, this is where the aftermarket comes in. Stalks will be made. Dashboard displays will be built. Because Teslas are, and have always been for nerds, and nerds love to tinker. 

And as a person who can basically describe himself as half nerd, half bogan, the Nerdy side of me is torn between these two cars. My partner, on the other hand, is an accountant. If she saw the numbers, she’d disregard the design details, grab me by the ears and drag me right down to the Tesla dealership. 

The fourth round begins, when I finally get behind the wheel of these things. 

Beano out.