Pasadena makes for a beautiful travel destination, with the generally mild weather and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. However, the Out of Spec team arrived with a different agenda: how many modern EV’s can we congregate in one place? Welcome to the EV Media Summit.
A challenge for many outlets when starting, ourselves included, is gaining access to manufacturer vehicles. We sought out a solution, requesting the presence of various OEM’s in a single location. We then invited a number of journalists, content creators, and even public enthusiasts all covering EVs. This paved the way for an opportunity for attendees to get time behind the wheel and explore what the current EV market has to offer.
Strategy came into play upon choosing our location. The garage contained a charging plaza on the top floor which was actually commissioned by Tesla, though we expect some government handshaking came into play. There were more than a dozen CCS chargers, each capable of 50 kW charging, along with at least two dozen Tesla Superchargers.
The plaza was also conveniently located close to the highway, obviously within the city, and not far from the base of Angeles Crest, one of the most famed mountain roads in the west. This allowed for fairly easy access (apart from being literally across LA from LAX), with ample opportunities for those who drove the cars to give them some real-world testing.
The Southern California area isn’t exactly central, but California is very EV-focused and environmentally conscious, and many attendees were based in the area or could easily get there. We even had friends from across the pond, in England and Germany, who came to partake. It was also a way to guarantee good weather in December, of which we had ample amounts. Midday was perfect for standing around, with it being just a bit cool in the early morning and at sunset.
We had a total of eight vehicles that could be driven, along with a few additional static displays. This allowed for ample hands-on time and priceless opportunities to compare and contrast the various interiors, exteriors, and in some cases the driving dynamics as well. The static cars included Nissan Leaf, Polestar 2, Porsche Taycan GTS Sport Turismo, Rivian R1T, and a variety of Tesla models including a 7-seat Model Y and a Model S Plaid.
The Tesla and Polestar models were rentals by guests, but got plenty of gazes and even some ride-alongs provided by the person renting it. I for one can now tell stories of the time I sat in the 3rd row of a Tesla Model Y. And I will probably never do it again. The Leaf featured a representative from Nissan to showcase its decade-long legacy and also answer questions about the upcoming Ariya EV from Nissan.
People congregated quickly around the Rivian when it arrived Sunday, donned in Rivian Blue and escorted by two Rivian employees to answer questions and showcase all its nooks and crannies. Unfortunately, it was the one static display that didn’t allow for people to sit in it, but every inch was otherwise used and studied by nearly every single participant.
The Taycan also arrived Sunday, in stunning Carmine Red, featuring the famed variable light glass roof. Calvin Kim, Porsche’s spokesperson for Taycan, was its pilot and representative for the day, showcasing all of its features and answering any question however deep or wide it may be. People were able to sit in it, which intrigued nearly everyone in part due to the 9-segment roof that could be adjusted between transparent and nearly opaque with unique haptic controls.
The cars that were able to be driven included two Mustang Mach-E GT’s, one of which was equipped with Performance package. There was also an Audi RS E-Tron GT, Mercedes EQS 450+, Volvo XC-40 Recharge, and Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S AWD. There was also a pair of Arcimoto FUVs with a representative who showed people how to operate the intriguing 3-wheeled contraption. These cars were truly put to work, with nearly everyone getting a chance to drive and compare each car. As I was managing keys and our check-in/check-out procedures, I also got a feel for how everyone reacted to each car. I thought I would share some of the general consensus along with my own two cents.
Audi RS E-Tron GT
Arguably the most popular and most beautiful of the cars that could be driven, the RS E-Tron GT is Audi’s spiciest EV in their lineup. Built on the same J1 platform as Porsche Taycan, but with its own interior, design, and tuning, it truly is a unique beast. Built optimally for “sporty grand touring”, its adaptive suspension absorbs more than most performance cars and the interior is cozy, comfortable, and simultaneously has excellent bolstering for cornering with a vengeance. However, I found the back seats to be a bit of an afterthought in the 3-rear-seat configuration, and I wished instead for 2 bucket seats in the back to mirror the front.
Charging is excellent, power and acceleration are more than enough for most, and the general consensus was that this was the dreamiest car that could be driven. I do emphasize “dream” due to its steep price tag of more than $150,000, placing it above every other drivable option. The styling is excellent, and the red color received more looks than any. Money no object, this would be most people’s first choice.
Mercedes EQS 450+
Second to the E-Tron in price is the Mercedes EQS, their flagship for the finest in Mercedes Benz EV experience. This was inarguably the most “luxurious” car to be driven, with a whisper-quiet ride, heated massage seats, augmented reality HUD, and fine leather touch-points. Though it was also deemed the ugliest vehicle in the entire venue, it had some great party tricks that were mostly useful, especially the 10 degree rear steering, a standard feature in the US market. It turns the long sedan into a very maneuverable yacht with a turning circle akin to that of an A-class. The Hyperscreen was also a sight to see, combining effectively 3 large screens across the dashboard from side to side.
At over $110,000 priced as tested, it fetches many pennies, but if you can get past the polarizing design, it’s actually a wonderful place to reside within the cabin. The 450+ is also one of the slowest cars in the fleet with a 5.5 second 0-60 time, but that’s also not what it should be worried about. Why rush, when you’re beyond comfortable?
Volkswagen ID.4 Pro S AWD
Ah yes, the People’s Car. There isn’t much to brag about here, but there is also very little to complain about. The ID.4 is an appliance, albeit one that is fun to use and fairly pleasing to the eye. VW compares it to a Tiguan in terms of actual people and storage practicality, and that tends to be ample for most people. The range and charging are both more than adequate, and the interface and drivability are simple. The ID.4 also held the bar for the most affordable EV, at least within the driving fleet. Leaf still holds the crown as far as truly affordable EV cars go.
At under $50,000 and with a full panoramic glass roof, AWD, and even massaging front seats, there is not much left to want. It certainly isn’t a sporty option, though the AWD suspension does stiffen things up in the bends and adds 100 horsepower above the standard RWD model. Most everyone was in agreement on the notion that ID.4 AWD is a great bargain and well worth the up-charge from the entry level. Some in attendance even own one back home!
Mustang Mach-E GT
Grabber Blue and Cyber Orange caused many heads to turn for the pair of Mach-E GT vehicles in our driving fleet. Ford was kind to send us two, and it was a unique advantage in the moment for everyone to experience GT both in the standard flavor as well as the GT Performance. The Performance Edition does pull an extra $5,000 on your budget, but it also grants you a slight torque increase, 0.3 seconds off 0-60 times, and a far better MagneRide suspension. Horsepower for both are a respectable 480, with torque being 600 as standard, 634 with Performance, giving it the edge with a 3.5 second dash to 60.
Both Mach-E variants were also equipped with BlueCruise, Ford’s excellent driver-assist system using handsfree technology on certain highways. Both Mach-E were quite popular with most who drove them, and while $60-65k may not be as cheap as ID.4, it can certainly spike your adrenaline in the corners and on straights alike. I found them to be best in a straight line, with aggressive cornering being a bit compromised by wheel grip and both cars can overheat when driven too hard. But for the average Joe/Jane, they are simply fun.
Volvo XC-40 Recharge
Last, but not least, and according to some, first, we arrive at the Swedish contender. Many actually harkened it to be the silent winner, the one they would opt to drive away in at the end of the day, aside from those with monetary imaginations…eyeing the E-Tron of course. The Volvo design language speaks volumes about their capacity to design something timeless. While nearly every other company does something drastic, often tragic, to spearhead futurism into their visual aesthetics, Volvo simply blocked out the grill and called it a day. XC-40 is understated and brilliant, with excellent driving dynamics, comfort, infotainment and quality feel.
Because Volvo lets you use nearly the entire battery pack, power is drastically cut at the very bottom (~5%) to protect the low end, and charging speeds are very slow above 90%. The range is EPA rated to just over 200 miles, so it is certainly not a segment leader. But as for me and my interests, that is a compromise I would gladly make for the sake of the rest of the experience.
The wild card of the bunch was definitely the pair of FUVs provided by Arcimoto, also accommodated by a representative of the company. Arcimoto is aiming to take hold of the less expensive transportation space. Though they still fetch roughly $25,000 and cannot take advantage of car tax credits, there are some tax credits in states available for motorcycles, and they offer this as a safer, slightly more weather resistant offering over a motorcycle.
They have a bit of a learning curve to ride, but once familiar, the handlebars and controls become second nature, and you become one with the beast. It is a raw experience, with front motors on the front wheels and a single wheel on the back. Riding an FUV certainly got many looks from bystanders, and offering a second seat is an advantage over something like the ElectraMeccanica Solo. But you are not fully shielded from the elements. That being said, it certainly is fun, hence the acronym nomenclature: Fun Utility Vehicle.
This was the first event of its kind hosted by Out of Spec Studios, and gauging by the feedback and excitement, it was a success. Dozens of EV enthusiast outlets were able to experience much of the most prominent EV contenders in the market, comparing and contrasting the look, feel, cost, and dynamics of cars that are exploding in popularity as the general public embraces EV ownership. Ample content was created from so many varying perspectives, and I certainly learned a lot from conversations and experience alike. We ended the final day by all piling in the drivable vehicles and heading up Angeles Crest Highway for a glimpse of the sunset. Though we failed to get out on time exactly, it was still a stunning view and exciting to see all the cars together as a final farewell.