Driving the Model 3
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Club President Ken and his fairly long review on driving the Model 3.
So $1000 and nearly two years after March 31, 2016, – and thanks to the generosity of our mutual friend Ken, I got to experience Model 3 first hand with ample time in all the seats on Saturday, and behind the wheel for a test drive in Sunday.
First let’s discuss the LCD controls. I’m a tech guru by trade so going through all the menus and buttons on the touchscreen, even doing a little consultation in the owners manual (yes I downloaded it to my phone) to figure out certain pieces is second nature to me. Any doubts I had about the screen placement and usage while in motion are relieved. But even tech luddites should be OK here. Most of those items will be set-it-and-forget-it, while items you need quickly are ever present along the top and bottom. Things you might do while parked or stopped at a light are a single tap away. Tesla UI designers did a fantastic job here. If you’re used to analog controls, I don’t think you’ll miss the tactile feedback anymore than you do when typing on an iPhone.
The glass roof is perfect. It makes the smaller car feel so spacious. We had full sun during the test drive and I briefly looked up at it through the roof. Someone at the Saturday event quipped that they wished they had Model 3’s roof for the recent solar eclipse. That might be hyperbole but not by much. I don’t think it’s going to cause problems for us in July or August heat.
Even with that and all the reviews online there were lingering doubts that could only be answered by driving it.
First and foremost: it’s got the Tesla torque. Not quite as ludicrous as the Model S (see what I did there) but enough to make you gleeful. And it’s got it on the highway too: I dropped to about 55 and then punched it back up to 75 within a couple seconds. Maneuvering through traffic is going to be a breeze.
Revealing some of my bias towards smaller cars (which is in no small part why I waited for Model 3 over S or X), the turning radius on this car is awesome. I turned the wheel as far left as it would while doing U-turns around medians and it hugged the inside lanes on the turn. I don’t think it will have any problem seizing that open parking spot that sneaks up on you.
Another preference of mine: the Model S feels more luxurious on the road, like floating on a cloud. But I like to feel the road at my feet and Model 3 delivers – not too bumpy and far from jarring but enough that you can feel the changes in pavement. It feels sporty, where Model S/X are luxury.
One thing I didn’t mess with was the steering preference so not sure how that affects the experience. Gotta save a little mystery for the honeymoon, right?
I only have two nitpicks:
The seat in my car is like a comfortable 12-year-old, 190K-miles pair of shoes. I’m going to need to play with the Model 3 seat to get just the right position, height, lumbar, etc. I suspect that’s normal and the Tesla gives lots of options. It certainly doesn’t suffer from unacceptable conditions like being too cramped.
I understand some of the business challenges facing Tesla in this time. (Look up “Elon Musk anti-selling”.) But I wanted the Model 3 at the premium package to have the bells and whistles of its predecessors. There’s still a bunch missing. Some like Summon will arrive via software update. Others like self-opening doors never will. I suspect that in a few years when all the pre-orders are filled and $35K inventory is readily available – thus Model S sales cannibalization is less of a problem for Tesla’s bottom line – we’ll see “Model 3 Pro” which is effectively a Model S in the smaller form factor. I’ll queue up again for that one.
One hugely important feature that did make it across: EAP – well I had never experienced that before today so I can’t offer much opinion except to say: what a delight! If it came down to that requiring that I open door handles then yeah I’ll take that deal.
In conclusion, all of you reading this know what the Model 3 represents and what it means for EVs in the mainstream. I sat in a Chevy Bolt and a Nissan Leaf (BMW didn’t even display an i3) at the KC Auto Show last week. The automakers either don’t get it or they don’t want to get it: an EV needs to be a great car first, an EV second. Tesla gets it. They always have. And if they can scale up to manufacturing demands without major quality issues – and thus deliver everyone an experience like I had this weekend – everyone else will start to get it too.