The Tesla Model 3 is a truly transformational vehicle. It provides high performance, long range, and a premium aesthetic at a broadly affordable price.
But you already knew that. Let me talk about what you may not know, the good things and the things that might need some improvement.
I’ve now been driving my Model 3, one of the first in South Florida, for about a week, and I’d like to share some of my observations about the car, without repeating what those of you who follow the vehicle already know from earlier reviews.
Now, full disclosure — many of the early owners of Model 3 have been past owners of Model S or Model X. I’m one of those people. I’ve had over five years of driving experience with Model S and almost two with Model X, which shapes some of my reactions to the Model 3.
So, let’s begin…
The first time I tried to charge Model 3 in my garage, I was surprised to learn that Model 3 charging using the new Tesla Universal Mobile Charging Cable (UMC) is limited to a maximum of 32 amps. That means that charging on a 240V 40-amp, NEMA 14-50 outlet will get you about 22 – 24 miles of range per hour of charging. That’s not great, but it’ll be absolutely fine for overnight charging.
Because I also own a Model X with an old UMC, I immediately swapped out the new UMC for the old one and achieved a full 40-amps and a charging rate of between 32 and 38 miles of range per hour — actually more efficient than either Model S or X. The difference between the old UMC and the new UMC is pretty significant!
If you’re the owner of an older Model S or X, hold on to your old UMC and use it instead of the cable that comes with Model 3. And if you’re a first-time Tesla owner and you want faster charging at home, you might want to consider buying an old UMC through the used components marketplace.
Information Placement and Ergonomics
Every reviewer mentions the lack of a binnacle — the place directly in front of the driver where a conventional speedometer and other instrumentation appears. You get over this in about five minutes.
The placement of the speedometer and other critical driving information and functions on the left-hand side of the landscape display works well. It can be scanned with no more eye movement that that required to scan the binnacle.
However, because this critical information takes up some of the screen real estate, all other functionality is pushed right on the display. In general, it’s not a big problem, but it can be annoying and possibly even distracting if you must reach or look to the far right side of the display — say, for example, to see turn-by-turn directions from the nav system. There are a number of ways this can be remedied through a software update, and I suspect Tesla will do so in the near future.
The Model 3 interior design language is minimalist and sleek. Visually, there is little design ‘noise’ to break the smooth flow of the interior geometry. It’s groundbreaking.
The center console contains everything you’ll need to store your stuff, charge and view your smartphone display, and easy access your USB and 12V ports. It provides closed storage with smoothly operating covers and doors.
First, the standard gloss black surface of the center console shows every finger print, every spec of dust and every droplet of liquid that might inadvertently spill. Therefore, the surface becomes messy very quickly.
Also, the center console surface is smooth and quite attractive, but its smoothness is also a minor liability. The center console is where the driver puts stuff — keys, ID cards, a pencil, even a smart phone when it’s not in its own compartment. As I mentioned, Model 3 is nimble, and during a quick turn everything the driver places on the center console surface goes flying. It’s happened to me a few times already.
Finally, the physical height of center console violates the interior design language. It’s unnecessarily high. Hopefully, a future iteration will place the top of the center console at the same height as the seat cushion, allowing this important element to better blend with the interior. Sure, you’ll lose a little vertical storage space, but you’ll gain a better aesthetic.
I love Model 3’s exterior: clean, simple, and efficient. The trunk opening is much larger than many feared it would be and with the rear sets folded down, you can load a box that’s 72 inches long, 36 inches wide, and 16 inches high into the car. That’s a big box! The trunk hatch requires a bit of a push to close.
The doors open wide for easy entry. Their signature feature are the J-handles that rotate outward for opening. I have two minor quibbles with the doors.
First, the J-handles are very cool, rotating outward with a push on the ‘fat’ part of the handle. The problem is that gripping the handle to pull the door open can be a challenge if you use the wrong hand. On the driver side, your left hand is the one you want to use, but if you’re carrying, say, a grocery bag in your left hand, opening the driver door with your right hand can require a little bit of arm twisting.
When you approach the driver door, try to remember to have your left hand free. The opposite applies on the passenger side. From a design perspective, a future improvement might be to have the door handle spring open and stay that way until a pull on the thin end occurs. It would then return to the closed position.
Also, you have to be conscious of making sure that your door closes properly. In many cases, a seemingly proper push of the door will leave it slightly ajar. The problem is that the window remains slightly lowered during closing, and if you don’t notice the problem and walk away, its possible for rain to enter your passenger compartment. Be careful with this and check your doors for full closure during your early weeks of ownership.
Suspension and Ride
Most reviewers agree that Model 3 is a driver’s car with a tight suspension, very little roll, and nimble response. Its spring suspension allows you to feel the road, and it’s likely that some owners will accuse Model 3 of a harsh ride.
I would characterize the ride as typical of a true sports sedan. It’s worth noting the body sits relatively high above the ground. With standard 18 or 19-inch wheels, there’s a lot of space between the outer perimeter of the tire and the wheel well fender cut out.
Wheels and Tires
The OEM tire and wheel packages for Model 3 are pretty pedestrian. They get the job done and look okay, but if you’re like me and believe that wheels are probably the most important element, other than body design, to a vehicle’s overall exterior aesthetic, there’s a lot of opportunity for you to improve the look of your Model 3. I moved immediately to make a wheel change.
The Final Takeaway
I waited almost two years for my Model 3. Overall, it’s exceeded my expectations in almost every category. But like every car, it’s not perfect. I’m confident that Tesla will remedy almost all of the quibbles and minor issues I mention in this post quickly.
Bottom line: The Model 3 was definitely worth the wait!
Article originally published on evannex.com by Richard Pressman. EVANNEX offers aftermarket accessories, parts, and gear for Tesla owners. The Florida-based company also maintains a daily blog on the latest Tesla news.