The Tesla Model 3: game changer?
Is this a new beginning?
Until now, Tesla products have been somewhat unobtainable for most of the population. A base specification Model S costs £77,000+, a Model X with just a paint option will cost £84,000+. However, Tesla’s continued progression was with the Model 3 in mind, an affordable electric vehicle with great range and driving characteristics without sacrificing aesthetics.
The Model 3 comes in three trim variants – ‘Standard Range Plus’ (£38,500); ‘Long Range’ (£47,000); and ‘Performance’ (£52,000). The lowest range offered is 254 miles whilst the highest is 348 miles. Full charging at a Supercharger takes 40-50 minutes, however a ‘V3 Supercharger’ gives you 75 miles in 5 minutes and charges up to 1,000 miles per hour. Options? You can choose paint, interior colour, ‘full self driving capability’ and a tow hitch… that’s about it.
Aesthetically the Model 3 is a little ‘Marmite’ – love it or hate it. The front is unquestionably ‘Tesla’, even without a badge you can see their design language. The side profile is sweeping, like that of the Model S, the rear a mix between Model S and X. Opt for the ‘Performance’ variant and you get stunning 20” alloys, a carbon fibre spoiler and genuine ‘performance’ look. It’s a beautifully designed car from almost every angle with aesthetics that will not age as fast as the competition.
Performance is at the heart of even the entry model, offering a 0-60mph time of 5.3 seconds – however, if performance is at the base of your decision, you’ll without a doubt want the ‘Performance’ variant. 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds, topping out at 162mph. The instantaneous reaction from the throttle is incomparable to any traditional car, such rapid response – other road users will not be expecting you!
Because of this, be glad the Model 3 has obscenely good stopping power, without touching the brakes. The electric motors offer regeneration considerably more punchy than any other electric vehicle on the market (outside of Tesla), so strong you rarely use your brakes… even in emergencies.
Cornering is composed and precise, thanks to a low centre of gravity and near perfect 50/50 weight distribution. In ‘Performance’ trim, a dual motor system gives all-wheel drive, meaning the Model 3 feels unstoppable regardless how hard you throw it into a corner. The steering gives quick response and has changeable weight settings to enhance any driving situation, the pedal feel is… unique. Unlike traditional vehicles, the second you lift off the throttle, regeneration starts – depending on the setting, you have either slight or heavy braking. The brake pedal feel is nicely balanced offering good feedback.
The newest, most intriguing concept in the Model 3 is a single 15” screen layout. This results in a spacious and minimalist interior whilst allowing access to all normal tech now expected plus a level of Tesla additional tech (arcades and toy box etc). The mapping system is the main basis of the entire screen, with a side bar for speed / light indication etc. It’s superbly intuitive and easily navigated by even the most un-tech savvy operator.
Audio is crisp and clear thanks to the ‘premium interior’ package (on the Long Range and Performance models). The ultra high fidelity system is among the best I have heard in any situation – not to mention a car. The driver’s seating position is incredibly comfortable offering good visibility of the exterior with the small exception of the ‘A’ pillar occasionally blocking view. Passengers will find themselves in surprisingly quiet yet spacious luxury. Regardless of speed the interior remains silent even with the huge panoramic roof.
If you carry a lot in the back, the Model 3 has a 425-litre capacity split between the front and rear boot. Smaller than a 3 Series, it feels more useable and accessible with considerably less ingress into the cabin around the wheels.
At times the interior felt questionably assembled; perhaps because Tesla are pushing these through production quickly. Certain elements were not up to scratch for a £50,000+ model. Window rubber placements not all to the same specification, trim pieces seemed easily damaged. However, the overall feel of the interior was positive, Tesla are most certainly leading the industry in forward thinking interior tech.
Front and back there is plenty of legroom and headroom, even taller passengers are comfortable- the Model 3 shows to have been designed around a multitude of body shapes and sizes. The only negative is that the seats don’t offer as much bolster support as you see in the competition, so whilst you are comfortable, faster corners can feel a little ungraceful with sliding.
Simply put, the Model 3 is a relatively affordable and brilliantly designed longer range electric vehicle. With Tesla’s ‘Supercharger’ network growing rapidly (and being more reliable than Ecotricity / PodPoint) it’s easy to drive without worry. Simple home charging solutions will also suit those who do shorter trips. Whilst covering roughly 200 miles in the Model 3, the Supercharger worked out to around 101mpg – home charging would have resulted in a higher figure (if your home electricity is cheaper than 25p p/kWh). If you have driven combustion engines your entire life, making the change to electric is not easy. ‘Range anxiety’ plagues vehicle articles, however Tesla have almost eliminated that with huge range and a brilliant charging infrastructure. It’s a genuinely positive drive which, while it isn’t like being in a conventional car, it is incredibly rewarding and engaging in any circumstance.
If you can convince yourself to get into one – you will probably never get out.
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