Without a doubt, Tesla Model 3 reviews have sparked an avalanche of comments both pro and con. Some love the minimalist interior, others miss the buttons and dials. Exterior door handles provoke angst from those who want a normal handle, and are a marvel of simplicity and beauty from others. Some want dials and idiot lights, not some large cell phone in the middle of the dash or lack of a dash. Reports of lots full of unsold Model 3s are held up as evidence that no one is buying them, while financial services report that Tesla can’t deliver sold Model 3s fast enough and the average sales price with options and accessories is approaching twice the base sticker price.
Many of the Tesla Model 3 reviews being posted start with sentences like the one in our local paper, the reviewer stated that he had borrowed his friend’s Model 3 for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon. Some reviewers had access to the car for a week. Some reviews were obviously slanted one way or the other either by design or ignorance. Virtually every review lists the official specs for the car so at least that part is balanced across the board. This will be an owner’s Tesla Model 3 review.
What Is It?
Picked up my Model 3 Long Range in March 2018, the VIN number was in the 7000 range, so it isn’t one of the very early ones and doesn’t have dual motors nor performance mode. That said, it does now have well over 6000 miles on it. Better yet, I’ve had a Model S for two years, so I was interested in comparing the two cars.
I already knew how the S handled city driving and long trips. So, a request to take my wife to Asheville, NC, from Southwest Florida sounded like a good opportunity to test the Model 3 on a long drive. The plans were to travel to Asheville, pick up my sister-in-law at the airport, then spend a week doing the tourist thing in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Mileage for the trip: about 2500 miles.
How does it look? While beauty is subjective, the Model 3 looks beautiful. Apparently, at least 450,000 people agree with me, if order numbers tell anything. There is no question it is a sibling of the Model S. I do like the wheel appearance without the aero covers, debated putting them back on for the trip, but vanity won out over efficiency.
Next, we had to load up the car. Many reviewers state the official storage capacity of 15 cubic feet. I didn’t have any cubic feet to pack, but did have suitcases, a road bike, bike gear and pump, a cooler for munchies, a box of model trains to donate to a museum in Hendersonville, NC, and of course we were going to pick up sister-in-law with her suitcase and carry-on bag. The Model 3 swallowed all the stuff up without effort.
Navigation And A Shortcoming
The drive north towards Asheville brought the first issue that I would ask Tesla to consider. The navigation system told us that we would stop to charge in Lake City, Florida; then Macon, Georgia; and then at the Supercharger in Asheville. The trip started out great, but the coffee we were sipping demanded that we stop in Ocala after only 200 miles. There is a Supercharger there, so we plugged in while we recycled the coffee. Somewhat disconcerted to be depositing used coffee and the cell phone beeps with a message from the car telling me that charging is complete and let’s get moving. There should be a trip planning feature to add in bladder stops. The unscheduled stop meant that the original route and stops changed and we ended up with one additional short charging session before reaching Asheville.
How Does It Feel?
The Model 3 feels different when traveling down the road than the Model S. I’d like to say that if feels stiffer, but not rattle your teeth stiffer. Not “I can feel this in my back” stiffer, just feels more attentive. The Model S feels like it just wants to give you a hug and take care of you. The Model 3 feels more like it wants to have fun if you do.
The Back Seat
Picked up my sister-in-law and into the back seat she went. She would occupy the 60% side of the rear seat for a week. Plenty of leg room, head room, and elbow room, but it was the back seat and some reviewers had panned the back seat as uncomfortable. If she still loves me after a week, then the rear seat can’t be that bad.
The week encompassed many different driving styles — from city traffic in Asheville, to back country roads in Tennessee and Georgia. An AirBnB on top of a mountain with a mile-long two-track road up to it was no challenge for the Model 3. The visibility afforded by the Model 3’s large glass windows and roof made the Blue Ridge Mountain drive gorgeous. The Model 3 is a comfortable car. My favorite road was over Mount Pisgah, NC. Hairpins, switchbacks, climbs, descents, and short straightaways gave ample time to learn the Model 3’s capabilities. Pushing the Model 3 into the turns, I learned to let the regenerative braking haul the speed down, and when the end of the turn came up, a push on the accelerator would launch the car towards the next curve — a grin on my face and two women screaming at me to slow down resulted.
Sister-in-Law … Thumbs Up!
The end of the week came, and before dropping my sister-in-law at the airport, I asked her how she fared in the back seat. She said the seat was very comfortable but what really amazed her was how quiet it was back there. That got me to wondering how the Model 3 noise level compared to the Model S, so I took an unscientific comparison between the two cars. Same stretch of road, same speed, and roughly the same surrounding traffic. (Possibly not the exact same vehicles around me, but same amount of traffic.) The Model S did appear to be slightly quieter.
Tesla Superchargers seem to be everywhere. Nowhere in our travels did we worry about range, and with the navigation system directing us to the Superchargers, we didn’t spend time trying to locate them. This is definitely a Tesla moat that will be tough to cross by other EV manufacturers. The speed with which the Model 3 charges was amazing. An extra bonus was a sightseeing trip to the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Hendersonville that had solar-powered L2 chargers right outside the front door. Had to plug in just so I could say a few miles were driven on sun power.
Build quality on my car certainly looks perfect. The interior feels and looks luxurious. There are no rattles, shakes, or odd noises unless you consider no exhaust or engine noise to be odd. The forward view from the driver’s seat is unparalleled due to the sloping front hood and no instrument cluster in front of the driver. A feature I noticed and like is that when driving at night, the lack of lighted instruments in front of your eyes made it easier to watch traffic. Did I mention the Model 3 doesn’t have a tailpipe?
Long Trips — No Worries
Taking long trips is one thing Teslas do very well. The charging infrastructure already in place is extensive, with even more on the way. Short charging times are the secret to long trips. The speed which the Model 3 recharges is about 33% faster than the Model S.
Model 3 — Needs vs Wants
It’s a matter of Tesla recognizing the customer’s wants and needs. No one needs a car that can travel 300 miles between charges when we average 40 miles a day. Does anyone need a fast charger when a car can be plugged in overnight and be fully charged in the morning. No one needs more than one charger station at a stop. People don’t need a car that can out-accelerate almost any other car on the road. Tesla understands that what people need and what they want can be two entirely different things.
Can Model 3 Demand Continue?
The Model 3 probably doesn’t need too many more Tesla Model 3 reviews. The word seems to be getting out to the public. Since acquiring my Model 3 in March, three people have stopped by to look and ride and two of them bought Model 3s. The third decided on a used Model S for about the same money. Demand should continue to be high. The car is well built, fun to drive, and the ability to meet any travel needs conveniently makes it the go-to car for people looking to drop the tailpipe.
Photo Credits: Court Nederveld, Tesla.com