I really didn’t understand why the Tesla Model 3 is as well-received as it is. Why would anyone be willing to purchase a technology company’s first foray into manufacturing affordable, mass-market vehicles?
I’m not suggesting that the Model 3 is the very first series production vehicle Tesla has made - far from it actually. Prior to the Model 3, Tesla made their original Lotus-based Roadster and the larger and more luxurious Model S and Model X saloons and SUVs respectively. But even Tesla admits that the Model 3 was designed as their very first mass-market vehicle, sitting in a hotly contested bracket of very competent cars built by legacy automakers.Breaking into the market is always tough for new dealerships and brands, and the lack of consumer confidence has scuppered the growth of many marques locally. Which then begs the question - why is Tesla seemingly immune to this harsh scrutiny?
It’s All About That Non-Conformity
For starters, Tesla was never built or run on any of the industry norms as laid out by the legacy car manufacturers. A certified memelord himself, Elon Musk's unconventional approach to operating a car company means Tesla benefits from branding in a way no other automaker has ever been able to do so.It also doesn’t hurt that their prior models have a certain infamy on the internet - you’d have come across some kind of Tesla acceleration reaction videos on your favourite social media platform, melting minds on camera with their off-the-line pace.
Their reputation online serves very much as a vaccine to the disease that plagues newcomers locally.
Acceleration? More Like Teleportation.
That also serves as the perfect segway into the Tesla Model 3 Performance experience. As you’d have come to expect from a modern, high-powered electric vehicle, the Model 3 is always eager to accelerate. It’s like a thoroughbred, always raring to go on a whim.When you spiritedly express your desire to be hurtled at the horizon, you find yourself being pinned in the seat, as your lungs struggle to overcome the sheer brute force of 506 all-electric horsepowers being transferred, via the tyres, onto the tarmac. The acceleration is brutal (though this technically isn’t even the fastest EV we’ve tested this year) regardless of the road speed you are at. As we’ve mentioned many times previously, this EV-specific trait means you’ll always be able to catch gaps in traffic, making the Model 3 an ideal city car.
When The Going Gets Twisty
I fully expected the car’s confidence to be nothing more than a facade, a bravado that it fronts and flexes at opportune moments. In essence, it excels when conditions are favourable to it, but I really thought the car’s weaknesses would be exposed when you throw a sequence of corners into the equation. American cars that are rapid in a straight line often shudder at the mere thought of a bend - so it’s business as usual here, right?Well, with a low centre of gravity courtesy of that battery pack placement, and fairly stiffly set-up air suspension, the car actually feels good being hurled through a series of bends. Its steering feedback and heft may not worry an outright sports car, though it is commendable for a car most would commute to and from work in. Brake blending is also done very well in this car, with the pedal itself feeling better than even some ICE cars.
Combine these positive driving characteristics, with the sheer instantaneous power of the electric powertrain, and this two ton vehicle is more lithe and agile than it has any business feeling like.
What Is It Like To Live With?
The lack of noise translates into a calm drive even when you find yourself sat on an expressway in peak hour traffic. Doesn’t hurt that the interior quality is decent too - the Chinese-made Teslas seem to have far less QC issues than the earlier, US-built batches. Our test car came equipped with all-white, vegan leather seats, which, worryingly, did show some signs of wear on the driver’s side bolster (considering it had around 7,000 kilometres on its odometer when we tested it).There was also visible staining from denim dyes too, which makes the stretch marks on the bolsters look visually worse than it really is. I was told that these seats are stain-resistant, and that you’ll be easily able to remove the stains with the appropriate cleaning product.
Tesla says the car will do around 500 kilometres on a full charge. I got around an estimated 350 kilometres, and this was achieved despite some exuberant driving from my colleagues and I. You do not even have to worry about the car running low on charge - the Supercharger will add as much as 300 kilometres of range in around 20 minutes.Or so quickly that you and your dinner companion will not have time to finish your desserts before you need to shift the car to avoid incurring penalty charges.
Is It All Good Then?
Despite the panoramic glass roof, rear seat passengers have complained about the relative lack of interior space. It isn’t helped by the high floor level, a result of Tesla stowing the battery pack away underneath the floor pan. With no space underneath the backs of the front seats to stretch your legs out to, and a lack of thigh support from the seat base, fatigue on longer journeys is very much a possibility.And whilst a minimalist interior looks good, putting everything onto a giant touchscreen compromises day-to-day usability (you’ll even have to use it to unlatch the glovebox!). There’s also a very real possibility of the touchscreen failing in the long run, leaving you with a very big and expensive paperweight.
An Unplugged And Unfiltered Take On The Tesla Model 3
The Tesla staff members I spoke to could not have summed up the entire Tesla experience better. Think of Tesla not as an automaker, but as a provider of a technological ecosystem. Sure, the technology that goes into the cars is impressive, but that alone will not be enough to sway the most ardent of ICE fans to defect.
Building the supporting infrastructure, in the form of their native Supercharger network, means that you’re not just buying a car - with a Tesla, you’re buying into a lifestyle. It fosters an organic loyalty and togetherness amongst fellow users, bonded by the common experience. Very much a lightning in a bottle situation it seems.The Tesla Model 3 is a very competent car mechanically, well-supported by Tesla’s in-house charging infrastructure. And on that front, it’s clear that the legacy automakers have some catching up to do.
Motor: Dual Electric Motor
Battery: 78kWh Lithium-Ion Pack
Power: 506 bhp
Torque: 660 Nm
Energy Consumption: 6km/kWh
0-100km/h: 3.3 Seconds
DC Charging Rate: 250 kW (max)
AC Charging Rate: 11kW (max)
Drivetrain: Single Speed Fixed Gear, All Wheel DriveBrakes: Ventilated Disc Brakes
Dimensions (LxWxH): 4,694 mm x 1,933 mm x 1,443 mm
Wheelbase: 2,875 mm
Kerb Weight: 1,836 kg
Battery Capacity: 78 kWhBoot Capacity: 649 litres
Electric front seats
Pre-entry Climate Control
Adaptive Cruise Control
Driver Attention Monitor
Lane Keep Assist
Lane Departure Warning
Blind Spot Monitor
Photo Credit: ACube Creative (@weareacube)