2019 Tesla Model 3 – Review & Road Test

Is it possible to review Tesla’s Model 3 without getting pulled into the company’s gravitational hype vortex? I don’t know. We will try forget flamethrowers rockets and Joe Rogan. In this video we’re focusing solely on the Model 3 and how it fares as a car. First let’s level set. The Model 3 is the smallest and cheapest car in Tesla’s all-electric lineup. It seats give, has a maximum 310-mile range, and a theoretical starting price of $36,000 including destination charges.


 

That we’ll dig into later. Before that let’s talk about the car. Item one: it’s amazing to drive in all regards. Acceleration is instantaneous, relentless, and intoxicating. Need to blast pass yet another Camry? Sure thing. Want to merge authoritatively with freeway traffic? Done. Want to dazzle your three-year-old with the majesty of electric torque? Can do. I’m gonna do it again. Where automotive parlor tricks are concerned the Model 3’s hushed propulsive intensity is one of the best. Press the accelerator and there’s no downshift or engine related delay. You just go. Add lateral G’s and the Model 3 shines even brighter. The steering feels stable on a straight line, but off-center it has a sporting quick ratio. Small adjustments make big changes in your trajectory. The Model 3 is the kind of car that rewards precision and a willingness to probe the limits. There’s a stop sign. No self no probing right now.

Real mature Mike. With it’s well tuned multi-link suspension and weighty battery pack placed low in the chassis the smallest of Tesla’s is a grade-a badass in the corners. If you’ve dismissed electric cars as joy crushing sadness goblins you’ve clearly never driven a Model 3. Yeah there’s no emotional engine noise, but consider this, without a dramatic internal combustion soundtrack the Model 3 can still create reactions like this. Meanwhile interior noise is decently subdued, though the lack of an engine highlights sound from the tires. The brakes feel completely natural which is a stellar accomplishment for an electric car, and if you don’t like the acceleration and regenerative braking intensity, vehicle creep behavior, or steering efforts simply change them. Regarding steering settings, with such a quick ratio the light efforts of comfort mode make it hard to steer with accuracy. So don’t use them. One last driving observation, there’s a blind spot over my right shoulder. Surely technology has a solution for that.

Why yes, it does on-camera Micah. With the $5,000 enhanced auto pilot package the Model 3 can steer, accelerate, brake, and automatically change lanes for you. Once activated with the drive selector it shows a real-time readout of the vehicles around you and the road ahead, including how it curves. Right now it’s incredibly cool tech that operates with more precision than some goober drivers, but the system requires constant attention. This is not autonomous driving though Tesla promises that will come later. If constant vigilance is required when using autopilot personally I’d rather just drive. You may feel differently. It got very dark for a second there. I got it. That said the real-time display makes auto pilot far more engaging than other semi autonomous systems. My big complaint is the effort required to overpower the autonomy. You can’t simply add a bit of steering or brake when good human judgement suggests that’s a good idea. Instead you have to force your way through the autonomy, which then abruptly deactivates the system.

During critical moments that can be disconcerting. Autonomy aside the Model 3 is a wellspring of unexpected but logical conclusions. Kind of like talking to a three-year-old it’s the sort of car where you have to leave your expectations at the door, literally. To unlock the door you can either use your phone as a key or tap the valet key card on the B-pillar. Modern living right? The door handles don’t extend like the Model S’s but they do flip out GTR style. Inside if not using your phone place the key card behind the cupholders to enable drive mode. You’ll notice there’s no start button, just pull the drive selector down and go. In fact look around and there’s a conspicuous lack of physical controls. These guys adjust the seat and these scroll wheels do almost everything else. They move the mirrors. They adjust the steering wheel position. They change the audio volume, and they also alter how far you follow the vehicle head using dynamic cruise control. Yeah pretty much anything a normal car would do with a button or a knob these guys do.

That really sounds like robot noises. Very very well done Tesla. You sound properly futuristic. Contrasting the lack of buttons is an abundance of screen. Cramming all vehicle settings infotainment controls and the traditional gauge cluster readout into a central 15-inch touchscreen sounds like a one-way ticket to failure town, but no, it works great. Tesla has done a brilliant job creating a clear, attractive, instantly navigable interface. Tabs along the bottom helpfully guide you to the right sub menu. Options are unambiguously displayed, and you can even check out your favorite website, you know the one that pays you to review cars, oh crap, is that the runtime? We don’t have time for all this stuff. There’s too much to talk about.

Lightning round, okay, here’s a quick rundown of the Model 3’s abilities and quirks. Over-the-air software updates expand its capabilities over time, for example Tesla updated the anti-lock braking tuning yielding a notable reduction in stopping distances. The 15- cubic foot trunk is supplemented by a vast underfloor hold and a roomy front trunk. The rear seats fold but the releases are inside the cabin necessitating a field trip inside to drop them.

A low hood and large windows provide a clear view out while a glass roof provides a clear view up. I see green clouds. Front seats are comfortably shaped, supportive and include adjustable lumbar support. The armrests are well positioned and soft. Oh hey, happy squirrel. Rear passenger space is fine for my average five-foot ten-inch body but the seat backs could use more recline. It’s like I got good posture, and low seat cushions place occupants knees higher than we prefer the middle seat offers abundant flat foot space, but shoulder room is super tight with three abreast. Yes we’ve heard about build quality complaints by some customers, but as you might expect our test car was well sorted aside from little stuff like. Wear marks near the electronic door release, this bunching door seal, and chrome exterior door trim that didn’t quite line up. Interestingly any color besides black will cost between $1,500 and $2,500 dollars. Tesla’s screen-based vent controls are much better than Porsches, and the Tesla app offers handy information about your vehicle.

Plus the ability to control various functions including the summon feature that lets you remotely motor the vehicle into and out of tight spots, or you can just ignore the legal department and ghost ride the whip. Is that something the kids still do or is it all just Tide Pods now? Charging your Model 3 with a standard household outlet is possible but dumb, gaining only one to two miles of range per hour. A full charge would literally take this 240-volt charger speeds things up adding roughly 14-miles per hour. Charged for overnights at home that’s fine, but on the go one of Tesla’s nearly 1,400 supercharger stations is the play. During our test we surged from 65- to more than 270-miles of range in about an hour. Just keep in mind crowded stations mean extra wait time, and unlike Model S and Model X owners Model 3 owners have to pay it a super charge. In our case 200- miles of range cost a modest $14.04. A basic Model 3 includes eight airbags, automatic emergency braking, Wi-Fi, an LTE Internet connectivity, dual zone climate control, rear wheel drive, and 220 miles of electric range all for a base price around $36,000.

Except as of when we shot this video Tesla isn’t building any of those the versions you can get are the mid-range rear-wheel drive. The long-range dual motor all-wheel drive and the all-wheel drive performance model like our tester that adds a lowered suspension a higher top speed, 20-inch wheels, performance brakes and carbon fiber bits to the equation. All of those prices include destination charges, but exclude the federal government $7,500 tax credit. A tax credit that may not exist or will likely be greatly reduced by the time your Model 3 is actually built. Some folks might compare the Model 3 to the roomier Jaguar I-Pace, but starting at $70,000 it’s much pricier. Cheaper alternatives include the Chevrolet Bolt, Hyundai Kona EV and Nissan Leaf, but none of those matched the Tesla’s technical anesthetic cool points.

The BMW i3 occupies a vaguely similar price spectrum, but it’s no match for the Model 3’s range and speed. Truth be told Model 3 is in a class by itself. It’s stupid quick, aggressively innovative, comfortable for its size, and assuming they ever build the cheap one, excessively priced. I for one welcome our new electric car overlords. So, about that flamethrower thing… .

As found on Youtube

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