Tesla’s Model 3 is rapidly becoming the “must have” electric car.
Plenty of Model 3s are finding their way to the blacktop here in Australia.
In a three-model range, the Performance version gains a higher capacity battery system, twin motors, and a neck-snapping amount of whooooosh.
Tesla Australia says the car gets 620km in Long range AWD form, 560km in Performance, and 460km in Standard Plus.
Those figures are condition and driver dependent.
Our 72 hour, door-to-door test included some spirited driving with nothing under 40 per cent battery life left.
What’s it cost?
The vehicle provided starts at $93,900 before other costs.
This figure includes 20 inch wheels, the twin motors, performance brakes, a small carbon fibre boot lip spoiler, and a lower ride height. The go and stop pedals are also alloy with rubber strips.
A Pearl White finish is standard. It’s a multi-layered coat and looks superb. Red, Blue, Black, and Silver are a $1500 option.
Then there is the Premium Interior package: black leather, heated front pews, with 14-speaker audio to start the party.
Internet access is free for 12 months with options to use Spotify and TuneIn.
These, and virtually every other Model 3 system, is accessed via the landscape-oriented,15.0-inch touchscreen.
This includes airconditioning, settings for the mirrors and steering column, as well as entertainment.
There’s more than just radio too, with arcade games like Asteroids or Missile Command, and gadgets like an “emissions generator” (cough: fart generator), and caraoke.
Yes, that’s spelled correctly and is exactly what you think it means.
These can all be accessed only while the car is stopped.
They demonstrate an electric car can be fun, and that whimsy isn’t yet outlawed.
Default view is monochrome for Google maps, and a graphics system that uses the cameras and ultrasonic sensors to show the car’s proximity to the roads and surrounding traffic.
The Autopilot facility is standard. This enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane.
The full self-drive facility however is currently an $8500 option. With all the boxes ticked, the driveaway price is a whisper under $120,000.
Model 3 is a condensed version of the Model S when it comes to looks and size. It’s not quite as long, not quite as high and not quite as wide.
Tesla has deliberately designed tits current range of cars (Model S sedan, Model X SUV) to be similar in areas such as the tail lights and window line, but the sedans are made to look specifically like . . . sedans.
All three models sport a similar nose that lacks a grille or air intake, yet are defineably different in respect to the headlights in that nose.
Model S and Model X have narrower horizontally aligned structures, but the Model 3 is more like a particular German brand in this respect with angular, boomerang-like housings.
Access to the car is simple. There’s no key; rather, you use a smartphone and app, or a card supplied by Tesla for valet parking duties.
The app can turn on the aircon before you enter, shows charging rate and battery capacity, and can “summon” the car as well.
Yes. This means the car will literally drive itself to you, albeit in a straight line and over a short distance and at a very low speed.
The card provided is read by sensors in the “B-pillar” and interior console.
The wheels are subtle looking alloys in a 10-spoke design. Michelin supply the Pilot Sport tyres which 235/35/ZR20.
Dry weight is not unexpectedly hefty at 1847kg. Boot capacity is 542 litres and of course there’s a “frunk” (front boot).
The interior is minimalistic. There’s that centrally mounted screen, a good looking strip of wood wood from side to side, and an ambience that says quality.
But it’s not perfect. The screen absorbs heat easily, even under super dark tinted roof glass. And frankly, the positioning of the screen means that eyes off the road are required for some things.
This is where the voice recognition system could do with further development. Think of saying, for example, “make temperature 22 degrees” and having the system react to that.
What’s it go like?
There’s something intoxicating about the get up and go in a high output electric car.
Tesla says 3.4 seconds for the sprint from 0 to 100km/h and there’s absolutely no reason to disbelieve this.
Foot on the brake, pull the right side column lever downwards and check that D is highlighted on the touchscreen.
Then floor the pedal. Tomorrow is upon you and your spine is buried somewhere in the back of the seat.
That acceleration also makes this one of the safest cars going for overtaking or merging, purely because of its ability to haul itself out of trouble so easily.
Braking can be set to two levels via the touchscreen. This makes harvesting regenerative energy good or a little less so.
In some circumstances it’s enough to bring the car to a stop by itself and on a downhill run will grab the brakes and slow the car solidly.
The ride quality is on par too.
The low profile 35 series tyres could be forgiven for transmitting bumps and lumps, but they don’t. It’s an ideal balance of suppleness and tautness.
Steering is precise to a fault, especially when driving manually.
However, manual driving conveys a feeling of nervousness or twitchiness even.
On one section of our drive strong cross winds were encountered and had a noticeable effect on two tonnes of car and passenger.
For the self-driving the car needs clear roadside markers for the exterior cameras and sensors.
A steering wheel icon shows on the screen. On the steering column, which is fully adjustable for reach and rake via the screen, is the drive engagement lever on the right.
Press down once for lane keeping, twice for auto drive and cruise, and a light hand on the steering wheel is all that’s needed.
The system will sense if hands are fully removed, otherwise there’s gentle tugs of the wheel to align on the go.
It’s easily disengaged by a press of the brake pedal or a press again on the lever.
What we like?
Superb, grin-inducing acceleration
Superb ride quality
High level of integration of systems with the touchscreen
What we don’t like?
Heat absorbing touchscreen
Single central screen layout needs eyes off the road
Having to give it back
The bottom line?
The extra range makes the Performance version MUCH more liveable.
For some, that 560km range could mean a recharge only twice a week. Naturally, as mentioned, that’s condition and driver dependent.
It’s truly a driver’s car, and that’s possibly the most important part of its appeal.
But, judging by the astonishing lack of ability shown by far too many Sydney drivers, the Model 3, and for that matter the Model X and S, are all way out of the league of a massive percentage of the population.