2021 Tesla Model 3: Undeniably good
It's far from perfect, but still remains in a league of its own against compact luxury sedan competitors.
The BMW 3-series was the benchmark for an entry into luxury sedans from its debut until around 2017. The Tesla Model 3 entered the arena like Eric Killmonger to dethrone the BMW from the title of the best compact luxury sedan. Elon Musk, rat bastard, has said Tesla has no real competitors. But as the years continue to roll on, these brands are attempting to recover sales, arguably failing at the moment.
When someone buys a Tesla, they're buying into the best charging network in the nation. Photo by David Ahumada
The real housewives of Orange County have moved on from Acura, Audi, BMW, Infiniti, Lexus and Mercedes. The Model 3 allowed the bourgeoisie to become car poor. When people buy Teslas, they're buying into the best electric vehicle charging network that exists. No other auto manufacturer worldwide has been able to touch that. Besides, no other automaker can figure out how to improve on the design of the entire vehicle.
This isn't my first rodeo with a Tesla. I drove the Model Y earlier in the year when it debuted. One of my family members bought one, and I only spent a bit of time with it, but wasn't blown away. This is my first ride in one that lasted longer than 20 minutes.
Time is best spent fooling around with cars. I was fooling around with the Model 3 Standard Range Plus. At $39,000 it's the cheapest Tesla on sale at the time of publishing. 262 miles of range, 140 MPH top speed and a 0-60 MPH time of 5.3 seconds, according to Tesla. I still fail to comprehend how, at this price range, all other cars can't feel this special.
All Tesla wheels look like they're made out of plastic. I will not be elaborating on this further.
Enter any Tesla vehicle and look at how empty it is. There's no exposed air vents, buttons, colors or a gauge cluster. Your eyes immediately move to the massive 15-inch touchscreen, where a majority of the car is controlled. Gear selection, turn signals, driver's seat adjustments, windows and opening the doors are the only physical touch points in the vehicle that don't require using the screen. The speedometer is on the far left of the display and your eyes adjust to it after a while, but I'd prefer a HUD or a cluster.
The steering wheel is absolute perfection. It's the perfect diameter, perfect thickness and only has two scroll wheels from a Compaq computer mouse. The greenhouse is amazing in the car, there's so much light let into the interior. By placing a huge piece of glass on the roof, it kills the center of gravity, or uses PEMDAS to cancel out the very low placement of batteries. Either way, the interior is very nice, yet has very few things in it. Everything is oddly elegant. I hated when people compared this car to Apple's iPhone, but I understand. Not because of the technology offered, that's not new, but because of the design. There are no frills or buttons, everything is just centered in the middle of the car, with a clean design.
Not a huge fan of the white seats, but they were comfortable nonetheless. I appreciate lumbar support, don't know why it was removed from most cheaper cars, but whatever. It's weird having no door handle, only a button, it becomes instinctual after a while. One of my biggest complaints is that there's no way to turn off or turn on the car, why? Let me feel better by just pretending to shut it off, rather than just locking it and walking away, I hate that.
Overall, this interior is still holding up very well for being a few years old. I don't need 1,000 buttons to control everything, it's either all on a single giant touchscreen or it's buttons. I'm sick of pretending I enjoy it combined, make it one or the other, but we can't have physical buttons and touchscreen do both, it's 2021, c'mon.
262 miles of range on a single charge is plenty for a regular day of commuting. I couldn't give estimates based on my driving because I have a heavy right foot and couldn't stop doing pulls in it just to feel the power. It pulls like 0.8 G of acceleration at max when launching from 0 to 60 MPH, it's amazing. In three hours of driving, I drained the battery from 100% to 63%. Why? Because I was ripping through the canyons from San Bernadino to Big Bear Lake.
It literally rockets through corners. When I thought I outbraked myself in a corner, I planted my foot down, and it rotated. Pitch the nose into a corner, plant your foot, the rear squats and it moves like a freight train. With cold tires, it dances a bit, but it was all completely controlled and confidence inspiring. You can carry momentum, there's no need because it has the instant power to pull you out if you lose it. The brakes are great when warm, they require a fair amount of heat before really effective. There's no steering feel at all, although direct enough to know where the front wheels are going. There's a great weight to it, with only a single turn until it hits the steering lock, a bit odd for me.
Around town, in traffic and on the freeway is what this thing was designed for. It's the ideal everyday driver that is extremely quiet. When driving late at night or early in the morning, the peace is nice. There's no rumbling, shaking or sound while sitting in traffic. You won't bother an entire neighborhood while trying to park, no one will know that you left and had come back already. Oh, there's plenty of passing power, quickly getting yourself into trouble, but it's fine because the regenerative braking kicks in to slow you down and charges the battery simultaneously.
It is the ideal daily driver, it can do the canyons and it can hold five people. I'd take this all day, any day, over a 330i, 430i or i4.
The front design reminds of me of a cartoon mouse.
What I can say that hasn't already been said
Buy a Tesla over any EV simply because of the charging network. If I was in charge of Tesla, I'd sell my designs, planning, rollout and charging network to an automaker and bail out of the industry. There's no other EV on sale today that has the speed of charging that Tesla has.
There's still plenty of work for this brand to do. Quality control is a major flaw in the brand. Fix that huge issue and there will be no problems. There's also no way for the brand to stand out when all it offers are two interior color choices and four paint options for the 3 and the Y.
It doesn't replace the visceral feel of ICE cars. Like at all, but it does pin you in the seat under heavy acceleration, and that's something so unique. It's great and fun, but doesn't have the sound to match. I really didn't care that it lacked sound honestly. It was hysterical in its own sweet way.
Most other EVs feels incomplete compared to this. I understand that there's a lot of development for other brands to still do, but this is so unique that it completely kills nearly all of the competition from $35,000 to $50,000. The Mach-E might be able to give the same thrills, is a better brand to buy from, but suffers from the lack of a reliable charging network.
Slippery egg design makes it extremely good for reducing drag.
I am by no means a fanboy of Tesla. I disregard the social media flexing, the false promises made by the brand and hate the idea of autopilot. However, it is hard to dismiss all of these vehicles when they do daily, mundane motoring better than anything else. How hard is it to copy this? Probably as hard as making a copy of the iPhone. It's astonishing how this is so simple, yet too hard for any other automaker to get dead right. Tesla has bypassed nearly all of the complications that brands have to make this thing great. I don't want to buy one, I don't like Elon, I don't want to support a brand that can't get its shit together, but this is finally the David to beat the Goliath brands.
EVs would be better vehicles to live with if the owner base wasn't so obnoxious. They're completely legitimate vehicles for mobbing around the track in. Because Tesla is the only brand with a competent charging network, white flags will be raised for a lot of brands if they can make a vehicle under $30,000.
Right now, this exclusive club of owners that are all driving around the same car are in for a treat. Tesla needs to fix a lot of issues with the brand and to stop lying to customers. When Elon leaves the brand, I'll maybe consider buying one. For now, enjoy driving your car with a camera in the interior and don't let it explode.
If you're too afraid to make the jump or don't want to deal with fanboys, Toyota's hybrid technology is some of the best in the business. If you're made of money, Lucid has a lot of engineers that were once a part of Tesla and are fixing everything they did wrong with the Model S. Rivian answered the question of the electric truck, and so is Ford, so this year will be important for those brands, but they still lack a decent charging network.
EVs still have a long way to before we completely destroy the earth with waste that can't be disposed of. When we get there, I'll give in and can live with one of these everyday.
Don't try to charge at home, kids.
2021 Tesla Model 3