A Tesla And Lake Tahoe Make A Sublime Pair
Learning to love electric cars in one of the best ways possible.
(Update 5/14/20: This article tells of events that occurred last October and was originally published in March; has been edited for republishing.)
Does boredom ever strike you to do something kind of irrational? Stupid question, of course it has. Same here. After a bit of chatting with my good friend, Alexia, eager to break the monotonous routine we had at our air base, Turo had graciously blessed us with a chariot in which we would unwind after a long week's work in the form of a Tesla Model 3.
I have never been the biggest fan of electric vehicles. As much as they have improved over the years, an enthusiast like me still clung to the notion that EVs were a tad dull, a window to a seemingly bleak future. Upon taking delivery of the Model 3 for the day, my prejudices immediately evaporated before even leaving the parking lot. Looking inside and out as I configured settings and loaded luggage showed me just how far we've come in design. Companies nowadays seem to want to be the most extravagantly-styled with their sharp angles, gaping grills, and fighter jet cockpit interiors. Not the Tesla. Everything is smooth. Everything is simple. The design is obviously modern, but not overwhelmingly so. The lack of an engine up front leads to a very low cowl that gives occupants inside an expansive outward view, the only clutter being the massive tablet for climate controls and infotainment. With its very inoffensive styling, the biggest indicators of it being an EV on the outside are the lack of a grille and exhaust outlets.
Tesla's nav uses Google Maps with traffic flow and a supercharger-locating function. Very cash money of them.
Having set off for the Tahoe mountains and onto Reno's freeways showcased what I now believe most EVs function best as: the ultimate daily drivers. Both trunk and frunk swallowed back packs with ease. The lack of power and drivetrain pieces to intrude inside leads to a very spacious cabin with an abundance of room for all your hipster-enviromentalist-vegan-yoga enthusiast friends. The cabin of the Model 3 is well-lit with expanses of glass including the gargantuan glass roof which does a commendable job of filtering out most of the sun's heat. The ride is supple and (surprise, surprise) very quiet. The only audible annoyance would be the mild tire noise which was easily drowned by Alexia's music. The infotainment worked great with endless functionality and gimmicky-but-fun features, although a separate display in front of the driver for your speed would be a very much welcome addition over gazing slightly over to the corner of the tablet. There is even a Tesla toy box function that can change the blinker clicks to configurable fart sounds. Outstanding use of R&D money, Elon. That's what the people really want.
No one suspects this small sedan with aero wheel covers to be any fast, but it assuredly is.
Abandoning the civilized freeway in favor of the mountain roads leading to Lake Tahoe showcased another EV perk that even the most brutish of supercharged V8s can't mimic: instantaneous, neck-breaking torque. Climbing the mountains yielded to no power loss at altitude, only more whiplash. While appearing like a base model, this car had the roughly $2,000 Performance software upgrade as evident by a red-underlined "Model 3" in the screen and a Track mode... Bold to assume anyone will set records in their most-likely leased Model 3, but it does amp up the acceleration considerably. A magazine-tested 3.5 second rip to 60 and 12.1 second 1/4-mile is absolutely believable with how rapid this car rockets out of corners. A Mercedes AMG GT S I had driven months prior, while it puts up similar performance, did not have anywhere near this level of violent immediacy. There is no build up or waiting for a power band; from 0 rpm, it's already in its power band. The thrust had both Alexia and I wide-eyed and giggling the entire run.
Even without the fully-fledged Performance trim's brakes, tires, and suspension, the low-slung battery pack helped the Model 3 corner with surprising grace. The steering, while kind of video-gamey and more devoid of life than a Nickelback concert, was well-weighted in Normal and Sport and proved pleasantly accurate. The big dynamic shortcoming here was merely the skinny all-seasons on the smaller base model wheels. Note that we weren't going anywhere near ten-tenths out of respect for the owner and the unwillingness to test our machismo on these tires.
As the fast esses and tight hairpins eventually carried us to the Tahoe lake front, I summoned the Tesla back to Comfort Mode to once again induldge in the easy, silent tranquility once again.
With the dual motors no longer on full boil, we began to waft along flowing lakeside roads soaking in all the views of a wilderness I never expected to find in this state having mostly grown up in southern Nevada. The stereo quietly playing Coldplay as the scent of pine entered the open windows and permeated the cabin. Sunlight flickered overhead as we passed under the massive trees. Lake Tahoe, with water clearer than glass, glistened in the sun like it was studded in diamonds. Even after miles of full throttle pulls and uphill climbs, the Model 3 had only drained half of its charge. We pulled over into a supercharger station in Incline Village where the Tesla replenished its battery, and we enjoyed espresso from a local coffee shop to replenish ours. With a renewed look at battery power, my gleeful colleague and I departed the charging station with well over 200 miles to drain and continued on our merry way towards to Virginia City and Route 341. At this point, our day was not even half over, yet I had already come to a conclusion.
Modern EVs may never capture the full experience of the rip-snorting gas cars we cling to so desperately, but they are not as drab as I initially believed either. With more work, EVs can very much be fun driving companions to at least accompany a gas burner in our garages. As a daily driver and short road trip car, EVs work impeccably well, and should be greatly considered for enthusiasts living in urban areas with developed supercharger networks. If a Tesla isn't your thing, consider a Hyundai Kona EV or a Ford Mach-E (which I admittedly like, but please, for the love of God, don't ever call it a Mustang). For maniacs who insist that every machine MUST have sporting intent regardless if it's daily driven or not, may I direct attention to the full-on Model 3 Performance, Model S P100D, or Porsche Taycan?
I still love my gas cars, and realistically speaking, a full electric car takeover is still a very long time away as city infrastructures work to keep up. Internal combustion will always be where the enthusiast's heart sits, but I can still glide along in this Tesla knowing the unstoppable advance of the auto industry doesn't always turn out to produce bad things. Now if only I can convince people the same of the Prius.