Is the Model 3 the eye-opening experience Tesla needs it to be?
COMPACT and practical, the 2020 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus is the latest EV (electric vehicle) being offered by the American technology giant, and it’s definitely an eye-opener.
This new model is Tesla’s most affordable to date, and keeps the comfort, practicality and design signature of the car’s bigger siblings, such as the Model S and Model X. It’s simply considerably more compact, but with a wheelbase just 100mm shorter than the Model S.
The 3 maintains that Tesla look, with the front grille closer to the base of the front bumper and with minimal vents along the front end of the car. This is all done for aerodynamics.
As a completely electric vehicle, the car design should be smooth and flow through the air to minimise power usage and maximise battery life, and range. For yours truly, being an EV virgin, it was a surreal experience getting into and experiencing it for the first time.
It’s nothing like getting behind the wheel of your conventional internal combustion engine vehicle. It looks and feels like a healthy and green option to motoring. But don’t let that sway you from considering it as your next car, the best is yet to come.
Our test vehicle came in a deep blue metallic (but you could opt for black, red or pearl white too). Unlike previous Tesla models though, there’s no key to open the doors; instead you are provided with a radio frequency identification card.
Think of it as being similar to a bank card or typical corporate ID pass. You scan it on the door pillar to lock and unlock the car, and it’s then conveniently placed on the centre console where the 3 will identify it, and unlock all the vehicle’s functions to you.
When Tesla has made you an account for their application, which you can download to your smartphone, you can login and pair the key to your app and your phone will function as the vehicle’s key. It’s seamless and lets you control vehicle functions via Bluetooth.
Both the boot and front trunk can be opened, the doors unlocked, and the charging port opened and closed. But the real winner is the ability to adjust in-car climate controls from the app. It truly is a technological masterpiece.
The door handles are pushed in on one end with the other end popping out, similar to that of Nissan’s GT-R. When you’ve gotten yourself comfortable in the cabin, you’re confronted with one of the most environmentally friendly cockpits you’ll ever experience.
The interior of the Model 3 is, as Tesla CEO Elon Musk has described, a leather-free environment, thanks to synthetic leather everything, including seats and the steering wheel; all part of a completely vegan route that Tesla has decidedly embarked upon.
Although synthetic and artificial, it feels and looks like real leather. The cabin is different to the Model S and X though. There’s no dash or head-up display, just a 15-inch tablet in the middle of the centre console.
This tablet is the brains of the operation. Almost everything aside from the drive train is controlled through it. Steering wheel and side mirror adjustments are controlled via two multipurpose joysticks on the steering wheel.
They serve a dual purpose though, as these are otherwise used for volume control or voice control. The drive stalk on the right hand side of the wheel controls your selected gear. The conventional reverse, neutral, drive and park are here.
The stalk on the left hand side controls your indicators and wipers. Between the vehicle’s dash and wood-grain accent is a vehicle-wide vent. Turning the air conditioning on activates the full length of the vent with adjustments made via the touchscreen.
Putting your foot on the brake pedal brings up an assortment of lights on the top right corner of the tablet indicating the equivalent of ignition on. After that, it’s simply a matter of moving the right stalk into gear, push the accelerator, and take off.
There is no need to turn the car on or off; a very surreal experience that will take some getting used to. As far as driving it goes, do not take the Model 3 lightly, because this car will move.
With both rear wheels powered by a single electric motor and the electric motor powered by Tesla’s new range of batteries, it is capable of 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds. The response and feel is amazing as the cars hums along the road.
It picks up speed as soon as you put your foot down and if you choose to not play any music while you drive, all you will hear is the tyres rolling along on the asphalt and little else.
The steering wheel is quite thick and chunky, but steering is responsive and direct with little to no play. Suspension is comfortable; not too soft, not too hard. The car travels over bumps and dips fairly smoothly too.
Tesla’s regenerative braking system kicks in as soon as you lift off the throttle. On the standard setting, it feels as if you’ve put the brakes on, but this can be toned down via the tablet. This system helps recharge the batteries when you’re not accelerating.
The cabin is spacious and there is sufficient leg room and toe room for all 5 seats. There are two ISOFIX child restraint anchor points to accommodate the rest of the family, and some hidden compartments in the centre console with very generous storage space.
There’s also a glove box, which is can be opened via the tablet. The boot offers 425-litres of storage too, plus an extra bit in a hidden compartment under the boot floor, plus there’s also room in the front trunk, or frunk as it’s been nicknamed.
With the push of a button on your phone, you can open the charging port, and plug your included power pack into a conventional wall socket. This charging method will charge approximately 10km of range per hour.
We charged our Model 3 from 56 per cent battery to 98 per cent in just over 12 hours. There are plenty of destination chargers too, while the Tesla superchargers will provide you with approximately 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes.
There are plenty of these spread out across the country, with more coming online all the time. Overall, the Model 3 serves as an excellent car with the latest in technological advancements.
It is brilliant to drive, environmentally friendly, has a 5-star ANCAP safety rating and with a drive away price of $74,471, is the most affordable model in the entire Tesla range. It’s definitely worth considering, especially given the minimal servicing costs.
Our test vehicle was provided by Tesla Australia. To find out more about the 2020 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus, contact your local Tesla dealer. Images courtesy of J_Hui Design/Photography. Article written by Paul Pascual from Exhaust Notes Australia.