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A very long and picky Model 3 review

szif

New Member
Dec 23, 2018
3
30
Minnesota
The feeling waiting for my Model 3 to be delivered is hard to explain. I was excited to receive my first new car, much less a Tesla, but also a little nervous. With only an EV to get around, a lifestyle change was required. So with a mixture of trepidation and sheer joy, I read and watched anything I could find online about the Model 3.

I have never been into Top Gear or Youtube, and when I watched dozens of car reviews back-to-back, I noticed a couple things. First, the reviewer speaks in this halted, overly-emphatic style where it’s forbidden to take a breath after finishing a sentence. Second, they pretty much all say the same thing. Most were overwhelmingly positive, which I understand because test driving a Model 3 feels great. But now that I’ve put a few miles on my Model 3 there are certainly some negative aspects that take getting used to. Without further ado, my absurdly critical Model 3 review.


Background

I have driven a manual for the last 10 years and never thought I would give it up. My first stick was a 2004 Infiniti G35 6MT; my first love you could say. What an amazing car... for California. When I moved to Minnesota, don’t ask, that low-clearance RWD turned out to be a nightmare. Thus, I turned to AWD and found a 2009 BMW 335i xDrive.

This was another great machine and man did it handle deep snow. After getting stuck so many times in my G35 I had an almost perverse, Bear Grylls-like desire to charge into deep snow and survive to tell the tale. My favorite thing to do was wake up early after heavy snow storms to drive like an asshole on empty, unplowed roads. To BMW’s credit, I always made it home. I loved that car, but after a few years it just got boring. The hunt was on again.

I’ve had a thing for Audis since I got to drive my girlfriend’s A4 in college. Unfortunately, she was in the shop every three weeks for electrical repairs, but it still maintained a certain appeal to me over the years. I had read that the reliability of recent Audis had vastly improved and ended up finding a 2013 S4 on the private market. Fire-engine red and fully loaded, I’m not sure if there is a nicer car for the money.

Like the 335i, the S4 was a monster in the snow. Unlike the 335i, it had mechanical AWD and a sport differential. When I lost control in the 335i it would slowly glide to a stop, like an angel gracefully carrying me down from heaven. When I lost control in the S4, holy *sugar*. I’ve never ridden a bull, but I can imagine the feeling is similar: hold on for dear life. When you do a 360 on a residential street, you’ll know what I mean. Of course, this only happened with traction control disabled. A 6-speed manual with insane AWD and 350hp seemed like the perfect car, but still I found myself wanting more.

One of the wonderful things about the 2013 S4 is it comes with a supercharger instead of the more common turbo. For the most part this means more low-end torque than a typical sports sedan. It also means you can modify the pulleys and belts for more boost. A moderate upgrade can result in 75 extra hp and more fantastic low-end torque. Compared to other performance upgrades it was also relatively affordable. I worked with a local shop to install and tune the belt/pulley upgrade and my S4 was now conservatively pushing 420hp with similar torque. As I quickly found out, the stock clutch could not handle the torque and the engine would shoot up in RPMs as the clutch slipped. I learned the lesson that most modders have: the powertrain is only as strong as its weakest link. Back to the interwebs to search for a new clutch.

I bought a stage 3 clutch with single mass flywheel because video games. The idea of my engine revving up and down quickly was an exciting idea, less so in practice. I don’t know why, but unless I engaged just right into first gear, my car shook violently. It reminded me of playing Dark Souls, the stupidly difficult, best-ever video game. Engaging first gear was like a boss fight in Dark Souls, and like boss fights in Dark Souls, usually ended poorly. When done perfectly it felt great but combining a very sensitive throttle response and bumpy Minnesota roads my car would often lurch forward like a teenager learning how to drive a stick. Once I got past first gear it was buttery heaven. At first I blamed my own driving ability and joked with friends that my fast car didn’t like going slow, but the frustration took its toll to the point where I dreaded coming to a complete stop. The clutches in my G35 and 335i were not perfect, too stiff and too mushy respectively, but this was more than I could handle as a daily driver. Enter the Model 3…

This may be the longest review so far that doesn’t mention the car being reviewed, so I applaud you if you are still reading this. I love the Model 3, but there are absolutely some disappointing aspects, especially coming from driving an Audi. I’ve been fortunate to own three fantastic automobiles, but each one did some things better than others. The Model 3 is no exception.

My Model 3 Configuration:

Dual Motor AWD
Enhanced Autopilot
Black
18” wheels (hubcaps removed)


Sales Process

The Model 3 had amassed a cult-like following by the time it was announced, but I barely paid attention. As fun as Teslas were, I sometimes drove my parents Model S when I visited, I wasn’t interested in a new car. Nonetheless, like any self-respecting nerd I was generally aware of the pre-order volume, production issues, and quality problems of the first models. When I finally decided to look for a new car, I knew I wanted an EV, but that was about it. I looked online at available EVs and was immediately struck by the common styling. Most models had a droopy look in front, like a toy car that was left too close to the heater. The EV-only models (Bolt, Leaf, I3) were especially off-putting with bold style choices that were not as attractive as they were just different. Then I saw the Model 3. “Hmm, that doesn’t look terrible,” I thought as I looked up the nearest dealership, er, store.

It was definitely not the traditional dealership experience. The showroom was nice, but cozy, and would get cramped quickly with more than a handful of customers milling about. The staff was attentive and prompt and immediately set me up with someone to answer my questions. The gentleman was very nice but had only worked there for a few weeks and struggled to answer my pointed questions. But I could really look all that up online, I really just wanted to see how it drove. Sorry, they don’t do same day test drives I was told, but they could squeeze me in tomorrow. Perfect.

The sales staff at the Tesla store don’t try very hard, and they don’t need to. The cars sell themselves. I quickly adjusted to the lack of gauges, buttons, and other oddities that are jarring to others. The S4 had an amazing interior with the quality, layout, and materials all being exceptional. “Those are the fastest seats I’ve ever seen,” said one friend. The Model 3 interior is… nice. I like the symmetry and minimalist styling. Audi it is not. The wood piece across the dash is not finely sanded and polished like any other car, and I love it. The wood has beautiful grain you can actually feel, and it almost seems like an anachronism in this car of the future. Besides the steering wheel and control tablet, that is about it for the dashboard.

The acceleration is hard to describe for anyone who has not driven an EV. I liken it to driving around in the S4 hovering around 4500 RPMs, but even that comparison doesn’t give the EV instant torque justice. The Model 3 is fast and surprisingly smooth from a dead stop, and the acceleration at higher speeds is unreal. I floored it once on the freeway and was sold.

After options my configuration came to a cool $59,500 plus taxes and fees. If you think I’m being unfair comparing the Model 3 to Audi, arguably the class leader in interiors, please keep in mind that my S4 was only $56,000 when new. Yes, I spent a considerable amount for the dual motor and autopilot options, but when I spend $60k on a car I have similar expectations no matter what logo is on the front.

To help soften the financial blow, I traded in both my gas guzzlers. The first trade-in was spectacularly easy to complete and took less than 20 minutes online. The second trade-in, or “pre-trade” as they called it, was not. Only one car can be traded-in online, the pre-trade must be done via old fashioned paperwork. Paperwork that apparently no one at the dealership, er, store was prepared to deal with. I’ll spare the details, but it took many store visits, paperwork redoes, and calls to Tesla corporate to complete the process. Now that I’ve signed away the title, I’m waiting for a check to come in the mail for the value of my second car. That’s right, Tesla will not discount the value of the second trade-in off the price of the Model 3, they send a check instead. Or from one perspective, I’m loaning them a few thousand dollars for 6-8 weeks. I sure hope the check comes, but to be honest at this point I would not be entirely surprised if it doesn’t.

The delivery itself was painless. The Tesla reps dropped off my new car and showed me everything I had already seen in online reviews. I signed a few documents and they were driving away in my precious S4 in less than 15 minutes. Tesla reps, if you are reading this can you please send back my garage door opener?


The Sounds of Silence

“Wow, it’s so silent,” said everyone ever after riding in a Tesla for the first time. What I noticed first was the lack of vibration, the steady caress of a gas engine saying, “Hey, I’m right here.” At first, it was difficult to tell when the Tesla was on. That passed quickly; it’s always on. Even when you’re not around, it will wake up to requests from the phone app. I never could put a remote starter in a manual, so I absolutely love being able to warm my car before I get in. One thing that surprised me was how loud the vents were. For such a new and advanced system with touch screen controls, I did not expect it to sound like the vents in my 91 Honda Accord. I could also hear the tires turn and brakes activate, but I was used to that from my parents’ Model S.

It wasn’t until I hit the rough roads that I heard the rattling. On smooth asphalt, everything sounded great. I did not have any of the panel fit issues I had read about, and wind noise was lower than I expected. But the rattling...

A good friend and talented software engineer once told me that with technology you don’t remove bottlenecks, you just move them. The same can be said of rattles in the Model 3. Once I found and fixed the loudest rattle, I could then hear the next loudest rattle and the game of whack-a-mole began. I’ve been using friction tape and felt furniture feet for spacers until I have time to take my car in for service. Only one of the rattles I attribute to quality issues, the rest seem like they’d be in any other car but muffled by the noise of the engine. There is a reason white noise helps people sleep, and such is the cost of silence.

It is also worth noting that with the premium sound system compression in streaming music is audible, even with Spotify set to “Extreme” quality (320kbps). This was something I never heard in an ICE car. I’ll have to try the lossless audio, but let’s be honest downloading audio files onto a USB drive is a pain. Streaming is the only way I roll and this is the first time I’ve considered signing up for Tidal.

The best thing about the quietness of the Model 3 is hearing that sweet, sweet whirr of the electric motor spinning up. I love the sounds of superchargers and turbos spooling up, but this is even better.


Acceleration and Braking

Tesla introduced one-pedal driving to the mass market, and despite it taking some time to get used to, I am a huge fan. I often used engine braking on my manuals so I’m familiar with the concept, but the power of regenerative braking takes one-pedal driving to a new level. Maybe this is why Tesla decided to save costs on the physical brakes.

The problem with regenerative breaking (or feature?) is it doesn’t bring the car to a complete stop. On my first day driving the Model 3 I approached traffic stopped at a red light and lifted my foot off the accelerator to slow down. The car promptly slowed down to approach the stopped cars at 5mph. I eased my foot onto the brake pedal and… nothing happened. Starting to panic, I slammed my foot down and my Model 3 eventually stopped. But it wasn’t immediate, even after applying full force to the pedal. I’m not looking forward to the day I must use the brakes in a real emergency.
Braking is especially important in a car that accelerates this quickly. Clearly Tesla is aware of this and provided better brakes on the Performance model, but braking ability equates to safety and skimping on safety is disappointing.

The acceleration is fantastic, nuff said. One thing to note is the accelerator pedal requires a good amount of force to depress. The pedal needs to be stiff because the damn thing is so responsive. Less resistance would cause Model 3s to rocket off the line much faster than intended. The trade-off is felt on long trips; my foot became strained after long distances. Thankfully auto-pilot and traffic-aware cruise control make this a non-issue.


Handling

The best word to describe the Model 3’s handling is unnatural, not necessarily in a good way. The steering wheel is shockingly responsive, and the car starts to turn almost as soon as you think about turning. Then the fight begins. For some reason this car doesn’t want to turn and I find myself struggling to get it around corners. Comparatively the S4 took a moment to realize I was turning, but then the sport differential kicked in and the car cornered like a dream.

The body roll on the Model 3 is almost non-existent so I must contort just a bit more to handle the G forces of cornering. The seats are supportive, but not as supportive as Audi’s (are you getting tired of hearing that yet?) and there is not a good spot to brace my knees. I find myself lurching around the cockpit like the cast in the original Star Trek when they were under attack.

Once I get past all that, the car is damn fun around corners. One review I saw mentioned that the Model 3’s suspension puts more emphasis on the tires, and that point resonates with me. The Model 3 comes with generic all-season tires and the grip is not great. This is especially noticeable when cornering on uneven surfaces. However, traction control compensates well, and I never feel unsafe. I will have to wait a few months to throw on some proper tires and give it another go.


Distractions

Anyone who thinks having all controls in a single interface is not distracting is fooling themselves. Yes, Tesla continues to release software updates to add more functionality to the soft controls on the steering wheel, but it would be nice to have additional user-mapped soft buttons. For example, I often switch between standard and chill acceleration. In the current software (V9) I must tap the car icon, then tap “Driving”, find my option in a list, and tap again it to toggle. On top of that, it takes a certain amount of focus to tap the screen in the right spot. This process takes me 3-5 seconds to complete, time I am not looking directly at the road.

Using autopilot for the first time is an intense experience. You must let go and give control to the machine; it’s almost a Tyler Durden moment. But a few hours of using autopilot lulls you into a sense of complacency. It works great, until it doesn’t, which makes paying attention important. Even knowing that, it is easy to stare off into the distance and contemplate the EV-filled future. Additionally, there are drivers that will try to make use of that extra time. “Wow, it must be so easy to use your phone,” said one friend after seeing autopilot in action. Yikes, I’m a little scared of that EV-filled future. Good thing the hood of the Model 3 is essentially a giant shock absorber.


Interior

The quality of materials in the Model 3 meets expectations. I’m not sure what Vegan Leather is but I give credit to the marketing person that came up with the name; another reminder of how we are saving the world by buying a Tesla. The material on the doors (also Vegan Leather?) is pliable and feels good to the touch. Why? I have a dog and she needs to ride in my car. It took exactly 5 minutes for her nails to leave permanent marks in the door material. I accept responsibility for the damage, but anything hard or pointy that hits the door with force will leave a mark. This was never a problem in the BMW or Audi.

There are many aftermarket LEDs available for the Model 3 because the interior lighting is quite poor. It’s especially bad in the trunk; good luck trying to find anything in there at night. Color LEDs for the doors and floor wells look great, but it’s difficult to replace the lights above the center console. I’ll have to get creative with those. One thing to note is the puddle light wire was bent in just a way that it shot into the door assembly after detaching. It took 20 minutes of finger spelunking to pull it out again. The other LEDs were fairly easy to replace.

The piano gloss black console is something all reviews mention. It's as bad as they say, but there are vinyl wraps available online to fix that. Other than that the interior is nice and sleek. Nicer than I expected, to be honest.


Owning an EV

I enjoy the act of plugging in my car much more than I thought I would. It just feels cool, and it’s hard to deny this car is special. The battery icon on the display reinforces that feeling. I use the “Energy” display option, because “Distance” is useless. Distance assumes 250 watts per mile which is hard to hit precisely in the real world. The range approximator on the energy app is a more accurate measure of capacity.

Range anxiety kicks in the moment the state of charge drops one percent. “Oh no,” I think, “I didn’t get very far.. am I going to make it back?” Yes. Easily. I limit SoC at 80% like most people and make it back home with 30-50% to spare after a hard day of driving. It is stunning to see how little energy is used running around town, especially in chill mode. Most of that energy was used going high speed on the freeway. The newer 240v adapter that comes with the Model 3 doesn't charge as fast as I would like, but I understand the old adapters used to melt, so I'm OK with that. Be prepared to spend $1000-2000 on a 240v outlet as charging from a standard outlet is ridiculously slow.

The loss of range in the winter is pronounced, but I knew that going in, and a large battery is a necessity in cold climates. My highly scientific tests put the loss when below freezing at 20-25%, but I would like to note that is with the hubcaps removed. I’m curious to see the impact when the temperature sinks below 0. Thankfully I can test that in Minnesota.

I have yet to receive my first energy bill since I received my Model 3, but I don’t anticipate much of a change as energy is cheap here. Coal is also the primary source of energy in Minnesota, but what can you do. I am reassured by the fact that an electric motor is three times more efficient than an ICE, or so I read somewhere. Unlike many Tesla owners, I was attracted to EVs primarily by the torquey motor, not the lack of emissions, but it does makes me feel proud knowing that my carbon footprint is lower. Plus, it’s fun to look down on Prius owners for a change.


Conclusion

I love the Model 3 and while there are some things I miss in the Audi, the pros greatly outweigh the cons. This is an amazing car and I’ve never smiled so much while driving. My face is literally sore from grinning, how often does that happen? If you’re interested in EVs, or even just curious, just go test drive a Model 3. You’ll be glad you did.
 

Jaywlker

Former Vendor
Nov 8, 2018
287
163
North Scottsdale
The feeling waiting for my Model 3 to be delivered is hard to explain. I was excited to receive my first new car, much less a Tesla, but also a little nervous. With only an EV to get around, a lifestyle change was required. So with a mixture of trepidation and sheer joy, I read and watched anything I could find online about the Model 3.

I have never been into Top Gear or Youtube, and when I watched dozens of car reviews back-to-back, I noticed a couple things. First, the reviewer speaks in this halted, overly-emphatic style where it’s forbidden to take a breath after finishing a sentence. Second, they pretty much all say the same thing. Most were overwhelmingly positive, which I understand because test driving a Model 3 feels great. But now that I’ve put a few miles on my Model 3 there are certainly some negative aspects that take getting used to. Without further ado, my absurdly critical Model 3 review.


Background

I have driven a manual for the last 10 years and never thought I would give it up. My first stick was a 2004 Infiniti G35 6MT; my first love you could say. What an amazing car... for California. When I moved to Minnesota, don’t ask, that low-clearance RWD turned out to be a nightmare. Thus, I turned to AWD and found a 2009 BMW 335i xDrive.

This was another great machine and man did it handle deep snow. After getting stuck so many times in my G35 I had an almost perverse, Bear Grylls-like desire to charge into deep snow and survive to tell the tale. My favorite thing to do was wake up early after heavy snow storms to drive like an asshole on empty, unplowed roads. To BMW’s credit, I always made it home. I loved that car, but after a few years it just got boring. The hunt was on again.

I’ve had a thing for Audis since I got to drive my girlfriend’s A4 in college. Unfortunately, she was in the shop every three weeks for electrical repairs, but it still maintained a certain appeal to me over the years. I had read that the reliability of recent Audis had vastly improved and ended up finding a 2013 S4 on the private market. Fire-engine red and fully loaded, I’m not sure if there is a nicer car for the money.

Like the 335i, the S4 was a monster in the snow. Unlike the 335i, it had mechanical AWD and a sport differential. When I lost control in the 335i it would slowly glide to a stop, like an angel gracefully carrying me down from heaven. When I lost control in the S4, holy *sugar*. I’ve never ridden a bull, but I can imagine the feeling is similar: hold on for dear life. When you do a 360 on a residential street, you’ll know what I mean. Of course, this only happened with traction control disabled. A 6-speed manual with insane AWD and 350hp seemed like the perfect car, but still I found myself wanting more.

One of the wonderful things about the 2013 S4 is it comes with a supercharger instead of the more common turbo. For the most part this means more low-end torque than a typical sports sedan. It also means you can modify the pulleys and belts for more boost. A moderate upgrade can result in 75 extra hp and more fantastic low-end torque. Compared to other performance upgrades it was also relatively affordable. I worked with a local shop to install and tune the belt/pulley upgrade and my S4 was now conservatively pushing 420hp with similar torque. As I quickly found out, the stock clutch could not handle the torque and the engine would shoot up in RPMs as the clutch slipped. I learned the lesson that most modders have: the powertrain is only as strong as its weakest link. Back to the interwebs to search for a new clutch.

I bought a stage 3 clutch with single mass flywheel because video games. The idea of my engine revving up and down quickly was an exciting idea, less so in practice. I don’t know why, but unless I engaged just right into first gear, my car shook violently. It reminded me of playing Dark Souls, the stupidly difficult, best-ever video game. Engaging first gear was like a boss fight in Dark Souls, and like boss fights in Dark Souls, usually ended poorly. When done perfectly it felt great but combining a very sensitive throttle response and bumpy Minnesota roads my car would often lurch forward like a teenager learning how to drive a stick. Once I got past first gear it was buttery heaven. At first I blamed my own driving ability and joked with friends that my fast car didn’t like going slow, but the frustration took its toll to the point where I dreaded coming to a complete stop. The clutches in my G35 and 335i were not perfect, too stiff and too mushy respectively, but this was more than I could handle as a daily driver. Enter the Model 3…

This may be the longest review so far that doesn’t mention the car being reviewed, so I applaud you if you are still reading this. I love the Model 3, but there are absolutely some disappointing aspects, especially coming from driving an Audi. I’ve been fortunate to own three fantastic automobiles, but each one did some things better than others. The Model 3 is no exception.

My Model 3 Configuration:

Dual Motor AWD
Enhanced Autopilot
Black
18” wheels (hubcaps removed)


Sales Process

The Model 3 had amassed a cult-like following by the time it was announced, but I barely paid attention. As fun as Teslas were, I sometimes drove my parents Model S when I visited, I wasn’t interested in a new car. Nonetheless, like any self-respecting nerd I was generally aware of the pre-order volume, production issues, and quality problems of the first models. When I finally decided to look for a new car, I knew I wanted an EV, but that was about it. I looked online at available EVs and was immediately struck by the common styling. Most models had a droopy look in front, like a toy car that was left too close to the heater. The EV-only models (Bolt, Leaf, I3) were especially off-putting with bold style choices that were not as attractive as they were just different. Then I saw the Model 3. “Hmm, that doesn’t look terrible,” I thought as I looked up the nearest dealership, er, store.

It was definitely not the traditional dealership experience. The showroom was nice, but cozy, and would get cramped quickly with more than a handful of customers milling about. The staff was attentive and prompt and immediately set me up with someone to answer my questions. The gentleman was very nice but had only worked there for a few weeks and struggled to answer my pointed questions. But I could really look all that up online, I really just wanted to see how it drove. Sorry, they don’t do same day test drives I was told, but they could squeeze me in tomorrow. Perfect.

The sales staff at the Tesla store don’t try very hard, and they don’t need to. The cars sell themselves. I quickly adjusted to the lack of gauges, buttons, and other oddities that are jarring to others. The S4 had an amazing interior with the quality, layout, and materials all being exceptional. “Those are the fastest seats I’ve ever seen,” said one friend. The Model 3 interior is… nice. I like the symmetry and minimalist styling. Audi it is not. The wood piece across the dash is not finely sanded and polished like any other car, and I love it. The wood has beautiful grain you can actually feel, and it almost seems like an anachronism in this car of the future. Besides the steering wheel and control tablet, that is about it for the dashboard.

The acceleration is hard to describe for anyone who has not driven an EV. I liken it to driving around in the S4 hovering around 4500 RPMs, but even that comparison doesn’t give the EV instant torque justice. The Model 3 is fast and surprisingly smooth from a dead stop, and the acceleration at higher speeds is unreal. I floored it once on the freeway and was sold.

After options my configuration came to a cool $59,500 plus taxes and fees. If you think I’m being unfair comparing the Model 3 to Audi, arguably the class leader in interiors, please keep in mind that my S4 was only $56,000 when new. Yes, I spent a considerable amount for the dual motor and autopilot options, but when I spend $60k on a car I have similar expectations no matter what logo is on the front.

To help soften the financial blow, I traded in both my gas guzzlers. The first trade-in was spectacularly easy to complete and took less than 20 minutes online. The second trade-in, or “pre-trade” as they called it, was not. Only one car can be traded-in online, the pre-trade must be done via old fashioned paperwork. Paperwork that apparently no one at the dealership, er, store was prepared to deal with. I’ll spare the details, but it took many store visits, paperwork redoes, and calls to Tesla corporate to complete the process. Now that I’ve signed away the title, I’m waiting for a check to come in the mail for the value of my second car. That’s right, Tesla will not discount the value of the second trade-in off the price of the Model 3, they send a check instead. Or from one perspective, I’m loaning them a few thousand dollars for 6-8 weeks. I sure hope the check comes, but to be honest at this point I would not be entirely surprised if it doesn’t.

The delivery itself was painless. The Tesla reps dropped off my new car and showed me everything I had already seen in online reviews. I signed a few documents and they were driving away in my precious S4 in less than 15 minutes. Tesla reps, if you are reading this can you please send back my garage door opener?


The Sounds of Silence

“Wow, it’s so silent,” said everyone ever after riding in a Tesla for the first time. What I noticed first was the lack of vibration, the steady caress of a gas engine saying, “Hey, I’m right here.” At first, it was difficult to tell when the Tesla was on. That passed quickly; it’s always on. Even when you’re not around, it will wake up to requests from the phone app. I never could put a remote starter in a manual, so I absolutely love being able to warm my car before I get in. One thing that surprised me was how loud the vents were. For such a new and advanced system with touch screen controls, I did not expect it to sound like the vents in my 91 Honda Accord. I could also hear the tires turn and brakes activate, but I was used to that from my parents’ Model S.

It wasn’t until I hit the rough roads that I heard the rattling. On smooth asphalt, everything sounded great. I did not have any of the panel fit issues I had read about, and wind noise was lower than I expected. But the rattling...

A good friend and talented software engineer once told me that with technology you don’t remove bottlenecks, you just move them. The same can be said of rattles in the Model 3. Once I found and fixed the loudest rattle, I could then hear the next loudest rattle and the game of whack-a-mole began. I’ve been using friction tape and felt furniture feet for spacers until I have time to take my car in for service. Only one of the rattles I attribute to quality issues, the rest seem like they’d be in any other car but muffled by the noise of the engine. There is a reason white noise helps people sleep, and such is the cost of silence.

It is also worth noting that with the premium sound system compression in streaming music is audible, even with Spotify set to “Extreme” quality (320kbps). This was something I never heard in an ICE car. I’ll have to try the lossless audio, but let’s be honest downloading audio files onto a USB drive is a pain. Streaming is the only way I roll and this is the first time I’ve considered signing up for Tidal.

The best thing about the quietness of the Model 3 is hearing that sweet, sweet whirr of the electric motor spinning up. I love the sounds of superchargers and turbos spooling up, but this is even better.


Acceleration and Braking

Tesla introduced one-pedal driving to the mass market, and despite it taking some time to get used to, I am a huge fan. I often used engine braking on my manuals so I’m familiar with the concept, but the power of regenerative braking takes one-pedal driving to a new level. Maybe this is why Tesla decided to save costs on the physical brakes.

The problem with regenerative breaking (or feature?) is it doesn’t bring the car to a complete stop. On my first day driving the Model 3 I approached traffic stopped at a red light and lifted my foot off the accelerator to slow down. The car promptly slowed down to approach the stopped cars at 5mph. I eased my foot onto the brake pedal and… nothing happened. Starting to panic, I slammed my foot down and my Model 3 eventually stopped. But it wasn’t immediate, even after applying full force to the pedal. I’m not looking forward to the day I must use the brakes in a real emergency.
Braking is especially important in a car that accelerates this quickly. Clearly Tesla is aware of this and provided better brakes on the Performance model, but braking ability equates to safety and skimping on safety is disappointing.

The acceleration is fantastic, nuff said. One thing to note is the accelerator pedal requires a good amount of force to depress. The pedal needs to be stiff because the damn thing is so responsive. Less resistance would cause Model 3s to rocket off the line much faster than intended. The trade-off is felt on long trips; my foot became strained after long distances. Thankfully auto-pilot and traffic-aware cruise control make this a non-issue.


Handling

The best word to describe the Model 3’s handling is unnatural, not necessarily in a good way. The steering wheel is shockingly responsive, and the car starts to turn almost as soon as you think about turning. Then the fight begins. For some reason this car doesn’t want to turn and I find myself struggling to get it around corners. Comparatively the S4 took a moment to realize I was turning, but then the sport differential kicked in and the car cornered like a dream.

The body roll on the Model 3 is almost non-existent so I must contort just a bit more to handle the G forces of cornering. The seats are supportive, but not as supportive as Audi’s (are you getting tired of hearing that yet?) and there is not a good spot to brace my knees. I find myself lurching around the cockpit like the cast in the original Star Trek when they were under attack.

Once I get past all that, the car is damn fun around corners. One review I saw mentioned that the Model 3’s suspension puts more emphasis on the tires, and that point resonates with me. The Model 3 comes with generic all-season tires and the grip is not great. This is especially noticeable when cornering on uneven surfaces. However, traction control compensates well, and I never feel unsafe. I will have to wait a few months to throw on some proper tires and give it another go.


Distractions

Anyone who thinks having all controls in a single interface is not distracting is fooling themselves. Yes, Tesla continues to release software updates to add more functionality to the soft controls on the steering wheel, but it would be nice to have additional user-mapped soft buttons. For example, I often switch between standard and chill acceleration. In the current software (V9) I must tap the car icon, then tap “Driving”, find my option in a list, and tap again it to toggle. On top of that, it takes a certain amount of focus to tap the screen in the right spot. This process takes me 3-5 seconds to complete, time I am not looking directly at the road.

Using autopilot for the first time is an intense experience. You must let go and give control to the machine; it’s almost a Tyler Durden moment. But a few hours of using autopilot lulls you into a sense of complacency. It works great, until it doesn’t, which makes paying attention important. Even knowing that, it is easy to stare off into the distance and contemplate the EV-filled future. Additionally, there are drivers that will try to make use of that extra time. “Wow, it must be so easy to use your phone,” said one friend after seeing autopilot in action. Yikes, I’m a little scared of that EV-filled future. Good thing the hood of the Model 3 is essentially a giant shock absorber.


Interior

The quality of materials in the Model 3 meets expectations. I’m not sure what Vegan Leather is but I give credit to the marketing person that came up with the name; another reminder of how we are saving the world by buying a Tesla. The material on the doors (also Vegan Leather?) is pliable and feels good to the touch. Why? I have a dog and she needs to ride in my car. It took exactly 5 minutes for her nails to leave permanent marks in the door material. I accept responsibility for the damage, but anything hard or pointy that hits the door with force will leave a mark. This was never a problem in the BMW or Audi.

There are many aftermarket LEDs available for the Model 3 because the interior lighting is quite poor. It’s especially bad in the trunk; good luck trying to find anything in there at night. Color LEDs for the doors and floor wells look great, but it’s difficult to replace the lights above the center console. I’ll have to get creative with those. One thing to note is the puddle light wire was bent in just a way that it shot into the door assembly after detaching. It took 20 minutes of finger spelunking to pull it out again. The other LEDs were fairly easy to replace.

The piano gloss black console is something all reviews mention. It's as bad as they say, but there are vinyl wraps available online to fix that. Other than that the interior is nice and sleek. Nicer than I expected, to be honest.


Owning an EV

I enjoy the act of plugging in my car much more than I thought I would. It just feels cool, and it’s hard to deny this car is special. The battery icon on the display reinforces that feeling. I use the “Energy” display option, because “Distance” is useless. Distance assumes 250 watts per mile which is hard to hit precisely in the real world. The range approximator on the energy app is a more accurate measure of capacity.

Range anxiety kicks in the moment the state of charge drops one percent. “Oh no,” I think, “I didn’t get very far.. am I going to make it back?” Yes. Easily. I limit SoC at 80% like most people and make it back home with 30-50% to spare after a hard day of driving. It is stunning to see how little energy is used running around town, especially in chill mode. Most of that energy was used going high speed on the freeway. The newer 240v adapter that comes with the Model 3 doesn't charge as fast as I would like, but I understand the old adapters used to melt, so I'm OK with that. Be prepared to spend $1000-2000 on a 240v outlet as charging from a standard outlet is ridiculously slow.

The loss of range in the winter is pronounced, but I knew that going in, and a large battery is a necessity in cold climates. My highly scientific tests put the loss when below freezing at 20-25%, but I would like to note that is with the hubcaps removed. I’m curious to see the impact when the temperature sinks below 0. Thankfully I can test that in Minnesota.

I have yet to receive my first energy bill since I received my Model 3, but I don’t anticipate much of a change as energy is cheap here. Coal is also the primary source of energy in Minnesota, but what can you do. I am reassured by the fact that an electric motor is three times more efficient than an ICE, or so I read somewhere. Unlike many Tesla owners, I was attracted to EVs primarily by the torquey motor, not the lack of emissions, but it does makes me feel proud knowing that my carbon footprint is lower. Plus, it’s fun to look down on Prius owners for a change.


Conclusion

I love the Model 3 and while there are some things I miss in the Audi, the pros greatly outweigh the cons. This is an amazing car and I’ve never smiled so much while driving. My face is literally sore from grinning, how often does that happen? If you’re interested in EVs, or even just curious, just go test drive a Model 3. You’ll be glad you did.

My prior car was a 2002 Ford Escape with 220,000 miles, a rebuilt engine, trannie, and after-market suspension that I used as a daily driver and for hunting trips. I’ve gone from the Flintstones to the Jetsons, lol. Great review, Szif!!
 
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Matt L

Active Member
Jul 20, 2018
1,050
1,446
OK USA
I always find comparisons to other cars based on single attribute to be humorous. The fact that your Audi and the M3 were both $60k cars and therefor the M3 should be able to match Audi’s acknowledged strength with interiors, represents a failure of logic.

So should every $60k get 110mpg? Obviously not but you see what happens when you compare based on a single attribute?

BL: manufactures make choices that give them advantages, so cars will all have their strengths and weakness.
 

lolder

Member
Jun 11, 2016
894
679
SW Florida
I don't understand your description of nothing happening when you moved your foot to the brake pedal, panicking and jamming the brake pedal and stopping eventually. If that occurred something is wrong with your car. My car stops instantly. I hope my RWD LR insurance rates are not going to skyrocket due to testosterone overloaded owners.
 

SMAlset

Well-Known Member
Mar 4, 2017
9,060
9,783
SF Bay Area
Interesting read. I BTW don't have any issues with my car feeling like it's fighting to turn (AWD, 19inch sport wheels, OEM all weather tires). Might want to mention that to service. Do you have snow tires on and maybe that's affecting the feel?

As for switching between different settings, don't know since I don't feel the need to change my setup so much on the fly, but could you set up different profiles for you that would retain the different settings?

My brakes work fine at stop lights in a reasonable response time/distance. You will want to use your brakes occasionally to keep them grippy especially if you use regen all the time. Also wet conditions can affect them if not used much.

Glad you like the car. Really happy with mine.
 
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VT_EE

Active Member
Apr 22, 2017
2,026
2,423
Maryland
I’m going to assume you are either an English or journalism major based on your writing skills. No way are you a computer scientist or engineer :-D. I loved the write-up and appreciate objective reviews. One thing: get the brakes checked if you’re still having to push on them with excessive force. My 3’s brakes work fine.
 

ewoodrick

Well-Known Member
Apr 13, 2018
5,285
3,730
Buford, GA
Tesla is far from being the one who introduced one-pedal driving to the masses. Mainly because Tesla doesn't even have it. And regen braking was really introduced by the Volt, Leaf, and Bolt, the first EVs for the masses.
The 2018 Leaf actually does have one-pedal driving. The brake is only needed for really fast stops.

The Tesla required lifestyle changes? If you mean never going to the gas station, then sure. If you mean plugging in at home, then sure. But I've got two EVs and don't have any problem with travelling. I've taken the car places where most people wouldn't take their ICE and paid $36 on a 1800 mile trip.
 

szif

New Member
Dec 23, 2018
3
30
Minnesota
I don't understand your description of nothing happening when you moved your foot to the brake pedal, panicking and jamming the brake pedal and stopping eventually. If that occurred something is wrong with your car. My car stops instantly. I hope my RWD LR insurance rates are not going to skyrocket due to testosterone overloaded owners.

I would like to clarify that this was a tongue-in-cheek comment. Yes, the brakes work but it require a significant amount of travel and force compared to my, ahem, S4 which would stop the car instantly if I looked at them funny.

Thank you everyone for the kind words.
 
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MMBTUS

Member
Sep 12, 2018
180
153
Palm Beach County Florida
Let me add my compliments.

When I have to brake hard — to react to a yellow light for example when I want to be a good boy and no one is behind me — and regen has not kicked in fully, the brakes just seem to be less effective. More effort required and longer stopping distances than normal. But normal means applying the brakes at 4mph. Maybe I’m spoiled. I sense some interplay between regen and braking force beyond my slight technical understanding.

I have to gently disagree with you about the MCU. Just replaced my wife’s SUV with an ICE (I promise my last) with many high tech features. Controls are a freakin nightmare. I am just astonished again at how much easier and intuitive Tesla’s touchscreen design is. Yes, streamlining refinements to the firmware are welcome, but it’s a night and day contrast in complexity and button profusion between the M3 and what European OEMs consider state of the art. Elon got this design right by a mile. I love it more each day. And the whirr.

My streamlining wish list includes self-unfolding mirrors when exiting garage. Or in drive at 10 mph, not 30.
 

caskater47

Member
Oct 20, 2018
442
244
Los Angeles, CA
I also came from an Audi S4. A 2006 to be exact with the 340hp V8 engine. I know what you mean about the difference in drive feel with my P3D but I think most of that really comes down to the wheels and tires. The stock all seasons are super squishy compared to my S4s Pilot Super Sports. When I initially swapped the stock wheels of my S4 for some ultra lightweight wheels the car felt significantly more agile and secure around the corners. I look forward to swapping them with some Pilot SP4s and lightweight wheels in the coming months. I have no doubt it will be just as transformative with the Model 3 at it was with my S4.
 
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caskater47

Member
Oct 20, 2018
442
244
Los Angeles, CA
The piano gloss black console is something all reviews mention. It's as bad as they say, but there are vinyl wraps available online to fix that. Other than that the interior is nice and sleek. Nicer than I expected, to be honest.

One thing I love about my S4 is the 100% real carbon fiber trim. So I opted for the same thing in the P3D instead of simple vinyl wrap.

IMG_20181020_113407.jpg
 

Desi42

Member
Dec 18, 2018
13
5
Princeton, nj
You've had it for less than a month...the brakes need too much effort, as do the steering wheel ( u could try a different setting, but I'm thinking that's not the problem ). Also "My highly scientific tests put the loss when below freezing at 20-25%" tests done right should take more than a couple of weeks

There are definitely things that can be improved in the model3, but this just seemed like u wanted to list all features and crib. Cry wolf too much and no one can take the list seriously. It's why people try and narrow down their top peeves.

Marks for length. Minus for confusing content
 

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