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Model 3 - 1st impressions (for real this time)

Discussion in 'Model 3' started by novox77, Mar 31, 2018.

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  1. novox77

    novox77 1.21 Gigawatts

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    There's no such thing as a perfect car, but hands down this is the best car I've ever driven. Sorry this is kinda long. It comes with the good and the bad, but for me, it's mostly good. I'll start out with some common usability gripes.


    Wiper Operation
    Coming from a Model S, I couldn't see what the fuss was about over wiper settings being on the center screen. There is a button at the end of the left stalk that controls a single wipe at the first detent and washer fluid + wipes at the second detent. The difference between S and 3 is that the S interval setting is a dial around the stalk, whereas in the 3, it's on the UI. And people are griping it's too much fiddling of the screen.

    I happened to take delivery of my 3 during a rainy day, so this was the first feature I had to use. The car was delivered with the wipers turned off, so my first instinct before even putting the car into drive was to use the left stalk button to clear off the glass. Upon doing that, the UI on the screen automatically put itself on the wiper interval control settings. That to me is not much of a hardship. If for whatever reason my desired interval is not appropriate, I have no issue doing a manual wipe with the stalk first, then a single tap on the screen to the new interval.

    Glovebox Operation
    I've mentioned in other threads that in all cars I've ever owned, I've very infrequently needed to access my glovebox, and in all situations where I did, I was parked with the engine off. As of this writing, accessing the glovebox in Model 3 requires two taps on the center screen: 1) car icon on the bottom left; 1.5) quick controls (if you're already on this default settings page, there's no tap here); 2) glovebox. Takes about a second for each tap. Glovebox is open in 2-3 seconds. Sure, it's slower than a quick pull of a mechanical lever, but it's such a low-use feature of the car for me that this is inconsequential.

    The prominent crash a few months ago that prevented the driver from accessing his glovebox for his registration/insurance info seems silly to me. In a serious crash where the center screen, 12v system, or glovebox itself are damaged, there is no priority for the driver to access any of that information. In most cases with severe accidents like this, the driver is wheeled off to the hospital. It's a testament to Tesla/EV design that people can walk away unhurt and then gripe that their glovebox is stuck.

    Mirror + Steering Wheel Adjustments
    These are initiated via center screen UI and then the steering wheel dials. I know my exact preference for side mirror viewing angle, so now that they are set, I don't plan to adjust them again. Same with the steering wheel. Because of the lack of instrument cluster, I'm able to set the wheel much lower than in my S and ICE cars. And because the wheel diameter is smaller, the wheel can go pretty low without reaching my legs. Easy entry profile lifts the wheel all the way up. I've heard people complain that the dials are awkward to use. I guess. But these are all set-it-and-forget-it settings.

    Instrument Cluster / Binnacle
    In my excitement to take delivery and to drive the car for the very first time, I totally didn't notice there was no instrument cluster in front of me until a mile in, where I was regenning down a steep hill and I looked down to see how much regen I was producing. This is a habit formed by driving in the S; otherwise I probably wouldn't have looked down at all. That's when I found and looked at my speed for the first time on the center screen.

    Some things you don't notice until they change, and here, there's a big change. I've never driven a car where the instrument cluster was not behind the wheel (except for a Prius, but that was a single test drive). Before Model 3, I couldn't tell you how much I rely on the speed or other info down there because there's nothing special about looking for that info. Now that the info is in a different location, I'm acutely aware of how often I want to look for things. Turns out, I don't look at my speed very much. I do, however, look for regen almost every single time. Occasionally I'll look for my turn indicators to make sure they're on (when my music is loud enough to drown out the clicking noise).

    Glancing over to the right for any of this info is actually not foreign to me. In the smartphone era, I've always had a phone mount on the windshield placed near the center of the car. Glancing over to look at Waze/Maps is something I do for almost every drive. I can see how looking right can be a big change for some, but I don't consider it unsafe (unless you're fiddling with the UI all the time, and there's no reason to do so).

    Driving at night is also an interesting experience. Aside from the ambient lights in the footwell and side cup holders, the screen is the only thing lit in the interior, so it makes it easy to default to a side glance. I did freak out once glancing down and seeing only black where the binnacle would be, and for a second, I thought there was a malfunction and that "screen" was off. The driving experience definitely makes my brain think I'm sitting in my S and not my ICEv, even though the driving feel is quite different from the S. More on that later. Hands and steering wheel not being backlit is a bit weird. The dials on the wheels have no light indicators, so you're feeling for them in the dark. Not hard to find, but lighted outlines would make it more spaceshippy. Oh wait, found a setting that enables backlight on the steering wheel. An ambient (not bright) light strip along the HVAC vent would be slick too. Tuners take note!

    2018.10.5 Firmware
    Here, I have to give thanks to those before me who had to put up with incessant louvre actuations, vampire drain, contrasty fisheye backup camera video, and other quirks that have since been addressed by recent OTA updates. My car came shipped with 2018.10.5 and I can confirm the improvements I've seen mentioned in other threads here. I do still have concerns about phantom touches. There's some speculation that some instances of phantom touches are related to interior cabin temperatures; the screen may warp when hot, causing the malfunctions. As we transition to warmer weather here in the northern hemisphere, we'll find out soon enough if this is a widespread issue. It's been around 50F during the day around where I live, and I haven't experienced any issues yet. I totally expect to be a 'beta tester' as an early adopter, and the primary reason I didn't trade in my last remaining ICEv is in the event I need to send my car to service for them to troubleshoot some yet-to-be-discovered issue.

    Steering Wheel / Driving Feel / Suspension
    The steering wheel looks kinda plain - a letdown from what I imagined to be the steering mechanism for a spaceship. But I really like how it feels! Instead of a very circular cross section, this wheel has some sharper edges that makes me feel like I have a strong grasp of the wheel without any slippage. Those sharper corners exist along the wheel spokes as well, so you can grasp the 9 and 3 o'clock positions and feel like you have a lot to hold onto. I tried to pull on the wheel to see if the car took off, but alas it didn't.

    The smaller diameter coupled with sport mode driving makes the wheel the most responsive car I've ever driven, more so than my old E36 BMW M3. Where the Bimmer will likely win is in the corners, but I suspect if Model 3 is tuned correctly, it'd be just as good.

    Model S drives very differently than Model 3. The 3 is so responsive it feels like it has no weight at all. And the turning radius is much sharper. The front view is way more expansive and you can actually see the parking lot lines when you pull into a spot. I think the 3 will introduce to the masses what a sports car feels like. Most people shy away from sports cars because historically they were not very fuel efficient, not practical, and the interior ergonomics were subpar. With Model 3, you get the sports car handling without sacrificing fuel economy or cabin spaciousness. It's going to make a lot of "regular" drivers enjoy driving. Model 3 makes me want to just take the car out for a drive for the fun of it. And I consider myself pretty utilitarian.

    As far as suspension goes, this one is quite subjective. Who knows if early Model 3s had extra stiff suspensions or not. Mine feels just right. I can feel the texture of the road without it being jarring. It seems like the proper amount of road feedback to go along with that super responsive steering wheel. Admittedly I've never experienced Tesla's air suspension, so I don't know if I would like that more. I'm in New England where the roads are consistently in less than ideal situations (rough pavement, excessive chip-sealing, frost heaves, potholes, etc.), so if I were driving Model 3 in areas where winters don't destroy roads, it would be buttery smooth to me.

    Midnight Silver Metallic
    This color is amazing. I love how it looks different under various lighting conditions (see my other thread for photos). Yesterday when it was rainy and overcast, it had a slight blueish tint to it. Under blue skies it's got flashes of bluish purple. Under direct sun, it looks more gray. And photos don't do it justice. I think the red is similar; in person, you pick up on the metallic sheen more than what shows in photos.

    Panel Gaps / Body Defects
    Either I got very lucky, or issues with panel gaps are overblown. Given all I've read about them, I was totally prepared to have to document a handful of alignment issues and report them to my service center. But aside from one spot that's probably 1/16" off, I don't see anything that sticks out. Charge port alignment is perfect. Hood and headlights are spot on. Trunk alignment is perfect. Glass panels are spot on, and weatherstripping looks uniform. No cracks in the glass that I've seen. I did have 3 small scratches to the clear coat which were already noted by Tesla before delivery. But they are so small I don't think I'm going to have the service center buff them out. Over regular driving, they are going to blend in with new blemishes. I don't expect to keep my paint in showroom condition.

    Headlights
    Best headlights I've ever experienced. Much better than my 2014 Model S, which I thought were pretty good when I first got them. The S was my first experience with HIDs - figured I needed to set that context. I've heard that when the S went from projector lenses to reflectors that the light quality suffered, so I was a bit worried about the 3's reflector design. It's good. Maybe the refreshed S has weaker lumen output; the reflectors are not at fault. Model 3 smoothly washes the landscape with bright light using reflectors. First time I got into the car at night was a holy sh*t moment. Was not expecting so much illumination - not exaggerating at all. I can see why Tesla doesn't want you messing with the beam angle. It would blind oncoming drivers if set too high.

    Sound System
    Amazing sound. So much better than my 2014 Model S, but that's not saying much. My Hyundai Sonata's premium audio sounded better than the S by a little bit. I noticed the factory setting for the equalizer on the 3 wasn't flat. I turned down the treble slider a bit and left the rest alone.

    HVAC Fan
    The fan sounded louder than I expected, and it has a harsh hum to it. I was expecting mostly the whoosh of the air flow. Quite obvious even at 3/10 fan setting. Wondering if this is normal or if it's just my car; I don't remember hearing this in the showroom model. My S vents are much quieter and smoother sounding.

    AutoPilot
    I haven't driven enough to activate enhanced AutoPilot. Rumors are the next update enables the right scroll wheel for adjusting AP. Seems like a really good usability fix.

    User Interface
    In general I think buttons on the UI need to be much bigger for a car interface. Bumps in the road reduce our fine motor control to toddler levels. I think Tesla is still designing for a tablet form factor in all their cars. A touchscreen in a car is not a tablet, even if they are similarly sized. They should go back to first principles and take into account that loss of fine motor control in their design. Fortunately the UI is not set in stone. I expect the usability to improve over time. It already has improved quite a bit.

    I disagree with folks who jump to the conclusion that having most everything controlled by the center screen UI is unsafe. The fast majority of settings are one-time configs, or things you can set while parked or at a light. You can choose when to take your eyes off the road. When my Sonata refuses to connect to my phone via bluetooth, I have to hunt and peck thru some deep menus before I can force a connection. I'll wait till the next stoplight to do something like that. Use common sense.

    RWD
    Unless we have a major snow storm in April (rare but it's happened before), I won't get to test RWD handling in the snow until next year. I do plan to get a set of winter tires, which I'm now convinced will make RWD comparable to (or a tad better for stopping ability) AWD with all-seasons.

    Bugs
    - At one point, I bumped the left dial on the steering wheel and the volume went immediately to max. Damn those speakers are good. But not so good for the ears at max volume.
    - When I'm parked and first shift to reverse, I see a "regenerative braking limited" warning. Not sure why. It goes away once I get moving, and regen feels normal to me (similar to my S).
    - Driver profile dropdown window didn't disappear a couple of times (it had a stop button, even though the adjustment between easy entry and my profile had completed). Might be tied to Easy Entry feature.

    Overall
    It's not a perfect car, but will there ever be such a thing? Same thing with phones. No one device will satisfy everyone's individual needs and wants perfectly. Model 3 is a really, really good fit for me, and I think it will be a good fit for a lot of others as well. Tesla still has time to work out bugs before those issues are experienced at mass scale. Even just a couple months later, I'm spared of a bunch of issues. It's only going to get better.

    When Tesla is at a point where they can meet demand with their production rate, they will finally be in a position where they might consider advertising the car. They will offer test drives in their showrooms. And countless people who currently barely know about the car are going to be hooked. Look at how hard Porsche, Jaguar, and Hyundai are clamoring for attention with their current advertising. Tesla hasn't even begun to fight.

    Four years ago, I ran the inaugural Beat the Blerch race hosted by The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman). He had written a comic about how awesome his Model S 85 was, and I got to see it in person while at the race. I wondered then if I would ever own one. I don't think I could have imagined that four years later, I would own two Teslas. Some people call Musk a con man, but if that's true, he's unnecessarily created some really awesome products in the process. Longest con ever.
     
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  2. Brando

    Brando Active Member

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    @novox77

    "An ambient (not bright) light strip along the HVAC vent would be slick too. Tuners take note!"

    and it should beat to the music
     
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  3. RDaneel

    RDaneel Member

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    Thanks for the detailed post, a very interesting read.
     
  4. dhrivnak

    dhrivnak Active Member

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    I have to agree with one exception. My vent is not loud so you may have an issue. And my worries about the UI were way overblown as I quickly adapted and I’m no spring chicken.
     
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  5. jtri

    jtri Member

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    I picked up my car yesterday in Dedham MA(they were swamped, they were planning on delivering 40 cars) and what a fun car it is to drive! I have lots to explore in the UI but agree with your observations. Most everything is set it and forget it.

    With the Nav, should I expect the radio volume to lower when the Nav speaks? Is there a setting I missed?

    Also yesterday did a bunch of test drives with friends and family in suburbia north of Boston and my speeds were in the 25 to 40 mph range. i observed my power usage was about 180. If that holds true the city range for this car will be outstanding.
    Have to go drive my car now!
     
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  6. Garlan Garner

    Garlan Garner Banned

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    What a great post.
     
  7. John Lamoureux

    John Lamoureux l Parzival l

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    Yay, another NE delivery. Hopefully my reservation email is coming soon!
     
  8. LBusDoor90

    LBusDoor90 Member

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    “It's a testament to Tesla/EV design that people can _______________ and then gripe that their _____________.”

    I edited the OP’s comments about the glovebox to create a template for pretty much all complaints here. I’m 50 and somehow the 3 I just configured and ordered will be only my third car after owning a ‘91 manual trans Escort for 14 years and my current ‘05 Prius for 13. Yes, I’m aware that my resulting standards are very, very low when compared to the army here that has owned luxury cars of one class or another. But I’m happy my Everyman psychology won’t have me chiming in with any first world problems about gloveboxes, rear cam contrast or panel gaps that seem rampant here because this will clearly be far and away the best car I’ve ever owned.

    I can’t freaking wait.
     
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  9. azentropy

    azentropy Member

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    Nice post!
     
  10. Stoneymonster

    Stoneymonster Active Member

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    Ours is loud. Not too much to be annoying, but it’s certainly louder than our S was. I could see it being too much for some people.
     
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  11. TQCLove

    TQCLove Member

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    Great write up @novox77!

    I notice that my HVAC is noisey as well, especially as I up the fan speed. One thing that remedies that for me is using the pre-conditioning in the AM before heading to work. I open the app and start warming the car up while I’m in the kitchen getting stuff ready for the day (where the hell is spring!?). Once I get in the car, it defaults to my setting of 1/10 fan speed which is very quiet and maintains the temp excellently.
     
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  12. Oldguyngal

    Oldguyngal New Member

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    This is the kind of balanced post that is most helpful to newbie Tesla members. Thanks a bunch. I agree with your suggestion of adding ambient light along the airdam. Hopefully Tesla will add this feature.
     
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  13. N5329K

    N5329K Active Member

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    The ventilation was quite loud in the Model 3 I was introduced to. So that might be normal. If you have a quiet one, count yourself lucky!
    Robin
     
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  14. Brando

    Brando Active Member

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    AND you'll get to actually SAVE significant costs per mile. I wish you 50 years of proud ownership !
     
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  15. karmamule

    karmamule Member

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    Glad to hear about your power usage! Out of curiosity, did you get any sense of what the ratio of 3/S/X was for those 40 cars?

    I just configured and placed my order a few days ago, live in Waltham, so maybe in a few weeks we'll see each other's Model 3s on the road. :)
     
  16. MXWing

    MXWing Well-Known Member

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    So to make this absolutely crystal clear.

    Are you saying that Elon Musk was misleading, and the Model 3 is not an ACTUAL spaceship?
     
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  17. novox77

    novox77 1.21 Gigawatts

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    Went around town today; drove 35 miles with an even mixture of interstate and local. Got 220Wh/mi. Ambient temp was high 40s. And I have AutoPilot now!
     
  18. doofenshmirtz

    doofenshmirtz Member

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    really appreciate the comparisons to the S.
     
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  19. jtri

    jtri Member

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    No idea about the ratio as they handed me the "keys" when I got there and was in the car checking it out until they came and got me.
     
  20. novox77

    novox77 1.21 Gigawatts

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    @karmamule @jtri Hey, since we're all relatively close, maybe we can plan a meetup once we have our cars. Good way to diagnose if certain issues are one-off or across-the-board. I'm curious if my HVAC fan motor is louder than normal.

    I used to work off Winter St near the reservoir. That bridge took like what, 10 years to renovate? :) Anyone else in Boston metro here?
     
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