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

sack

Member
Apr 15, 2014
5
4
Stanford University
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.

Mine is too loud. The standard setting seems to be 3 and 4, which is definitely audible when there's no music on. When I manually set it to 1 or 2, it is about what my S is at its 3 setting.

I asked service about this, and they said they've heard this comment before. But no fix/change is planned that they are aware of.
 

Valerie A

Me & "Wattson Ampz"
Jul 30, 2017
13
12
Doylestown PA
@novox77 - thanks for the detailed and balanced info. I'm in PA, where the road conditions are hardly ideal either. Could you tell me what size tires you purchased? And how they feel on the rougher road surfaces? Thanks!!
 

theishu

Member
Apr 5, 2016
14
5
Fairfax, VA
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.


I logged in specifically to say this is the most helpful review I've read, and I spend hours everyday online, obsessing about the car! Thanks for keeping it so relatable, and encouraging! I'm looking forward even more now, for my new car.
 
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novox77

1.21 Gigawatts
Nov 25, 2017
1,640
3,547
NH, MA
@novox77 - thanks for the detailed and balanced info. I'm in PA, where the road conditions are hardly ideal either. Could you tell me what size tires you purchased? And how they feel on the rougher road surfaces? Thanks!!

I went with the 18" wheels precisely because of poor road conditions. The 18s are mounted with thicker tires that help with absorbing those bumps. 19" will give you some performance benefits, but I didn't buy model 3 for sports performance (I certainly appreciate that it's still very sporty even with the 18s).

Not sure if you have any point of reference with an existing Tesla or not... I have a 2014 Model S with coil suspension. The Model 3 feels a tad smoother on the road than my S, which was surprising. It feels smoother than my Hyundai Sonata and all of the econoboxes I've driven in the past (mostly Honda Civics). I don't have a lot of experience driving other luxury cars, so I can't say how well Model 3 fares compared with great suspensions. If you're down to earth about it, I really don't think the car will perform below your expectations.
 

SilverGS

Active Member
Nov 3, 2016
1,524
831
Ontario
@novox77 - Thanks for the very balanced and informative post!

The comparisons with the MS make your feedback even more interesting/valuable to those of us that don't currently own a Tesla vehicle.

I reserved an M3 online on the first day reservations were opened and I got my invite on March 28th, but haven't yet hit the "order" button. Its a fairly expensive car right now with the LR, Premium Options and EAP package.

I've driven a 75D (15 mins or less test drive) and have been smitten ever since. Not sure if its worth waiting for the AWD model or if I should just pull the trigger and get the RWD model. I think with winter tires, the RWD model would be fine in the winter considering all the weight at a very low center of gravity and also almost 50/50 weight distribution on the axles.

I sat in an M3 at the Yorkdale Shopping mall in Toronto a couple of weeks ago and was surprised at how spacious it is compared to my wifes 2006 Civic Hybrid. Don't know why I expected it to be that size........... :) . From outside, the size is closer to a mid-size car like a Camry/Accord which is a good thing as far as I'm concerned as I didn't want to get another small car as a DD. I have a 2005 Toyota 4Runner (that is built like a tank and never ever breaks) and we're planning on trading in the truck for the M3 and giving the Civic to my college aged son in September. So the M3 may be the DD soon.

Purchasing a Tesla M3 will boil down to an economic decision for me - I love the "cool and very high tech" factor of an M3, but my wallet will dictate my decision at the end of the day.

Spend CAD $65K on a Tesla M3 vs a 2018 Honda Accord (as an example) for $40K seems like a no brainer to get an excellent car for $35K less and even with fuel and maintenance costs on the Accord, I won't be spending anywhere close to the additional $35K difference in my lifetime if I bought the Tesla...........

Not sure how others are justifying buying an M3 vs other great new ICE cars.

@tanner - very interesting to note that you feel the M3 is an upgrade to your 2016 90D. Can you give some specifics on features/capability etc. to elaborate on that? TIA
 
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slipnslider

Member
Apr 13, 2016
787
877
los angeles, ca
I assume you logged on into your teslamotorsclub account and replied to that message using a blackberry device...
Cars aren't phones. Just because touchscreens improved phones you think that means they improve everything? Then why isn't your laptop keyboard a touchscreen? Or your tv remote? Or the model 3 window controls? Some controls are better when you can operate them without looking.
 
Oct 12, 2016
1,084
957
MD
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.

Yeah - this. Probably the most stand out improvement for me over my S. Best lights of any car I have owned.
 
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GreenP85D

Member
Jul 24, 2015
6
3
Ashfield, MA
To M3 owners in the Massachusetts area:
We are looking for a M3 to display as part of our Tesla exhibit (MS and MX plus a M3 - if you can come) at the Amherst Sustainability Fair on Saturday April 14. The fair is on the Amherst Common from 9 to 4. The exhibit (sponsored by PVEAA) will be the central feature of the event which includes over 100 vendors and attracts 1K+ people. There will be other EV's along the perimeter of the common. If you are interested and available to display the first truly mass market EV, please contact us at [email protected]
Thanks
 

sack

Member
Apr 15, 2014
5
4
Stanford University

My spouse is relatively tall (5'11") and has no headroom issues in the M3. The glass roof if genius for that!
In fact, my spouse finds it easier to get in and out of the M3 -- something maybe about the shape of the door opening that I can't see (I'm only 5'7").

So, if you are concerned about headroom and are 6' or less, no problem. If you are over 6', then maybe you need to go to a showroom and check it out. It might matter whether your height is in long legs, or a long trunk.

There's definitely more room in the back seat of a Model S. But that's probably obvious.
 

Tempino

Member
Dec 21, 2017
27
36
Toronto, Canada
@novox77 I reserved an M3 online on the first day reservations were opened and I got my invite on March 28th, but haven't yet hit the "order" button. Its a fairly expensive car right now with the LR, Premium Options and EAP package.

I had the same dilemma, but after a few days of reading the forums following receiving my configuration invite, a slight worry with the upcoming election in Ontario and how it could impact the vehicle incentives, I pulled the trigger. I've been obsessed with Tesla since the 2006 Roadster came out and dreamed of one day owning my own. I never thought I would spend this much on a car in my lifetime, but beyond just the technology, the environment and Tesla's mission, I eventually went ahead with the "order" button. The RWD did worry me living in Toronto, but with a good set of winter tires and its battery weight distribution, I wasn't too concerned.

Good luck to you and your decision!
 
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Reactions: voltage and Falkirk
Jun 2, 2016
15
50
Minneapolis
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.
<snip>
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.
Thanks for the fantastic and one of the most realistic reviews I’ve read. Keeps me going while waiting for my own Midnight Silver Model 3.
 

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