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Model 3 LR RWD test drive (Dallas)...and Comparison to P85+

Discussion in 'Model 3' started by cab, Jul 28, 2018.

  1. cab

    cab Member

    Sep 5, 2013
    Grapevine, TX
    So, I test drove the Model 3 long range (rear wheel drive….all they had) today at my local gallery location (Northpark Mall, Dallas). I had signed up online and got a call while I was on vacation last week. Called them back Monday morning, and scheduled for this Saturday – easy peasy. I, of course, currently have a 5 year old Model S P85+ (also RWD) with 62K miles on it (note: purchased as a CPO 2 years ago).

    Anyway, I had sat in the Model 3 a few times at Gallery location, but hadn’t ever driven one before now. My takeaways:

    The demographics:
    The car was muti-coat red (like my S), RWD, Long range with the premium interior (in black). It had the 18” rims. The VIN was in the 40K range. It had the newer softer suspension AND appeared to have the later generation seats. I will say there were FOUR of us in the car (me and a rep in training in front, and my wife and the other primary rep in the back). The drive was about 25 minutes long.

    You’ve see a million pics and seen them in person. It looked pretty darn nice in the red (the red one in the showroom was even nicer with the 19” sport wheels). I didn’t note a bunch of panel gap issues, but honestly I wasn’t hear to look at that stuff.


    Although definitely a weak spot relative to other cars, it was reasonably well screwed together with no obvious flaws. I didn’t pour over it with a fine-toothed comb like I had the showroom models since I was there to DRIVE it!

    The power was fine, but didn’t have that “holy cow!” factor you get with other really quick cars or even with my P85+. You could definitely feel the “ramp up” spot around 20 or 30 miles an hour, but that massive hit of torque right off the line just wasn’t there. I had to announce “that was full throttle” at one point when we took off. In the P85+ the car does the announcing for you. Still, compared to most other sports sedans the 3’s power would feel pretty good and, as EV drivers know, it tends to be a lot more tractable as it is always available.

    My wife also drove the car, but not as long. Her stint was a just a little on neighborhood streets and then up on the freeway. She nailed it getting on to the freeway and on the freeway to pass and also noted that it didn’t have the same “hit” as the P85. I think the numbers might show the P85 and Model 3 to be closer than what we felt in freeway passing, but it is what it is.

    Overall, as I said, the power is fine. In day-to-day driving it is plenty, but I’ll admit, the S spoils you in this regard.

    I was actually expecting the car to have razor sharp handling from all of the reviews, but it is definitely more “BMW Sport” than “BMW M” (note: I've owned an older BMW M3 and M5). Still, the car is EASY to drive and toss around. You are MUCH less aware of the mass in the 3 than you are in the S. Indeed, I think the S “masks” some of its mass with its massive torque, but ultimately, you always know it is there. I will say, although pretty significant, it isn’t quite as dramatic a difference (to the S) as one might expect. Maybe it is because my P85+ is a bit lighter than the current dual motor cars, or perhaps it is because my car is also RWD and has the “+” suspension which gives it a some level of sharper handling than other Ses. It is important to note the Model 3 is still not a “light” car…it’s just a lot lighter than an S. Admittedly, having 4 people in the 3 could have skewed my perceptions here a bit.

    We didn’t do any corner carving (we are in the middle of Dallas after all), but on the one curvy section of road I was on, it was just more tossable (not “Miata” tossable…let’s not get carried away) and came across as simply more fun to drive than the S. The “fun” in the S is almost all “point and shoot”…even with my plus suspension.

    Ride Quality:
    This was the area I was most concerned about and it is a good news/bad news story here. The good news is that while I was driving I found it pretty darn good. Impact harshness was reasonably well-controlled from both a “hit” and “sound” perspective (although my wife did hit one bad spot that was a little hard). I was actually aiming for rougher patches on the side streets to see how the car handled them and was fairly impressed. It was not as smooth as my Model S, but it wasn’t awful by any means.

    However, then….I switched to the backseat while my wife drove. Hmmmm. Yeah, she drove some on the side streets and then hit the freeway. On the freeway, which wasn’t insanely rough (Central Expressway in Dallas near Walnut Hill if you are familiar with the area), I was in the backseat and I was definitely bouncing up and down quite a bit. I even asked my wife “Are you feeling that bouncing up there?” as she was driving and she indicated she was not. The car, IMO, definitely needs some more work on the rear dampers. I actually found myself thinking “I could get motion sick from this.” The up and down head toss we were getting makes me think it is somewhat underdamped and isn’t controlling the rebound like it should. A decent set of shocks like Koni sports might go a long way toward addressing this if/when they become available, but I hate having to “hope” the aftermarket comes up with a solution. It’s a tricky thing since they don’t want to head back down the path of making it too firm like the original cars. Suspension tuning: a black art!

    Tech and seat comfort:
    Halfway into my drive, the rep asked me how I was adapting to not having an instrument panel in front of me. Honestly, I had barely noticed which speaks volumes from my perspective. Having the speedo almost immediately to my right was just not a big deal. I found it to be a non-issue almost immediately. A night drive might prove to be a bit more different, but I am not worried about it.

    I used Autopilot for no more than a couple of minutes in the center of three lanes on a side street. All worked as expected – no drama. I quickly got bored though and went back to “driving”.

    The seat comfort was better than my gen 1 seats (which I’ve become surprisingly accustomed to), and might even be better than the next gen seats in the current Tesla. Comfort level was very good, and I felt none of the weird “lower back hard spot” that I noted in the early production Model 3 I had sat it months ago (i.e. the second gen seats seem to be great). Even rear seat comfort was improved and I did seem to sit slightly less “knees high” than I did in that early car…although you are still more knees high than I would like.

    Summary Impression:
    Tesla has done a really nice job here. My gut says this is a much better car out of the gate that the Model S was. Indeed, it is very much a “smaller S” and a pretty enjoyable drive. I’ve had my invite to configure for months, but held off waiting for the dual motor cars and the promised “air suspension” that would be available at the same time. I figured I would bite the bullet and pay for air…except it isn’t available. The dual motor cars will likely have a different suspension than the RWD cars, but I doubt the rear dampers will be much different. A bit of a bummer and I have to decide if I am will to overlook the rear ride quality and/or hope for an aftermarket “fix”. Minimally, I know I’ll want a second test drive (preferably dual motor) over other streets to really flush out my impressions on this. Tick tock on that darn rebate though…darn first world problems!
    • Informative x 5
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  2. ℬête Noire

    ℬête Noire Active Member

    Jan 30, 2018
    I will ask my wife (she didn't want to drive) about this. She did not mention anything about it but maybe it didn't occur to her, as she didn't have sitting in the front to compare it to. She did mention how pronounced the "hump" was (we have 3ish kids at home still, so was concerned about that for longer trips with them).
  3. cab

    cab Member

    Sep 5, 2013
    Grapevine, TX
    In reading back through the various ride quality posts, the whole "rear seat"ride quality thing does tend to come up. Of course, it's not brought up by a lot of folks because, well, they aren't in the back seat! Heck, we no longer have any kids at home so the rear seat on onur car is normally vacant. It is a bit of a concern though as I would hate to toss people back there and just assume everything is fine.

    I went so far as to hop in the back seat and have my wife drive me around for a few minutes on the freeway (121 in the Grapevine/Euless area) in our P85+ just to see what it was like. I really need to do a longer test, but on that 5 minute drive it was surprisingly good - no excessive bounciness, etc.

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