Way back on the 1st of April 2016 – my God has it been that long!?? – I put down a reservation order for a Tesla Model 3. It was the day Elon Musk unveiled the car and upon seeing it I immediately placed my online order. Ever since the final reveal last year I’ve wanted to check one out in person and I finally got the chance.
I recently spent two weeks running around the East coast of USA enjoying their fantastically thorough TSA hospitality. While in New York I realised that I was very close to the Washington Street Tesla store which, among other things, currently has a demo Model 3 in it! As such I headed over one morning to take photos, size it up and just generally see the car in person and push every button.
As a brief background, I’m not sure where I am exactly in the Australia based queue but hopefully I’ll be one of the first group of people to get the right hand drive Model 3’s when they finally land here down under in “Early 2019”.
I was very eager to finally see one in real life, sit in it, touch and fiddle with everything I’d read and heard about. After around an hour going through everything and chatting with the staff regarding it I came away very, very impressed.
There are already a whole bunch of reviews and videos out there so I don’t want to repeat things too much. If you don’t know about the Tesla Model 3 feel free to check out the full car guide on it here. With this piece I want to just go over a few quick impressions that I as an Australia got while going over the car in person.
The demo Model 3 on display was the Midnight Silver Metallic colour. It was sporting the 19″ Sports Wheels and a black Premium interior.
At almost every point as I walked around and looked as closely as I could I was very impressed. The headlights are a work of art. The super sleek, minimalist exterior seems to perfectly balance subtlety with sporty and aggressive accents.
With a bright red Model S P100D sitting right next to it, the Model 3 just looked like a baby version of it. It still has it’s own personality and differences but they are subtle and unique in their own rights. Things like the new door handles or front bonnet curves. Preferring smaller cars myself, I think I’d still buy the Model 3 even if there was no price difference to a Model S.
About the only complaint I could come up with was the fact that the boot isn’t a hatch. Our current car is a hatch and I’m sure I’ll miss it’s versatility but I understand why Tesla stuck with the giant rear window piece which makes it impossible for it to be a hatch.
The overall top and rear of the car is just as smooth, refined and trimmed as the front. When a designer and engineering team really puts their heart into a product you can tell. It’s what makes premium products truly desirable and what delights customers.
As an engineer, photographer and long term user interface design tinkerer I also appreciate just how much work the “little stuff” is. That “obvious” look isn’t simple to get. It’s the result of huge numbers of revisions, testing and fine tuning to the point where people around you start to question your mental health because you won’t stop obsessing over seemingly stupid details.
I can see all of this in the Model 3. It is so minimal, so paired down and yet still has its own unique profile while also being distinctly a Tesla car. Even though I’m certainly not a “grey” car type of person, it’s still a gorgeous colour.
As I sat inside the Model 3 for the first time I didn’t even notice that everything just felt right. It wasn’t until afterwards that I remembered just how drastically different the interior is to a typical car. And yet, everything just seemed perfectly thought out, practical and what it should be.
A big, bright, responsive screen with all the info you’d ever want right there for you. A steering wheel, some great wheel control buttons… and that’s it! I couldn’t have been happier, there was even a proper spot for two smartphones. Everything just made sense. All the icons made sense, the navigation was modern and worked exactly as it does on a PC or your phone – Google Maps FTW! – the picture of the car wasn’t just some static generic thing. You could touch it, open the boot or charging cap and so on.
I think one of the most under appreciated things Tesla have done is to reduce the ridiculous amount of buttons and vents and toggles and wheels and dials “normal” cars have to essentially 5-10 on screen touch buttons. The screen itself was smaller than I expected but unmistakably the perfect size. It was also solid. As. A. Rock.
Walk up to the closest door frame and hit it with your palm. That is how solid the screen is. It’s disturbingly solid. I’m honestly not sure how Tesla did it but I couldn’t even make it wobble and I was giving it a good thumping on the side of the bezzle!
The wood grain dash is fantastic and smooth. It fits in great with the black trim and the rest of the car. The seats were very comfy both front and back with plenty of leg and head room throughout. I’m 195 cm (6 foot 5) and even I had a good 7+ cm of room in the drivers seat before my head would hit the glass roof. Sitting in the back was comfortable and even with the seat pushed back for my height there was plenty of room.
The huge glass roof was again just gorgeous. The rear glass piece goes on forever and the addition of handy things like the coat hooks in the back are very appreciated.
Looking at the glossy black centre console between the two front seats I asked the staff member if they’d had any troubles with finger prints or scratches etc. He pointed out rightfully that this being a demo model has had literally thousands of people, including kids crawling all over it for weeks already with no regard and I couldn’t see any scratches on it. I can see needing to maybe clean it every now and then from dust etc but that’s nothing new for cars.
Testing the door handles they were quite a bit different to anything else I’d used before. That being said it wasn’t any trouble opening it. I can see it becoming second nature after a few days/weeks of use. I also explicitly shook both front and rear doors with the windows down to see if there was any window rattling sounds inside like some have reported. Silence.
Getting in and out of the car was completely unnoticeable, seamless and easy. You could also adjust the seat any which way you wanted up/down/back etc. There is even a lumbar support adjuster too which I’m sure will help for many.
In the back seats I also noticed that underneath the centre area there’s a huge gap for your legs. This means the middle back seat is no longer stuck with zero leg room! There’s also two USB ports under the vents if you chose the Premium Upgrade Package option.
The boot was extremely deep and seemed to have quite a decent size opening hole, however as mentioned, I’m used to our hatch boot which is far better. After seeing some online videos that noted how heavy the boot was to open/close I also made a point to try it for myself. It was a bit heavier to open/close than even our hatch boot but I didn’t find it anything troublesome, just different that’s all. It also needs quite a solid push to close it and feels very, very solid all around.
Beyond the general interior/exterior I must have asked a hundred questions and poked even more random things. In doing so there was one interesting bit of information the staff told me that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else online. This is that while the Model 3 uses your phone’s Bluetooth to automatically unlock and lock the car for you, only one phone can currently be used.
So if you have a spouse that also wants to drive your Model 3 they’ll have to use the included security RFID card instead. Knowing Tesla I’m sure they’re hard at work enabling multiple phones to pair with the car simultaneously so I’m not too worried about it.
That Premium Upgrade Package – along with other things – also includes a really fantastic sound system. I cranked it up to about 40% volume and was very impressed with it. Music is one of my favourite past times and while I don’t pretend to be an audiophile or anything I can say without a doubt that these speakers were way better than anything else I’ve heard in a while. Even at 40% it got quite loud and the music was very rich and well balanced between deep bass and crystal clear trebles.
After going through everything I could possibly think of I came away feeling very confident about my decision to reserve the Model 3. The design and technology is a breath of fresh air compared to the conventional cars out there. This felt like using a modern day smartphone instead of a Nokia 3310.
VW, Mazda, BMW, Holden, Ford etc… they all have buttons spattered everywhere inside. The have clunky, small, ugly looking displays that are slow and make little sense when trying to navigate. Their GPS navigation systems are abysmal to the point of being unusable. The Model 3 instead has a gleaming 15″ screen front and centre. Unapologetically modern it is futuristic and spaceship like whilst still being 100% practical and intuitive to use.
Many “futuristic” things suffer from looking like they’re fancy and cool but being woefully impractical and just stupid when you actually go to use them in real life. That is not the case with the Model 3. Many things are certainly different, but they are done that new way for a solid reason not just to be cool.
I’m now more eager than ever to get my hands on one when they arrive in 2019. I’ll be counting down the days and if you have any questions shout them out in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer. Also, enjoy a bunch of other photos I took while rummaging around and having fun!