The Model 3 is the Half Price Model S Tesla REALLY doesn't want you to Buy Right Now

Mike K

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Yeah, click bait title. Deal with it. :trump:

I'm not going to bore everyone with Tesla's history. We all kind of know where we've come from to get to this point. First the Roadster in 2008, to show that electric cars could be fast. Then the Model S in 2012 to prove that there was both mass appeal for a competent sedan. Then again in 2015 with the Model X because apparently the Model S was too good looking and people wanted a version that had been stretched upwards and had notoriously troublesome falcon wing doors attached to it. But this, this is what it's all come to.

Up until now a very good argument could be made that Teslas were toys for the rich. And that wasn't the only argument. People said they filled a niche and that there wasn't demand for a car like this on a broad spectrum. Then it just became people wanting the latest thing and finally when it was clear there was demand and the car wasn't just a great electric car but a great car on it's own merits, they said you couldn't ever build one at a reasonable price. And if you could build one at a reasonable, it would be shit. You wouldn't want it. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: shit.



First Impressions

It's good. No, it's not good; it's very good. It's great. I had measured expectations. By all accounts this was a car that was rushed to market, largely skipped the beta test phase, and went from pencils down down production units rolling off the assembly line in less than a year. I was ready for something to let me down. Instead what I found was a remarkably well put together car that - save for a few details - drives as if it was the only project Tesla has been working on for the past several years.

Elon Musk famously said on a conference call earlier this year that Tesla was having an identity problem with the Model 3 in that people were under the impression that it was the 3rd generation of Tesla vehicles and that it would be more advanced than the S. To walk that back Tesla made clear as best they could that the S was their flagship car and that the Model 3 would not replace this. Well I sit here and can only assume that this was said not necessarily because anyone believed it, but because they had to continue selling high margin S's to pay for the buildout costs of the Model 3 because the 3 is better, almost beyond objection.



The only compelling reason to buy an S over a 3 is outright acceleration, size or if you're one of the 6 people that is certain they'll never be the one to adjust to not having a traditional instrument cluster. Beyond that, the Model 3 handles better, is lighter and more efficient, charges faster at home, has comparable range to the top of the line S, features an interior that's more ergonomic, better designed and built using higher quality materials and it's cheaper. But it's not a little bit cheaper. It's almost another Model 3 cheaper than the comparable S. Don't believe me? Just go by the numbers:

The Cars: Model S 100D / Model 3 Extended Range
Range:335 EPA / 310 EPA (lowered from 330 at Tesla's request)
0-60: 4.1 Seconds/ 4.6 Seconds
Charge time (Miles of range per hour): 30/ 36
Price:$104,000/ $54,000

Now it's not an exact comparison. The model S has all wheel drive and air suspension, features not yet available on the 3 but the 3 has a nicer interior and a much improved infotainment system. But the point remains: for the cost of one Model S you can almost have two fully loaded model 3's.



On The Road

The Model S has always been praised for it's flat handling and inability to upset it, largely because the omission of a heavy engine and the fact that the floor of the car is comprised of a 7000+ cell battery pack that acts to both stiffen the car as well as lower it's center of gravity. Despite the advantages the battery gives in handling, there's no hiding the S's weight. It handles corners admirably but you never confuse it for a Cayman or even a Panamera for that matter. It's handles very well as long as you add the words "for a large luxury car" at the end of that sentence. It's also hampered by needlessly slow steering turn-in that conspires to make the car feel larger than it is.

The 3 is on the opposite end of that spectrum. Upon first drive you almost wonder if they meant to set it up this tight. The suspension is sporty and on the stiff side, more in tune with a performance car than a luxury sedan. And the S's slow turn in is replaced by steering input that is so instantaneous that you might find yourself confusing the car with a go-kart and that's not a stretch of the imagination. The steering input is surgical. This car drives smaller than my E60 535 did. It drives smaller than the 3 series. It is sporty by design, some might say to a fault as there are already complaints trickling in about the car's stiffness. Personally, I find it to be set up perfectly but I can certainly understand how people might find it too firm.

When pushed, it drives competently and is eager to show off it's 1000lb weight disparity from the S. Dial in a little too much throttle and you'll be rewarded with a touch of very controllable oversteer. It's very BMWesque in this manner, allowing you to lose control just enough to instill confidence but not so much as to kill yourself.

Acceleration

It's a gentle fast and that's not a term I'm sure I can properly articulate to anyone that hasn't driven a performance variant of the S. The S is violent. This is definitely more subdued, obviously tuned to roll into the peak power from a stop rather than give it to you all at once. And that's fine. It's still recording a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds. Compare that to it's closest competitors: the 340I (4.5s), A4 (5.6s) and C400 (4.7s) and you have a car that's right where it should be for the segment.

Highway passing power is reminiscent of the older Model S's. You won't be roll race king in the Model 3. Power is adequate and you're likely never to find yourself in a situation where you'd need more but you're not going to get a kick in the pants here. The 3 is more impressive at slower speeds and more subdued at higher speeds.


Tech

Oh boy... Where do we start. Well, for one, every car is equipped all of the hardware necessary for full self driving. You can opt to purchase enhanced Auto-Pilot (lane keeping, radar cruise) for $5000 or Full self driving (no hands driving!) for an additional $4000 on top of that. Enhanced Autopilot is available immediately while Tesla says full self driving will be rolled out as a software update in a few years.

It's important to make the distinction here. Tesla is saying that this car will eventually have the ability for you to get inside, enter an address and then do nothing. It will pick the best route and it will drive you there. You will not intervene. In addition to that, Tesla is planning on rolling out the "Tesla Network" where you can, for example, drive to work and then send your car out to essentially Uber for you on Tesla's Network during the day and then return to you before you leave the office. And the car is built with that goal in mind, best told by the inward facing camera built into the rearview mirror to keep an eye on unruly passengers taking a driver-less ride in your car.



Beyond that, the car disposes of the traditional smart key and instead uses your cell phone's bluetooth to unlock itself. As long as you are logged into the Tesla app (doesn't need to be open) your phone will connect to the car as you approach, the mirrors will unfold and the doors will unlock. When you get in you simply put it in drive and go. When you stop you get out and walk away. The car locks itself once connection with the phone is lost. And if you lose your phone? Well that's where this guy comes in to play:



You keep that card in your wallet and if your phone happens to run out of battery or falls in the toilet you simply swipe that card on the 3's B pillar to unlock it. Rest it on the center console and the car starts. There is no key fob.

The 3 dispenses with Model S's large 17" portrait display and replaces it with a higher resolution, brighter 15 inch version in landscape orientation. I've long been a defender of the S's 17" display. It just works but if I'm being honest, it works much better after being flipped 90 degrees. The processor behind all of this also received an upgrade which allows the 3 to run an all new in-house navigation system and also cuts down on response times and smooths out some interface animations. The difference between the two can best be described as upgrading your phone. I approached the 3 completely satisfied with the display in my S and after just a day, returned to my S only to find the user interface old, the display dim and every pixel seemingly viewable on it's own. It's like jumping back to an iPhone 6. It's the best in the industry until it isn't.



The model 3 has no traditional AC/ Heat vents. Instead it has one single slot that runs the entire length of the dash which creates four "virtual" vents. This is accomplished via another vent just next to the main one. This vent faces upwards and pushes the air from the main vent to divert it where you want it. This is all controlled via the touchscreen where you're presented with a profile of yourself and you drag your finger or fingers over that profile to aim the vents. On paper this sounds quite gimmicky. In practice, it works as well as, if not better, than most traditional vents. I think we've all had cars where turning an AC vent didn't so much turn the air as much as it did limit it's output. This actually controls precisely where the air is heading and is quite accurate. It also allows them to eliminate much of the ducting behind the dash which helps give this mid-size sedan it's cavernous seating dimensions.

Interior/ Fit and Finish

The interior of the car is minimalist to a fault. Some will love it. Others will hate it. Few will be on the fence. The dashboard is flat and with the exception of one wood accent piece: featureless. In the center, a 15" display sticks out with the subtlety of an elephant. Look up and you're greeted by a huge expanse of glass. Look back and you'll notice the glass continues, unobstructed from the B pillar straight back to the base of the trunk. This gives the rear seat occupants class leading head room (more than the S) and eliminates the closed in feeling you get when sitting in the back seat of most cars.

The 3 fixes many of the S's interior shortcomings by being the first Tesla to have a true center console that feels like it was designed to be an integral part of the car. The console is well thought out with plenty of storage and a base that sits at a 45 degree angle where you dock your phone. The seats are plush and comfortable though not as well bolstered on the sides as I would prefer. Rear leg room is plentiful, probably on par with the S and definitely more than any mid-size sedan I've seen. Thigh support is lacking and the low slung seats mean your knees are pushed up. It's par for the course with this segment but I still wish Tesla would have chosen to break the mold here, especially considering how much headroom the car has since it lacks a roof member where the C pillar is.

Materials are all soft touch, even the bottoms of the doors where the Germans like to cheap out with their entry level cars. Everything feels premium. There's a feeling you get when you step into a Cadillac where you can tell they were trying to emulate a certain feel. On first glance it looks nice but then as you look closer cracks start to appear. The soft touch plastics still manage to feel cheep, the instrument cluster is horrible and the switchgear looks like it was pulled from a Cruze. This isn't that. This feels nice and it feels well put together. Even the panel by your knees is hard plastic but soft to the touch. The only hard plastic I could find surrounded the steering column and then there is a silver trim piece on the dash that is hard by design. Nothing here feels cheap.

There are a few build quality issues. This particular car was 16xx off the line so I'm inclined to forgive some of this stuff. The S was MUCH worse in it's infancy but even still, it wasn't bad. There is an area where the top of the front doors, the fender and the A-pillar meet up. There was a clear issue here with lines not matching up. It's not something that would jump out at you and not something you'd find unless you were specifically looking for issues. The real test was the front end where the rounded hood needed to match the fenders and the bumper cover. This is an area where pre-production units looked pretty bad but here it was flawless. No issues.

The worst I could complain about in terms of build quality was some inconsistency on the headliner where it meets the glass roof. You can see in this picture above the coat hook the headliner is uneven and doesn't meet up exactly with the other piece. Again, not bad by any stretch of the imagination and something Tesla would fix at request.



Conclusion

I suppose the best endorsement I could give this or any car is with my money and by that metric I think it's a fabulous car, better than the current S and I'll happily be downgrading from my P85D to a Model 3 when my lease is up in a few months. This is an amazing car and the excitement to own one is only overshadowed by my anticipation of what they're going to do to the S to continue to make it relevant. As for the 3, the electric car of the people is everything we were promised and more.
 

Yaj Yak

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this is awesome.
 
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Mike K

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Thanks Kevin. From now on I’m just going to write these and email them directly to you. :rofl:
 

Yaj Yak

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im down.

still got my email?


i lost your number. er you changed it on me.

i tried to text you a few years back something ridiculous and it didn't go through.

now im sad.
 

Dan00Hawk

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Thanks for the detailed review. Wish we could figure out if you liked it or not. ;) Looking forward to long term updates after you take delivery and throw some miles on yours over the upcoming years!
 

sickmint79

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it seems improved handling is a result of where the weight is sitting





As for the 3, the electric car of the people is everything we were promised and more.
it sounds pretty solid overall, although i'm not keen on the minimalist version myself. i don't find the self driving something for me, but as an investment to uber people around in, that is quite appealing. it would be interesting to see a similar model 3 to 340i comparo. i'd be most interested to see how it really fares when getting tossed about, and how long it could handle it.

at 54k i still hardly consider it an everyman car, although it's cheaper than a new s of course. electric car of the people?

as far as i could tell, in 2016 bmw had 1.8% of us market share and 15.1% of luxury market share. by that, my math gets me at the entire luxury market being 11.92% of the total. it is perhaps even lower, by a note here it is 6%. Luxury Cars in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts my 11.92% was made from other stats on the same site.

this is during a time of increasing debt too - American car buyers are borrowing like never before—and missing plenty of payments, too - something we've chat about a bit before here;
me, 2015: http://www.thechicagogarage.com/forum/topic/151367-car-financing-trends-crazy-debt.html
yaj yak, 2017: http://www.thechicagogarage.com/forum/topic/158648-1-trillion-car-loan-market-has-highest-delinquency-rate-since-2009-a.html

my parents could buy any car they could possibly want for cash, and i'm not sure if either have spent over 35k on a new one. when i think of an everyman car, i think of one that my parents actually consider buying, and that my parents drive home with for 35k. which is much more in the neighbordhood of prius/leaf/volt/bolt or something like that. is a 340i a car for the people? i realize you live in california, but even then i find that a strange thing to say!
 

RICH17

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Great review Mike. Going to send that on into jalopnik?
 

Mook

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I really thought this was gonna be a pile of shit. I'm rather surprised.

Shared to our FB tag, tossed you a tag as well :)
 

Mook

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Can you lease these things?
 

CMNTMXR57

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Nice. But I thought I read recently that they were having an issue with production right now.
 

Yaj Yak

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I really thought this was gonna be a pile of shit. I'm rather surprised.

Shared to our FB tag, tossed you a tag as well :)
Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 30 (3 members and 27 guests)

itsworking
 

Bru

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What tires are on the 3 vs the S?
 

ragingclue

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Wow, very cool. I wanted to put down a deposit on one of these a while back but I was just too unsure of all this.

If I do get another new/modern vehicle, I'm pretty sure it'll be an EV. It's good to see such a positive (and IMO reasonably priced) product at this point in time, this bodes well.

Thanks for taking the time to put all that together.
 

cacicgtp7

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Thanks for the review Mike. Hard to tell how much you love it.

Interested to see a few more that start popping up once people actually get their hands on them. I think production is the largest "wait and see" potential problem at this point. The orders go on forever.
 

blakbearddelite

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I could see myself in one of these as a DD in the future. I'd like to see more charging stations before I'd commit to one.
 

Blood on Blood

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No sure how insurance companies will feel about Model 3 owners sending out their cars unattended to Uber folks.

$54k + tax / title / license is not an everyday man’s car, even with approx $9k in savings over 5 yrs of ownership (fuel - 15k miles per yr / 25 mpg / $2.50 gal, fluid changes, air filter changes, etc). Granted not taking electric recharging costs into consideration.
 

Flyn

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Excellent review, Mike. Makes me want to buy one someday. I will have to show it to my son who Ubers in his Focus ST.

Dave, IMO insurance companies will insure the car but will charge a premium price if you are Ubering the car. Greater mileage and risk with customers in the car.
 

torquelover

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You need to make a video review of this. Current ones online are torture to sit through.

You're not socially inept, are you? If so, have your wifey review it.
 
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Mike K

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im down.

still got my email?


i lost your number. er you changed it on me.

i tried to text you a few years back something ridiculous and it didn't go through.

now im sad.
I haven't changed it in 10 years. PM me with whatever number you're texting and I'll give you the correct digits. Me and Emerson exchange newds all the time. Texts are great.

it seems improved handling is a result of where the weight is sitting



Well they all have a low center of gravity. The improvement on the 3 seems to be a combination of 1000lbs less weight on a car with a shorter wheelbase, sitting on firmer springs with lightning quick steering turn-in.

it sounds pretty solid overall, although i'm not keen on the minimalist version myself. i don't find the self driving something for me, but as an investment to uber people around in, that is quite appealing. it would be interesting to see a similar model 3 to 340i comparo. i'd be most interested to see how it really fares when getting tossed about, and how long it could handle it.
I don't think Tesla is chasing the road course crowd. On the street I can abuse my S through all the twisties and I won't have a problem but if you're taking it to a road course you're going to have a bad time. I just don't think we're there yet and I don't think we'll be there soon because the type of person that tracks their car generally isn't looking at an electric sedan to begin with. I'm a unicorn in that respect.

at 54k i still hardly consider it an everyman car, although it's cheaper than a new s of course. electric car of the people?

$35,000 is the starting price. $49,000 is the first available (cheapest you can get for the next few months) and then $5,000 is tacked on to my price for Autopilot. At $35,000 I'd say it's the car of the people. Is it going to be a kid's first new car purchase? Probably no but is it exponentially more attainable than the S and if you're lucky enough to buy one before the tax credit expires. it will only cost you $27,500.

my parents could buy any car they could possibly want for cash, and i'm not sure if either have spent over 35k on a new one. when i think of an everyman car, i think of one that my parents actually consider buying, and that my parents drive home with for 35k. which is much more in the neighbordhood of prius/leaf/volt/bolt or something like that. is a 340i a car for the people? i realize you live in california, but even then i find that a strange thing to say!
I think you're taking me a little too literally. We're moving downmarket is the generally point I'm making and we moved downmarket in a big way.

Great review Mike. Going to send that on into jalopnik?
Nah, I never sent the first one. I posted it on Opposite Lock. Back in the day you used to be able to post on all the various sub-blogs and then Jalopnik editors would grab their favorite stories and share them to the main site. I wish they still had that. Now I just do it mostly because I like going back and reading what I said about old cars.

I really thought this was gonna be a pile of shit. I'm rather surprised.

Shared to our FB tag, tossed you a tag as well :)
Thanks. I didn't think it would be a pile but I was pleasantly surprised.

Can you lease these things?
Not yet as far as I know.

Nice. But I thought I read recently that they were having an issue with production right now.
They were but that appears to be improving.

What tires are on the 3 vs the S?
No clue. :-(

No sure how insurance companies will feel about Model 3 owners sending out their cars unattended to Uber folks.
Dave, IMO insurance companies will insure the car but will charge a premium price if you are Ubering the car. Greater mileage and risk with customers in the car.
Insurance should be (and likely will be) less as we're talking fully autonomous cars here which will be safer than human drivers. Renters will be on the Tesla network and also on camera (inward facing camera built into the rearview mirror) so insurance companies aren't going to charge a premium because you have strangers in your are. Statistically the expensive accidents are with other cars, not vandalism and in theory your autonomous car would never be in an at-fault accident which will lower insurance. There's even talk about Tesla self insuring and I believe Volvo even recently said that by a certain year they will take full responsibility for any accident caused by their autonomous car.

You need to make a video review of this. Current ones online are torture to sit through.

You're not socially inept, are you? If so, have your wifey review it.
I have some videos about 20 minutes long but no time to really chop them together. Maybe I'll just toss up the raw footage. Mike K uncut.
 

Bru

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The sharpness of the steering, handling, ride quality etc could be the difference between a 19-inch summer or 18-inch all-season tire, so was wondering what was equipped on the compared cars.
 
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Mike K

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The sharpness of the steering, handling, ride quality etc could be the difference between a 19-inch summer or 18-inch all-season tire, so was wondering what was equipped on the compared cars.
I would say maybe partially. He had the 19" wheels but people are reporting significantly better handling all over the board. You'll notice once you drive one. This largely isn't a tire difference though.
 

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