First look: Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Motors Model S is rightly classed as a luxury car. Even with its ground breaking electric performance and technology, it is still very much a premium car, with a premium price.
To a certain extent, the Model X SUV tried to bring the same kind of value proposition in a more everyday package, including its gullwing doors, for easy people access in tight spaces, such as shopping centre car parks. However, the prices were also reflective of its S stable mate and remain stubbornly high, in the €100,000 upwards range.
When the Model 3 was announced as an affordable Tesla, its pre-orders were stellar. Now, they are expected to arrive in Dublin by late summer, with the configurator for Irish models expected by the end of May to turn expressions of interest into actual orders.
The Model 3 is a family sized saloon that will compete in the ultra-competitive BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes C Class bracket. As such, it will still be a fair bit pricier, with a starter of around €49,000 for the Standard Range Plus specification, and rising with the Long Range AWD and Performance options, though these are estimates and actual pricing has yet to be announced.
By comparison, according to CarZone.ie, the BMW starts at around €43,000, the Audi €42,000 and the Merc €38,000, though admittedly, none with a pure EV option.
According to Tesla’s release information, the Model 3 is “designed and built as the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle,” adding that it is “a critical step in Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”.
Now arguably, that accolade has already gone to the Nissan Leaf, but it is still an important step for the company, and its sometimes troubled production efforts.
As regards the car itself, it is a handsome beast, with
echoes of various performance and other vehicles in its lines, though it does
remind one of the latest Mazda 3 model. This is no bad thing, as the Mazda is
also a good looking car, and the Tesla sits easily with its stablemates,
despite it being the ‘budget’ model.
Where Tesla has chosen to make savings is not so much in the build quality, but rather in being a little more selective in equipment and feature levels. For example, the recessed door handles are now manual, though no less aerodynamic. You just push on one end to expose it and pull it open. There is no automatic boot lid closer. From the inside, the doors are opened by pressing a release button and pushing it with your hand. This is so intuitive as to be almost muscle memory. It shows how much thought has gone into where the savings could be made without actually detracting from the experience of owning and using a Tesla car.
Drawing on the comfort level that so many drivers now have with big screen displays, the dashboard of the Model 3 is a departure too. There are no driver instruments, and no binnacle. Instead, the centrally mounted screen is positioned in such a way that the closest third or so of it becomes the driver’s console when in operation. This saves money, space and complication. It also allows for a much more efficient vent layout (with cool screen animation and control) to better manage cabin climate.
The interior too, shows no signs of being a budget model, with high quality materials and a very high-end fit and finish.
Range wise, the three specification levels of Standard Range Plus, Long Range AWD and Model 3 Performance give 415, 560 and 530 km respectively, according to Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) estimates.
This should be enough to satisfy most, as Ireland also enjoys a strong network or public charge points. The release notes states that the European Model 3 comes with a built-in CCS Charge Port for compatibility with third party fast charging networks, such as on the ESB network here, “giving our customers the most charging flexibility compared to any EV on the market”.
There are also the Tesla charging points in Belfast, Dublin,
Ballacolla (Laois) and Coolderry (Tipperary).
The combination of the two networks means there is nowhere in
the country that isn’t reachable on either a full charge or a series of top-ups
as you go.
Tesla reports that the Model 3 has recently achieved the lowest probability of injury in any car ever tested by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA) and is designed to be the safest car in its class.
The maker says that every car comes with active safety features as standard, including Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warning and Side Collision Warning. It points out that the Model 3, as with other Teslas, will continue to receive updates which add new features and enhance functionality over time. Premium connectivity is included as standard for one year which contains satellite maps with live traffic visualisation, Spotify and over-the-air updates via Wi-Fi and cellular.
This update capability is one of the reasons that Tesla Motors cars have such a high residual value, as often, the second hand cars have a higher specification than when they left the show room.
All new vehicles, says Tesla, are fitted as standard with extensive hardware to enable the latest safety and convenience features. Eight surround cameras provide 360 degrees of visibility around the car at up to 250 metres of range. Twelve ultrasonic sensors complement this vision, allowing for the detection of both hard and soft objects. A forward-facing radar provides additional data about the world and is able to see through heavy rain, fog, dust and any cars ahead.
Despite its placement as an affordable model, there is a huge range of options form paint to internal finish materials, 20” wheels, performance packs and more, which obviously affect the price.
Unfortunately, test drives were not yet available, as only
one demo model was present. However, judging by the driving dynamics of the X
compared with the S, the Model 3’s claimed 0-100kph time of 3.4 seconds, and
its “near perfect 50/50 weight distribution” should add up to a rewarding
driving experience, even for the enthusiast. That and its top speed of 261kph put
it firmly in the performance class, even if it is aimed at the family car