Up: High tech, affordable, timeless design inside and out.
Down: 220 mile base range, production issue rumors
Neutral: This is the future whether you like it or not…and I like it.
To begin, this car review isn’t going to be like most of my others. We all know Teslas are super cool, filled with amazing tech, are mind-blowingly quick while being tastefully simple, and maintain a certain aura of mystery about them. “An electric car?” you might hear locals blurt, “What the heck do you do when it runs out of juice?” It’s simple, old-timer, you plug it into the wall just like your Sony Handycam! Whether we like it or not, electric cars will be the future. So I’m going not going to focus on the spec-sheet of the Tesla Model 3. I’m going to talk about what it’s like to live with an electric car and, more importantly, what it’s like to live with one in one of the least accommodating states; South Dakota.
The primary reason I’m forgoing the standard car review should be no surprise: the Tesla Model 3 is a normal car. It just is. There are four doors, four wheels, four seats, two pedals, a steering wheel, and heated seats. If you had went in and purchased one blind, there are only three things that would through you off guard. One is that there is no “grille”. Fine. It looks better in my opinion. Two is there is no gauge cluster in front of the steering wheel. Fine. You should be looking at the road anyway. And three, because of the regenerative braking that helps keep your batteries charged, you almost never need to touch the second pedal. You will get used to this or you can turn it off. Great! Moving on.
One of the big questions I had when climbing behind the wheel was, “What do I do next?” To which my friend, and owner of this Model 3, said, “Just go.” You might be surprised to hear this, but a key fob is an option for Teslas. Primarily, the cars just sync up to your smartphone, you hop in, and you just go. It’s weird to think that your car is always “on”, but it makes sense.
Speaking of smartphones, the giant tablet in the center of the dash works exactly like one. If you’ve used a touchscreen of any sort in the past, and I bet you have, then you already know how to operate it. This 15″ screen replaces all buttons, knobs, and dials that you’ve come accustomed to in your life behind the wheel, but you won’t miss any of them. Everything is intuitive and customizable. The Model 3 will display exactly what you want it to, and will occasionally popup some important information as needed.
Even though the largest production screen in a car is sitting right there, I never felt the need to look at it. Since there are only a few moving parts in the entire Model 3, information such as fluid temperatures and RPMs are rendered obsolete. The top left corner of the screen always displays your speed, but everyone lives by the “flow of traffic” rule anyways. In fact, the only thing to be mildly concerned about is the “fuel” gauge, which is actually a battery percentage icon exactly like that on your smartphone. Did we just come full circle?
And now we’re to the batteries. This is the one thing that concerns the late majority the most; especially in a conservative, late-to-the-party state like South Dakota. Don’t get me wrong, I love my home, but we’re not exactly the first ones with new tech. Right now there are 8 Tesla Superchargers in South Dakota and one of them is in Sioux Falls. But then there are also destination chargers, or, places you can charge when you reach your destination. Typically these are adopted by hotels and there are currently 5 in Sioux Falls.
That sounds pretty spooky for a car with a base range of 220 miles (this Model 3 is a Standard Plus with a 240 mile range.), right? Well never fear, Tesla has thought of everything! Lets say you want to head to drive home from Minneapolis in your brand new Tesla Model 3, how will you trek the 250 miles comfortably? Easy. When you plot your destination, the Tesla routes the most efficient course for you so you can travel without breaking a sweat. The only inconvenience to you is that you will want to budget at least another half-hour onto your trip times. All worth it to save the world from climate change if you ask me!
One final misconception that even I had about owning a Tesla is that once you purchase one, everything following is free. Not true, it turns out! “Filling” it up with electricity will cost you money. It can get pretty complex, but essentially you will want to install a high-voltage outlet in your house to charge it up. One cool thing Tesla allows you to do is to schedule your charging time so it only sucks up juice during off-peak hours. As for at the pump, you’ll be looking at roughly 10 bucks per charge at a Supercharger. Another cool thing the Tesla does, a seemingly endless list at this point, is give you a popup on your map that shows how many stalls are available at a charging station and what the price-per-minute of charging is currently at. Easy peasy!
But at the end of the day, buyers want to know what they’re getting for the $35,000 price tag that they don’t with, let’s say, a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. Now, where do I begin? First, at least with the Millennials, having an electric car is f’in cool; we love ’em. Then there’s an entire list of amenities that are to be gained with a car that can upgrade itself over WiFi. But what really sells it for me is the timeless design. The interiors of today’s compact sedans will 100% look dated in 10 years. Buttons will fade or stop working, design themes will age poorly (looking at you mid-2000s Ford Focus/Fiesta), and they’ll be re-sold for under $5,000 at used car lots. But 4-seats, a couple of cupholders, and a screen right in the middle of the dash? Simplicity will always look acceptable. Plus, how many other compact sedans have an all-glass roof?
I’d also like to note that the newly redesigned 2019 BMW 3-series starts at $5,000 more than a Tesla Model 3 and is still slower from 0-60 miles per hour.
You know the old saying, “If it feels too good to be true, it probably is?” That doesn’t seem to apply to the Tesla Model 3. Sure, there are some minor inconveniences such as charging wait-times and the small fee at the Superchargers, but the electric car landscape is evolving daily. As a devout car guy, I’m completely sold. I believe that the more electric cars we buy, the more exciting, fun, and stupidly fast electric cars we’ll get to drive. I urge anyone even mildly interested in a Tesla to at least go test drive one. You’ll be happy you did.