Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Smooth and sharp
Tesla's lines bely the space inside for 5 adults
I had to pick up the Long Range version of Tesla’s Model 3 from the Tesla shop in Osborne Park. Caught the train there and as Tesla had added the car to my Tesla app, as I passed Leederville station I logged in and turned the heater on. “23 degrees should do it, and I think I’ll heat the seats as well.”
It was a cold blustery day so the 10-minute walk from Glendalough Station chilled me a bit too much. Joel introduced me to the car, and as I opened the door I was welcomed into a toasty warm cabin with luxuriously pleasant leather seats. “Mmmmm – every car should have this.” Of course if it was summer, I could just as easily get the car to a just-as-pleasant 22 degrees before getting on board.
Bland doesn't mean low-tech. But it takes a bit of getting used to.
And if there is a better in-your-face way to identify the gigantic gap between a petrol or diesel vehicle and a fully electric one, I don’t yet know it. But it must be said that any other all-electric car widely available right now, and I’ve driven most of them, still doesn’t match the Tesla design package.
What? No engine? Additional storage for bits and pieces.
Front boot, or "Frunk" is not for suitcases.
That’s because there never was a Tesla with an internal combustion engine, gearbox, and tailshaft. There’s no adaptation of an existing design. This thing is an electric entity from the ground up. Every aspect of ownership and operation is based on instant accessibility of energy to any function, be it cabin comforts, communications or mobility. And the beefy battery pack provides the lot.
Perhaps the salesman on the showroom where “my” car was waiting noticed the car - which was locked up securely – start to hum as the heater got going and the fan wafted instantly warm air around the cabin. But perhaps not. He was a young bloke after all and likely quite familiar with Teslas doing their own thing, including talking to Tesla central and getting an updated feature – like maybe a flux capacitor.
I’d driven the performance version of the Model 3 in Sydney just before COVID hit, and retained sharp memories of instantly available, neck straining, blistering acceleration. This version was a second and a bit slower to 100km/h – 4.4 seconds instead of 3.3 seconds. Lethargic! Both models have the same dual motor driveline with almost instantaneous digital traction control. It’s the energy pipeline that’s different. Who knows, maybe some hotshot dark-minded garage dweller will hack into the system to open that pipeline up a bit more.
On the road the differences are stark, at first. There is only road and wind noise. Overtaking is a shock. There's no fuel system delay, turbo wind-up, or electronic gear selection algorithms to run. Wait for your opportunity, press the pedal and bang - you're on your way and back on your side of the road before you can say "What was that?"
I’m not quite sure why it’s called the Long Range model. Turning down the urge adds a paltry 29kms to the 628klm range of the Performance version for an $11,700 discount. If your budget is thinner still, you can get the Model 3 in rear-wheel drive only for $68,425, still with all the gizmos and wow factor in the cabin though.
The RWD model is 213kgs lighter, but it’s almost two seconds slower to 100km/h. That’s what an extra motor does for you.
Boot is spacious and has an additional deep storage section under the floor.
As it is, I found the $85,183 list price of the test car (plus $2,900 for the iridescent red paint, plus on-roads) good value for the interior experience alone compared to the European premiums, even without the performance boost. True, the cabin looks pretty bare, but in my case that’s because I’ve been shoved into a range of Audis, BMWs and Mercs with interiors that are a magical funtasia of lights, switches, dials and touchpads.
Heavy-duty roof spars means the rest of the roof can be reactive glass.
Tesla does it differently, and the others are gradually copying the Tesla lead. The touchpad does virtually everything, including programming the two roller ball switches mounted on the left and right spokes of the steering wheel. A conventional wand is mounted on each side of the steering column if you want to manually operate the lights and wipers. Both functions are automatic – of course.
Another difference. Instead of the conventional induction motors, the Model 3 sports “Internal Permanent Magnet Synchronous Reluctance” motors – phew. The design reduces eddy currents and lowers the risk of the magnets overheating. It eliminates the 3-4 per cent energy loss from generating the magnetic field in an induction motor’s rotor bars.
However, the starting torque is less than an induction motor, so Tesla has designed the new motors with permanent magnets to establish the field without requiring an energy injection. The package is efficient to the extent that Tesla uses Model 3 motors in the drive axles of its Semi Truck.
When it comes to servicing, Tesla ownership is another completely new experience. The regular maintenance amounts to checks on tyre pressures, rotation where necessary, windscreen washer fluid top up and checks of the battery coolant. You can expect to spend very little time off the road. Open the hood and you’ll see why.
In summary, every car I have driven since the Tesla has been a step down in many ways. The range issue is less of a worry with the current models, and I found using the regenerative braking with the throttle pedal only, an easy way to avoid using the brakes entirely, because the system brings the car to a complete stop and holds until you press
the go pedal again.
The little things - Velcro on base of charging cable satchel stops it sliding around.
Adaptive cruise is matched to lane keeping, which also changes lanes for you, on a properly marked multi-lane road, with a touch of the indicator stalk.
There are several cars I have been reluctant to give back after a test drive. They range across sports, commercial and SUV models. But the Tesla took even that reaction a couple of steps further. I’d just love one of these babies.
Model: Tesla Model 3 Long Range
Engine: 2 x Tesla electric motors
Max Output: 335kW and 639Nm
Transmission: Single speed, digital torque control
Range and Energy Efficiency: 657kms - 11.9kWh/100kms