I’ve now had my Tesla Model 3 Performance (stealth) for just over a month and in that time have clocked up almost 2,300km. Armed with the experience of actually owning a Model 3, it’s now time to reflect on the car and what it offers.
In terms of design, it’s clear there’s a been a growth in the number of people who recognise what the car is. The first week, nobody turned, nobody waved and now, just a few short weeks later, almost every time I drive it, people notice it which probably speaks to how well Tesla is doing with the Model 3 in Australia.
The car is stupid fast, like how is this legal kind of fast. It’s so ridiculous I can’t help but smile when behind the wheel, even after weeks of enjoying it. Having taken around 25 people for a drive, the reactions are almost all the same – blown away. Most people have never been in a vehicle with this level of performance and the few minutes in the passenger seat is something they’ll remember for a long time to come.
For me personally, I have been in a car with this performance before, back in 2015 when I had the chance to spend a week with P90D Model S. To say I was hooked would be an understatement. That love for electric vehicles was further reinforced with the review of the Model X in 2018.
This just left one question.. how the hell do I afford a Tesla?
Thankfully with the arrival of the Model 3, the car was more affordable (still a lot more than I thought I’d ever spend on a car), but at as much as half the cost of the Model S, I was keen to see what compromises had to be made to hit that price point.
In regards to the performance, I was so happy to feel comprable forces on the body when standing on the accelerator. The only relevant anology is to the feeling you get on a rollercoaster, but one you can experience over and over again, anytime you want.
The acceleration of the Model 3 Performance is 0-100km/hr in 3.4 seconds. This really feels a lot like my memories from the Model S. Fast forward to the best Tesla has to offer today, and the Model S Performance can do the same speed in just 2.6 seconds. That car has a driveaway price of A$174,125 in Victoria. For almost $80,000 cheaper, I can handle 0.8 seconds longer.
One of my weirdest emotions was being disappointed that light didn’t turn red. Such is the experience of accelerating away from the line, that you want to do it all the time.
When you’re on pole position at the lights, it’s often followed by looking in the rearview mirror to see tiny cars that look like ants, ants that were full-sized cars next to you just a few seconds ago. The crazy thing is just how easy, safe and repeatable that acceleration is. There’s no tyre spinning, no opportunity for the car get out from under you, just plant your foot and go, with all that power translated to forward momentum.
So many people try and speed to get their destination faster, but the safer, better way is to optimise the acceleration/deceleration into corners, roundabouts, and turns. Using this method, you don’t have to risk a speeding fine and you get to your destination faster. It’s really not about your top speed, all cars can go 110km/hr, it’s all about the fun getting there.
So to wrap up Performance, it really is ridiculously awesome to have that power under your right foot and pull up next to anything other than a supercar and you’ll easily beat it.
Getting into the Model 3, you’ll notice there’s no fancy ‘greet you’ door handles, instead, Tesla opted for flush manually-operated door handles that took a couple of days to get used to. While these still require explantation for new passengers, honestly it’s a complete non-issue. The second you explain the aerodynamic drag caused by traditional handles, the penny drops as to why they look like they do. Fun fact, these fold-out door handles are also found on the Nissan GTR.
Once inside, you’ll experience most of the car through the touchscreen and the first thing to do is set up your driver profile which stores everything from your seat position, climate control preferences to even your steering wheel position and weight preference, as well as your mirror adjustments, great for drivers at different heights. The only one that doesn’t work electronically is the rear-view mirror.
With all this sorted, you’ll then be ready to pull on the right stalk and get driving.
In terms of driving comfort, cruising Australia’s pretty average roads is actually really comfortable, largely thanks to the combination of really comfortable seats, the suspension and the 18″ Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.
I would love to be able to adjust the angle of the headrest, at times I didn’t want to rest my head against it, but it was a little closer than I’d like. When cruising I did want to rest my head and if you hit a decent bump, your head is bounced off the headrest and then back into, not the nicest experience, despite it being soft.
The Model 3 doesn’t feature the slick air-suspension of the that can be set to raise or lower when entering and exiting steep driveways. This is likely something that just couldn’t meet the price point objectives of the company’s first mass-production car. To be honest, after living with the Model 3, the clearance of the Model 3 is great and speedbumps or driveway entrances have never scraped.
I find the suspension to be really good, firm compared to the boats most people drive around it, but that’s offset by the ability to handle around corners. That firmness pays dividends when you’re actually driving the car hard through the turns, it feels connected to the road, pulls out of a corner level, ready to take on the next in quick succession.
It is pretty amazing how the 1,800kg kerb weight is basically invisible to you as a driver. The car doesn’t feel heavy, it feels light and nimble and driving it around town, or freeway driving is an absolute pleasure and a bunch of fun.
Autopilot (not driving)
Driving a Tesla is so much fun, but it’s likely you won’t need to drive the car for much longer. Updates often improvement Autopilot which is a combination of adaptive cruise control, as well as lane centring (autosteer). With Autopilot enabled, I find I’m able to trust the system has my back and I get to take in so much more of the surrounding environment as a passenger would.
When I first reviewed the Model S, it had an auto-lane change feature that allowed you to simply turn on the indicator (to show intent to the system), then the car would work out if there was enough safe to safely merge into the next lane and perform the merge for you. This was awesome and something I really miss from the Model 3.
If you have Autopilot enabled, then want to change lanes (like 2 lanes merging into 1), then you’ll need to turn on your indicator, then Autopilot disengages, make the lane change, then manually re-engage autopilot. That process just feels really clumsy and could be far better resolved.
The biggest limitation right now is the lack of support for roundabouts, stop signs and traffic lights which is coming.
Where it’s coming to is not all Tesla owners that have the included Autopilot, instead these nicer features are considered to be part of the Full self-driving package, currently costing another A$8,500 on top of the purchase price and set to increase as the feature list grows.
I don’t have FSD unlocked, but would definitely love to get it and share my experiences with the world. The latest update (2019.36.2.1) is rolling out to Australia and NZ, adding the Smart Summon feature that enables FSD owners to request their cars come and pick them up when in car parks.
There’s no word yet on Navigate on Autopilot in Australia, that will automatically change lanes for you on highways and take the right exit for you, before handing back control to the driver. Once that gets approval, that will really help ensure lane changes are done safely and go a long way to reducing unnecessary accidents caused by bad decisions by humans.
The Model 3 feels like two cars in one. The first you drive like a high-performance sports car, the other like a limousine without the driver. Being able to transform between the two is an amazing skill and it’ll be interesting to see how we all feel about giving up the wheel in the future. For the daily commute, not a problem, for the weekend cruise, probably not yet, not unless FSD has user-configurable driving modes like ‘nana mode’ and ‘like you stole it’.
Seats and comfort
The seats in the Model 3 are incredibly comfortable. The leather is incredibly soft and while I haven’t done really long road trips in the car yet, so far I’m over the moon with them. The adjustability in the electric seats, combined with the electric adjustment of the steering wheel, meaning that although I’m tall, I feel like I can configure the seating position exactly how I like it.
I’m a little more reclined that normal, given my feet are higher thanks to the battery pack in the floor of the vehicle. This does mean the car invites you to rest your head on the headrest which I wish had an adjustable angle.
The seats are heated, but heading into the hot Australian summer, I do wish they offered cooling as well, however that does seem increasingly rare in the auto industry.
My biggest complaint with the seat would have to be the subtle side bolster in the seat. This means when you’re taking corners at speed, you do move more than you should. The driver can certainly use the footrest to brace themselves to avoid hanging off the wheel, but in an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to. While I don’t expect the insanity of the Focus RS buckets, something that hugs you a little more would be a great upgrade.
While we’re talking about driver profiles, I hope Tesla add Passenger Profiles. This would allow regular passengers in your car to select themselves from the top of the screen and have their seating position, and climate control preferences set.
The rear seats haven’t got a lot of use in my car, but sitting back there is certainly the experience with that glass roof. The rear passengers have access to USB ports to charge their devices and the back of the first row seats now feature pockets for rear passengers. While that sounds like a common inclusion, that hasn’t always been present in Tesla vehicles.
If you’re planning on throwing a car seat of three in the Model 3, it’s possible thanks to triple ISOfix mounts. It’d definitely be a squeeze, but the fact that you could in a mid-sized sedan is kind of amazing.
Insane time to drive: Get in and go!
Getting into the car is as simple as walking up to the car, opening the door and getting in. The car unlocks thanks to your phone entering the Bluetooth range of the car. Once the car registers your weight on the driver’s seat, the car is ready to go.
Put your foot on the brake, shift the right stalk into drive or reverse and accelerate away. This is easily the fastest vehicle to get in and get moving. It’s equally as fast to exit the vehicle. When I stop, I simply press the button on the driver’s door to open, then get out, close the door and walk away.
The car detects it is stopped, so allows the door to open. When it does, it automatically shifts the car into Park. When you leave Bluetooth range, the car automatically locks. This convenient entry and exit to the vehicle is not a feature listed on the website, but is honestly one of the most enjoyable parts of owning and driving the Model 3 daily.
Road rules were written for other cars
When regulators sat down to develop the rules that govern our roads, they did so based on their understanding of cars back in the day. So often when I’ve been driving the Model 3, I’ve thought to myself just how artificially limited the car is.
This car is capable of driving safely at higher speeds (when using Autopilot) than regular vehicles. So often I’ve felt like the car could do 40km/hr more without issue and that’s probably being conservative.
Pulling onto the freeway and pressing hard on the right pedal, you unleash the beast and only then can you really be set free, but that lasts just a little over 3 seconds before you’re at the maximum allowable speed.
I’ll likely never happen, but I would love to see the day, where cars that have the meet an autonomous benchmark, to provably show that they know everything about their own abilities and the environment around them in 360 degrees, could be given a green light to go faster where safe to do so.
User Interface and that Centre-mounted display
The Tesla-made software in the car is easily the best in any vehicle on the road. The touchscreen is fast and responsive and the interface is intuitive and easy to use. It took me just 2 days to be really familiar with it.
I would love to see some configurability be introduced, like the ability to re-order icons would be a big leap forward.
No messaging support is a big omission for Tesla. Given other vehicle platforms like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have supported receiving and replying to messages (via voice), this is definitely something that should be at the top of their development list.
Charging and range
The Tesla Model 3 has access to the most charging options of any EV in Australia. If you’re concerned about range, then don’t be, with the Model 3 having the ability to charge in so many locations, you’d really have to be intentionally trying to run out of energy to end up on the back of a tow truck.
My charging experience has been fairly different from most. Tesla and other EV manufacturers expect you to charge at home each night, then charge at fast-charging locations when travelling.
The Tesla website lists the NEDC est range as 560km for my vehicle, which I understood wasn’t realistic. I have charged to 100% only a couple of times since having the car, the first time to see what I could get the range number to say (500km was the answer) and the other for a road trip. I’d say the range is fairly accurate, but I’m yet to drive like a grandma long enough to really put it to the test.
Range is not an easy thing to discuss as everyone’s requirements are so different. The roads (hills or flat), climates and mix of city/highway driving varies considerably. Ultimately the Tesla can go further than my old ICE vehicle (2005 Mitsubishi Lancer) that had a range of about 430km before needing to head to the petrol station. The Model 3 Performance is 450km+ so that’ll easily get me from Wodonga to Melbourne without having to stop, although being human, most times we’d probably want to have a break (even to grab a coffee).
Thanks to the amazing techAU community, I haven’t paid for charging since getting the car. I’m now at 34 referrals which means I have over 50,000km of free Supercharging. Since getting the car, I have changed 7 times, most to 90%. I’m quickly learning that being able to drive for free, means you’ll want to do it more often).
As my use settles down, I’ll likely visit our local Supercharger once a week to charge the vehicle (less than 10 minutes away). It is comforting to know that when my family does travel, I have plenty of options available.
Naturally being a Tesla, you have access to hundreds of Tesla Superchargers that have been retrofitted, specifically to support the Model 3. If you live anywhere close to a bank of Superchargers, it makes life a lot easier, although those that don’t, can absolutely still have a great ownership experience.
Tesla Destination Chargers
Tesla Destination chargers are also an option, available at thousands of hotels, wineries etc across the country and often available for free (as part of your stay). Taking a couple of minutes to check the EV charging support at a hotel before booking it, will definitely help your travels go a lot smoother.
Some forward-leaning workplaces are also installing EV charging and sooner or later, the fleet vehicles companies buy (or lease) will transition to EVs. If you can have your boss pay for the power, even better.
3rd Party chargers
In Australia, there’s a growing list of 3rd party charging locations, at shopping centers and even on city streets. These are often located in great locations, close to shop entrances, making for a nice bonus of EV ownership.
The third-party Ultra-fast charging networks, like that of Chargefox and Evie, actually offer the fastest charging available, even faster than Tesla’s own Superchargers at 350kW, although the Model 3 will only accept a rate of 250kW.
Some public locations require you to bring your own charging cables and if you frequent one of these locations, then you should definitely check out JetCharge who offer a number of options.
When you buy a Model 3, it comes with a High-Performance Wall Connector (HPWC) included. This costs around A$800 to buy as an accessory, so that should actually be accounted for in your vehicle purchase.
This charger is designed to be installed in your garage to enable the fastest possible charging at home. This does require an electrician to install but will save you time. Charging with this technique will net you around 50km of range each hour.
Some homes and businesses are kitted out with 3 phase power which offers 24A, converting to 16.5kW and a respectable 75km every hour.
In the boot of your Tesla Model 3, you also get the emergency charger. This runs off any 240 outlet, but comes with 2 adapters (10A and 15A). Depending on the outlets in your house and how they’re wired, will determine which one you use (these are differentiated with different earth pin sizes.
You can expect a charge rate of around 3.7kW and get 25km per hour on the 15A version. With the base 10A edition, you’ll get a relatively tiny 2.3kW which will get you between 11 and 15km of range per hour of charging. This really is designed for emergencies, or overnight on the most distant locations.
The Tesla is a mid-sized sedan, so its expected that you could travel with your friends or family and be able to store their luggage for an overnight, or even a week-long vacation. Thankfully Tesla has prioritised storage space as a feature of the vehicle, which is also helped by the all-electric drivetrain.
Day-to-day I find myself using the font trunk for most of my storage needs. Generally, backpacks and small suitcases will fit in here without issue, which the grocery hooks have come in handy to secure items like food in there.
The base of the frunk is actually angled down, to stop items from moving under acceleration – smart. It would be good to have some kind of visual reminder on the screen to let you know you have something in the frunk, so you can take it easy on the acceleration.
When it comes to larger storage, the boot is massive for this sized-vehicle. A number of suitcases are an easy challenge, even a pram can be easily accommodated.
I’ll soon be travelling to Ikea, so I’ll try out the rear seats folding flat to accommodate 2x 1.5m desk tops. The fact you can do this means you can avoid needing to get a trailer to move items of this size.
Perhaps the hidden gem in the boot is the space where your spare tyre would go (yep, no spare, just roadside assist). This space is large enough for another backpack or small overnight bag. It’s great to secure items that you really need to avoid moving around. I would like to see additional hooks in the boot to avoid having to use this space as often. Again this is an example of Tesla thinking about the grocery hooks in the frunk, but leaves them out of the boot.
Storage inside the cabin is also very generous, with the console between the driver and passenger seats offering plenty of space. Even storing something like a drone (DJI’s Mavic 2 Pro) and the controller was possible given how large the storage is. I was also able to use the 12V outlet to charge the battery for the drone, nice! I’ve also used this space to house an Xbox controller for those times I want to have a session of Beach Buggy 2 while charging.
TeslaCam and Sentry Mode
Dashcam and Sentry Mode both require a USB drive to store the data from the on-board cameras. I have a Samsung T5 500GB SSD in the centre console. This enables me to store weeks of recordings and in the event of an accident, I’ll have access to footage from 4 cameras pointed at each direction around the vehicle. This gives me comfort that my investment is secure, or at least protected. We’ve seen plenty of examples of people who have damaged Tesla’s being tracked down thanks to Sentry Mode.
Setting up a storage drive should be much easier, like connect the drive, get prompted on the display to format the drive, then let it take care of preparing the drive, creating the TeslaCam folder etc. Currently, this requires set up on a PC or Mac, then sneakernet into the car and back every time you want to download the footage. It all feels very non-Tesla if I’m honest, not the typical slick, they’ve thought of everything experience.
Having the capability to review and share the dashcam footage or SentryMode events in the car is a no brainer and strange that it isn’t already possible.
Having Dashcam built into the car is pretty great, as often weird and wonderful things will happen out in the world and being able to get the footage is a really great feature. I am a little disappointed in the image quality from all but the rear camera, but it is certainly clear enough for its primary purpose, reading details like number plates.
This car continues to get better with every software update. By extending the functionality for existing owners, Tesla adds more value for existing investments and helps secure the next vehicle purchase or the second car in the garage will be a Tesla in the future. For new potential owners, it changes the value proposition and maybe enough for someone to finally pull the trigger on buying a Tesla.
There have been 3 software updates since I got the Model 3 with another one pending. Two have been bug fixes and improvements, while the most important was the V10.0 upgrade. This added Netflix and YouTube apps, along with an array of new tweaks and improvements.
A 4th software update is rolling out to owners now and will deliver a 5% performance improvement to Model 3. That comes from Tesla learning more from the real-world usage data that enables them to extract more power from the battery pack and electric motors without impacting reliability, lifespan or creating warranty issues.
There’s also Automatic Navigation which predicts when you leave for work that you’re going to work and automatically enters the navigation route for you. This helps inform you about traffic events and ETA without you having to enter your destination each time. To add to that, there’s also Scheduled Departure which can pre-condition the cabin to your favourite temperature, ahead of your departure time, also ensuring your charging has been done in the cheapest time overnight.
These updates are honestly so refreshing to see. While there’s no hard commitment of when each will arrive, it seems 4 in about 5 weeks is pretty reassuring as an owner to know the company is committed to ongoing updates. The car feels much more like your mobile phone, rather than your TV.
Armed with the power of the battery on-board, there are some really smart possibilities available to EV manufacturers. What Tesla has that many other automakers don’t, is to get a suggestion online (often Twitter) then implement that feature in a matter of weeks, not years. That rapid development, testing and deployment is something we expect of silicon valley, but rarely ever see from Detroit.
In terms of the international software rollout to the almost million Tesla vehicles on the road, I wish Tesla offered better options for people to opt into getting the update earlier, like the ‘seekers’ of Windows 10. This means if you go to the update screen (in the car or the app) and check for updates, you should get the update, rather than wait for the natural deployment that could take days longer.
What Tesla has built with the Model 3 Performance is a seriously amazing car. It really is the funnest thing to buy and a computer on wheels is an accurate description. The car certainly isn’t perfect with some Spotify buffering issues, some frame drops on the reversing camera to name a couple, but on a whole, this car is one I’m incredibly happy I stretched to achieve and the ongoing costs are basically non-existent (budgeting for tyres already).
If you have any questions about the car that weren’t answered here, please leave a comment and we’ll get it answered for you.