Review: Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD Performance

There's now an EV in my garage and here's why. ...

The highly anticipated, long awaited Tesla Model 3 is now available and being delivered in record numbers to Australians. The Model 3 is Tesla’s first high-volume car and while the mid-sized sedan has the same DNA as the Model S, this was a ground-up redesign that asked engineers to reconsider everything. The biggest challenge of all was the price, basically half that of the Model S (at the time), that’s a super aggressive decision, but one that would enable a price point achievable by many more customers.

The Tesla Model 3 is an incredibly important car, for Tesla as a company and the planet. The Model 3 is designed to be the ‘affordable’ car and starting at around A$70,000 is still a premium price, but there are a lot of people that buy vehicles at that price point.

With Model 3, Telsa are hoping to steal market share away from the likes of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar and other premium brands. What’s really interesting is to watch is just how many new owners are stretching financially to get into a Tesla, sometimes upgrading from vehicles worth a quarter of the price. That means they’re also stealing market share from Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Toyota and others.

After starting deliveries back in Q3 of 2017, Tesla have expanded sales internationally and after the UK, Australia is one of the first RHD markets to get the car. Globally there are now more than 355,000 Model 3s delivered. In Q3 of 2019, Tesla delivered a massive 79,600 Model 3s. The fleet is growing fast.

Now it’s time to read the full review to see if this is the car for you and your family.

 

DESIGN

Minimal. Modern. Global.

Vehicle designers need to work in collaboration with engineers to find the right balance between the visual appeal of the car, and aerodynamic efficiency to increase range. There’s likely a time in the not too distant future, where battery technology reaches a point that practical ranges can be achieved with higher drag co-efficient, freeing designers to get creative with the body. For now, we have a slick, sexy tadpole on wheels.

Personally, I think the Tesla team have done a great job when it comes to the appearance of the Model 3. From virtually any angle, it looks premium, with subtle, yet engaging styling elements that hint at the performance available without screaming at you in bright orange. As I drive around town, the car does turn heads, but mostly from those that know what it is.

There are only a couple of Model 3s in Albury Wodonga, so for a lot of people, they have no idea what it is. The lack of inefficient mass-marketing means most people don’t even know what the Tesla logo is either. They will, soon, through word of mouth as more hit the road, or social posts from friends and family who buy.

If you’re looking out for a Model 3 on the road, there are some unique attributes that will make them easy to distinguish.

Flush door handles

Any object protruding from the body of the vehicle creates drag, which in turn reduces the distance you can drive per charge. This means Tesla (and many other EV makers) use flush door handles. There are various ways to go about it, including my favourite, electric handles that emerge from the car’s body when you approach it, then retract when you start driving. These obviously come at a greater expensive than passive door handles, so as part of the cost saving mission to make Model 3 more affordable, they got left behind.

What Model 3 ended up with are handles that will confuse passengers at first, but as an owner, very quickly become very natural. Using your thumb on the largest section, you push in, which rotates the handle outwards, providing a surface to grab hold of and open the door. While these may seem unique and a stark difference to every other car you’ve jumped in, they are actually like those found on the Nissan GTR, which is admittedly not a car many have interacted with.

The handles do require a different hand based on which side of the car you’re getting in, but while I miss the convenience and lux element of handles greeting you, I was pleasantly surprised how I adjusted to them in just a couple of days. The chrome of the handles also compliments the chrome of the window surrounds and side cameras, so the integration into the body is well thought out.

If you’re going to reimagine door handles outside, why not inside as well. Tesla have ditched any physical movement on the handles inside, instead opting for an electronic button to release the door instead. A press of this button (located in a very natural position), pops the door open and with a push of your elbow against that lovely alcantara outwards and the door opens. With a couple of tries, it’s a slick and modern way of getting out, just takes a little education for your passenger’s first trip.

Aero wheels

The 18″ rims are wrapped in Michelin 235/45 ZR 18 rubber. On the outside of the wheel are aero wheel covers that again are a blend of form and function. To increase the range of the car by as much as 5%, Tesla engineers and designers came up with these wheel covers that dramatically reduce the air disturbance of the 4 wheels rotating.

The Aero covers are a combination of a semi-gloss and glossy surface in a 5 spoke design which I think looks futuristic. Not everyone shares that feeling and some owners are opting to remove the covers, which reveals a fairly decent rim (it’s no turbine, but not bad). With a set of Aero cap covers, the bolts can be covered and also provide a pretty nice-looking end result. If you’re Model 3 is only being used for daily commutes and you prioritise looks over outright maximum range, then its great to have this option. Tesla could have easily made you switch rims completely at a much greater expense.

Glass roof

The roof of the Model 3 is really hard to miss. The expansive glass surface is made up of 3 glass elements, running from the front bonnet over the top of the car and extends down to the boot. This glass is incredibly strong but does raise the issue of heat penetration, especially heading into an Australian summer. The hottest day so far has been around 27 degrees and jumping in the car it certainly did heat up, but the UV coating does a great job to make sure the driver and passengers aren’t fried in direct sun.

When it comes to the heat inside the cabin, Tesla of course leverage their technology stack to offer you a few options for being more comfortable. First you can use the mobile app to vent the car from the mobile app. This lowers the windows, enough to let the heat out, but not enough for someone to get their arm in. You can also remotely turn on climate control to engage the air conditioner, ensuring that by the time you need to get in the vehicle, it’s the perfect temperature.

There is an option to keep the cabin temperature at a defined number of degrees (read: Dog Mode) which will consume more battery, but ensure any pets or people are kept comfortable. This is something not possible in a standard combustion-powered car and I find my self saying that about a lot of features on the Model 3. Any opportunity to offer a feature that requires power, is available thanks to the battery and your control of it via the mobile app, comes from the important decision to include always-on connectivity through an embedded SIM card.

Minimalist dash

With the change to a fully-electric drivetrain, the industry gets to rethink how we do vehicle interiors. Tesla continued its digital approach to controls and knobs and dials just seem antiquated. In the Model 3, they took a bold approach to move the display to the centre of the dash and remove the instrument cluster from directly in front of the driver.

Personally I love the minimalist interior, I try to keep my desk and all workspaces clean. This extreme minimalism in interior design is simply not available from any other manufacturer.

When you see this in photos, it’s hard to wrap your head around how it’d feel to drive the car. After driving for a week, its seriously a non issue. I’m constantly amazed at how easily we adapt as humans. This design is also perfect for a vehicle that is shipping globally. A quick change of the pedals and steering wheel and you basically have a RHD car. The economics of the auto industry means virtually everyone is having to ship vehicles across the globe, so reducing the cost of this difference between LHD and RHD is critical.

When the Model 3 first went on sale in Australia, only the black interior was available, that means most include a wooden trim. There’s plenty of aftermarket wraps and personally I think a carbon fibre wrap is in my future at some stage. The wood is fine, but its not something I would ever choose, given an option.

Since the car launched, Australian’s let Tesla know they wanted the white interior available internationally. Tesla now offers a white interior on just the Performance model for an additional A$1,500. After seeing it and driving a car with white interior at the media launch, I am a little jealous of those who get it (and who can keep it clean), as it really does look high end and comes with a white dash element in place of the wood.

The 15″ display in the centre of the dash is the is the absolute star of the show. It’s fast, responsive, bright and incredibly functional. The primary goal is to provide you access to control your vehicle and provide you driving information like your current speed, autopilot status, gear selected (Park, Drive, Reverse etc). It’s a really nice touch to see the 3D model of your actual car on the display and the recent V10.0 updates have delivered some slick animations to the car. The Maps and Navigation are fantastic and do a great job of keeping you informed about remaining charge and possible charging locations along your journey.

The number of features you can configure in the car is kind of crazy and that’s only growing with every release. When you’re stopped and waiting to charge or waiting for friends and family, the entertainment options of YouTube, Netflix and games are second to none. I will say the addition of Buggy Racing 2 and Cuphead were important as the other games are really inclusions for nostalgia and not something that are entertaining by today’s standards.

It’s clear Tesla should offer an app store in their vehicle, particularly as their vehicle numbers push through the million unit cumulative total. Tesla owners already have a credit card against their account for charging, so there’s very little barrier to entry. Having a robust app platform is going to be increasingly important as the company moves further towards full self-driving.

Steering Wheel

You interface to driving the Model 3 is largely done through the steering wheel. Tesla have opted for a leather-wrapped smaller, sporty steering wheel that feels great when turning through the corners. You’ll notice the wheel looks very different than all other wheels you’ve used before it. The simplicity of the dash is also followed through to the wheel with the typical array of buttons replaced by just 2, 4-way rolling wheels.

These 2 dials are multi-function and context sensitive. If you’re in the vehicle control setup screen, you can use the left scroll wheel to adjust the position of the steering wheel, or side mirrors. You can also adjust the cruise control or distance to follow cars ahead using the right wheel with Autopilot engaged. Naturally when driving, you can adjust the volume, or press the wheel to mute (say in a drive through) and pressing and holding the right wheel will launch the voice assistant.

For the most part these wheels offer a great solution as a hardware interface to controlling various software settings. I definitely think the wheels work better in the vertical axis than in the horizontal, but the times you need to use the horizontal features is admittedly a lot less often. As the functionality of the car grows, these scroll wheels (that are also buttons) can be used for an increasing number of vehicle operations, something only available with a heavily software-based approach to vehicle design.

PERFORMANCE

How does it perform ?

The performance of this car is ridiculous, there’s no other way to describe it. When your foot goes to the floor, the geforces applied to your body are substantial, your body weight increases, your internal organs are pressed together, your head against the headrest and in just 3.4 seconds you’ve reached 100km/hr. That’s supercar quick.

When the acceleration is over, it feels like the speed signs cut you off, far too limiting for the potential of this car. After a burst of speed, your adrenaline is racing and subsides with a memory and unavoidable smile. One of the objectives Tesla set out to achieve was to create a fun driving experience and the point and shoot simplicity, combined with brilliant performance, means this is without a doubt, the most fun I’ve had behind the wheel.

Most cars with this much performance are pretty average to drive at low speeds, but at all speeds, the Model 3 is just plain easy that anyone could drive it. I’d have no problem putting my parents behind the wheel, knowing the computers are performing thousands of calculations per second to ensure all 4 wheels achieve their maximum traction potential at all times. When you plant your foot, the stored energy in the battery is deployed to the electric motors, which in turn, rotates the wheels and propels the car forward – at great speed. There’s no screeching tyres, no moment where you feel out of control, it’s just so different than other driving experiences, and for the better.

Things just happen so much faster in the Model 3, almost as fast as you decide to overtake, or take a corner, the rate you make the decision is virtually aligned to your ability to perform it. When you need to turn, accelerate, brake, turn accelerate again, the car feels nimble and responsive, surprising given the weight of the batteries in the floor. Not bad for a car that weighs 1,860 kg.

My 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer had a 0-100km/hr time of around 9 seconds, so this car is close to 3 times faster. That means the process of wanting to do something (say an overtake) and executing it, has become 3 times faster as well. Driving now is such a fundamentally different experience and I’m no longer waiting for the car, its waiting for me.

On offer today in Australia are three variants of the Model 3, the Short Range+ which is the most affordable, the Long Range All-Wheel Drive and the Performance. The version reviewed is actually no longer available but known as the 2019 Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD Performance, it represented the best value for money.

Known as the Performance- or Performance Stealth, it sits above the LR AWD in terms of performance (3.4s vs 4.5s in 0-100km/hr acceleration) matching the performance figures of the Model 3 Performance. The model reviewed doesn’t have the larger 20″ wheels, red brake callipers, the carbon fibre spoiler or the 30km/hr higher top speed. At the time, that was an additional A$6k+, which mostly went to aesthetics, so was a great option for those that want the performance, but also wanted to save a few thousand dollars.

If you are someone who loves to take your car to the track for a hot lap, then Track Mode could be for you. This turns down the traction control, allows you to have a little more fun and even allows the car to drift. Musk has stated in the past, that a lot of user control over how car behaves should be possible in Track Mode, but right now that’s still on the to-do-list. Track Mode is enabled on the Performance- and Performance+ variants only and users are warned when enabling it, this is not for public roads.

FEATURES

Stand out features of this car.

Autopilot / Autosteer

Tesla’s array of cameras, sensors and radar, provide the Model 3 with a 360-degree understanding of its surroundings. A long-range forward-facing radar that shoots through the front bar, provides visibility up to hundreds of meters away. It can even shoot underneath the car ahead of you and monitor the car in front of that, preparing the brakes should the cars ahead stop quickly.

12 ultrasonic sensors located around the vehicle’s body, also provide you cm precision when parking or navigating a drive through. The sensor suite is complimented by 8 cameras, found in the windscreen, side pillars, indicators and tailgate. The footage from these cameras are processed through the on-board computer and by leveraging computer vision AI, identify driveable space and lane detection to produce path planning for the vehicle to follow.

Tesla’s lane centering technology is the best in the business and enables the vehicle to stay not just between the white lines, but exactly halfway between them, providing the most space to the car next to you. Should another car drift into your lane, the Model 3 will assess the amount of space available beside you and even move your car away from the potential accident. That’s smart, safe and a brilliant use of the technology.

This array of technologies captures an incredible volume of information that lets the car see through heavy rain, fog, dust and even the car ahead. Located outside the vehicle, Autopilot has a huge advantage over humans, as they can avoid the blind spots we face from inside the car (A, B and C pillars as well as other passengers and vehicles outside the scope of the mirrors.

Something I noticed while driving on curvy roads, the Model 3 will actually decelerate the car to safely take the corner. This is new in V10 of the software. There are often speed advisory signs on tight corners, usually around 20-30km/hr less than the speed zone. As you approach the corner, the car slows when using autopilot, which is great, however I found the car was a little on the conservative side right now, something I hope is improved as confidence grows in navigating tight turns.

Using Autopilot in town isn’t officially supported, however there’s plenty of roads that do support it and those that don’t will get added in the future. For now, you’re probably just going to use cruise control. As with many other implementations, Tesla thought about the best way to implement a feature, not just copy and paste what the competition is doing. When driving, a single pull down on the right stalk will engage traffic-aware cruise control. This recognises the current speed zone and automatically sets your speed to match. Speed zone recognition works great in my experience, something I’ll miss if I’m driving any other car. This feature makes driving far easier and also ensures the rapidly changing speed zones are not the cause of your next speeding fine.

Full Self Driving (FSD)

The newest models (includes all Australian model 3s) include HW3, the latest hardware platform from Tesla. This custom-built chip (with full redundancy), processes the massive stream of data from the array of cameras and sensors spread around the vehicle. With all the necessary hardware on-board, Tesla are now working hard to complete the software stack necessary to enable full-self driving.

FSD is due to be feature complete by the end of 2019 (less than 3 months away), which seems highly unlikely at this point, but even a few months late would be well ahead of the competition.

A while back, Tesla’s rethought the features line-up for Autopilot (included) and which features require Full Self-Driving to enables (extra cost). When you have FSD and Autopilot enabled (including Autosteer), the Model 3 will ensure you have enough space in the lane next to you and the vehicle will make the lane change safely. I really enjoyed this feature in the Model S when it was in Autopilot and miss it from the Model 3 today. Without FSD, you indicate, turn the wheel, Autopilot disengages and with the lane change complete, you have to manually re-engage Autopilot. FSD is definitely a win for this feature.

If you buy Full Self-Driving today, you also get an Autopark feature, supporting both parallel and perpendicular parking types. Automated parking has clearly not been a priority for Tesla, as they’re definitely behind other manufacturers in this space.

The rest of the FSD features are really promises of future functionality. Listed under ‘coming later this year’ Tesla expects to add support for traffic light and stop sign recognition. As you can imagine these differ country-to-country, so it may be another feature that gets a US-first, then global rollout. The ability for Autopilot to work on city streets is also coming. Presumably this means Tesla are solving roundabouts and other edge cases found in driving outside the highway that are currently not supported.

In the most recent software update, Tesla offered owners in America the ability to try out Smart Summon. In beta, the feature allows drivers to request the car to come pick you up, simply by pressing and holding a button on your mobile phone. Since the controversial feature went live in V10.0, videos of its use have arrived online with varying success. It definitely seems the feature is still early in its development, so it may be best Americans are testing this one first. The feature on paper is bloody cool, but currently lacks the sophistication to pay attention to parking lines and takes more of a line of sight to come get you. In theory you’ll use this when leaving a shopping center for convenience and to avoid bad weather like rain. If Tesla can make this work, to not just pick you up, but also drop you off, it’ll be a worthwhile feature. The car really needs to go find a park, saving you time when shopping, and ideally go find a charger and charge itself. As you can imagine, multi-story carparks will be a real challenge.

Navigate on Autopilot is available in some countries around the world today, but not Australia. Automatic lane changes on highways would let the car change lanes for you. Often when driving, you’ll find you’ve been travelling slower than the speed limit as adaptive cruise slows you down based on the car ahead. This feature would perform overtakes of slower cars, saving you time and getting you to your destination faster. The technology will even get you off on the right exit and hand back control, making for an even easier drive with less stress.

Being first to market with FSD has a massive potential upside, both reputationally and financially, attempting to deliver level 4/5 autonomy where humans are no longer required is new for everyone. If you elect to pay the extra to enable FSD now, there’s not a lot of benefit in Australia, as much of the feature set is not available here. Over time features will come to Australia, particularly when Tesla presents them with masses of data that proves the technology driving, is far safer than humans. At that point, it’ll be negligent to not allow the technology on our roads. Considering a horrific road toll this year, now is the time to push hard on regulators and let this technology save lives.

While the technology challenge requires some of the best work from the smartest minds on the planet, its perhaps the regulatory approval which is likely to be the hardest challenge of all.

Right now, adding FSD to your Model 3 costs A$8,500, and a purchase now, really indicates an investment in the future, an insurance against price rises over time and a confidence that Tesla can deliver what they promise. Cars that get better over time is still a new concept, with virtually every other car you’ve ever bought, only devaluing after purchase. The decision to buy or not to buy is a personal one, but you should definitely consider the implications of buying it at the time of purchase, given the extra Luxury Car Tax that it attracts. You can buy it after purchase for the same price (assuming no price rises between order and payment).

Driver profiles

One of the first things you’ll do when getting in the car is to adjust your seats, steering wheel positions and its settings like these that are all stored in your digital driver profile. You can have as many as 10 driver profiles, many other vehicles offer 2-3 at most. This is great if you have multiple people (perhaps a workplace) share a vehicle.

The car detects whose key unlocks the car and automatically switches to that driver profile. There’s also a technique to set a seat position and steering wheel position to allow easy entry and exit to the vehicle, then switch to your profile when you’re read to drive.

Your phone is now your key

Accessing the car is done by one of the 2 credit-card style key cards provided with the vehicle at purchase. Pretty quickly afterwards, you’ll migrate to your mobile phone being the key. With my phone in my pocket, I simply walk up to the car, open the handle and get in. Seatbelt on, right lever down and I drive away. This really feels like a step forward in accessing a vehicle and if you have a smart garage door, or keyless entry to your front door, it feels like you’re living in the future.

Being able to leave a bundle of keys at home is pretty refreshing. This past week, I’ve taken just my wallet and phone and even that makes me question the future of the wallet. NSW are already moving to digital licenses and I look forward to VIC following suit. This would allow me to use my phone for everything. Loyalty cards, wireless payment, opening my car and opening my garage, it’s all on the table now when you have a Tesla in the garage.

Sentry Mode and Dashcam

If you spend up and invest in a premium vehicle like the Model 3, you’ll want to ensure your investment is protected. If you format a USB drive in Fat32 and create a folder named ‘TeslaCam’, add it to one of the 2 front USB ports, and your car will gain some extra functionality. The first is Sentry Mode which uses the sensor suite to detect nearby motion and begin recording footage from the on-board cameras.

Not supporting the more modern NTFS format does seem like a strange decision, as it means there’s more of a barrier to entry than there should be for this feature. There should also be an option to connect any USB drive and prompt the user to format and have the car write the necessary folder and format setup.

Sentry Mode also notifies you when you return to the vehicle if there were any events. While you can disable Sentry Mode at known locations like home and work, often parking in public places creates many uninteresting events. It’d be really helpful to be able to review the footage on the in-dash display, but not only that, to analyse the footage and surface events where people or cars are detected, taking you straight to the event.

Voice Control

In the voice control industry, there’s really 2 leaders and 3 players. Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa are streets ahead of everyone else. While Apple did well early, Siri really hasn’t kept pace with the accuracy and functionality of Google and Amazon. So where does Tesla’s voice assistant sit ?

Unfortunately this is definitely one of the weaker parts of the interface. With a great job done on logically arranging the vehicle configurations and entertainment options, you’re unlikely to be too annoyed by an average voice control, but it really should be better.

“Navigate to XYZ”, or “Play Artist” or even “Call XXX” are common commands that should just work and often do, but there are times where it really fails to recognise what you’ve said, off by some margin. There’s such a quiet environment inside the Model 3 that ambient road noise can’t be blamed here, it just doesn’t seem to have been a focus area to date.

With the right developer effort, or partnership with Google or Amazon (unlikely), Tesla could offer customers substantially better voice support. As the cars gain new features, there’s more things to control, so having the ability to control your car by using your voice seems like a natural fit.

Entertainment

There is no car that offers more content options for entertainment than Tesla and they continue to grow. A week ago, when I got the Model 3, it arrived with V9.0 software. A couple of days after delivery I received a push notification from the Tesla app and 20 minutes later, I then had V10.0. This added YouTube and Netflix support, as well as Tesla Tutorials (had already watched them all), even a Chromium-based web browser.

There are now games like Cuphead to add to Beach Buggy 2 and an array of arcade games. This really feels like Tesla stretching their lead in infotainment as they offer new functionality on that great quality 15″ display and capitalise on the investment in stunning audio.

Rear camera

Something I quite like about the interface is the ability to enable the rear camera while driving at any speed. While the rear camera will engage automatically as the car engages reverse, there are times where you’d like to watch behind you, usually to avoid being rear-ended by someone on their mobile phone.

While the rear camera is great, I actually miss a feature from my wife’s CRV. As you indicate left, the camera feed from the left side of the car is displayed on the car’s display. This allows you to be confident that there’s enough space to change lanes into, as well as see any occupants of bike lanes. This would be easy for Tesla to add, however it’s likely a short-term problem, as these cars will likely drive themselves in a couple of years from now.

Car Seat

A mid-sized sedan may not be your first choice for transporting your family on a holiday, especially if you’re family is one that owns an SUV. With the dramatically lower running costs of an EV, you may want to reconsider that choice. While the Model 3 comes with 3 top tethers and ISOfix mounts for 3 car seats, it is unlikely you’ll ever need 3 car seats at once.

In terms of space, after strapping in my daughter’s car seat in the forward-facing orientation, there was still plenty of space between her feet and the back of the front row. The back of the seats is a hard-plastic surface and are likely to get scuffed over time with kids shoes, so be aware if you have children.

When it comes to getting your children in and out of the car seat, the Model 3’s doors open out at a fairly decent angle, allowing pretty good entry to the vehicle. You will need to be conscious of the lower roof, as it’d be easy to bump your, or your child’s head.

After testing the Model 3, it’s definitely approved by my daughter, especially when we’re parked and can take advantage of her favourite Taylor Swift videos on YouTube.

Storage

One of the Model 3’s best tricks is its ability to store luggage in the frunk. Sure you’ll get a few strange looks from bystanders as you pull out a backpack from where the engine used to be, but that also serves as a conversation starter. I find the frunk incredibly useful for day-to-day trips, while the storage area in the lower boot compartment is great to ensure groceries don’t go flying.

Telsa though about items moving, particularly under acceleration, so they angled the frunk base, as well as provided clips to hang shopping bags on. It is a little weird we don’t see those clips repeated in the boot, although I guess Tesla were expecting that to mostly be used for luggage on family holidays.

However you choose to arrange your belongings, I find the Model 3 has plenty of storage and the ability to fold the rear seats down to create a flat floor, opens up the opportunity to fit bookshelves from Ikea, or even a thin mattress to sleep in the car.

Charging

When it comes to recharging, the Model 3 has the most locations of any electric vehicle in Australia. The car uses the now popular Combined Charging System 2 (CCS2) standard for fast charging.

Almost all of Tesla’s own Superchargers in Australia have been retrofitted with the dual-charging setup, supporting the Model S, X and Model 3. Third party fast and ultra-fast charging networks are rolling out fast, thanks to the likes of Chargefox. This is a great example of a private company, with a little bit of Government support, are now able to build a network of 22 charging locations that will run from SA, through VIC, NSW and up to QLD.

Having chargers every couple of hundred kilometres, means you can drive almost anywhere you want to and charging is suddenly a non-issue in Australia. This is largely thanks to the range available in a Model 3, which when this car is fully charged, reads 500kms on the screen (rated 560km NEDC).

Of course when you’re travelling there’s also Tesla destination chargers littered across regional areas, allowing you to select accommodation or venues like wineries to visit and get some charge while you stay.

The Model 3 also comes with a High Power Wall Connector for home. This requires a qualified electrician to install, but once done, allows you a way to charge at home at a faster rate than the standard outlet. This wall charger also looks great and provides a place to hang the charging cable and connector while not in use. This charger is worth A$700 if you bought it outright, so we should really account for that in the price of the vehicle.

Finally we have the portable charger found in your boot. This travels with you and can be used to get you out of trouble, should you ignore all the warnings and drive somewhere you can’t charge. This charger requires many hours (overnight) to get any serious charge, compared to just 30-40 minutes at a Supercharger.

If you have a power plan that offers cheaper off-peak rates, the car can be scheduled to wait for a specific time (say 1AM), before charging. This means you can plug it in when you get home and not be concerned about drawing power at the most expensive rate.

For the most part, the plan for charging is that most nights, you’d connect at home and charge. You’ll find your power prices are lower than Supercharging rates (currently A$0.42 per kWh). When you’re off on a road trip, of course, use the Superchargers, as your time is likely worth more than the few dollars extra you’ll pay. The price of recharging, versus refuelling a traditional vehicle, lands somewhere between 1/3 and 1/4 the price. This means you need to account for lower ongoing costs, which should help you justify a slightly higher up-front cost.

ISSUES

Not everything’s perfect

While the Tesla Model 3 is a really impressive car on so many levels, there are still a number of areas that leave room for improvement.

Autopilot

While the array of technologies that now live under the Autopilot banner offer a great experience, there’s much work to be done. Lane centering is great, keeping the car between the white lines, when they’re available, even in fog, dust, rain and snow. When the lane markings aren’t on the road and bordered by gutters or grass, the system still struggles to accurately detect lanes and therefore Autopilot is still unavailable on many roads.

While technology support for longer trips on highways is certainly a welcome inclusion, if your daily commute features roundabouts (multiple dual-lane roundabouts) you’ll be disappointed there’s nothing to support you today.

I would like to see an adjustment to the bezier curve trajectory mapping that takes you from the current position to the lane centre. Right now, it feels too aggressive when you enable it. When you’re driving and decide to enable Autopilot, you’re almost never in the centre of the lane. The car will make a quick adjustment by turning the wheel to get you there immediately and a following car is likely to see this as erratic.

Console

While Tesla designers made many great design choices, the decision to use a piano black finish on the centre console was perhaps not their best. This has seen many owners resorting to wrapping those pieces in a more practical surface that avoids dust and fingerprints.

Inside the centre console, there’s lots of storage, just 2 USB ports in the front quickly becomes a problem. Tesla feature growth in the car, with games and Sentry Mode, now means you’ll likely need more ports. If you often have 2 people in the car, you’ll consume those 2 ports with USB cables to charge your phones.

If you want to play games in the car, you’ll need another could of USB cables to controllers (my preference is Xbox One controllers). You’ll need another USB port if you want to use DashCam and Sentry Mode for the thumb drive or USB Hard Drive.

This makes for a total of 5 USB ports and again this challenge has seen owners running to 3rd party solutions to solve the problem. Anytime a 3rd party accessory gains serious popularity, its a solid indicator the vehicle manufacturer missed the mark on user needs.

Drink holders

Anyone with a new car is probably fairly nervous about drinking and eating in their car. In the Model 3, you should be fairly nervous if you like to drink energy drinks, or any cup smaller than a standard cup. The cup holders in the car are incredibly basic, offering no solution to support the vast array of different cup/can/bottle sizes we could bring into the car. If you grab a coffee, you’re likely fine, but smaller cans are likely to go flying, so you need to go very easy on the accelerator.

While most things are very well thought through in the Model 3, this feels like one area that wasn’t paid enough attention and a fairly big oversight. The good news is there are third party accessories, but you kind of shouldn’t need to resort to spending more money to solve this. There’s also no illumination like in other vehicles. Adding a multi-coloured LED lighting option would be a fairly low cost option for a big effect.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

How much and when can you get one ?

The Tesla Model 3 is avaialble now in Australia and comes in 3 variants and being a Victoria, I’ll provide prices, with on-road costs included in that context. Given state taxes vary per state, you should head to Tesla’s website and use their configurator to get the right prices for where you live.

 

Model 3 Standard Range Plus (RWD)

Starting at A$73,135 up to A$86,625, this model is rated for 460km of range (NEDC est), 225km/h top speed and a 0-100km/h time of 5.6 seconds.

Model 3 Long Range (AWD)

Starting at A$95,558 up to A$111,008, this model is rated for 620km of range (NEDC est), 233km/h top speed and a 0-100km/h time of 4.6 seconds.

Model 3 Performance (AWD)

Starting at A$105,044 up to A$122,520, this model is rated for 560km of range (NEDC est), 261km/h top speed and a 0-100km/h time of 3.4 seconds.

 

The top Performance model is the only way to get the 20” Performance Wheels, Performance Brakes, Carbon fibre spoiler, Lowered suspension, Aluminium alloy pedals and an increased top speed from 233 km/h to 261 km/h. Interestingly, the Model 3 Performance- also has Track Mode, something Long Range owners miss out on.

The two top models do get premium interior which incldues 1 year of Premium Connectivity (Live traffic, internet streaming music and media and internet browser). You also get premium audio (14 speakers, 1 subwoofer, 2 amps) as well as LED fog lamps, as well as heated front and rear seats, while the SR+ just gets heated front seats. 

If you’re deciding between SR+ and the top 2 models, it’s a difficult decision, one that’s a jump in price of more than $20,000. This feels like there’s plenty of space for another variant, or at least an option for different wheels and white interior.

While available in some locations internationally, the Model 3 in Australia can not tow trailers as no towbar accessory is available here. You should also know that Australian models do no currently have the noise makers seen in European countries to respond to new regulations that force EV makers to make the car emit a sound at low speeds.

OVERALL

Final thoughts

The Model 3 Long Range AWD Performance, is an absolute beast, a wolf in sheeps clothing and the supercar that you might actually be able to afford. Most people see the Model 3 and have no idea of the potential that lies within. Externally the car looks like a premium sedan and internally it feels like a whole rethink on what cars should be in the future.

While its taken a couple of years for the Model 3 to make its way from the US, to Australia, the car still looks and feels incredibly modern inside and out, something I was a little worried about, given how fast design moves.

Tesla have now sold more Electric Vehicles in Australia than any other brand, despite being one of the most expensive, the Model 3 sets the benchmark for EVs. While the $70-$120,000 price tag is still out range for many, those that can find a way to get yourself into a Tesla Model 3, will be incredibly happy, it’s an incredible car that will realign what you expect from vehicles.

After reviewing dozens of vehicles, I think it should speak volumes that I, and a number of other vehicle reviewers have chosen to to invest their own money in. Personally the Model 3 will be my daily driver for what I hope is the next 10-15 years. After a week of ownership, I’m incredibly happy with the decision and have already disconnected from the discussion around fuel prices.

If you made it through the whole review, firstly, thankyou. After more than 5,000 posts and hundreds of reviews over the past 12 years, this is the longest, most in-depth and yes, I could have written even more about this computer on wheels. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments.

Tesla Referral Link
If after reading our full reivew, you decide a @Tesla does belong in your garage, then please use our referral link to get 1,500km (2,000 miles in US) of free Supercharging – https://ts.la/jason45054

9.6
Review: Tesla Model 3 LR AWD Performance
The Good
  • Performance
  • Range
  • Charging options
  • Design
The Bad
  • Complex SentryMode / Dashcam setup
  • Glossy center console
  • Not enough USB ports
  • Design
    9.8
  • Performance
    10
  • Features
    9.5
  • Value
    8.9
Categories
GeneralReviewsTeslaVehicles

Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
11 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

  • Damien Mair
    9 October 2019 at 10:33 am

    After receiving a M3 a few weeks ago, I have to say your article is a really in-depth and well balanced review. We are entering a new era of mobility, and who knew it could be so much fun. The experience of driving (or being driven by a computer), will never be the same.

    Leave a Reply
  • David Nye
    9 October 2019 at 10:58 am

    Great review Jason. I have the exact same car and absolutely LOVE it! Cheers from Brissie!

    Leave a Reply
    • Jason Cartwright
      9 October 2019 at 11:15 am

      Thanks very much David, glad to hear you’re also enjoying it.

      Leave a Reply
  • Andreas Kirch
    9 October 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Hey Jason, great article overall. As you, I’m in the same boat and a proud owner owner of Model 3 SR+ for a week now. Just love it, love the smooth driving, the tech, the updates and the possibility to fill up at home.
    One downside of the vehicle though is the quality of paint and panel alignment. Most owners will look over these little issues as they are now happy to have the car finally after they put money down for a reservation 3 years ago. Mine has a misaligned boot lid, some scratched rear lights and some missing plastic pins in the wheel housing. All nothing major but if you spent $70.000+ you would expect a bit better quality control. I’m working currently together with Tesla to get these issues fixed and make the car PERFECT. Thanks again for you great work and articles here on your site.
    Cheers from Andy (unplugged EV channel on YT).

    Leave a Reply
    • Paul
      10 October 2019 at 12:33 am

      If the pins are the ones I am thinking of, Tesla has dropped them from the assembly. I’m surprised the holes are still there since they were dropped about a year ago. The pins I am thinking of go through the wheel well liner.

      Leave a Reply
  • Don
    9 October 2019 at 1:27 pm

    Hi Jason
    Great overview of M3 I went for the fully loaded option and like yourself love it and as time goes by it improves for free might see you at DST

    Leave a Reply
  • Geoff Acton
    9 October 2019 at 3:36 pm

    Awesome review – you’ve nailed all the key features and benefits – thanks Jason. The only thing I’d add is that for many who have purchased, we’re buying into Elon’s narrative of accelerating the inevitable transition to sustainable energy. I’m loving my SR+, and <$70k in Queensland. Didn't know about holding down right scroll wheel for speech commands.

    Leave a Reply
    • Jason Cartwright
      9 October 2019 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks very much Geoff, yep, there’s lots of potential for more feature controls via the scroll wheels/buttons in the future. Awesome to hear the price is sub $70k in QLD. The more people that get to experience and own a Model 3 the better.

      Leave a Reply
    • Paul
      10 October 2019 at 12:34 am
  • 💧Jeremy Mansfield 🌏 (@JezMans)
    9 October 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Good review Jason. Lots to talk about as you’ve shared. Though as a SR+ owner, I’d suggest ( my bias) this is better value. It’s plenty fast enough on take off, overtaking & handles the curves really well. The features on the base model I think could lead to a far greater take up of the Model 3.

    Night time driving is another positive experience, there being no distractions at the steering wheel. There have been many comments on the need for a heads up display but the minimalist console works fine and makes driving at night easier. I’ve had no quality issues in panels or paint either.

    Having now driven 1,700km, I’m truly astounded how good the Model 3 drives. Compared to previously driven Audi A4, the Model 3 is just on another level. Other car makers have left their run to EV very late and may not be able to stop the momentum for the equiv of the iphone on wheels. It’s definitely a breakthrough product for EV adoption & disrupting incumbents. Love it, love it, love it.

    Leave a Reply
  • Andreas – First in Line – Stephens
    28 October 2019 at 8:51 am

    I only recently got back from a holiday, so I only read this article now. As a fellow new 3P- owner, it beautifully sums up both the facts and emotions around owning and driving this stunning car.

    Perhaps the only topic I would have added to the article if I had written it would be the perhaps self-evident “No Emissions”. One of the biggest thrills I get out of the car are firstly the silence when you start driving off and secondly the knowledge that by driving this car instead of its petrol engine powered cousins I am ever so slightly improving the air that my fellow citizens and I breathe.

    However, if I ever meet someone interested in the Model 3, I would forward this article as a good starting point for further research.

    Well done Jason!

    Leave a Reply
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