Last week Tesla teased future Model 3 owners by bringing 3 of them to Australia. Located in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, those with pre-orders were given first access. With the arrival event done, the Model 3 is now available to go see in person, so if you are considering buying one, it’s your first chance to see them in real life, not just on screen.
I found myself in Melbourne today and drove to the Chadstone shopping center specifically for a look at the Model 3. The were no lines, I just needed to wait for a free staff member to be let into the roped off area, housing one of just 3, Model 3’s in Australia.
After spending about 20 minutes with the car, it’s now time to detail some initial thoughts..
The cars on show in Australia are red in Sydney and Melbourne, while Brisbane’s is silver, all have the premium black interior with the premium 19″ sport wheels. This combination is striking and while I think I’d go for the aero wheels, it was great to see the bright, vibrant red in person. While the White X and grey S were also on show, there’s no doubt the red steals the show and is definitely the colour I’d go for.
These cars have the tinted glass roof in the rear and something I noticed that doesn’t come through in photos is the heating element is actually quite noticeable in the rear when outside the vehicle.
In terms of size, I’m a tall guy at 6’3 and was a little concerned how the car would feel inside being smaller dimensions than it’s big brother, the model S. It is definitely smaller, but that comparison is a little flawed. Almost nobody is switching out of an S to a 3, if you’re like me, you’re switching from a 15-20yo mid-sized sedan and under that comparison the Model 3, with it’s glass roof, feels big inside, with plenty of headroom for me.
I also tested the distance the driver’s chair could slide backwards. The answer is, a lot, past where it was comfortable for me to reach the pedals. Sure this would impact the rear passengers if you had a giant driving, but the take away is that this car is a great size and could comfortably carry 4 adults, or more commonly do a great job of transporting a family of 2 parents, 2 kids. It is worthwhile remembering the lack of a transmission tunnel offers a more comfortable 5th seat in the middle of the rear, but if you have a baby seat on each side (ISOfix provided), you would be reminded of this being a mid-sized car, so it’s a sometimes thing, like if your child has a friend that needs to be dropped off at soccer practice.
After reviewing the Model X with white interior, I fell in love and that’d be my pick when ordering a Model 3. The black is really nice, actually feels a lot more premium than I expected, like that of a BMW or Audi, but the white is next level, that does come at a cost though.
The glossy black center console was indeed a dust magnet and it’s easy to see why the aftermarket is thriving with carbon fibre wraps to solve this problem. It’s certainly not the only car to use this surface type and won’t be the last.
As for the wooden strip, I actually really love it, it’s a really nice timber selection, however, in an ideal world, Tesla would offer a range of finishes so people don’t have to look to 3rd parties for personalisation.
I couldn’t drive the car, so sitting in the driver’s seat and interacting with the display off to the right (will be left in RHD model), was a good approximation of what it’d be like to leave the instrument cluster behind. While there is minimalist dash when you look through the steering wheel, it doesn’t really feel weird or strange because the shape of the wheel is maintained.
The fixed display showcases the most important info on the side closest to the drive, so it’s definitely an easily glanceable location for speed, navigation (mostly done through audio commands).
If I was driving a Model 3, the single biggest use I’d have for the display would be to check when the car’s sensors and cameras have locked onto the road and made autopilot available to be enabled.
Speaking of autonomy, it’s hard not to think Tesla made the decision to remove the instrument cluster and not include a heads-up display because they don’t think you’ll need this info for very long. Tesla showed level 5 autonomy back in November 2017 and by all accounts is not far away. Once the technology (and laws) allow the car to drive itself, the issue of the display placement will be null and void, instead turning to why there’s no displays for rear passengers to be entertained.
I did love the larger, vertical display in the Model S and X, but while there’s not the same 50/50, user-selected freedom on this display, the important content is still there. Would I love it to support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, of course, but Tesla insist on rolling their own. I definitely survive road trips with Podcasts using Pocketcasts and Music from Spotify, give me those two apps and I’m generally happy.
In an ideal world I want a connected car to keep me up to date and allow me to respond (probably via voice) to anything coming through my phone. Sure messages and calls are the obvious content supported in cars these days, but what about those who use Snapchat or WhatsApps or if you get an Instagram DM, how do you deal with that and not get out of the car with a big to-do-list. That’s the dream of a connected drive.
It is expected that Telstra will again provide the connectivity to the Tesla Model 3, like they do for the S and X. Given Telstra’s 5G push right now, it’d be an amazing combination to have the Tesla Model 3 in Australia launch as the first 5G enabled car mid 2019, offering premium internet speeds for a premium (while still more affordable) car.
When the initial images of the steering wheel were released, I hated them. I thought the balls looked cheap and with the lack of any other buttons on the face of the wheel, it was the only thing you had to focus on.
Thankfully after having used them and seen them in person, they look and feel a lot better than I expected. The wheels were responsive and incrementing slow or fast was easy. They also support horizontal movement and are context sensitive to what’s currently selected on the display.
The fronk is a well told story, for me the question mark on this vehicle was the boot space. Opening the trunk reveals a large opening and it’s deep, like really deep, so a couple of suitcases or even a stroller should be no worries at all. This means a family weekend away is a definitely posibility with this car.
In the center console there’s also plenty of storage, the only place that’s light on is the glove box, but with many alternatives, you’ll get by just using that for light storage like a magazine, book, or sunglasses.
Every car Tesla has made so far has had different door handles. There is one common feature and that’s the aerodynamically flush handle while driving. This may be subtle, but door handles, like mirrors (required by law) create drag on the car, something that can impact range, so Tesla’s decision to reinvent the door handles does have a purpose.
Looking at photos and watching videos from US owners, I thought I hated the door handles on the Model 3. After using them, I don’t mind them. I love the slick experience of the electric handles on the Model S that extrude from the side of the car, but they’re obviously more expensive than the economics-focused Model 3 would allow.
The handles work with a thumb-first approach. Just push with your thumb to the back part of the handle and the front part (handled bit) rotates and lands nicely in your hand. This was the bit I was unsure of. I didn’t know if ergonomically this made sense or you had to manipulate your hand for the car, instead of it working for you (and your passengers). I’m sure it’ll take plenty of explanations and scale in Australia before average Joe can open the doors, but with time, this will be a non-issue and as an owner I expect you’d spend about 2 days before forgetting about the door handles.
When all said and done, getting hands-on with the Model 3 confirmed for me that this is the car I want to replace my 15 year old Mitsubishi Lancer. The only question that remains is the Australian pricing, once we have that, then model choices and interior options become a lot clearer.
With the production of the RHD models starting mid next year, I do wonder if placing an order now would see you getting a car before 2020. While a decent pre-order list surely exists in Australia, weekly production numbers are ramping up considerably.
For more information head to https://www.tesla.com/model3. If you jump on the US site, the Model 3 configurator is available to play with and while we don’t know for sure, it’s a reasonably safe bet, most of those options will be available to Australians.