Displaying items by tag: tesla
But we're still waiting for Tesla's Full Self-Driving feature to materialize.
With more than a year and 24,000 miles logged with our Tesla Model 3, we're way past the honeymoon phase. Our initial 12 months of included premium connectivity has expired, which means in-car audio and video streaming now only works with a Wi-Fi connection. And since not one of our area Superchargers has it, we are no longer whiling away the time spent charging our car by streaming Netflix.
Our maintenance costs thus far have totaled $313, which is on par with the cost for many gas-powered vehicles. That includes two rather steep charges from Tesla's in-house service network: $103 for a tire rotation and $210 for an unusual service to lubricate our car's brake calipers, which is called for annually on cars that reside in a state like ours that uses salt to rid the roads of ice during winter months. That service is to prevent the brakes from seizing, as they don't get much use when regenerative braking from the electric motors is employed more often to slow the car than the conventional friction brakes. Also unusual, though not expensive, is that the key fob has already burned through a battery. We also spent $1088 to replace a cracked windshield, but that was our fault.
What never gets old, however, is plugging in while out running errands and getting fuel for free. Even 14 months in, that perk still feels novel. We haven't had any other significant issues with our car since the replacement of the rear motor assembly that happened a year ago. The trim on the driver's side B-pillar—the piece you tend to bump getting in and out of the seat—came loose and was fixed under warranty. We noted squeaks and rattles that materialized early on, but those don't seem to have worsened with the additional time and miles.
The spring and summer months substantially improved the Model 3's energy consumption. In the most efficient month, June, we averaged 267 watt-hours per mile (Wh/mile), while in December—with winter tires installed and the average temperature plummeting to 34 degrees compared with June's 81—it increased to 354 Wh/mile. That equates to a 60-mile swing (or 20 percent) in expected range, depending largely on the outside temperature. And that's if it's plugged in overnight. Otherwise, the Model 3 can easily shed an additional 10 or 20 miles of range. Our overall average consumption is 316 Wh/mile, and our average efficiency—unlike consumption, which includes charging losses—has bumped up by 10 MPGe to 84 MPGe.
At the current national average residential electricity rate of 13.6 cents per kWh, it's costing us 5.5 cents per mile to power our Model 3. If we instead relied entirely on Tesla's Supercharger network, the cost would nearly double, to 10.4 cents/mile, almost matching the price of keeping our long-term BMW M340i filled with 93-octane premium (10.7 cents/mile). That may be an extreme example, but it proves the point that having a high-voltage charger at home or at your office is critical if you want to reap the potential financial benefits of going electric.
Although our Model 3 was dispatched to our annual Lightning Lap event at Virginia International Raceway, completing each 635-mile leg of that trip from Ann Arbor and back with three stops to charge, we have still yet to beat our previous best of 221 miles between plugging in. That's partially because, according to the TeslaFi tracking tool we're using, our battery has lost 7 percent of its capacity, or 22 miles, since it was new.
We're still smitten with the Model 3's swiftness. And we're intermittently impressed and befuddled by the varying experiences of its Autopilot feature. Sometimes it seems that fully autonomous driving is nearly upon us. At other times the system bobbles a seemingly straightforward maneuver so badly that we think the promised Full Self-Driving (FSD) capability that we paid for more than a year ago—and are still waiting to materialize—is much further off than Tesla would have the world believe.
Instead of meeting its self-imposed 2020 deadline to release FSD, Tesla deployed a new feature at the tail end of last year, called Boombox, with which we can now assault the outside world with music or various noises—including, naturally, a whoopee cushion—using the car's external speaker. That update also rejiggered the layout of the central touchscreen, giving more real estate to the area that depicts the car's surroundings, which will likely become more important when hands are no longer on the wheel. Both of these are changes that we haven't seen in any other car, proving yet again that the Tesla experience is definitely not car-making as usual, for better and for worse.
The updates on many of our long-term cars, particularly the trouble-free ones, tend to be as much about us as about the vehicles. In the absence of reliability or service drama, the focus instead becomes the places we visit, plus whatever new annoyances we find over the course of 40,000 miles.
But the Tesla ownership experience is as different as the driving experience. A Tesla actually changes over time with the company's steady stream of software updates. In the six months and 10,000 miles since we've taken delivery of our Model 3 Long Range, there have been 12 software updates, or an average of one every 16 days. Not all of them are substantial, however; many are small, follow-on updates to fix issues after a major update is released.
We already mentioned that the update to version 10, a major one, was ready when our car first arrived, and it added Smart Summon and Theater mode, which allows streaming of Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu. It's a great way to pass the time while charging. Since then, we've seen a flurry of changes, such as the addition of true one-pedal driving. (Before the update, the car would slow to about 3 mph but wouldn't come to a complete stop.) There's also Dog mode for maintaining a comfortable cabin temperature while us humans are running errands (and displaying a large message to assuage any window-smashing would-be do-gooders passing by). Dashcam and Sentry mode security features also have been added. Sentry mode stores clips from the array of exterior cameras, either at the driver's behest or when the car detects motion while parked. Just this week, Tesla righted a wrong by adding the ability to view that footage on the car's center screen.
Although the Model 3's acceleration—and particularly its responsiveness—was already garnering universal praise by our staff, one of the updates included a claimed five-percent power bump, which improved our car's performance across the board, including a 0.1-second improvement of its zero-to-60-mph time to 4.0 seconds.
Then, on Christmas Day, disaster struck. While parked in a driveway, a short in the rear power inverter triggered a pyrotechnic fuse, which prevented an even worse outcome. Following a tow-truck ride to the closest service center about an hour away, the entire rear-motor assembly was replaced. We received plenty of emails and DMs from other Model 3 owners sharing similar stories of getting stranded at the hands of a Model 3. But we've had zero reliability issues since, related either to this event or anything else.
How Much Does Climate Control Affect EV Range?
Complaints about the automatic wipers have continued despite an update meant to improve them. Given the poor performance we've experienced, we question Tesla's choice to rely on the front cameras to control their operation rather than a rain sensor like every other automaker employs. Print director Eric Tingwall elaborates: "The wipers often lay dormant as the windshield becomes nearly opaque with spray from surrounding traffic. Then you wake them up by tapping the stalk for a single wipe, and they unnecessarily run at full speed for several minutes." Many also have commented on the difficulty in locating the wiper settings in the center screen.
This brings us the most regular logbook refrain: the Model 3's near complete reliance on the center screen to control its various features and functions. "I now know how my grandma felt when we got her an iPad," said staff editor Connor Hoffman after driving our Model 3. "Every time I get in it, I find something new." Road-test editor Becca Hackett admitted to tinkering with the center screen for an hour in her garage as she tried to acclimate herself to the setup when she drove the car home for the first time. And staff editor Colin Beresford asks an existential question: "If a member of Gen Z can't find a feature on the screen, does it even exist?" Some of the few physical buttons that do remain are in odd locations, too, such as the hazard button up on the headliner. Other regular comments include the disconcertingly loud clunking noises that happen while plugged in at one of Tesla's fast-charging Superchargers. Although this doesn't happen in the Model S, it seems to be normal for the 3.
We've also done some experiments of our own. We discovered that the Model 3's plastic wheel covers improve range by up to 10 miles. And although the near-instant warm air blowing from the Tesla's HVAC system is welcome on a cold morning, we found that cranking up the climate control alone can reduce range by 60 miles. We also recently compared the charging speeds on one of Tesla's new 250-kW V3 Superchargers versus the older 150-kW units.
We're still waiting for substantial updates to the full self-driving option that added $6000 to the purchase price. Although Tesla has added more features to the visualization that appears on the left side of the screen while driving—including displaying traffic lights and construction cones—we're waiting for a real improvement in Autopilot's capability that Tesla has been teasing of late.
Not making it easy to keep up with the frequent updates is the fact that Tesla requires a Wi-Fi connection to download software and won't do so through the built-in data connection. Plus, the Model 3 only connects to simple Wi-Fi sources like the typical home router with a network name and password. Anything more complex, such as a network that requires a username and password, or if you need to open a browser window to agree to legal boilerplate, won't work.
So, where have we driven our Model 3? Not very far. We've mostly stayed in our home state of Michigan as we've soldiered through winter. Its logbook is full of anxiety-ridden comments about near misses on range, which we've been chewing through at a rate that's roughly 50 percent higher than predicted. Our farthest drive thus far was a 221-mile run from our office to northern Michigan. Longer road trips with multiple stops—such as Hoffman's recent 520-mile drive to St. Louis—generally don't allow attempts at range maximization since pit stops have to occur where the Superchargers are. And it's not time efficient to wait to recharge the battery all the way to 100 percent.
But we'll certainly be trying to improve upon that that as the winter tires come off, the temperatures continue to warm, and we're once again free to roam the country.
Months in Fleet: 6 months Current Mileage: 10,626 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 74 MPGe
Battery Capacity: 75.0 kWh Observed Fuel Range: 236 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
One of the most interesting things about the Model 3, and Teslas in general, is just how much it deviates from the norms of autodom. Unlike other automakers, which often wind up creating very similar entries by carefully tracking and matching features and equipment relative to the competition, it's refreshing—and occasionally annoying—how Tesla simply does its own thing.
As we're embarking on a 40,000-mile evaluation of a 2019 Model 3 Long Range, our second long-term Tesla after a 2015 Model S P85D, it's impossible not to notice this electric vehicle's vast differences compared with other compact-luxury sedans that exist at a similar size and price. There's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto here, although the feature has become nearly ubiquitous among its luxury-sedan peers, nor even a gauge-cluster display in front of the driver. However, there are lots of wowing tricks up the Model 3's sleeve to win over people coming into contact with a Tesla for the first time, such as Emissions Testing mode, with six different fart-noise options, and Dog mode to keep our furry friends comfortable. And its phone-as-key feature works completely seamlessly, unlike more recent attempts by traditional automakers, such as Hyundai, that require awkwardly getting out a phone and holding it to the door handle. Plus, there's the very capable suite of Autopilot driver-assist features, which is now standard and generally works impressively to reduce the amount of steering, braking, and accelerating the driver needs to control.
Quick and Enjoyable
Especially when viewed from the front, we wouldn't call the Model 3 attractive, but the low cowl and large glass area make for an expansive forward view. And that is one of a flurry of positive comments about driving the Model 3; it's extremely quick, with direct steering and even a willingness of our all-wheel-drive model to rotate under power. We're suckers for its instant response and forceful acceleration—at 4.1 seconds to 60 mph, this latest 3 is 0.9 second quicker than the initial Model 3 Long Range we tested, which only had a rear motor, and it's also just 0.3 second off the pace of the swift BMW M340i. What's more, the Tesla's power delivery sets itself apart by its instantaneousness, which is demonstrated by our 5-to-60-mph rolling-start test. The Model 3 nails it in 4.2 seconds, whereas today's highly boosted gas engines often have a significant gap between their standing-start and rolling-start metrics (the difference on the M340i, for example, is 0.9 second).
The Model 3 stacks up less well in other areas against the usual luxury players—BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Mercedes C-class—where its plasticky seat material, fixed and narrow headrests, and ultracheap, cardboard-like cover for the large bin under the trunk floor don't live up to its luxury price point. The Model 3 also isn't as hushed over the road as the traditional players; there's a lot of wind noise at 70 mph, and at 70 decibels, it measures one to two decibels louder at that speed than the segment norms. And that's not including the way it clomps loudly over lateral pavement seams, which is partly a result of its high, 42-psi tire pressures that help manage the Model 3's 4038-pound curb weight (that's 141 pounds heavier than the rear-drive Model 3 we tested in 2018) and boost its range.
Among the oft-discussed issues on early Model 3s were panel gaps and overall build quality, and in that area, this latest car is far better than our earlier example. However, the hood wasn't quite level on our car when it arrived, so we adjusted the hood grommets to make it so. We're already noticing some squeaks and rattles emanating from the instrument panel, particularly in the cold weather that has descended on our Michigan HQ.
We're using third-party software called TeslaFi to corral a staggering amount of data streaming from our car, including its whereabouts, mileage, charging and charge efficiency, temperatures outside and inside the vehicle, and climate-control usage. In our first two months, we've spent 85.5 hours behind the wheel of our Model 3 over 280 drives and a total of 3867 miles. However, partly due to an average outside temperature of 43 degrees, we've used nearly 50 percent more rated range than miles actually driven. That has led to complaints that the main range readout does not adjust downward when using up the battery at a quicker rate than its EPA rating suggests. However, there is a running average figure based on recent driving, found on the Energy screen. We've also noted that the battery's state of charge can drop by 5 percent or so when the Model 3 sits outside overnight in 40-degree temperatures without being plugged in.
Tesla Smart Summon Feature Is Looking Reckless
The only options on our test car are its $1000 Midnight Silver Metallic paint and the $6000 Full Self-Driving Capability, bringing our total sticker price to $57,690. While the latter feature—currently priced at $7000—promises at some point in the future to actually fulfill its name, for now it enables advanced Autopilot moves such as Smart Summon, where the Model 3 will drive itself to the location of the owner's smartphone in a parking lot, and automatic lane changes around slower traffic on the highway. Our car has the base 18-inch wheels with all-season tires and the aero wheel covers, and we tested just how much slipperier those covers are through the passing air than the better-looking aluminum wheels hiding beneath.
What has become a Tesla trademark is continual upgrades, and in the two short months we've had our car, we've downloaded Version 10 software, which added Smart Summon, and built-in Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, and Spotify streaming. Very recently, we updated to 10.1, which promises a 5 percent bump in horsepower. We'll be headed back to the test track to see how much that improves the already very quick acceleration numbers. No doubt there will be lots to talk about.
The only thing more volatile than a Tesla fanboy's mood swings is the company's share price. But away from Twitter and Instagram devotees, the Model X cuts an imposing, whale-shaped hole into the electric car chasm. We'll leave it to you to make puns about it serving a porpoise...
Falcon doors (more on those later), an iPad-like cockpit screen, fart sound effects, and an unholy 0-62mph time of 2.6 seconds for the fastest model help the Tesla stand out from the crowd. But the crowd is circling, and growing.
In case you've missed them, Audi, Mercedes, and Jaguar all have electric SUVs now in the shapes of the i-Pace, EQC, and Audi e-Tron. While BMW's effort, the iX3, is now beginning to trickle into showrooms.
Sure, they're all more compact than the Model X - closer in size to the forthcoming Model Y in fact - but in these early days of manufacturers fleshing-out their electric ranges it's fine to combine the choices together.
Best electric cars: the CAR guide
With that pressure mounting, is the Model X still the car to go for if you want something that's flashy, huge, and green?
More like Tesla Model XXL...
Tesla has matured since the days of the original Roadster, and now Elon Musk’s EV company has a distinct design language. Featuring a minimal grille with no air inlets – a benefit of not having to cool down the byproducts of combustion in a traditional engine – the Model X looks like the updated Model S – but unlike anything else on the road.
The Tesla Model X is just as distinctive from the reverse angle, but those clean lines betray just how huge it is. And it really is vast, so you can get it in five-, seven- or six-seat configurations.
Those Falcon Wing doors
Tesla’s Falcon Wing doors set the Model X apart from the Model S, as well as every other vehicle – and they get their own section in this review. While they appear to be a gimmick – and often feel like one – they’re sometimes genuinely useful.
To begin with, you can’t help but feel they’re made for early-adopters to flaunt at Superchargers like peacocks. The whole process seems to take a while, and the doors don’t always unfurl in a smooth or uniform way, giving the impression they’re rather flimsy.
That’s a shame, because there were times when the doors really came in handy. When parked close to other cars, for instance, they allow multiple passengers to hop in and out, where other doors would require a squeeze. Tesla says they’re invaluable for elderly passengers too, and you can see why.
But the doors can also be a nuisance, and there were times we’d try to avoid using them. Forgotten a bag in the back? Can’t stretch round and get it from the driver’s seat? Nope. Moments later, seconds later, you’ve got your bag, but onlookers think you’re trying to show off.
Are they cool? Debatable. Are they useful? Sometimes. Perhaps a Tesla Model X with one conventional door and one Falcon-wing would be a suitable halfway-house - although this presents problems for building cars for right- and left-hand drive markets.
Is the Tesla Model X practical?
Whatever you think of the doors, they’re part of the Model X’s focus on practicality, and that design ethos is evident inside the car, too. Three seating configurations are available, and seats can be electrically folded and moved like parlour tricks: lightly press a hidden button and headrests fold down, for example.
With the rear two seats folded away the boot isn’t small, and if you’re still not happy, there’s always the froot (front boot to those allergic to naff portmanteaux). However, all that empty space doesn't always translate to spaciousness; when specified with two seats in the middle row, they're positioned close to the rear doors with an overly large gap between them, rather than adding elbow room for the outer edge. Even the front seats offer a more balanced amount of elbow room on either side.
Seven-seat fully-electric SUVs are few and far between. The e-Tron, iX3, i-Pace and EQC are all strictly five-seaters. The Model S can do you seven-seats, while if you're really not bothered by SUVnes, there are always the Mercedes EQV and Nissan e-NV200 car-derived vans.
What’s it like to drive?
Imagine a Model S with more height and weight, and you’re pretty much there. Just like the saloon, the Model X offers a relatively firm ride and swift linear acceleration, but only really reminds you of its 2.3 tonnes when you brake or turn. The performance is fun on slip roads and genuinely useful on the motorway, but don’t think this is a Stelvio Quadrifoglio rival. It just happens to be whisper-quiet and quick.
If acceleration is too fast for you, putting the car in Chill mode will make the performance a little more laidback - and handily extend the battery range too.
Like its siblings, the Model X’s steering is more of a switch than a precise instrument. Changing it to a sportier mode certainly helps, but not much. It may be a family car, but it’s an area where Tesla will need to improve on to compete with the work of more experienced chassis engineers if it wants to appeal to drivers who well, enjoy driving.
Of course, Tesla's ultimate ambition is that you won’t be driving in the traditional sense all the time anyway. Our Model X was fitted with Tesla Autopilot, and it remains one of the best driving assistance packages on the market today. Once the system decides the road is suitable, Autopilot is engaged with two pulls of the dedicated stalk, and that’s pretty much it. Just twist the stalk to pick the distance between you and the car ahead.
Traffic jams, motorway lane changes and sliproads are handled swiftly and smoothly, though, perhaps reassuringly, it errs on the side of aggressively cautious when confronted with cars that wander around their lanes too much. Outside of the motorway network, the usual parking assistance and ability to just let it creep at urban speeds following the car in front is enough to lower the heart rate somewhat.
European legislation currently limits the level of autonomous driving allowed, more than the technology in the car. In America, Autopilot can be seen handling long drives, albeit with the driver present - in Britain, the Tesla's Autopilot is suitable for taking the strain out of long motorway drives but still requires a constant hand on the wheel, and clear input to show someone other than the computer is paying attention. This also limits Tesla's ability to self-park and summon in the UK - for now.
Even when Autopilot isn’t engaged, the Tesla continually advises you on your proximity to other vehicles, and will even identify lorries and motorcycles in your path. That small detail helps to build an element of trust between you and the car, and means when you do use Autopilot, you’re aware the Tesla has it covered.
But it’s not without faults. Lane changes are a little awkward when using Autopilot (nudge the indicator, and it'll swap lanes for you), as they seem to take an age, and often result in you doing the steering yourself. What’s more, road users with loose lane-discipline can also scare the Tesla into dramatically slowing down.
But will I be able to charge my Tesla Model X?
The charging experience will largely be determined by where you are in the country and what you do with your Model X. The Tesla Supercharger network is growing and using one is how all electric car charging should be; plug it in and within seconds you can see the range increasing as it gets a full 120kW up its socket. Filling from empty takes less than one hour - and most users will typically be topping up rather than 'brimming' their batteries.
While you can get chargers installed in your home, we were able to complete trips between Peterborough and London – along with local errands – by just using the Superchargers at Bishops Stortford on the way up or down. Throw in the ability to charge at home and at work, and unless you're venturing very far, and into an area of lower charging coverage, range is hardly worth thinking about. It just works.
When you do have to charge, though, the experience is painless. After plugging in, you can either hang around and follow the charging progress on a smartphone app, or just wait in the car – though fan noise during charging can get quite loud.
One tip though. If you’re able, it’s best to charge to full capacity even if you don’t need to. That way, when you arrive at your destination, there’s still juice to make it to another charger on the return leg.
What else do I need to know?
Adding in the six- or seven-seat options costs extra but is definitely worthwhile, otherwise you might as well stick with the more conventional Model S.
And the Tesla Model X UK price? Starting at £87,980 for the long-range model or £102,980 for the Performance - with 'ludicrous mode' and a slightly reduced WLTP range - it's far from an enabling technology that will change the world; for that, you'll need the smaller, more conventional Model 3.
Tesla Model X: verdict
Four years on from launch, the Tesla Model X isn’t the leap ahead it used to be, but it’s still a quirky, intuitive SUV – and one that’d probably suit some families well. The Model X is still disruptive, and from the sci-fi panoramic windscreen to doors that open for you, the Tesla still gives you some things that other cars just don’t have.
At the time of writing, the Tesla Model X wins by default in this sector. But the Jaguar i-Pace, Mercedes EQC and Audi e-Tron are all close. What these cars lack in range, they make up for in dynamics and build quality.
The updated Standard Range Plus version of Tesla's Model 3 is the most accessible in the line-up but still shows that star quality
None of the changes to the latest Model 3 transform the car in any way, but nonetheless they’re all welcome. It still remains Tesla’s best car and a brilliant package overall, and this entry level point in the range should be considered as a hugely tempting alternative to traditional compact execs like the BMW 3 Series - especially for company car drivers.
This is the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus. Newly revised for 2021, it’s the entry point to both the Model 3 lineup and the Tesla family as a whole in the UK, with prices starting from £40,490 - tantalisingly close to the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid. So is it worth ditching the traditional compact exec of choice to go fully electric?
There’s quite a few changes introduced in this round of updates, but from the outside they’re rather tricky to spot. A new black pack replaces some of the chromed exterior details like the door handles, door mirror stalks and window trims, and the wheel choices are refreshed with more aero-efficient 18- and 19-inch designs, plus new optional 20 inch items. Otherwise, those vanilla looks mean that the styling isn’t the reason to go for a Model 3.
The interior just might be however. Whether you think it’s a triumph of minimalism or just a bit too plain compared to alternatives, it’s hard to argue that the cabin is unique. It’s got better in the most recent round of changes, too, particularly around the centre console.
Previously, the Model 3 had an odd and needlessly overcomplicated flip lid beneath which it was possible to store a smartphone. This has been replaced with a simple pad, which has a couple of grooves which not only keep two devices in place, but can charge them wirelessly.
Further along, a huge deep cubby space remains, but now it’s accessed through a much more straightforward sliding lid. The easily scratched piano black surface is gone, too - a more subtle and more durable grey finish takes its place.
The steering wheel looks similar to before, but the two scroll wheels have been tweaked for a more expensive feel. Depending on which menu is selected on the huge 15-inch central touchscreen, each of the wheels adjusts one of a multitude of functions: the door mirror adjustment, the steering column position and the media functions among them. Assuming you do all of the prep before you set off, they work really well, though condensing so many functions down into two controls is not particularly intuitive on the move.
That huge display is brilliant, though. Whether judged on its graphics, processing power or user interface, it’s among the best infotainment systems available in any car. Of course, there’s no traditional instrument panel either, so it also displays all of the vital driving functions like speed and remaining battery charge.
The boot lid is now electrically operated. While the volume is on a par with manu rivals, the opening is small - though the Model 3 looks like a hatchback, it isn’t. The front boot, meanwhile, has shrunken slightly. This is because some of the space has now been occupied by a new feature to the Model 3: a heat pump.
First used by Tesla on its Model Y, a heat pump takes the place of the previous resistive heater. Put simply, the new system works a little like a fridge, compressing a fluid which generates heat. This heat can then be used to warm the cabin or, by reducing the fluid’s pressure further along the system, produce a colder flow of air instead. The main plus point of a heat pump is that it’s more efficient than the resistive heater to warm the cabin, which reduces the range impact when trying to keep toasty in colder climates.
Along with some subtle software tweaks, the new heating system means that range has improved slightly across all of the Model 3 variants. In the case of this entry level SR +, the resulting 267 mile figure is 13 more than before. In our experience the real-world figures came close, if not completely matching that number, even on a day when temperatures barely made it above freezing.
Unlike the top end Performance versions, the Standard Range Plus makes do with just one electric motor driving the rear wheels. While the drop in acceleration is noticeable compared to the twin motor setup, the Model 3 is still, put simply, a fast executive saloon.
A 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds really doesn’t do the Model 3 justice. At any speed, the lightning fast throttle response and instantaneous torque gives proper hyper hatch eagerness. It easily has the legs over the BMW 330e.
It’s also wonderfully easy to drive at low speeds. The Model 3 has possibly the smoothest integration of a one pedal driving system of any EV on sale: while some rivals decelerate quite harshly and then creep at low speeds, with the correct mode selected, the Tesla will trim of speed gently and come to type of gentle halt that would make a chauffeur proud.
When it comes to fun, it’s closer to the BMW than you might think, too. It’s certainly not as sophisticated, for the most part due to damping that feels a little loose compared to the 3 Series. However, this translates into a chassis that can be quite playful if provoked and, thanks to a kerb weight that dips 219kg below that of twin motor Model 3s, it’s fairly agile, too. That weight is low down, so stability is a strong point in everyday driving.
The steering is a weak point though. Even in its lightest “comfort” setting, the heavy feel and gloopy feedback isn’t pleasant, and it only gets worse in the sportier settings. The chunky steering wheel rim doesn’t help its case either - robbing what little information that could be transferred from the front wheels.
The lack of any combustion engine highlights another area where the Model 3 needs work. On the move, there’s plenty of road noise transferred into the cabin, and despite the addition of acoustic glass in the latest round of updates, it’s one of few aspects of the Model 3 where Tesla still has room for improvement.
For company car users, the Model 3 will prove to be a bit of a bargain. In the current tax year, Model 3 drivers will not have to pay any Benefit in Kind rates at all, and though costs will increase slightly over the next couple of years, the zero-emission Tesla will still only demand annual costs of a few hundred pounds. Even the BMW 330e, whose plug-in hybrid powertrain makes it significantly cheaper than conventional petrol and diesel options, will cost upwards of £1,600 each year for a 40 percent earner.
Then there’s the greatest Tesla benefit of all: the Supercharger network. An abundance of chargers are available all over the country, and it’s so incredibly simple: turn up, plug in and drive away once you have the range you need. Users are billed by the kilowatt-hour, with a 26 pence per unit figure very competitive with other charge companies suppliers. It means a full charge of the SR+’s battery costs £14.04. That’s not only cheap by the standards of other charge suppliers, but much cheaper than similarly sized combustion-engined cars.
|Model:||Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus|
|Drivetrain:||Single electric motor|
|Transmission:||Single speed, rear-wheel drive|
|Top speed:||140 mph|
Such is the pace of change in Silicon Valley that it’s hard to keep up with the Tesla Model S. Not just in a straight line (the Long Range Plus hits 155mph after getting to 60mph in 3.7 seconds) and in the fast-changing electronics and user interfaces onboard (now updated every few months, wirelessly) - but also in the evolution of the model range itself.
Since its latest model update in 2019, there have been just two versions of the Tesla Model S range: Long Range Plus and Performance. Battery variations are no longer signified by the numbers as they used to be, and Tesla no longer quotes the battery capacity of its models anymore. Is it being coy? Of course not – just simplifying the customer journey for its iconic old stager EV.
Old stager? Yes! The Model S has been around in its basic form since 2014, and although it has been constantly updated, this elegant-looking five-door fastback is under increasing attack from the established premium players. But while they're launching their first offerings, Tesla's groundbreaking technology has evolved significantly. Closest in concept is the Porsche Taycan, which in entry-level 4S form comes very close to matching the Model S Long Range Plus in terms of power, performance and price.
Tesla Model S: What's under the skin?
It’s a big car, at almost 5m long, 1963mm wide and 1435mm tall. No wonder there’s huge space front and back; just watch out for pinched headroom in the rear seats if you spec the sweeping panoramic sunroof. With no propshaft required, there is a totally flat floor though. The boot's a good size, although the 'frunk' under the bonnet is surprisingly smaller than a 911's. Open the large tailgate and you’ll find a 774-litre boot which can be extended by folding the back seats to reveal a cavernous 1645-litre capacity.
The cabin is incredibly spacious with a flat floor allowing easy and comfortable access to the middle seat in the rear. The light and airy interior is dominated by that huge 17.0-inch portrait-model infotainment screen which controls almost all of the Model S’s infotainment and ancillary features like climate control, seat heating and driving modes. Because the screen is so large and its operating system is so simple to use, this is one touchscreen that doesn't annoy.
For those who have yet to experience the Tesla Supercharger network, it's simplicity itself. You can charge it by three-pin plug (but who would?) or by Type 2, which typically gets you 23 to 68 miles of range per hour. But it's Supercharging that's Tesla's USP, and it's a joy to use, especially as it's free for life for Model S owners. And now with V3 Supercharging, which reduces charging times by an average of 50%. Tesla claims the new high-speed ultra-rapid chargers could add as much range as 1000 miles per hour.
This is still the only EV capable of trans-continental travel without serious prior planning.
Tesla Model S: How fast is it?
This car is quick, with a capital F. Tesla quotes a chunky 550bhp for the Long Range Plus and 615bhp for the Performance Ludicrous – both deliver supercar-baiting acceleration, pulling the four-door towards the horizon with all the inevitability of a silent, slightly eerie electric catapult. The Performance Ludicrous version is equipped with 4wd, it’s all drama-free and you’ll pass 60mph in 2.4sec – which is face-meltingly fast and lacking in drama.
Once you experience its stomach-churning thrust from rest, you'll crave to relive the experience – again and again. Of course, most Model S drivers wouldn’t condone such flat-footed antics. Not least because the claimed 396-mile range will freefall southwards if you drive like a hooligan.
Much better to ease off and surf the torque, preserving every precious mile. Driven like this, the indicated range is remarkably trustworthy and accurate in our experience – and we've driven them from one end of Europe to another.
Read our guide to the best electric cars and EVs on sale in the UK
Tesla Model S: What's it like to drive?
Out of the two models, we prefer the firmer-sprung Performance model, which has what Tesla describes as ‘European’ handling, and we'd agree with that. Yes, it's on the large side to be slinging around like a sports car on British roads – but get it on the right slowing, well-surfaced, roads, it does feel like a decently set-up model sports saloon.
Body roll is kept to a is kept in check, its air suspension doesn’t crash and get unsettled over every rut in the road, and its steering is accurate and quick, if lacking in road feel – overall, an impressive for the company's first serious effort.
Both Model S models get air suspension which results in relatively supple, forgiving ride quality. It also allows the Tesla to adapt on the move, lowering at higher speeds bringing it closer to the ground and further benefiting handling. The suspension can also be lowered via controls on the touchscreen, as well as being raised to traverse rougher ground and higher than normal speed bumps.
Further elements that aid the quest of good handling for the Model S are the fact its heavy batteries are all located nice and low, helping give it a very low centre of gravity. Further, the weight balance is almost split 50/50 front and rear, making it a neutral handler.
Final word goes to Tesla Autopilot, which works well once you've been through a lengthy period of acclimatisation. It rewards hyper sensitive drivers and feather-light inputs – assisted lanchanges take practice and some faith in the software, while the adaptive cruise control is a little on the fidgety side. If this is another step towards autonomy, we're still not sure we're ready to make the leap yet.
The Model S continues to stun CAR’s testers. Sure, it's getting on, but it's still easy to recommend a Tesla Model S, despite the stern challenge from the beautifully-balanced, high-quality Porsche Taycan. Beyond The Model S's good looks, fabulous performance, and silky-smooth drivetrain, the lure of free Supercharging is almost irresistible.
It's interesting that even with new rivals appearing all the time, the Model S's appeal remains pretty much undented. The Tesla's combination of easy-to-use technology, Supercharger network and impressive range still place it ahead. Yes, you pay handsomely for the Model S if you option it up, but its entry-level isn't that far beyond the price of the a high-spec Audi A6 or BMW 5-series.
After all these years, it's still a gamechanger. The Model S has been largely responsible for consumers warming to the idea of an electric vehicle with so few compromises. It won't be long before the EV will be viable for most people – and you can thank the pioneering Model S for accelerating that process.
Now in its fourth model year, the Tesla Model 3 manages to be efficient, luxurious and fun to drive. For those reasons and more, the Tesla Model 3 is Edmunds' top-rated Luxury Electric Vehicle for 2020.
You can configure a Model 3 to maximize what you want, whether it be a low price, long range or high performance. And in every iteration, the Model 3 gives you access to Tesla's proprietary Supercharger charging network and some of the best semi-automated driving assistance features around. Of course, the brand cachet the Tesla name carries in many parts of the country is probably worth something too.
The Model 3 has its foibles. The lack of hard buttons forces drivers to use the touchscreen to operate almost all vehicle functions. There is no compatibility with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, leaving Bluetooth as the only option to pair your phone. Build quality and long-term reliability also remain question marks, though by and large, consumer reviews on the Model 3 are very positive.
Put it all together and you're looking at the most fully realized affordable electric vehicle on the market. Tesla's habit of upgrading the vehicle's capabilities through over-the-air updates — often adding games and other fun features in the process — is icing on the cake. The Model 3 should warrant consideration not just from electric-vehicle shoppers but anyone looking for a break from the norm.
What's it like to live with the Model 3?
Edmunds' editorial team acquired and lived with a 2017 Tesla Model 3 Long Range for nearly two years, logging 24,000 miles. As an all new-design for Tesla, it had a few teething problems at first. But most of the issues were electronic in nature and were later sorted out via software updates. The 2020 Tesla Model 3 differs from our early long-term Model 3 by way of improved cabin materials and different powertrain options. It's the same generation, though, so many of our observations still apply. To learn more about the Tesla Model 3, check out our 2017 Tesla Model 3 Long Range coverage.
Which Model 3 does Edmunds recommend?
The midlevel Long Range Dual Motor comes with sensible upgrades that make the most of the Model 3's strengths — namely, its extensive range and charging capabilities. This trim has up to 72 more miles of range than the base version, plus a faster onboard charger for juice-ups on road trips. It also adds all-wheel drive, a boon when you want to experience the larger battery's impressive acceleration.
The Tesla Model 3 is a fully electric sedan that comes in three primary trim levels: Standard Range Plus, Long Range and Performance. (A more affordable Standard Range is also available as a special order, but Tesla does not list it on its website.) Each trim provides different levels of driving range and acceleration from a battery-electric powertrain.
Be aware that Tesla updates the Model 3 on an ongoing basis rather than by model year, so what follows might not necessarily reflect the most current offering.
Standard features at the Standard Range Plus level include 250 miles of range, rear-wheel drive, a glass roof, power-adjustable front seats, a 15-inch touchscreen, a navigation system and Bluetooth. Autopilot, a safety suite with exterior cameras and adaptive cruise control with an assisted steering system, is also included.
A larger battery pack (good for 322 miles) and all-wheel drive come with the midlevel Long Range trim. You get a few more features with the Long Range, including a premium sound system. The biggest punch comes from the Performance trim. It uses the same battery and dual-motor layout as the Long Range, but it's tuned to deliver maximum thrills. Other upgraded equipment includes performance brakes and a lowered suspension.
For all Model 3s, Tesla offers a Full Self-Driving Capability option, which includes extra features such as summoning your car in a parking lot. But the company says not all of the features will be fully active until later in 2020.