We’ve had a Tesla Model 3 Long Range for over a year and 18,000 miles so it is about time for a review.
There are lots of general reviews on the Internet so I won’t bore you – I’ll just try to summarise my impressions.
Overall, the car is good. Fit and finish were fine on delivery and have continued without issues. The electric bit is very good – range of around 330 miles plus Tesla charging stations means long journeys are not an issue. I would happily drive it to the other end of the country without range anxiety.
The sound system is very nice – good accurate sound across the front of the car. Having Spotify built in means you can listen to pretty much anything anytime.
I do have some issues:
The ride is too hard. This is a high performance car (even if it isn’t actually fun to drive) so I guess the suspension is firm to handle the weight when cornering hard. It will go round corners very fast. However, I don’t do that very often. The rest of the time it is just uncomfortable. This will depend on what the roads are like where you live. Round here many roads are not too good and the ride is hard enough to be tiring. Note that my Mazda 6 has fairly firm (but acceptable) ride – the Tesla is much less comfortable.
Tesla should copy the Hydrogas / Hydoelastic units of the 1970s for a much better ride giving equal cornering power. Or the steel coil / rubber donut of the MX5. This could be done much, much better.
The controls – via touchscreen – are dangerous. Overall the touchscreen is ok – touch is sensitive, controls are reasonably laid out and easy to find, and response is fast. However a touch screen is no replacement for buttons for common controls. For example, the wipers are often ok in automatic mode. However, when the automatic mode doesn’t get it right (about 40% of the time) you have to control the speed via the touchscreen – and the position of the control doesn’t make this easy as it requires visual checking. Similarly if the automatic light control doesn’t get it right you need to press buttons on the touchscreen to change them – although to be fair this doesn’t require frequent changes like wipers often do. No – voice recognition isn’t an acceptable substitute. Proper buttons are needed here. However buttons cost more so Tesla don’t fit them. In some ways this car does feel built to a price.
The car did disgrace itself while we were on holiday in the Lake District – it stopped accepting a charge. Fortunately this didn’t matter as we didn’t need the car urgently and we found the issue with plenty of time before our trip home. However the closest service centre was Newcastle on Tyne – about 100 miles away. Tesla wanted us to drive the car there but we didn’t have enough range left so they collected it on low-loader. They paid for a taxi for me to collect the car so I lost half a day of holiday – not too bad. However, the taxi did cost £250 and I’ve no idea how much the low-loader cost, so if this happened outside of the guarentee we could be £1000 down just because Tesla don’t have many service stations. This is making us reconsider whether we want to buy the car when the lease expires.
The issue was the charge port control board – about £100 for the board and 15mins to replace it.
Is it fun?
On paper it should be – 0-60 time of 4.2s.
As mentioned above – it isn’t fun to drive. It is perfectly ok, particularly on a smooth road, but not fun. I used to have a Mazda MX-5 – that was a lot of fun. My Mazda 6 with 105,000 miles on the clock is nicer to drive – it has a better ride and proper control buttons make driving easier.
I suspect (without much evidence) that the issue has something to do with the power steering. Electric power steering doesn’t always give the same feel as hydraulic power steering. Maybe it doesn’t respond correctly to small movements of the steering wheel. Hard to know.
BTW – 0-60 in 4.2s is a cool stunt the first couple of times. However it palls quickly. In my MX-5 (a slow one) 0-60 was about 10s. Accelerating hard meant glorious noise from the engine, a couple of lovely gear changes, and 10s to enjoy it. With the Tesla all you need to do is put your foot down and before you know it you are exceeding the speed limit. Oh – and all your passengers are throwing up.
Autopilot – the self-driving stuff
Our car has the full self-driving hardware; however we haven’t paid to enable it. We’ve got the intelligent cruise control where it matches the speed of the car in front plus the lane following stuff.
It works ok, particularly on the motorway. The car does spot issues such as sudden stops quickly – probably faster than me when I’m tired. Having the car deal with the mundane stuff means I can widen my focus from the road immediately in front and have better awareness of what is going on around me. However, it does get things dramatically wrong sometimes.
It often gets speed limits wrong – some of the limit changes seem to move around every day. Sometimes it will pick up the limit on a parallel road instead of the road you are on. Under autopilot this means the car can slow down. It can also exhibit phantom braking where it detects a hazard that isn’t actually there and hits the brakes. Easy to override – just hit the accelerator – but you need to be alert.
Would I be confident in the full-self-driving system? No.
Overall this is a good car. It isn’t a great car – the ride and touchscreen issues are too irritating for that. As a first electric vehicle it is very good – the powertrain is far better than any IC vehicle and the charging experience is painless. Costs of around 2p/mile is great.
It could be a great car without many changes – a few more buttons to control stuff like wipers and the suspension tuned up.