I took delivery of a Tesla Model S 60 kWh (now 75 kWh) in September of 2016 and it has been by far the best car I’ve ever driven. Much can be said about the technology of he Model S, its styling and its role in reducing Carbon emissions, but the thing that impressed me most was simply how much fun it was to drive. I felt like I was flying–not balloon flying, but Superman flying.
For all the wonderful things that could be said about Model S, it wasn’t really the car I wanted: It was too big, and mine will never be capable of self driving. Model 3, on the other hand, promises to be, and indeed, I ordered a Model 3 even before I took delivery of Model S. Finally, my Model 3 arrived and I took delivery yesterday, not to replace my Model S which my wife likes very much, but her old gasoline car. We’re all electric now.
This blog post is about my transition from a Model S to a Model 3.
The Model S I bought had the standard seats and interior, so no fog lamps, no premium sound system and no glass roof. Once upgraded to 75 kWh it had 249 miles of range, but after 37,000 miles of driving range is down to 230-something. For the long trips I’ve wanted to take the range is adequate, but just barely enough to support more direct routing between Superchargers. I’m looking forward to the extra range in Model 3. All Model 3s sold now have the premium package that includes the premium sound system and the glass roof.
There was virtually no difference in the delivery experience between Model S and Model 3. I took delivery of Model S in Matthews, North Carolina and te Model 3 in Glen Allen, Virginia. It was a very professional dialog between me and the delivery specialist. We went over the basics, most of which I already know having driven a Tesla before and having read the owner’s manual. The only notable difference was in the lack of swag. With Model S I got a coffee mug, a certificate and an umbrella. None of that with Model 3. (There’s been talk of the “5 minute” Model 3 delivery, but mine took about 30 including the paperwork.)
Due to a tight schedule, I didn’t have time to really exercise Model 3 except on the 51-mile drive home mostly on an interstate highway. The few twisty roads leading to my house would have been interesting except for the slow delivery truck in front of me.
On the interstate I found that Model S was a bit smoother riding than Model 3. That’s probably because the car is lighter. Model S is also a little quieter, but not much. The Autopilot was still calibrating for the first 25 miles of the trip, so I drove half with cruise control (TACC) and half without. I couldn’t engage Autosteer because I hadn’t accepted the disclaimer and the car has to be in Park to do that. It seemed to me that TACC was a little smoother when slowing down for another car and that is consistent with what I have heard from other drivers with the current firmware release.
Controls and display
Controls and display are a major point of discussion with Model 3 and on my first day there are a lot of controls to set. I think some of the earlier criticism of controls has been answered by firmware upgrades. While Model 3 has virtually no dedicated controls and everything is done on the large touch screen, in practice that’s not a problem.
For example, there was criticism that the cruise control speed and following distance were set on the touch screen, but when driving with TACC on, the right scroll wheel on the steering wheel sets both of those functions. The touch screen isn’t involved. Most things are automatic: windshield wipers and headlights for example. People had doubts that the speedometer was on the right rather than directly in front on the dash, but speed is something you set, not something you have to read on a Tesla. I can glance at the speedometer in about 0.1 seconds and this is because the speed is large and completely clear of the steering wheel. (I really like not having to set the steering wheel somewhere just so I can see the speed.)
Some of the more obscure controls that are rarely used (setting up Wi-Fi, Bluetooth phone pairing, garage door opening, radio favorites) may take a bit of finding, but these are things you’d never do while driving. Before the first day is over, a Model 3 driver will be able to tap Controls and know that everything that’s conceivably needed for driving is there on the Quick Controls panel–but even those things will rarely be needed after the first day.
I went out and sat in the car for about 15 minutes going through all of the display options and I found it logical. After that time, I’m comfortable with finding things. But I must emphasize that when driving the controls you really need are found on the steering wheel under the scroll buttons and the stalks. The touch screen is for monitoring and settings; the steering wheel is for driving.
The display for navigation was top notch. I cannot overemphasize how crisp and readable this display is–better than Model 3. Overall I strongly prefer the Model 3 touch screen over Model S.
The one thing I miss is the energy display, a graphical display of energy usage over time and a plot of how my driving compares to projections.
Overall I am very pleased with the Model 3 display and control system as now delivered, but I think it will be even better when, as promised, voice controls are expanded.
So far my hands down favorite feature of Model 3 is the air conditioning vent (singular). I never was able to control the air flow exactly where I wanted it in Model S. It was either blowing in my face, or not blowing on me at all. Model 3’s single-vent system made positioning of the air flow effortless. I really like it.
One complaint about Model S is its personal storage space. Model 3 excels in this area with door pockets in all 4 doors, seat back pouches in the premium model and a really well-designed center console with lots of space and much more intelligently located cup holders. I like the dedicated charging slots for phones.
The rear trunk storage space in Model 3 is less than Model S (16 vs 30 cu. ft.) and that’s an issue mitigated in part by Model 3’s space being more square. Te Model 3 is a sedan rather than a hatchback like Model S. The sub trunk can be exposed to allow transportation of taller items. One thing I like about Model 3 is that the rear seats fold down to make a flat storage space unlike Model S. I’ll comment more later when I’ve had a chance to haul things in Model 3.
Room to improve
The car does, however, need one more USB port so that it can charge 2 phones and have a place to plug in a USB flash drive for music.
Model S has a slight edge on performance, but Model 3 provides that same effortless power experience. I found myself going 80 on the interstate without noticing (the rest of the traffic was going pretty fast too).
Summary of the first day
I really like the car. It’s only going to get better both because I’ll get more familiar with it and because the Version 9 firmware release and the first full self driving features will start to appear.