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Tesla Model 3 review (2019): together in electric dreams

Tesla Model 3

Depending on who you believe – and everyone on Twitter takes sides – Tesla boss Elon Musk is either a visionary genius or a master of media manipulation. In truth, he’s probably both. Having made his fortune as CEO of PayPal, Musk’s wackier ventures include launching a Tesla Roadster into space and the Hyperloop high-speed tube train. He also hopes to establish a human colony on Mars.

Beyond the clickbait and controversy, however, Tesla is deadly serious about taking on the automotive establishment. In 2018, it was the world’s best-selling electric car brand. And last month, the new Model 3 overtook the Ford Focus to finish third in the UK sales chart. Not bad for a car that starts at £38,500, even if that makes it easily the cheapest Tesla yet.

Read more Motoring Research reviews FIRST on City AM

Arriving at Tesla’s service centre by the Dartford bridge, all three flavours of Model 3 are lined up to drive: Standard Plus, Long Range AWD and Performance. I pick the latter, obviously. While lowlier versions target the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series, the £52,640 Performance is a wannabe sports saloon to rival the RS5 Sportback or forthcoming new M3. Its two motors and 75kWh battery pack serve up 450hp, plus 471lb ft of torque from standstill. With four-wheel-drive traction, that means 0-62mph in a Ferrari-baiting 3.4 seconds.

Tesla Model 3

Not that you’d know it. Larger 20-inch alloy wheels, lowered suspension and a subtle rear spoiler – in gorgeous unpainted carbon fibre – are the only clues to this Tesla’s extra oomph. Details such as the flush door handles and full-length glass roof look pleasingly premium, but its bar-of-soap styling borders on bland. Next to uber-aggressive European counterparts, maybe that’s part of the appeal.

The Model 3’s interior, though, is like nothing else. The usual dashboard dials and switches are replaced by a central touchscreen, which liberates more space and looks fabulously futuristic. Forward and reverse gears are selected via a column stalk and you can choose from Sport or Chill drive modes. In typical Tesla style, there are also arcade games to keep you occupied while parked, plus an ‘Emissions Testing Mode’ that makes a selection of six fart noises when you indicate. You don’t get that in an Audi.

What you do get is a hewn-from-granite feel, something Tesla can only aspire to. The Model 3’s cabin may be a study in less-is-more, but the same principle shouldn’t apply to trim quality. Also, while condensing most of the controls into one screen looks cool, it can complicate matters: switching between air-con and the radio, for example. On the plus side, there’s room enough for two six-footers in the back and a large boot, plus a useful front ‘frunk’.

Tesla Model 3

You forgive this car its faults the moment you floor the right pedal, too. Acceleration is so rapid it squelches your internal organs and scrambles your synapses. You go from zero to warp factor 10 almost instantly, and with a lack of noise that’s entirely alien. No wonder Elon Musk was drawn to space travel. The Tesla’s regenerative braking – which uses friction to slow the car and recharge its batteries – also feels odd at first, but you soon find yourself driving with just one pedal, especially around town.

On open roads, a hefty 1,847kg kerb weight means the Model 3 doesn’t have the dynamic acuity of the best sports saloons. The fun-factor isn’t quite there either; you feel slightly detached from the experience. It is well-suited to long journeys, however, with a 330-mile range on a full charge. It’s also the first Tesla with a CCS charging port, so you aren’t restricted solely to the company’s Supercharger network.

The Model 3 isn’t perfect, but I suspect it will fit into many lives very well. This really could be a game-changer for Tesla: the car that propels it into the mainstream. Let’s hope so – that mission to Mars won’t come cheap.

This review was originally published in City A.M.

In pictures: Tesla Model 3

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Tesla launches in-car karaoke with Version 10 update

Tesla Version 10

Tesla has released what it calls its ‘biggest software update ever’. Software Version 10 includes in-car karaoke, extra security and additional self-driving ability.

The primary focus is in-car entertainment, but there are more practical features as well. Here’s what to expect.

Tesla Theater

Front and centre of the V10 release is Tesla Theater (sic). This adds the ability to load your Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and Live TV accounts for TV- and movie-watching while you’re parked up.

Equivalents are also available for Tesla owners in the Chinese market. And more global streaming and entertainment services will join the line-up before long.

Tesla Version 10

Spotify

Finally, Spotify is available in a Tesla. By the marque’s own admission, it’s one of the most-requested features by owners.

It joins Slacker Radio and TuneIn. Expect more of the same to be added in due course. Again, Chinese equivalents will also be offered.

‘Car-aoke’

While we’re on the subject of music, it wouldn’t be Tesla without a bit of silliness.

The karaoke feature is new. It’s a library of music and lyrics, with multi-lingual support, so you can have a good old sing-along on a road trip.

Tesla Version 10

Tesla Arcade

Tesla’s Arcade function is nothing new, but there is a new run-and-gun action game ready to play, called Cuphead. Time for some of the more grown-up stuff, we reckon… 

Dashcam and Sentry Mode updates 

Small changes make a big difference. New for Version 10 come changes to how ‘security’ footage is stored.

The car will now make a special folder on your USB drive for footage from Sentry and Dashcam modes. Old footage is deleted automatically to make space.

Tesla Version 10

Smart Summon

Probably the most sensible addition is Smart Summon. Those who have the full self-driving capability (Tesla’s words, not ours), or the enhanced Autopilot, can ask their car to come to them if it’s within sight. Useful if you don’t want to run out in the rain to get to your car, or if you have lots of shopping.

The caveat is that you, the owner, remain responsible for what the car is doing. You must ‘monitor it and its surroundings at all times,’ which could make things interesting if Smart Summon accidentally scrapes another car. A theoretically useful feature, nonetheless.

Tesla Version 10

‘I’m feeling Hungry’

The new ‘I’m Feeling Hungry’ navigation feature will take you to a chosen restaurant within your car’s battery range. ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ is similar, only the place it leads you to is a surprise. 

“In testing, we’ve been taken to hole-in-the-wall restaurants, gourmet meals, national parks, city landmarks and more,” said a Tesla spokesperson.

The above join overall improvements to the navigation system, including organisation of results by distance. Points of Interest (POIs) now feature additional information, such as reviews and contact details.

Consumer group wants these cars fixed for FREE

Nissan Qashqai slammed in reliability studyNissan Qashqai slammed in reliability study

Five cars have been slammed in a new reliability survey, including the Nissan Qashqai, Britain’s most popular crossover.

The Qashqai has the highest breakdown rating of the 276 cars in study by consumer group Which?. It also singled out the Tesla Model S, Seat Alhambra, Ford B-Max and BMW 5 Series Touring for criticism.

Worryingly, motorists are four to five times as likely to experience a flat battery in a Qashqai than in any other car. Twenty percent of Qashqai owners who took part in the survey had to replace a battery in the past 12 months.

Nissan said it changed its battery supplier in 2018, but a separate software issue could result in drained batteries. The company is contacting 35,000 owners, but older cars are not covered by Nissan’s three-year warranty.

This has angered Which?, which wants the cars fixed at no charge to the customer. 

‘Take action and recall these cars’

Tesla Model S - greatest cars of the decade

Which? Car editor Lisa Barber said: “Thanks to our in-depth reliability survey, we know these faults are happening. They may not be safety critical, but we still want the manufacturers to take action and recall these cars.

“This will mean information about the faults are public, owners won’t be inconvenienced by them, nor will they have to foot the bill if the issue occurs outside of warranty.”

The Nissan Qashqai isn’t alone. Two-thirds (67 percent) of Tesla Model S reported an issue, making Tesla the company with the highest percentage of faulty cars.

Tesla owners are forced to wait an average of five days for their car to be repaired – three days longer than the average wait time for cars of a similar age.

The biggest issues with the Tesla Model S: the exterior door handles, locks, fuel cap and boot.

Seat Alhambra Xcellence

Meanwhile, the Seat Alhambra is blighted by suspension and exhaust problems, the Ford B-Max (2012-2017) is affected by transmission woes, and owners of the BMW 5 Series Touring (2010-2017) have experienced suspension issues.

For the survey, Which? gathered information from nearly 44,000 owners about 52,500 cars. Members can use an online tool revealing the most and least reliable cars.

New Tesla car insurance monitors drivers to assess risk

Tesla now does insurance

Electric car manufacturer Tesla has revealed details of an insurance scheme that Elon Musk mooted a few months ago. It hopes to provide a ‘competitively priced insurance offering’.

Tesla owners could apparently save up to 20 percent, with the potential for some to save 30 percent.

So how can Tesla undercut an established market of insurance companies? It wouldn’t be Tesla if it wasn’t down to something a little bit innovative…

Data makes for cheap insurance

Tesla now does car insurance

Musk explained that the information always-online Teslas deliver about how they are driven, including speed and driving style, can be used to accurately assess risk.

This means Tesla owners could have a price quoted relative to how much of a risk they really are.

The proviso is that the data-gathering stops at details like location and camera footage.

Tesla now does car insurance

“We essentially have an information arbitrage opportunity where we have direct knowledge of the risk profile of customers,” said Elon Musk in April, explaining the concept.

“If they want to buy Tesla insurance, they would have to agree to not drive the car in a crazy way. Or they can, but then their insurance rates are higher.”

At launch it’s only available in California, although other American states are being considered. The eventual possibility is a worldwide in-house insurance network via Tesla.

Tesla or Big Brother?

Tesla's Model 3 is the most popular electric car to lease in the UK

The question, especially for car enthusiasts, is whether the benefit of the lower price outweighs the looming surveillance, particularly when you fancy going for a brisk drive.

Do you risk taking a road-trip to Wales, only to return with increased premiums? We’ll be intrigued to see how this pans out.

What is ICEing and why does it annoy electric car owners?

ICEing explained

An electric car charging company is introducing CCTV cameras to stop people from ICEing. But what exactly is ICEing?

You might not be familiar with the problem, so here’s a brief guide to bring you up to speed.

Putting the ICE in ICEing

Electric vehicle recharging point warning sign

Firstly, let’s explain ICE. This is a common acronym in the car world. It’s used to refer both to internal combustion engines and in-car entertainment. In the context of ICEing, it’s the former.

The act of ICEing is to park in a space intended for electric cars, without making use of, or having any need for, the charger. In other words, a car with an internal combustion engine using a parking space reserved for electric cars. 

It is a hugely frustrating obstacle for electric vehicle (EV) owners looking to pick up some power. As evidenced by the fact that relatively pricey measures are being taken to prevent it, such as CCTV cameras.

ICEing is actually a phenomenon that EV owners have been reporting on social media for years now. Reporetedly, some rather determined internal combustion advocates actually do it deliberately, to inconvenience drivers of electric cars.

The war on Tesla

ICEing explained

The term was first coined in America when repeated instances of large pick-up truck owners parking in Tesla supercharging spots were reported.

There were reports of Tesla owners being harassed by and getting abuse from truck drivers. Some even parked their trucks then mockingly clamped the chargers to the load bed.

ICEing: not a cover-all term

ICEing explained

What’s interesting is the detail behind the measures charging company Alfa Power is taking to prevent it. ICEing specifically refers to petrol or diesel-powered cars taking electric car charging spots.

However, at Alfa Power, charging points now guarded by CCTV: anyone who parks and doesn’t charge can expect to get a fine. Yes, even if they’re in an electric car. Are you ICEing if your car is also electric? 

The moral of the story is, don’t park in electric car charging bays unless you have the capacity – and the intention – to plug in yourself. EV owners need it more than you do.

What can be done about ICEing?

EV parking enforcement

Alfa Power’s CCTV cameras are one answer to the problem of ICEing. In other countries, electric car charging point operators have devised other solutions.

In China, Tesla charging points have started getting locks. These are barriers in the space that Tesla owners can drop via an app, to ‘unlock’ the space.

They’re not huge, though, so the kinds of lifted pick-ups we mentioned above might not be too troubled by them. Perhaps if a similar system is to make its way to America, larger ‘locks’ should be used.

Meanwhile, some Tesla owners in the U.S. have tested how good their cars are at towing, by dragging ICEers out of the space, but we wouldn’t recommend that…

The most-wanted electric cars around the world

Tesla Model 3 most-wanted electric car

The world doesn’t agree on many things, but when it comes to electric cars, we’re demonstrating some rare joined-up thinking.

Of the 136 countries studied in a new report, the Tesla Model 3 is the most searched for electric vehicle on Google, making it the most desirable EV on the planet.

Indeed, the Model 3 generates 1,529,770 global searches on Google every month, which is around a million more than the next most popular EV, which just happens to be the Tesla Model S.

The Model 3 comes out top in 75 countries in new research conducted by CompareTheMarket, with interest high in North America, Western Europe, Scandinavia, China, India and Australia.

EVs: the world map

Most-wanted electric cars world map

It’s proof that Tesla continues to dominate online traffic and interest for electric vehicles, with the Model 3, Model S and Model X combining to account for around 2.5 million Google searches a month.

Tesla models are also the most popular electric vehicles in nearly 80 percent of the countries studied.

As the first electric car to surpass 400,000 sales, it’s no surprise to discover that the Nissan Leaf is the most searched for EV in 36 countries, accounting for around 560,000 monthly searches.

Nissan Leaf plugged in

But aside from the BMW i3 and Renault Zoe, few electric cars are generating a significant level of Google traffic. It’s left to Tesla to lead the PR and marketing for an entire segment.

Things will change. There are a host of new electric cars waiting in the wings, ranging from mainstream EVs like the MG ZS EV and Peugeot e-208, to the more high-profile Porsche Taycan and Aston Martin Rapide E.

Others, like the Mini Electric, Fiat 500e and Honda e will inject some much-needed glamour into the more affordable end of the market.

The question is: can a mainstream manufacturer generate as much online buzz as the upstarts from California? Time will tell.

Electric cars: total monthly searches

Electric carTotal monthly searches (Google)
1. Tesla Model 31,529,770
2. Tesla Model S559,240
3. Nissan Leaf545,520
4. Tesla Model X507,990
5. BMW i3354,230
6. Renault Zoe246,180
7. Chevrolet Bolt61,770
8. Hyundai Kona Electric50,720
9. Kia Soul EV35,820
10. Jaguar I-Pace32,270

Data and world map courtesy of CompareTheMarket.

Netflix and YouTube coming soon to Tesla cars

Netflix and YouTube coming soon to Tesla

Tesla owners will soon have the ability to stream Netflix movies and watch YouTube videos when parked.

CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the streaming service could arrive within weeks, and certainly “not more than a few months”.  

Musk likened the development to a drive-in movie experience, tweeting it “has an amazingly immersive cinematic feel due to the comfy seats and surround sound audio”.

For now, the streaming will operate when the Tesla is stationary, but Musk hinted that you’ll be able to use Netflix and YouTube on the move when regulators approve Tesla’s full self-driving feature.

Some reports suggest that this could become a reality in some jurisdictions by the end of 2020.

Netflix and chill

Netflix coming to Tesla

There’s no doubt that Tesla’s tablet-style infotainment display will provide a terrific platform for streaming movies and watching videos. Catching up on the latest ‘must-see’ mini-series will be a good way to pass the time while you’re waiting at the Supercharger.

But watching a movie while stationary is a world away from doing it on the move, even with Autopilot engaged. In May, a preliminary report into a fatal accident found that Autopilot had been engaged 10 seconds before the crash.

For its part, Tesla said that it was the only part of the journey that Autopilot had been activated.

“Tesla drivers have logged more than one billion miles with Autopilot engaged, and our data shows that, when used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times, drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those operating without assistance,” said Tesla in a statement.

Tesla Arcade Mode

Last month, the company debuted Tesla Arcade, a feature allowing owners to play Atari classics via the infotainment screen. Tesla introduced the ‘Teslatari’ emulator of classic Atari games last year, with Musk saying that it heralded the company’s venture into in-car gaming.

Gaming, movies, videos and farts – the gap between the home and the car is growing ever narrower.

Tesla Model 3 sets new safety tech benchmark

Tesla Model 3 sets new safety tech benchmark

The Tesla Model 3 electric car has scored 94 percent in the 2019 safety assist test, as Euro NCAP releases the latest crash safety ratings.

A perfect score in the frontal deformable barrier crash test contributed to an impressive set of results, including 96 percent for adult occupant safety, 86 percent for child occupant and 74 percent for vulnerable road users.

The Model 3’s safety assist rating is a new safety benchmark; the previous highest rating in 2019 was the 82 percent scored by the Citroen C5 Aircross, while the Audi Q3 was given an 85 percent rating in 2018.

Tesla Model 3 Euro NCAP test

Lane support, speed assist and autonomous emergency braking were three Model 3 highlights referenced by Euro NCAP.

Matthew Avery, director of research at Thatcham Research, said: “The Tesla Model 3 achieved one of the highest safety assist scores we have seen to date.

“Its collision avoidance assist system is first class, with its autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warning systems showing high levels of performance.

“Tesla has done a great job of playing the structural benefits of an electric vehicle to its advantage. Impact performance is enhanced by the absence of a mechanical engine and the car’s low centre of gravity.

“The Tesla Model 3 really benefits from its all electric-architecture.”

Related: The history of Euro NCAP crash tests

The Tesla was one of six new cars to be crash tested by Euro NCAP, with the Skoda Scala, Mercedes-Benz B-Class and Mercedes-Benz GLE given five stars for safety.

Skoda’s new Scala hatchback scored an excellent 97 percent for adult occupant safety – the second highest rating of 2019. Scala prices start at £18,585 for the SE, and the five-star rating applies to the entire range.

The same isn’t true of the Kia Ceed and DS 3 Crossback, with both cars receiving a four-star rating – or five with the fitment of an optional safety pack.

‘Tougher and tougher’

Skoda Scala Euro NCAP test

Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of Euro NCAP, said, “It’s great to see cars doing so well.  Our tests get tougher and tougher, and cars continue to perform well, which means that car-buyers are getting an ever-safer range of vehicles to choose from.

“Next year, we up the ante again, with better tests of driver-assistance systems, a completely new frontal crash test and more attention to protection in side crashes. These new tests should help to make the roads safer for everyone.”

You can now get a Tesla iPhone case for £20

Tesla phone case

Tesla’s official Amazon page has put a massive discount on its iPhone cases. You can now dress your iPhone in Tesla hardware for as little as £20 ($25)

The iPhone X Folio Case is normally £27 ($35) but it’s now listed with a £15 discount. Ordinarily, we’d file car-branded phone cases under ‘gimicky overpriced and unrelated merch’ but a Tesla phone case feels appropriate.

We reckon Tesla is the closest thing to an iPhone on wheels, though Honda has come out and said the new Honda e is the iPhone of cars. Either way, a Tesla phone case feels more natural to us than a dodgy aftershave bearing the badge of an Italian supercar… 

Regular iPhone X/8/Plus cases are also down from £27 ($35) to £21 ($27). The Folio iPhone 8 and 8 Plus versions remain at £27 ($35).

Tesla phone case

Tesla also sells a range of other accessories, toys and clothing, as debuted on its Amazon storefront earlier this year. You can get everything from branded mugs to jackets and hats, along with the phone cases.

As we said before, the phone cases feel a little more in keeping with the whole ‘gadget on wheels’ vibe of Tesla. For the young ones, of course, there’s a range of scale-model toy cars too.

Tesla Model 3 long-term review: life with Elon Musk’s make-or-break electric car

Tesla Model 3

This is the first of a series of reports on buying and living with a Tesla Model 3 – the compact all-electric executive car, UK-bound for 2019.

We haven’t been given the car by Tesla. Indeed, Tesla isn’t even aware we’re doing this. It belongs to a friend of Motoring Research who has bought a Model 3 with his own money. Also, he’s located in California, so we haven’t even physically seen it.

We’ll relay his experiences – positive and negative – of buying and running a Model 3. The volume and intensity of the conversation surrounding Elon Musk and Tesla is fairly steep. As such, a no-nonsense running report on this market disruptor seems timely, and hopefully useful.

Tesla Model 3

Our friend was UK-based, but emigrated to the US for work. He had a passing interest in electric cars without ever owning one, so buying brand-new is no small commitment.

Importantly, he’s not a motoring journalist, so can offer a different (dare we say more realistic?) perspective. Don’t expect stories of measuring panel gapsor calling the press office about problems – although the quality of the Model 3 is something we’ll be asking about.

This is a real consumer giving his verdict on his new car. Whatever comes of it, we hope to provide a unique insight into the love-or-loathe world of Tesla via its most important car to date – the Model 3.

Excited to take delivery

Tesla Model 3

The car was ordered on the 10th of September and delivered on the 14th, although we suspect it wasn’t built within those four days. Tesla’s US website site says typical order-to-delivery time is ‘within four weeks’ so it seems he bought an existing car.

Delivery time for the dual-motor all-wheel-drive model was quoted as three months. Our friend was a bit impatient and thus opted for rear-wheel drive. His Model 3 is the long-range version with Sport wheels in Midnight Silver.

On paper, figures for the Model 3 look impressive: a 310-mile range, 5.1 seconds to 60mph and 140mph flat-out. We’ll report back on how it fares in the real world, with a particular emphasis, we expect, on that range figure.

For now, we can confirm the feeling of anxiety upon ordering was fast replaced with excitement, especially when a box with the key inside landed in his possession. First impressions and driving updates will follow soon…

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Update 2: quality woes?

Remembering we’re trying to be impartial and stand aside from internet-wide Tesla hysteria here, the initial news isn’t good. The car arrived – brand new – with a dent in the door. Our friend accepted the car on the condition that it was repaired for free, a courtesy car was provided and that he got a year of free Supercharger access. Remember, the Model 3 doesn’t usually get free juice like the Model S and X do.

Tesla Model 3

On the one hand, you expect a new car to be of a condition and quality that can’t be questioned. On the other, the compensation seems adequate. Our friend says that, other than the dent, quality is absolutely fine. The panels all fit correctly, there’s no peeling rubber, no mismatched interior trim or any other such blunders.

What many decide to forget when ranting about Tesla is that most car manufacturers have experienced and continue to experience quality control issues. Clichés don’t materialise out of thin air – car buyers have decades-long experience of continuous mis-steps in quality from certain manufacturers.

Learning curve

Where you can legitimately critique this car is with regard to something all buyers will face: the learning curve. If the future is now, it shouldn’t be intimidating. Teslas represent the future but they’re also cars we’re being asked to buy now.

In terms of aesthetics, Tesla has nailed this. All of these cars are attractive in very contemporary sense. Generic and sleek rather than edgy and weird. Upmarket rather than prop-reject from a sci-fi film set.

Inside, however, it’s a different story. Yes, it’s very attractive, but almost everything is digitally controlled. How does this work in real life? Our friend needed a few minutes to work out how to roll down the windows and even get the passenger door open. It’s all stuff you get around within minutes. An hour of sitting in it and familiarising yourself goes a long way, as it turns out. Nevertheless, some of the more change-resistant among us might jump in one to try it and be instantly put off.

Some of the futuristic toys are, of course, absolutely superb. Checking on and controlling the car via the Tesla app is a revelation. “I just cooled the inside of my car from 100F to 75F.  Remotely,” our friend brags.

Tesla Model 3

Torquing tough

Where better to give your Tesla its first proper run than Highway One? This is an aspect of the future we’re all happy to get on board with, and our friend was bowled over by the Model 3’s performance. “The torque at 50mph feels like pulling from standstill. It’s exhilarating”. “You’re going to break my neck” was one comment he received from his passenger.

It impresses in the turns, too – a good job given this is touted as a small executive car above all else. “The centre of gravity feels low like you’d expect. Very stable in corners”. That’s the benefit of much of the drivetrain weight sitting comfortably below the door handles.

In terms of braking, our friend was oddly comfortable with the idea of simply letting off the throttle. The Tesla Model 3, like many EVs and hybrids, has regenerative braking. Off-throttle, the motion of the car is translated back into electrical energy via the motors, with a side-effect of the car slowing down.

Home on the range

With a good part of a day spent driving and, shall we say, ‘testing’ the car, you might have expected the range to take a significant hit. Our friend charged the car to 90 percent the day before, with a view to taking it for a good run, after which it went from 90 percent to 66 percent charge. Apparently, the estimations of remaining range hold true, too: a solid 270 miles to a charge. What range anxiety?

Charging is something of another story. Unless you’re Supercharging, you need to commit extended periods of time to juicing up. “The phone app shows the time to charge 90 percent. It arrived with 40 percent charge and will take six hours to refuel,” was one comment.

There’s more to come soon on the day-to-day of running a new Tesla Model 3. We don’t think the honeymoon period will pass for a while yet…

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Update 3: A year in the life

A belated welcome back to our long-term Tesla Model 3 review. We planned semi-regular updates but, truth be told, there wasn’t a lot to report. We concluded our last entry by saying that we suspected the honeymoon period wouldn’t pass for a while yet. Nine months in, and it still hasn’t.

Now the Model 3 is finally available in the UK, so we thought we’d catch up with our American friend. Here are his latest thoughts on life with one.

Tesla Model 3 long term update

Range-extended

Horror stories be damned, our friend’s Model 3 has put in a near-flawless shift over the 5,000 miles he’s driven it so far. Expected range is down from 290 miles to 280 when it’s fully juiced, although he suggests that’s due to his exuberant driving.

What’s more, that’s still 10 miles more than when he bought it, thanks to an over-the-air update that improved range. He’s also had the enjoyable experience of gaining 10 miles of range after a long period of coasting, using the regenerative brakes to pick up power.

The worst issue experienced is a charger that sometimes doesn’t automatically unlatch. All Teslas are supposed to automatically release at the end of the charge cycle. This means he’s had to go through menus in the car to ‘manually’ release the charger. In that process, the flap automatically closes on the adapter.

He’s had a nail in the tyre, too, although that’s no fault of the car. But he was rather shocked with the $400 cost of a replacement.

Tesla Model 3 long term update

California love

Our friend is based in one of the most EV-friendly localities on Earth; California tends to treat electric car drivers quite well. He also has charging facilities at his office.

“I’ve only had to depend on charging infrastructure on two occasions since I bought it. One of those was really just an excuse not to park next to bangers in the Target car park,” (think broken glass, trolleys left next to cars).

As such, the car’s powertrain has almost never made him think twice about taking a journey, save for a few weeks ago: “Last weekend I forgot to charge it – I had 100 miles range left so I didn’t go. But it was more an excuse. A Tesla Supercharger would have sorted me if I’d really wanted to travel.”

“I’ve had my car for about 9 months. In total, I have paid about a quid for charging.”

It’s alright for some…

Tesla Model 3 long term update

Overall, his experience has been overwhelmingly positive, but there are a couple of things that have really stood out:

  • “The instant torque never gets old and the continuous acceleration (no gear changes) from standstill to 70mph is amazing. It still gives me a rush.”
  • “The updates are brilliant. Imagine computer operating systems without updates; that is the car industry at the moment. I’ve received a range upgrade, power upgrade and a two-month trial of autonomous driving. Fun, too, are the games and ‘Easter eggs’. Fart noises that can be played from any speaker, for instance….”
  • “One of the updates resulted in the car cameras always recording, which means if you crash you have video evidence. And if the car is vandalised you get the ******* who did it.

“I think it may have saved me from a crash”

A final anecdote, regarding a near-miss: “So, I’m driving on the motorway and a person changes lanes without warning, dropping into my lane. I was very aware that I didn’t have time to check if there was anyone in the lane below me and the steering went hard and pushed me into the lower lane!”

A nice change in the narrative, then, to see Tesla’s autonomous functions preventing a crash rather than causing one.

Tesla Model 3 long term update

Tesla Model 3: verdict so far

So far, we like what we’re hearing. We’re conscious that our friend is ‘testing’ in a very different environment. If temperature degradation is a worry for us, for example, it surely isn’t in Oakland CA. Nonetheless, the UK certainly has some catching up to do when it comes to infrastructure.

As for the car, it seems like a good ownership experience. Say what you like about Tesla, and about Elon Musk, but some of the ideas he and his cars have introduced are undeniably excellent, making long-standing rivals look a little archaic. It’s caused a fair amount of head-scratching in many car manufacturers’ boardrooms.

As for what Tesla will bring to the party once the car industry has fully caught up, we shall have to see.