Tesla’s Model 3 is the company’s long-anticipated move into mainstream cars, and it’s been slowly reaching customers since last fall. I’ve been eager to drive one for a while now, and I finally got the chance earlier this week when Tesla lent us a Model 3 for a few hours.
Because the Model 3 is basically a rolling gadget with almost everything controlled by the center-mounted 15-inch touchscreen, I asked Circuit Breaker’s Ashley Carman to hop in and see if a gadget reporter could figure out how to use it without any instructions. Actual Model 3 customers will get instructions when their car is delivered, and I think that’s important. The screen makes sense once you sort it out, but it’s not immediately intuitive because it’s just so different from other cars. That’s actually my biggest takeaway from the few hours I spent in the car: Tesla really has re-thought virtually every piece of how a car interior normally works, and all of it is surprising in different ways. If you’re a gadget head, some of those surprises are great. (I love that the steering wheel controls get remapped to adjust the side mirrors.) If you’re not, some of them seem needlessly difficult. (There’s an entire menu titled Locks, but you unlock the doors from a top-level icon.)
A lot of people asked me how the Model 3 compares to the Model S, so I called in an expert: our friend Marques Brownlee, who has a Model S. We talked about whether it’s better to spend $60,000 on a loaded Model 3 or a base Model S, and interestingly Marques thinks a loaded Model 3 is better, because you get features like Autopilot and premium sound.
Lastly, Loren Grush jumped in because she covers SpaceX in detail and just interviewed Elon Musk. She noted that SpaceX and Tesla are covered very differently… and then we basically just floored it from stoplight to stoplight on the West Side Highway. The Model 3 isn’t a 0–60 rocket, but it has that incredible electric car low-end torque that makes it super fun to drive.
We’re still going to do a full Model 3 review, and there are definitely production and quality-assurance issues to sort out with this car, but after just a few hours, I think the Model 3 is one of the most interesting cars I’ve ever driven. Is it worth nearly $60,000 for this optioned-up model? I don’t know. But I do know that trying to answer that question is way more interesting than I’d anticipated before I got behind the wheel.