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Taking a spin in the Tesla Model 3

Whilst Tesla has been around since the start of the decade, their electric vehicles have only really made their way across the pond in the past few years. The success of the Model S in the States prompted the need to reach a more mainstream market, and create a high-powered electric vehicle that is more affordable to the masses. Thus the ‘Model 3’ was born.

What we drove:

Model: Performance Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive
Colour: Pearl White Paint
Interior: All Black Premium
Wheels: 20" Silver Performance Wheels
0-60: 3.2 Seconds
Emissions: 0 g/km
Price: £52,990

Design & Technology

Whilst so much of the car emulates that of the Model S, little about the Tesla Model 3 seems to conform to our standard expectations of a Saloon car. The door handles are different, the shape is different (does anyone else see elements of a Ford Fiesta, or is that just me?) and in many ways is one of the most technologically advanced cars out there. On top of all that, it also produces 0 g/km of C02 while being quick... seriously quick.

The car ‘key’ is actually a card, which you hold up to a specific point on the door frame to get in. You also use that card to tap on specific spot in the centre console to start the car.

The design of the Tesla Model 3 is about as minimalist as you can get. There’s no drivers display as such, as everything is shown centrally on a massive 15 inch touch screen that’s standard on all models and essentially controls the whole car. You use it to pick driving modes, steering modes, regenerative braking, adjust the wing mirrors and even open the glove box.

As clarity goes, it’s hard to rival the picture quality on this Tesla screen, as well as its responsiveness. It’s as good as any iPad. You can even use it to watch Netflix or to browse the internet when stationary plus apps like Spotify are built in as standard.

All models get 360 degree visibility from cameras placed on the front, rear and sides of the vehicle. Again this is all displayed on that wide-screen, making reversing a dream. Sensors placed around the car will constantly detect nearby vehicles and obstacles; helping aid parking and prevent potential collisions. Graphics of obstacles appear in real-time on the screen as you drive, and it even picks up the orange parking cones we have dotted about the Carparison car park.

The car also features autopilot, which allows the car to essentially drive itself – braking, steering and accelerating for you. For navigation, the Tesla uses Google Maps and plans its route’s via Tesla Superchargers – of which there are over 14,000. If you’re running a bit low on battery, the car will even divert your navigation to the nearest charging point to make sure you don’t get caught out.

Continuing on with the technology; you can also use your phone as a key. From the Tesla App you can also check the charging state or even set the climate control. In terms of updates, there’s no booking in to the garage. All of Tesla's upgrades are designed to be completed over the internet. This also means there’s less anxiety that you’re not getting the most up to date model – as any tech changes will be able to be added to the car overtime though those very updates.

In terms of choice, the model line-up is simple. The model 3 is available in 3 different specifications:

Standard Plus is a rear-wheel drive and gets you a range of 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, a range of 254 miles, 18 inch alloys and a top speed of 140 mph.
Long Range extends the mileage to 348 miles, as well as allowing for 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. It’s also a dual motor All-wheel Drive, with a top speed of 145 mph.
Top of the lineup (and the one we drove) is the Performance model. This one is also dual motor all-wheel drive, but also gets 20 inch performance wheels and a 329 mile range. It’ll also reach 162mph and go from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. That’s faster than some supercars.

Charging:

As previously mentioned, Tesla have a network of over 14,000 chargers. You can find your nearest Supercharger here. In terms of charging, the superchargers will obviously get you the most battery life in the shortest amount of time. With Tesla stating that you can charge up to 170 miles in just 30 minutes. All Tesla’s are automatics, and use regenerative braking to give energy back in to the battery. So as you brake... you charge a little bit.

Based on figures given by PodPoint, this a guide to charging times from your various plugs.

* Based on Pod Point estimates, charging rates can differ based on the ambient temperature, the state of the battery (e.g. empty or half full) and variation in charging rate.
** Range per hour is the number of miles you can expect to get from an hour of charging at the relevant rate.

The Drive:

Whilst the Tesla wasn’t the first electric car I’d driven, it is a bit of a step up from a smart forfour. The first thing to get your head around is how quiet it is. There’s literally nothing to hear other than the muted sound of road noise, radio or the quiet whirr of the air conditioning.

Get behind the wheel and it’s actually very similar in terms of driving controls to an automatic Mercedes-Benz; same gear shifter behind the steering wheel and it’ll also go into ‘hold’ if you push the foot brake all the way down. Now, pull away and those similarities stop. In contrast to any diesel or petrol engine, there is no lag when you put your foot down. Just immediate power. You can watch our reaction video here.

The car really is rapid and overtakes without a second thought. The suspension is firm, but not too firm, and handles bumps in the road relatively well. The steering is satisfying heavily, although I’d say it doesn’t quite match up to its competitors in terms of a quality feel. It’s good – don’t get me wrong – but its German competitors just seem to have the upper hand for interior quality.

All of the models have a dashcam fitted as standard; but not a bulky device that sits in your vision… it just uses one of the cameras already fitted to the car for the autopilot. A really nice feature.

You can set your preferred driving position and save it as a ‘driver profile’ – which is essentially memory seats. What you can also do is enable ‘easy entry’ which will automatically move the steering wheel and seat when the car is in Park and you unbuckle your seatbelt, and make it easier to get in and out of the car. This is good for shorter people like myself who have to pull the seat really far forward to reach the peddles, but end up bumping your knees or head when getting in.

Space:

Visibility in the car is good and there’s also the additional light given from the standard front-to-back glass roof, which also blocks out a lot of UV. Space in the rear is comparable to any compact saloon; and whilst you don’t get a boot that matches a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4, there is plenty of storage. Without the conventional engine in the front, you also get additional storage for smaller bags under the bonnet.

The Model 3 has strong competition… from the premium saloon market, but also from manufacturers pushing out really strong cars in a bid to knock Tesla off their top spot. Just take the Jaguar I-PACE, Mercedes-Benz EQC or even the announcement of the Ford Mach-E as examples. That being said, the technology in the Tesla really is out of this world, and competitors will be hard pushed to quickly bring out something that is as advanced… and as affordable.

It’s also worth noting that as of April 6th 2020, the benefits from choosing a purely battery electric vehicle will increase dramatically. Those who choose to drive a fully electric vehicle as their company car, or already do so, will not have to pay any benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax in 2020/2021. So this is a real benefit for company car drivers who choose to go for a Tesla. Read our full explanation of tax changes coming into account here.

If you like the look of the Model 3, check out our latest lease deals here or just get in touch with one of our Leasing Experts.

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Posted on 18th February 2020 at 8:39 AM

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