Last week we asked you for questions about our Model 3, and after a few days of testing I’m here to provide answers to as many of them as I can.
I covered a few things about the car in my first impressions post, and will go over more in a larger review post later, but I want to hit a list of many of the questions our readers asked us. I’ll mostly stick to short answers with bullet points, because there were so many hundreds of comments on our post that it will be impossible to get all of them in one go.
- Fit and finish? Panel gaps were covered in early impressions post, they seem quite consistent both to my eyes and to others who saw it at a weekend car show we brought it to – many of them owners of expensive “show cars” where that sort of thing really matters. Have to be real picky to find an issue with them. I tend to be less picky about panel gaps but very picky about rattles and noises, and the car is almost rattle-free (the sun visor occasionally vibrates some, but a small adjustment fixes it). Everything else is solid and interior is very quiet (which makes squeaks and rattles more apparent, so it’s impressive that there is only one minor one).
- Is the keycard waterproof? It seems to be. I ran the faucet over it for a few seconds and it still worked. It’s thick plastic so there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t be waterproof or at least water resistant.
- Size compared to other cars in its class? In the time I’ve had so far, the best I could do was park it next to a 2016 328i which I happened upon and take some pictures for you. They were very similar in size.
- Seat comfort? Tesla synthetic material looks and feels great. Seats are a bit softer than the S, though with less side-bolstering than the S next-gen seats. Some drivers might prefer cushier seats, especially given the 3’s tight ride quality. A friend who drives a RAV4 EV and has a herniated disc sat in the Model 3’s seats for about 45 minutes and was surprised that he didn’t experience discomfort as he often does when seated in a car for that long, so they pass that test at least.
- Ease of ingress/egress? Significantly easier than Model S (and obviously easier than Roadster). Easy entry/exit profiles and the car has tons of headroom and a more upright seating position than the S. My mother and father, who in my mother’s words are “active seniors” (and definitely not “elderly” as a previous version of this article stated) have an easier time getting in and out of 3 than S.
- How’s the sun feel coming through the glass roof? Glass coating cuts out 90-95% of UV (according to Tesla delivery specialist). My balding father who always wears a hat due to skin problems drove (hatless) with the glass roof and felt fine near noon on a sunny winter day in Southern California. Tesla sells a collapsible sunshade which cuts an additional ~2/3 for $75 if it bothers you, but this is only for the front roof not the rear one.
- Does the footwell heater work well? Yeah, your toesies will be nice and comfy. Overall, car heater and heated seats work very quickly, one passenger was impressed on a cold New Year’s morning with how quickly the car heated up, before we were even halfway down the block after starting up the car.
- Is the screen UI quicker than the Model S? Yes, it’s so smooth, it’s really a joy to use. No lag for any interactions I’ve encountered. Puts every other in-car system I’ve used to shame, including the Model S.
- How about that weird door handle? Pretty easy to get used to, though about half of people have to be told how to use it (the other half are brave enough to try it and figure it out on their own). Could see it being an issue if you’re trying to open the door with one finger while holding onto grocery bags or something. There is some possible trouble with the interior passenger-side door handle, some passengers reach for the manual release instead of the regular door release button, and manual release should be used only in emergencies as it can harm the door seals (which keep the car quiet and keep water out).
- Can wipers be activated from the stalk? Yes, a single press gives a single wipe, a press-and-hold gives spray, with more settings available on touchscreen. When using spray, it wipes 3 times, pauses, then wipes again to get rid of drips, which is cool. Wipers spray fluid from the blade just like newer Model S/X does, so you won’t make a cloud of overspray and anger the driver behind you.
- What voice commands does it have? Same as Model S, generally “call [contact],” “navigate to [place],” “play [song]” and variations thereof. Voice response is very snappy, faster than Model S, and navigation is good at figuring out where you want to go even if you give it an oddball address or intersection or weird pronunciation. Ability to play any song under the sun, like Model S, through the car’s Slacker internet radio connection, is a real crowd-pleaser.
- Backup camera quality? Doesn’t seem as sharp as the S and is VERY wide-angle, like a fisheye lens, which makes it less useful for seeing what’s going on behind you while driving forward (given the car’s poor rear visibility, this is unfortunate). Wide angle is nice for parking though and it does give you the lines overlay to see where you’re backing into.
- Is there an emergency manual release for the rear doors hidden somewhere? Tesla says there is not, and that the intention is for the driver to leave the car through the front manual release, then open the rear door with the exterior door handle if necessary, which works as a manual release.
- How does it feel to have no gauges? When I had the MINI E, speedometer was in the middle of the car, further away from the driver’s eyes than in the Model 3, and it wasn’t too hard to get used to. There is a slight moment of weirdness the first time you’re driving at night and stare into the inky blackness beyond the steering wheel and panic as there is nothing to look at there, but it’s not a concern beyond that. The most important info is the closest to the driver and it’s really right next to the wheel from the driver’s perspective so it doesn’t take any more attention to look for it, you’re just looking in a slightly different place than usual. Other cars have had center instrument clusters before, you’ll get used to it.
- Visibility? Front is great, sides is good/normal, rear is poor because of the high trunk lid. Adding rear tint would probably negatively affect visibility as well because of the sloping glass. Compounding this problem, my rear defroster seems not to be working. I’ve been assured by other owners that their defrosters do work, so I suppose a service visit is in order.
- Actual 0-60? Just over 5 seconds, as advertised. Note that Motor Trend tests all cars with a 1-foot rollout, which is why they got 4.8 seconds.
- Rear child seats? LATCH attachments for two seats, with a little space in the middle, middle space would really only work for a veerry skinny child. Did not try 2 car seats plus booster seat but seems like it would be too tight to work.
- Can you install a roof rack? Owner’s manual says they will eventually be available. We’ve already seen suction cups.
- Camper mode? Either I couldn’t figure out how to activate it, or it’s not there yet. I couldn’t find a “keep climate control on” setting anywhere. Later software update, perhaps? Regardless, when folding down the seats and laying down, there was plenty of room for a 6-foot-tall person to sleep. If front seat is pushed forward all the way, should be possible for someone up to a few inches taller than me.
- Rear cargo usability? Storage is very deep, both seats fold down, vertical aperture is the same as Model S with the parcel shelf installed, and there’s a cubby hole on the side which is not quite big enough to hold your charging accessory bag unless you wedge it in there a little (same goes for a 6-pack of beer). There’s space under the cargo floor though, just as in the S. Charging accessory bag is velcro so you can stick it anywhere in the trunk, and it holds on very solidly so it won’t fly around. Impressively, I was able to fit three 6-foot tall people and a carbon fiber road bike (with front wheel off and seat set for a 6-foot tall rider) and still have room in the rear underfloor and front trunk for cargo storage. In a 3-box sedan – not an SUV, not a hatchback.
- Is autopark any good? I can’t quite figure out how it decides whether or not it’s looking at a “parking spot,” but I tried it in a weird perpendicular parking situation between a large delivery truck and a normal-sized sedan and it did an admirable job. Haven’t gotten it to work for parallel parking yet.
- Can you install a dashcam, is there a 12v supply somewhere? There is a 12V supply in the center console, but not sure where else in the car there might be one or whether that one stays active while in park. I’ve got an email out to Tesla about dashcams – or asking when they’ll let us use autopilot cameras as dashcams.
- Sound system quality? Subjectively, I am quite pleased with it. Obviously have not tested non-premium sound. Several passengers have been impressed by the sound system. My cousin who has owned a lot of higher-end cars says it’s the best car audio he’s heard. Car is very quiet which makes sound system stand out well. Bluetooth call quality is very clear on both ends of the call.
- Does the key card work if it’s in a wallet? Tesla says it needs direct contact, but I tried it in a rather thick tri-fold wallet and was surprised to find that it did work even through 18 layers of bills, 4 cards and 2 layers of wallet. You should still probably try to minimize the amount of stuff between the card and the car. Obviously doesn’t work if it’s in one of those RFID-blocking wallets.
- How close do you have to be for the phone to unlock the car? Can work up to about 20 feet away. Have had to take phone out of my pocket and open the app to open up the car a couple times, but I think it’s because of keeping location services set to “while using the app” (Tesla recommends “always”). The car does get confused when multiple phone-keys are nearby and moving in and out of range (e.g. when milling around the car at a meetup), will often lock and unlock itself over and over. Similar behavior as the keyfobs exhibit on the S.
- USB port amperage? I plugged in 4 devices and was getting 1 amp on an iPad capable of charging at 2 amps.
- Can you use a thumb drive to play music? Owner’s manual says you can, but I couldn’t get it working. Probably added in a later software update, or maybe it was user error on my part.
- Does it have AM radio? HD Radio? No AM radio at all. Most AM radio is available on TuneIn internet streaming inside the car, but this of course requires an internet signal. It does have FM HD radio.
- Does it have a web browser or Spotify? No web browser, no Spotify in the US (can’t answer for Europe). It has Slacker in the US, like the Model S does.
- Charge rates at home and supercharging? I have not yet supercharged the car, but have noticed many posts from owners with charge speeds up to and exceeding 100kW and rates of 400+ miles of range per hour. My charger at home is on a 40A circuit (so 32A continuous), and this is what the charge rates look like.
- Vampire drain? I’ve been driving and charging and haven’t spent much time “parked”, but overnight for ~12 hours in the Southern California “cold” (~55F), the car stayed at 249 miles. In the same amount of time, a Model S 70D went from 205 to 203 miles.
- Efficiency at various speeds? Didn’t do rigorous testing on the same flat stretch at various speeds, but in mixed Southern California driving in mild weather on multiple “normal” drives, each ended up getting around 240-270Wh/mi, which is about what the EPA numbers indicate. This is with 19 inch wheels, so with aero wheels or when paying more attention to efficiency you should be able to beat EPA mileage numbers, or if driving “in a spirited manner” or in adverse weather conditions you’ll get less than that. Quite efficient, but it’s no Hyundai Ioniq (which I got 175Wh/mi (!!!) with)
- Is there an energy prediction graph like the Model S? No, in fact the whole energy app is missing. The only energy monitor in the car is the “trips” card in the bottom left of the screen, which is nice (shows energy use since last time you got in the car, last time you charged, and 2 nameable trip meters, see above for example), but not as nice as Model S energy graph and doesn’t show live power/regen stats anywhere except a bar in upper-left of screen UI, but this has no units attached.
- CHAdeMO charge rates? The Model 3 currently does not work with Tesla’s CHAdeMO adapter. I’ve got an email out to Tesla about whether this will change anytime soon.
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