As it turns out, I didn't only get a toilet seat for xmas; I also got a Tesla (although technically it just happened to arrive the day after xmas)! As you may know, I reserved a Model 3 the night Elon Musk revealed the car and then promptly leased a BMW i3 not anticipating that the Muskman would not deliver the Model 3 on time. As it turned out, he did; but my delay in getting a Model 3 allowed (1) Tesla to work out the manufacturing kinks, (2) me to see if Tesla stayed solvent, and (3) me to assess whether or not I really wanted a Tesla.
First off, I'm completely sold on electric vehicles. My experience with the i3 was fantastic. The car was zippy, reliable, futuristic, and fun-as-hell to drive. Although I know that it is drawing current from the house, I honestly couldn't see the effects of the draw in our electric bills, lost as they were in the standard month-month climatic signature. It's also nice to not have to stop in at gas stations: no threat of card skimming, panhandling, breathing fumes, and smelling like gasoline after dancing on hydrophobic concrete. In fact, it had been so long since I'd been to a gas station that when I borrowed the bride's gasser and filled it up, I had forgotten our zip code to confirm our credit card! I would have kept the i3 except for one fatal flaw, a flaw shared by all non-Tesla electric vehicles: Lack of a viable supercharger network.
The i3 was great for getting around town and, generally, back-and-forth to work. But for long-distance travel (that is, longer than half the range of your car), the i3 was unusable. For example, up until recently, I could not realistically drive the car to San Antonio and back because there was not a single non-Tesla supercharger in the whole dang town (I believe there is now one—one!—at a Walmart)! "But I see chargers all over town!" you might say, and you speak the truth, but those aren't superchargers. The i3 required about 16 hours to charge on 110v service, 4 hours on 220v, and about 30 minutes on a supercharger. Most of the chargers you see about town are 220v. Tesla, on the other hand, has supercharger spots with multiple stations all across the state and country. All these other car companies pushing their electric vehicles onto the market have neglected charging infrastructure. That's a serious problem that will eventually be worked out, but for the foreseeable future, Tesla has a major win here (and is the primary reason I picked one up instead of keeping the i3).
The i3 also had a limited range. My version of the i3 (with the max electric range) could do 140 miles in ideal conditions and 100 miles in cold temps. OK, but not great. My Model 3 with extended range will go 322 miles with more vroom and passenger/luggage space for—get this—a lower sticker price than the i3. Say what?
The Tesla is steeped in technology and, with software updates every two weeks, gets better with time. I didn't put down seven grand for full self-driving capability because (1) it's seven grand, (2) you don't get much for that money (the car will park itself [under supervision], you can summon the car [under supervision], and it will change lanes in autopilot when you tap the turn signal [under supervision]), and (3) I think its full activation is years away.
The standard car comes with autopilot which includes adaptive cruise control and steering [under supervision]. So far, the Tesla has done 90 percent of my driving [under supervision], and it is quite remarkable and wonderful. It really takes the edge off of driving. However, it doesn't see debris in the road, is confused by sun-shade contrast, and doesn't risk-assess surrounding drivers (such as "Wow! That dude up ahead in the beat-up Ford Escort in the far right lane is weaving all over the road! I'm going to pre-emptively slow down in case he swerves into my lane!"). Autopilot also trains your mind to not pay as much attention while driving, even when autopilot is off (this based on a study and my personal experience). Regardless, the beta autopilot is badass, and I seriously hope I'm wrong about the delay of full autonomous driving. I'm ready.
Things I love about the car, besides the aforementioned items:
- How minimal the interior is. It's an iPad with wheels.
- Everything about the interface.
- Although I wasn't initially head-over-heels with the looks of the car, it has grown on me.
- The amount of cargo space is off the hook.
- People are really excited about the car. It's a hoot to give folks their first ride in a Tesla.
- It's American made.
- It's emission free (and we use all renewable power for our home).
- It's smooth (the dang thing weighs more than two tons!).
- You can watch Netflix on it.
- The sun visors are legit.
- Auto emergency brake.
- You can hook your phone up to the car so you don't have to use keys to unlock or lock the car. You just get in and get out.
- The car "starts" automatically when you get in so you just put it in "gear" and go.
- You can sync your calendar with the car such that if an appointment has an address, it automatically loads up into the GPS.
- The sound system is amazeballs.
- Sentry Mode car alarm with 360 degree video recording.
- The rearview mirror is like something out of a 1960s muscle car.
- You get 1,000 miles of free supercharging for referrals.
- The GPS uses Google Maps and the Google search engine for addresses, so it autofills many addresses.
- One word: caraoke.
- There's a freakin' built-in fart app!
Things I don't like about the car:
- The door opening sequence from the outside and inside is ridiculously non-intuitive. Because the Model 3 is the "poor man's Tesla," the handles don't automatically extend when you approach the car: you have to use your thumb to leverage the handle out and then grab the handle to open the door. On the inside, folks default to pulling the emergency release which, if the door is opened too quickly, may damage the window. Therefore, I have to give tutorials to new passengers when they ride in the car.
- The auto bright-dipping is clunky and amateurish compared to the i3.
- The car uses Google Maps which is not as elegant as Apple Maps in showing traffic. Apple Maps color codes your thick pathline with traffic status (green, yellow, orange, red) while Google Maps color codes your thick pathline green the whole damn way with thin lines to the sides showing traffic for both directions and all the side streets: (1) I don't give a rat's ass about the status of oncoming traffic (those mofos are on their own!) and (2) it's difficult to quickly see traffic status while driving.
- The auto dimming on the rearview mirror sucks: I have to manually adjust the mirror to completely remove headlights from view.
- Tesla charges for some upgrades. For example, they figured out how to decrease the 0 to 60 mph from 4.4 seconds to 3.9 seconds, but they want two grand for you to save the half second. Truth be told, the car is plenty zippy enough, but the cost of this half second suggests costs for future upgrades (thank Gawd the car came with the fart app for free: I'd pay at least a grand for that!).
- Although there is a national supercharger network, with more Teslas hitting the road every day, Tesla's charging infrastructure is starting to be overwhelmed in the big cities and everywhere during holidays. Tesla will need to beef up their infrastructure to keep their advantage over the competition.
All in all, this is the coolest daily driver I've ever owned. I have absolutely no regrets. Until the other car-makers have a supercharging network, Tesla is the way to go.
If you found this review helpful and order a Tesla, please consider using my referral link, which will get us both 1,000 free supercharger miles: my referral link. Inclusion of this link had no effect on my stone-cold review above.
I-35 has already broken in the car when a hunk of WTF came skittering across three lanes and clocked me in the eyebrow!