Yesterday was my first experience of note behind the wheel of a Tesla. I’d only driven a Model S for maybe 30 minutes, and that was a few years ago. Yesterday though, I took a brand-new Model 3 to lunch… 90 miles away.
My video production partner at my current main contracting gig, Josh Ostrander, and I were ordered to take a Tesla Model 3 and a Hyundai Kona Electric to lunch. The goal was to find a destination that would put us at a round trip distance of 200 miles. Making the spot in Big Bear adds a healthy climb on the way in. In fact, we went from sea level to north of 8,000 feet. And both vehicles returned with plenty of range remaining (44 for the Tesla and 62 for the Kona).
Here and now though, I’d like to focus on the Model 3.
The dual-motor machine is an entertaining ride. And this is for a variety of reasons. First off, it still feels like a bit of a novelty. Granted, it’s one that’s been around for a bit now, and packs top-tier EV tech under its skin. Tesla is killing it in the range game, and the rest of the automakers are playing catch up. Plant your foot, and this compact sedan pulls hard. Even better was the fact that it seemed to relish the more twisty bits of the journey.
California has some great roads. If you can catch 18 or 38 on day with no to light traffic, you’re in for a treat. Such was the case the day before, and I was able to push the Model 3 a bit. The steering was nicely weighted, and you can choose between three different settings for the heft of the wheel. I kept it the middle, as the full weight of Sport didn’t feel all that necessary. There was never a squeak from the tires. The car remains planted through corners. And all of that battery weight is down low where you want it to be.
Add in some regen braking to setup for corners, and you’ve got a sweet trail-braking machine eager to rip up a canyon road. I was smiling. I was enjoying myself. And I was doing so in a machine running as quietly as could be.
On the inside, the interior is nothing special. The very large screen looks great, and works well. But at times I felt it was rather distracting. I even proved my own point when I went to use the browser… while driving. I didn’t know how to operate Autopilot, so I looked it up. I got my answer quickly, and realized I just did something stupid.
But I could then activate Autopilot to give that a test. All of the knocks against it, which you’ve likely seen covered, are true. People who aren’t paying attention while using this are morons. They’re going to hurt themselves or others. This is a high-tech Level 2 driving feature, and it basically amounts to fancy cruise control. It’s cool to see a display on the screen showing you what the car sees around you, and it picks up on the other vehicles very quickly. But you still need your eyes up, and your hands ready to take over at any moment.
This further proves my personal feelings that Level 2 is almost a waste of time. The industry needs to jump past Level 3 and figure out a way to give us Level 4 before it really makes sense for public consumption. And that is quite a ways away. We will not get there until we realize how poor our infrastructure is, and that we need to fix our roads, signs, and pretty much everything else our vehicles travel on.
Overall, the experience was pretty great. This is a fantastic daily driver for someone that leaves in an area of the country with plenty of charging options. And if you buy one of these, you should definitely put a Level 2 charger in your garage as well. Your options aren’t limited to Tesla models, of course, and the Hyundai Kona Electric we drove during this mega lunch run performed great as well. In fact, it was actually more efficient on the freeway, and finished both driving segments with more remaining range. The Model 3 was absolutely more fun to drive though.
But the fact that we’re having an electric-car conversation that gives you many choices means we’re moving in a good direction on this front.