Saturday, November 25, 2017

Tesla 3 Up Close!

Everyone knows it to be Black Friday but I know it to be "Commuter's Day" simply because its impossible to clog the Malls and I-5 at the same time!  And this year was no different as my trip to Seattle was done in barely more than an hour at speeds bouncing between 65 and 72 mph. So naturally with a "once a year" ability to go somewhere unimpeded, finding something to do worthy of such a great driving day is always a challenge but this year, it was easy.  An up close encounter with the brand new Tesla Model 3!

Door sill Kick plate

First off, a debt a gratitude to Kevin for allowing me and several others to crawl all over his shiny new Tesla.  Again, reading about a car simply does not do it justice. Being there reveals so much more about the car!  It was a struggle to find balance in my observations. (It can't be ALL good!) So lets be honest; it was Black and showed dirt really well.  Whooo, That was tough!

And that is about all the bad. In fact, even the weather was good. Despite ominous forecasts, there was not a single drop during the hour long event held at Pioneer Park (a very lovely venue for a show!)

Yes, I was parked and outside the car when taking Pix!

Now before we begin; a quick reminder of what I was looking for in car in order of importance;

1) Price/Performance
2) Driving aids
3) Public Charging
4) Space
5) Range
6) Comfort (primarily seat height, seat heaters, etc.) 

Finally to the car!!

Despite being 10 mins early, there were already several people there!

As mentioned before, the car must work for work and that means carrying equipment and up to 3 passengers. Now, the passenger thing is not common (which really sucks on my 3 hour drives home and no HOV access!)  but the equipment is ALWAYS required. Now sometimes its only a shoulder bag, other times, its Printer, Laptop, Comm equipment, step stools, and several bags of handhelds. 

The one striking thing is how well Tesla was able to make every inch of the car usable. Greatest example of that is the near identical cargo space between the T3 and the Bolt. Despite similar sizes, the usability of the T3 is several notches higher. 

 The Frunk; Not huge but a separate storage area simply adds another easy layer of 
security. I think everyone has had the unfortunate experience of being on a roadtrip 
and doesn't it always seem like on the way you need the thing you packed first? 

 The trunk. I had some misgivings over the usability of a trunk mostly because of my now 16
 year run of hatchbacks but the opening is large, the depth is good and height is sufficient.
 And I have to say, it beats blocking my rear view (which is the norm on large jobs when I
 have my LEAF packed to the ceiling!)

Great example of making space count.  We all carry around stuff that might get used 
a few times a year and yeah, it sucks when is taking up valuable real estate. This is a
 great solution to that issue!

 The car is a bit bigger than my LEAF but the interior is HUGE. One thing I was apprehensive over when the T 3 was announced was seating position. I won't do low slung cars. Simply too much struggle. My Corolla has a seat that rides just above the ground it seems and its a climb to get out of the car.  Acceptable if doing it 2-3 a day but 10-15 times a day (Not extremely uncommon for me) is out of the question.  Thankfully, the battery pack in the floor fixed that and the seating position was excellent.  I adjusted the seats to my comfort level and got an immediate popup if I wanted to save it (I didn't) a great feature if you plan to share your Tesla (I am not sure I am willing to be that nice...) with someone else.  

Unlike the Bolt, the seats were very comfortable and the interior minimalistic with "The Screen" dominating the landscape; a Tesla tradition. 

 Thankfully, the early reports about EVERYTHING being controlled on the touchscreen
 were simply wrong. The steering wheel has the normal stuff close at hand; headlights, 
dimmers, windshield wipers, CC, etc. 

The Screen; My cellphone in my LEAF occupies a similar position and not sure if its my
 paranoia of air bags but despite being short, my seat is set back farther than most. Not a 
good thing when the shortness of my arms match the rest of me so leaning forward and 
stretching is required to do anything on my phone.  Nowadays, I do nearly everything by
 voice control so not as much of an issue but the screen is actually mounted a few inches
 farther back closer to me. Not a lot of difference, but the reach is much easier for me. 

 The interior. The center console has several cubbies including the one at the front which is
 VERY Deep. I know some people who will use this to store their Super Big Gulp!

As advertised, you can do everything from here including the ONLY way to open the
 glove box. Another way to thwart snoopers! 

One of the greatest surprises was the backseat leg room. It was HUGE!  We have a fleet of 
Impalas for work which are considered large cars. The leg room in them is far far far less! 

If I had to complain, I would pick the seat height.  It is a low seating position that would make
 the seats very uncomfortable on a long trip if you had a 7 footer in the driver's seat and you 
had to have your knees up in your face.  Beyond that, the ability to stretch out greatly mitigates
 this issue.  

No door handle here. Simply push the top button and the door pops open. Since there is no
 door frame, the window rolls down a smidgen so the glass can clear the car frame. Don't 
know if there is any emergency manual release. I looked and its very well hidden if its 
there.  Is this an issue? Well, could be but in 2006 a truck sideswiped my Prius turning left
 in front of me putting a crease barely an inch deep nearly the entire side of the car. I had
 to crawl out the passenger side because my door wouldn't open so door handles guarantees

On driving aids; The Tesla comes standard with several including the biggie, adaptive cruise control (see edit below) but the one thing, and its a BIG thing is the ability to upgrade features at a later date. Yes, autonomous driving is expensive but its something you can pay for later. The ability to take on an expense is much easier if the car payments are not standing in the way!  And like all Teslas nowadays, the car is ready to provide!

Rear facing camera

Not only are there driving aids but also aids for rescue personal! Good information to know. Not that I would cut up my shiny new Tesla, but I do know some over the top DIYers who might! 
Located in the frunk

Ok, so back to the "The List"

6) Comfort 
All three are acceptable. The LEAF might have the edge in driver's seat comfort and with my long slogs across Puget Sound, comfort is very nice to have. The Tesla comes close and easily could be better. I don't have as much time in the seats of the Tesla so I would call it a toss up. As mentioned in my Bolt review, the driver's seat has minimal padding and its easy to see how it could be an issue especially for someone thicker than me because the seat back is not flat,  (I am fairly a chubby sort of way... ) but the seat was not uncomfortable in any way. So it passes and the seat height (which is way more important) was fine.

5) Range
It wasn't until I test drove the 2018 LEAF that I realized I had been undervaluing driver aids. I am old school (or just plain old!) and the thought of relinquishing any tidbit of control of my car to someone (or something) else is a pretty alien concept.  But the traffic conditions have become untenable here so before you chide me for putting range so far down the list, lemme explain.  Cause up until that test drive; range was EVERYTHING to me. My only goal back then was how to get the most range for the least amount of money. PERIOD! Nothing else mattered. Uncomfortable seats? Better than walking!

But as 90 minute drives home changed into 3 hour drives home (this is no exaggeration. I get paid to drive which means I have to file a driving log along with payroll EVERY day which I do by email and Google is nice enough to remember all of it in case I forgot what I did on July 7, 2013!) my ability to maintain alertness after a 10-12 hour day was becoming suspect.  Every day, I would pass by another rear end fender bender wondering when my turn would be coming up.  So range?  I get a ton of that in my LEAF at 20 mph (and 20 mph is all too frequently wishful thinking!). So range is a priority; just not a big one and its the easiest to fix. Its called public charging!

4) Space
Both the Tesla and the Bolt are nearly identical in cargo space. Now the option to make the car a "two passenger" vehicle is not always available so I have serious doubts about the Bolt. Since I normally am alone or sometimes with one passenger (if I can talk someone into staying late so I can HOV it!) storage would only be an occasional issue but the Tesla simply has much more usable space than the Bolt.  Despite the LEAF having 50% more in the cubic footage dept,  I see it as only slightly better than the Tesla and even then only in certain circumstances.

Here "was" the typical pack for a larger job.  Keeping in mind; I frequently put 2 or 3 step
 stools on top of all this if I had 3 passengers.  But this was when we were transitioning to
 newer (red battery) machines which are smaller.  So this stack is now somewhat smaller 
(and MUCH lighter!) and only need one battery charger! :)   FYI; I say somewhat smaller
 because tablets have been added to the mix but generally only need 6 of them and they fit
 quite easily into one of the small bags. 

3) Public Charging
Mentioning this is completely unfair to the LEAF and the Bolt.  Tesla will soon have well over a dozen urban SC stations in the Puget Sound region and unlike the public stations I use now, you will likely have 4 to 10 plugs to choose from instead of one or two.  It is still shocking to me that only Tesla gets it; There is NO RANGE  that minimizes the need for public charging support!

2) Driving aids
Another easy one. The Tesla and the LEAF have it, the Bolt does not.  I get that Chevy cut costs to provide a bigger range but imm, they went too far and for me, it was a HUGE mistake. I had hoped the 2018 would have had it but alas... it did not. 

1) Price/Performance
The Tesla and Bolt are nearly the same price and have about the same range but I would pay $36,200 for a Tesla straight up. I wouldn't pay more than $30,000 for a Bolt and even then, I am not sure its worth that.   The LEAF promises to be MUCH cheaper, likely $10,000+ cheaper than either the Tesla or the Bolt simply due to favorable lease terms which also makes the financial commitment much easier to deal with. If they continue with ridiculously low money factor rates they will be a tough one to beat especially with the huge advances on the performance divide the 2018 provides.

So there you have it and first off, I must admit I did not put down a deposit on the car and the small twinge of regret caused by the HUGE buildup of urban based SC stations in the region is now a major sense of loss after seeing this car.  It exceeded every preconceived notion I had about the car and the one thing that I have learned is that Tesla is normally late but never short.  What Tesla loses in missed time lines is more than made up by going above and beyond their EV commitment and the Model 3 despite its much lower price is no different.  Tesla carefully analyzed what we wanted  needed and nailed it in every way.  A lot depends on where the LEAF will come in with its lease deals, etc. so my decision is not set,   But I can definitely say for me, the Tesla Model 3 is the first EV I know of that is worth buying. 


Ok when I actually "read" the Model 3 owners manual, I found that my assumption that "Speed Control" was some sort of adaptive Cruise Control was completely wrong so now the T3 is now "normal" in its lack of perfection since its bundled with a package I am not likely to buy... at least not  initially. 

On the steering wheel stalk, the wiper control does not control speed. Pushing the button only activates wipers for one sweep. Press and hold the button for spray and you will get two wipes right away plus a 3rd after a 2 second delay. 


  1. Thanks for the look. I've come to appreciate the height of my Leaf when getting in and out. My Camry feels so low now. You say the M3 seat height is fine. Can elaborate on the M3 seat height/getting in and out compared to the Leaf?

    I've driven two Bolts: and LT and Premier. The Premier seats were passable at best, the LT seats was causing me pain on my outer thighs after 20 mins of driving.

    I have a feeling we'll be leasing a Leaf in a few years. It will take that long for things to shake out with Tesla. Coming home Thanksgiving night in Ohio I spotted a semi with 6 Teslas. One of them was a candy apple red M3. I explained to my life we just spotted a unicorn.

    1. Well my being old I am sensitive to having to crawl into or climb out of the car and the Model 3 did not have any of that. Despite its low slung look, the seat which does have vertical adjustment was not low at all and I am sure its due to the battery pack in the floor raising everything. As mentioned, the the seat height in the back was pretty low but with so much leg room, even someone well over 6 feet can stretch out with plenty of room to spare!

  2. Nice report, Dave! Any comments on the 'fit and finish' of the car? I imagine the one you viewed is a very early example but any impressions you have would be welcome.

    1. Well for display purposes, everything was open so no real option to close the hood to see how the panels lined up but was able to open and close all 4 doors and there is no faking that solid well fitting sound. I think it helps that the doors dont have a frame so the windows kinda seals the car up. Very nice idea.

  3. The front doors have a manual latch for opening if power fails. Immediately below the pad controlling window operation.

    1. Ahh figures! I didnt look at the front driver's door (drivers seat was the most popular part of the car so less time to examine) only the back. Thanks for the info!

  4. There's nothing to see as far as what makes the car go. The mechanics and electrical are well hidden and apparently not easily accessible. Does Tesla build them that way to force you to take your EV into a Tesla service center for everything? I replaced the 12v battery on my LEAF myself. If the 12v battery needs servicing, then what? Do you really have to cut through plastic to get to it?

    1. The battery along with most of the components can be exposed by removing the plastic cover surrounding the Frunk. Plastic covers probably held in place with those plastic pop rivet things probably like the LEAF undercarriage cover that is removed when putting on tow hitch. Granted this is an extra step but not a difficult one.

      One thing that I don't know is what maintenance will be required/recommended and at what cost.

  5. this car looks so cool. that black color make it more rich in look. loving it.
    Glass Wiper Manufacturer

  6. Hi, Dave
    Thanks for your share. I have a model 3 glass screen protector. Can you help me to test it? We will send it for you free. Thanks.

    1. Unfortunately, the review was on someone else's Model 3. Due to an accident, I had to make a decision before the normal Model 3 deliveries (above is an employee car) hit the streets so got a LEAF.