3 years ago I picked up my Model S and wrote this review of it.
The Model S is the best car and driving experience I've ever had. So when my lease was up, I had a choice to make - another Model S or a Model 3. I decided on the Model 3.
When I ordered my Model S I had no intention of getting a car in that price range - but I really wanted to experience Tesla and driving a luxury electric car and a zero emissions driving experience. I produce more than enough solar power for my Tesla to be "off the grid" but Washington State's energy is majority hydro-power anyway.
I will say that 3 years with a Model S - it's actually rather uneventful and boring - meaning I don't feel that there has been a single compromise or downside to owning an elecrtric car - quite the opposite. I'm now irreversibly ruined by the experience. I'll be a Tesla owner for life if that's possible.
In the 3 years I drove my car I 1. never ran out of "electricity" 2. never had any major issues 3. had the car save me from an accident twice 4. removed stress and worry from my life 5. produced many smiles on my face while driving it.
My car was primarily used for commuting and driving around town on the weekend. We took a few long range trips to Canada, Oregon and around Washington. I seldomly used superchargers as the network in Washington is small compared to California - but this has changed in the past few years as there are now many more super chargers in Washington.
In the 3 years I drove 21,224 miles and consumed 7390 kWh of energy. That puts my efficiency at 348 Wh/mi - a bit below what Tesla says is "estimated range". If you want to understand this - if you power three 100W light bulbs for 1 hour that's about how much energy it takes to move the Tesla 1 mile traveling at 65 mph. Electricity math is neat.
The cost of energy in Seattle is about 12 cents a kWh - so the cost of driving this car is $616 dollars. I paid zero dollars in maintenance costs or repair costs. If we compare to gas, lets say I had an equivalent car that got 20 mpg, at 1060 gallons of fuel would cost about $3.50 for premium gas that amounts to $3,700 in fuel I didn't spend or pollution I did not create.
Honestly though, that doesn't really factor into the equation to me as this is one of the best cars out there if you consider purchasing, ownership, and driving. I will say that the convenience and driving experience make it stand out:
- Regenerative braking - once you get used to this, it's hard to drive a gas car. You essentially learn to drive by just using the accelerator as the car slows down when you let go of the accelerator. You almost never use your brakes.
- Auto unlock, auto lock, pretty much auto everything. The car is a robot and it's so nice not to think about opening the garage or locking your car. You just get in and drive.
- Safety - the car has so many safety features - mind numbing really. The car has managed to save me from a wreck a few times due to its auto collision and lane warning features.
- Updates - Tesla is the only car in the world that receives software updates on a nearly monthly basis. Due to how car dealers work, you are lucky if your car ever gets a bug fix. The Tesla experience is a relationship you have with the company that makes your car - not the dealership. Who likes interacting with their dealership? Who got a new feature on their car after purchasing it?
So, if I loved this car so much why did I get a Model 3?
The Model 3
I made a reservation for a Model 3 and was hoping to time the release of the All Wheel Drive version with my lease end but could not. I ended up with the Premium RWD.
I decided on the Model 3 for a few reasons:
- Newer and better technology
- Better "cockpit" design - more futuristic and less legacy car design
- Much better range for much less money. My Model S was a 70D and had 240 miles of range on a full charge. The Model 3 I got has range of 310 miles.
- Cost - to get a Model S I would have to choose between the 75D or the 100D. I want more range but the cost is nearly double that of a Model 3. I don't see the Model S as twice as good.
- Size - the Model S is a large car. I got used to this but as a commuter car, I don't need a large car and prefer something a bit smaller and more sporty.
- Keyless car - there is no key, you use your phone or a credit card. I am using my phone and it works beautifully. I just walk up and get in.
I've now had the car for 2 months. I LOVE IT. I have zero regrets. I wish I had AWD but I'll save that for the next one.
Let's talk about the differences in 3 years of innovation from Tesla.
All the same convenience features are present from the Model 3 - and the car has the new keyless entry. The home link garage opening and closing is still great. There is a new cabin overheat protection that will cool the car if the interior cabin temp exceeds 105 degrees. There is also a new speed limit control you can set if you have a child driver you wish to protect. Ferris Bueller would not approve.
The cabin is very different. There is no dashboard - instead just a large screen. I will admit I was most nervous about this but have not missed it at all. You get very used to it.
The user experience has a ton of improvements that make the car easier to drive.
One of the biggest differences is that there is a single vent for AC and Heat that runs the width of the car. There are software controls to direct the air in nearly any direction you wish. Super neat.
Additionally the console design is greatly improved. Phones have their own shelf, there is a proper center console and cup holders. They have learned a lot from the spartan Model S console (there was none).
The car is much smaller and lighter than the Model S and it's noticeable. I like how it drives. In addition the regen braking on the car is much stronger than my Model S which took a bit to get used to but I like it.
The car is much more efficient than the Model S. It also has a newer battery pack which packs in more energy into a smaller space. The Model 3 gets about 240 Wh/mi vs the 340 Wh/mi of my Model S - an improvement of 30%. It also charges faster.
I have newer Auto pilot and it's a bit better than the Model S but nothing so dramatic that I would comment on. Supposedly there is a new software update that will really take advantage of the new hardware
What don't I like
Worth noting that not everything is perfect.
I miss the sun roof - the Model 3 just has a big piece of glass across the top that is great if you are seated in the rear.
I miss the powered lift gate - the car has a trunk vs the hatchback of the Model S, but I do miss auto open and close.
I wish the car had air suspension - while the Model 3 sits a bit taller than my S, I still find my car will scrape in certain driving conditions around Seattle.
The brakes are a bit underpowered. I almost never use them, but they feel noticeably weaker than my S.
I've purchased a couple of after market items.
Ceramic coating - I took my car to Metropolitan Detail and they applied a ceramic nano coating to the car. This basically puts a permanent hydrophobic barrier on your paint and makes maintenance and washes super easy / convenient. I don't like swirl marks so I clean my car with Griot's products every few weeks and the nano coating ensures the car always has a clean / wax look to it.
Floor mats - not many options right now, none from Tesla so I got these from Amazon.
I am enamored by Tesla. They have achieved so much by making good looking, high performance cars that are now more affordable and competitive. They are challenging the legacy car sales and dealer model that frankly does not serve you - the consumer. There is no negotiation or haggling when buying a car - it's like buying a MacBook. They take care of customers and are learning how to scale to a customer base that will be 10x what it's been up till now (and hence there are growing pains).
I'll close by sharing what I wrote 3 years ago. I still feel this way
I expect I’m probably more enthusiastic than many Tesla owners or non-owners. After all it is a car right?
I don’t believe this. Tesla, and the Model S is a snapshot of a vision. A future beyond carbon polluting transportation. A car company that tried not to burn any carbon to make cars, and who’s cars don’t pollute (assuming of course your electricity comes in the form of clean energy - which it does in Washington). Something that is required to reverse the trend this planet is headed on. Someone trying to reverse this trend so a few generations of humans don’t live in a dying planet.
Beyond all that stuff. It’s exhilarating to own and drive this car. In addition to what I said above, Tesla has produced one of the finest cars ever made. The best driving experience hands down. The most fun I have ever had owning, driving, dealing with. The only thing that might be better is a convertible Tesla.
As we wait for the Model 3 to be released, and Tesla can start selling to a whole customer base that will never experience a Model S, we can be certain that innovation will continue to move us further and further away from gas powered vehicles to intelligent, connected, fun driving.
Elon Musk, and all the employees at Tesla have a lot to be proud of. It’s so easy to be critical of companies and people. But lets give credit where credit is due. These people took (and are taking) a huge risk to do something good… downright amazing. No compromises by retrofitting electric drivetrain into a gas car… a true electric super car through and through. And in doing so putting a smile on my face (and definitely my kids faces when I hit the gas) every day.