2018 Tesla Model 3
by John Davis
This month on MotorWeek we take our first in-depth look and drive in the Tesla Model 3, the “affordable” battery-electric car from the most famous car brand that didn’t sell its first car until a decade ago. That first car was the Tesla Roadster, a two-seater EV built on a highly modified Lotus chassis. We tested a Tesla-supplied Roadster press car in 2011 and called it “a milestone electric vehicle.” But, I guess our rave review wasn’t good enough for Tesla since we’ve never gotten a factory test car since. That puts us in the same boat as many others in the automotive press. All of the subsequent Tesla tests on MotorWeek, the Model S sedan and Model X crossover, have been either owner’s cars or from a dealer.
That brings us to the Tesla Model 3. While we have been in and around the compact Model 3 since it first became available, once again an owner was kind enough to let us extensively evaluate their personal car. What we found, however, was pretty impressive.
We think it is fitting that Tesla chose Model 3 as the name for their entry-level EV, as they are looking to do for battery electric sedans what the BMW 3 Series has done for sport sedans, namely, to become the EV benchmark for others to follow.
Other than lacking an upper grille slot, the compact Model 3 bares a strong resemblance to the larger Model S. Its slick front end leads to a very big windshield; where the arching roofline flows hatchback-like to a very short rear deck and tall back end.
Body panel fitment is not as great as what you’d find in the typical luxury car, but we hear improvements are being made as production continues to ramp up.
The interior is surprisingly pleasant; new era minimalism at its finest. Just a long linear dash with air vents, a steering wheel with two stalks, and a horizontal touch screen jutting out of that IP. No buttons, dials, knobs, to be found, save for some programmable scroll wheels on the steering wheel.
All info is displayed on that 15-inch center video panel, and there’s a wealth of it; however, it is fixed and cannot be tilted towards the driver.
On the road, the ride is well composed, with a solidly tight but not jarring ride. It indeed drives much like a European sport sedan. There is a somewhat noisy rear suspension, mostly noticeable because of the lack of engine noise. But, with an output of 271-horsepower the Model 3 is quite fast.
Our rear-driver was equipped with the Long Range battery pack, which is the only one available right now. Tesla doesn’t provide exact specs, but it is rated in the neighborhood of 70-kWh. Base 50-kWh models, as well as twin-motor all-wheel drive versions, will be added into the production mix later this year. There’s 310-miles of range with the bigger battery. Range for the base model is 220-miles.The government gives the Model 3 MPGe Ratings of 136-City, 123-Highway, and 130-Combined.
For more of our impressions of the 2018 Tesla Model 3, be sure to catch MotorWeek episode #3736 that begins airing May 11, 2018. For a listing of the public television stations that broadcast MotorWeek, go to motorweek.org and click the “About The Show” tab at the top. MotorWeek is also seen Tuesday evenings on the Velocity cable network.
The Tesla Model 3 is the best convergence of high technology and the practical automobile that we’ve yet seen. While the future for Tesla, the car company, is still a little cloudy, one thing is crystal clear; the Model 3 is here today, and will be the populous EV benchmark for years to come.