Review: 2019 Tesla Model 3

Recently, I wrote about the future of mobility and my belief that the future is electric. Last week, I took a test drive of that future, making the pilgrimage to Eden Prairie to try out the latest version of the Tesla Model 3.

Before we begin, I was not compensated by Tesla, Toyota, or anybody, including Streets.MN, for this vehicle review.

Tesla Model Y

Tesla Model Y. Photo: Tesla

I entered the dealership and mini showroom (only one car is there) with the story that I was potentially interested in the Tesla Model Y, which is reportedly rolling out in 2020. That is, if Tesla is still a company by then. It is true that by around 2024 I may be interested in buying a new vehicle, given that my current 2015 Toyota Prius bought in 2014 will be 10 years old. My former wheels included a 2003 Toyota Camry and a 1995 Ford Taurus. If the Model Y — a hatchback version of the Model 3 — was priced reasonably and was the kind of vehicle that met my needs in the not-to-distant future, it could be a real contender.

Performance

The Model 3 is an agile beast. With the heavy battery pack in the belly of the vehicle, the chassis hugs the road and cuts around corners like a Formula One champion. On a suburban office park side street, I was told to try out the acceleration. There was about a half second delay, then full torque, and I brought the vehicle to about 40 mph before decelerating. Accelerating onto the short bits of highway that we did was in high contrast to my current experience. The best-performing model of the vehicle is purported to have a 0 – 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and a battery range of 310 miles. The model I drove, the Long Range AWD model, had 4.4 second 0 – 60 mph acceleration.

Driving Style

The Model 3 has a customizable driving style. As a driver of a gas motor vehicle, I was used to the idiosyncrasies of how those vehicles drive. For instance, my current Prius “creeps” forward when in drive and without depressing the brake or gas pedal. In the Model 3, there was a setting to have that be on or off. When off, the vehicle sat still, which was a little unnerving in my test drive when I was used to coasting without touching the gas. Also standard on the Model 3 was an aggressive regenerative braking. My sales rep said you learned to drive with your foot always on the acceleration pedal. He also changed the settings on the console mid-test drive to have the regenerative braking set to “low”, as there was no “off”. After my test drive, I suspect if “creep” is turned on, it might give the same experience as a Prius or Camry, but it would take another test drive to test that out. In short, the Model 3 is an electric car first, not an electric car trying to mimic your current gas motor reality.

The experience of the sales rep changing settings mid-test drive got me to thinking, and hoping, that Tesla vehicles should have a password protection to changing vehicle driving settings mid-drive. I can imagine a misbehaving tween turning off creep and turning on regenerative braking and maybe causing an accident.

Model 3 Red

Tesla Model 3. Photo: Tesla

The Future

The sales rep was trying to sell me on the idea that Tesla was going to compete with Uber once its autonomous driving technology was ready for prime time. I declined to try out the company’s Autopilot software while cruising down the highway at 55 mph. At least four people have died while running Autopilot, and I didn’t plan on pushing up daisies any time soon. The sales rep said that Tesla was not allowing leasers to buy their vehicles at the end of the lease as the company intends to use the vehicles for a self-driving fleet of ride share vehicles and corner out Uber. If that comes to fruition, expect vomit on the luxury leather.

Tesla Model 3 Entertainment Screen Console

Tesla Model 3 interior with screen shown with maps application. Photo: Tesla

Pros

One large feature of the Model 3 that I really enjoyed was the landscape aspect ratio console screen. It displayed driving information like speed and battery level (not displayed elsewhere), and brought together all the environmental controls, entertainment, and settings. This is the future. When driving, the screen was not a distraction, but on the other hand I didn’t get any phone calls as I chatted it up with the sales rep. I learned he drives his own Model S and puts it on Autopilot for most of the commute to work.

But the main pro was that this was a luxury sports car that can race onto the highway and have a lot of fun in Germany. The top speed of the top model is 162 mph. I don’t think my Prius even has a third digit. Maybe when I am having a mid-life crisis in 2038, I will take a trip to Munich and race around in a Tesla, like my uncle loved to do on BMW motorcycles.

My Next

In the days since my test drive, I have been thinking about what my sales rep talked about with Tesla’s long game for taking on Uber. In a decade, will I even need a car to go to Costco or my mother’s appointments, or will we just order up a self-driving Uber? There could be the self-driving, electric SUV for Costco and a smaller car model for trips that would take an hour of time and $2.50 of currency if we took the bus. Will Tesla buy up downtown parking ramps to store its self-driving fleet and charge up during off-peak hours?

2019 Prius Prime In Red

2019 Prius Prime in Hypersonic Red. Photo: Toyota

I for one like the assurance of ownership. For the time being, I like the idea that my vehicle can run when the power is out, the GPS satellites are down, your self-driving software has a killer glitch, or whatever happens. The current Toyota Prius Prime can go 25 miles on a charge before kicking in the gas motor, and has a 640-mile total range. The range of the electric Tesla Model 3 is 310 miles, less than half that. My ideal vehicle would go 100 miles on a charge, but then have a gas motor and a 16-gallon tank to take it farther. I could charge up at home overnight for all the common short trips, but then have the freedom to drive to Chicago to visit family without being a member of the Tesla supercharger club. For the record, the 2019 Prius Prime has a net hybrid horsepower of 121 hp, and Toyota does not share the 0 – 60 mph acceleration time. I expect Toyota will inch up the Prime’s battery capacity as battery technology improves. Maybe the 2024 Prius Prime will be my next?

The 2019 Tesla Model 3 starts at $39,900, which gets you a 240-mile range, a top speed of 140 mph, and 0 – 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. The model I test drove with more performance and range started at $49,900. The 2019 Toyota Prius Prime starts at $27,350, which gets you a 25-mile electric range, 640-mile total range, and performance of 121 hp. Really expensive apples and mid-range oranges.

What are your wheels? How do you go to the grocery store or get groceries delivered? Would you ride in a self-driving car ride share? Share your experiences and your fears in the comments.

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20 Responses to Review: 2019 Tesla Model 3

  1. Elizabeth Larey June 20, 2019 at 10:15 am #

    Sure would love to have a Tesla, they are awesome.

  2. Scott Berger June 20, 2019 at 10:30 am #

    Psst., your title misspells the company name as “Telsa.” The “TM3” is by all accounts a fantastic all-around car. But they haven’t really delivered the fabled 35k version, and now their federal tax credits are phasing out fast. I’m more excited for vehicles like the new Kia Soul EV.

  3. Justin June 20, 2019 at 11:43 am #

    I think electric cars are preferable to gas powered cars, but I’m not a fan of car-focused or car-glorifying posts. Car-dominance kills people and ruins cities no matter what kind of fuel the cars use.

  4. Monte Castleman June 20, 2019 at 12:15 pm #

    To answer the questions: I have a 2009 Toyota RAV-4, nothing fancy but checks the basic boxes: all wheel drive, enough cargo capacity for just about anything I want to haul (I’ve only had to borrow my stepfather’s pickup once in 15 years), high H-point seating (sitting in a car is downright uncomfortable on my bad back for more than an hour). Groceries I typically drive to Walmart across the river and get all the groceries I need for a week.

    I’d consider automated rideshare provided I could hire a private vehicle without having to share it with other passengers, which I think is going to be the case. I do think automated vehicles are going to be the norm and eventually I’ll probably reach a point in a few decades where I wouldn’t be able to drive a manual vehicle anyway.

    In regard to the point about cleanliness, I do think we’re going to see the end of cloth seats because of how hard they are to clean in a shared vehicle. I don’t think people are going to tolerate hard plastic, but I think we’ll see either vinyl or leather / fake leather, depending on the luxury level of the vehicle, be standard.

    I’d love to test out a Tesla, but I don’t feel I can ethically waste a salespersons time since I can’t afford one and they don’t fit my needs so I’d never buy one of their current models.

    • Andrew Evans June 20, 2019 at 12:45 pm #

      Agree Monte, and I’ll add that most of what we do sitting in traffic isn’t value added. Even my nice commute up and down West River Road each day isn’t really value added, since I’d rather be looking at the scenery than driving. So yes, calling up a car, getting picked up and dropped off, is a fantastic idea and I’m sure it will catch on once it’s hands off for the rider.

      I think that you may see some keep personal cars, if they are a hobby or for pleasure driving, but that a majority may opt out eventually and not miss having one or the payments. Assuming that, of course, the costs would be comparable or more affordable to make the switch.

    • Conrad Zbikowski
      Conrad Zbikowski June 20, 2019 at 11:06 pm #

      A great option for your next someday may be a RAV-4 Hybrid. The WSJ did a test drive and review and made the case that everyone buying a RAV-4 today should get the hybrid model. In the 2019 models, 40 MPG vs 30 MPG, “saving thousands in fuel costs” for ~$800 more new.

      https://www.wsj.com/articles/2019-toyota-rav4-hybrid-great-performance-even-better-fuel-economy-11555683394

      My uncle in Colorado is buying one. His daughter, my cousin, needed a vehicle unexpectedly, so she is driving the older model RAV-4 while he gets the 2019 Hybrid. He uses the storage for buying groceries for a community kitchen that serves breakfast and lunch for people in need in Loveland, CO.

      My mother has a 2010 RAV-4 and loves it. We live near each other and usually I drive my Prius for joint Costco runs and appointments. But I appreciate having a larger vehicle in the family for when I recently picked up a smaller piece of furniture that I didn’t trust to my Prius.

      • Monte Castleman June 22, 2019 at 3:46 pm #

        It’s something I’m definately considering. 2012 was unfortunately the last year for the V6, but hybrid technology and better transmissions mitigate this somewhat. Mine has about 100,000 miles on it and being a Toyota I’m thinking it should easily hit 200,000, but on the other hand it could be totaled in a crash tomorrow so I am keeping tabs on what’s out there for vehicles. There’s things I like about it and things I don’t (I wish I had gotten the Sport with the stiffer suspension, and a sunroof), but overall I can’t think of vehicle I’d rather have considering capabilities, affordability, and reliability.

        I met a guy that makes a living replacing hybrid batteries when the one in my stepfather’s Escape conked out at 110,000 miles and started throwing codes. He said that Toyota batteries commonly last the life of the vehicle, while replacing batteries in Fords and Hondas keep him in business.

  5. Andrew Evans June 20, 2019 at 1:04 pm #

    There was a article about Porsche that popped up on realclearenergy today. “Porsche CEO gives props to Tesla, says EVs are coming in masses to the US in op-ed” from some website called electrek.

    There has been a decently sized push by the old automakers in Europe to get EV cars going and provide service stations and infrastructure for them. Isle of Man TT has been racing an electric class of motorcycle for a while now, and Formula 1 has had an electric series for a few years. There was a VW 6.05 time around the Nurburgring that made its’ rounds on social media. A few years back there was talk about electric dump trucks being cheaper to maintain than current models. It’s only a matter of time before it really becomes mainstream.

    Plus the performance specs are something to look at as well if you’re into that (I’m not really). The 4.4 0-60 time is in the ballpark to a little faster than my now older 911. New, adjusting for inflation, my car was around 6 figures to maybe $115k – they are still around that price. 3.2 seconds is getting near or at supercar levels, and prices. Top speed is a little lower, my car (being an older non turbo model) in the book tops out at around 170, newer 911s I believe are pushing 190 to 200, however it’s not like we can drive over 100 on the road system here, and even at BIR with the long course that may be a bit high. Still though, 160 is pretty healthy and nothing to be ashamed about at all, even if it never goes above 100. To have that, at under $50k, in a otherwise normal car that can go over normal speed bumps and driveways is pretty amazing. That and my car is now getting on average 18.3 mpg, around high to mid 20’s at interstate speeds, and 16 to 17 city. Not sure on the cost of the Tesla, but take out my few hundred a month (in the summer) gas payment and I’m well on the way to affording a EV if not outright paying for a used one, with or without government help.

    I am with those who want a gas tank, or a hybrid, but honestly, for the few trips I take it would be easy enough to rent a car if I had a EV. Most days I’m around 50 miles driven, so anything over a 200 miles range would be completely fine for me.

    I really can’t wait to see what will happen in the next 5 to 10 years. Although I may miss my current 911 then, I won’t miss going to the gas station or dealing with engine maintenance. My partner with their truck may be another thing, but we really haven’t done much truck stuff with it since buying it a year ago and their commute is under 4 miles, so we could be looking at a few EV’s in the future for commuting cars.

  6. Tim June 20, 2019 at 3:07 pm #

    I drive a 2014 Kia Soul that I plan to keep as long as possible. It meets all of my needs, and the fuel cost is fine for the amount that I drive (about 7K miles per year, with some of that being road trips). I have no idea what the market will be like when it eventually is time for me to upgrade, so I haven’t put much thought into that. I certainly can’t justify the cost of switching to an EV now, but in 5-10 years, who knows?

    For me, a car is just a means to an end, so I’d use a self-driving car share if it worked for me.

  7. Rich June 20, 2019 at 10:46 pm #

    I’m curious about when, exactly, the tide will turn toward electrics. One might assume that urban area drivers will be the most likely customers given the range limitations. I live in a condo with a 100 car garage that is not wired for charging. We know we’re going to have to install chargers, but with dedicated parking spots, it’s not feasible to just wire up a dozen or so for over night charging. We’re going to have to do all 100 spots and that expense will come out of our reserves. There is no way owners will approve that today but when electrics finally reach the tipping point, they are going to want their chargers right NOW.

    • Andrew Evans June 21, 2019 at 10:44 am #

      Not so sure it would be limited to Urban residents. Someone in BFE middle of nowhere with a 50 mile drive to town would be pretty served with a vehicle that has a 200 mile range. Someone who makes that trip commuting to work (from BFE to less BFE, or from the suburbs into a city) may break even on leasing or buying a EV from the gas money they would be saving.

      Those of us in a house with a parking pad would have an easier time, especially those that already have a 240v outlet in a garage, owning a EV.

    • Conrad Zbikowski
      Conrad Zbikowski June 21, 2019 at 9:36 pm #

      My building is a similar situation, built in 1964, 512 units, 352 underground parking stalls, 57 outdoor parking stalls (409 total).

      The association is putting together an electric vehicle charging committee to study the issue. I know there is at least one Tesla parking regularly in the underground space.

      The issue is that residents rent their parking stalls from the association, residents do not own them. Any improvements on a space are owned by the association if the resident leaves, presumably.

      If wiring a single stall for 220 V costs about $1,000, then wiring the whole building would likely be half a million.

    • Monte Castleman June 22, 2019 at 12:31 pm #

      I’m not sure the range limitation thing follow an urban vs rural divide. Most rural trips are probably to the nearest large town and back, whereas many people in the city will go to Chicago or up to the north woods or wherever, someplace well over 100 miles. Many city people have two cars so one can be electric, but then so do most rural people.

      The tide will turn when you have a vehicle that’s

      A) Has the range of a gasoline vehicle- several hundred mile range with quick charge capability. People don’t want to have to rent a different vehicle every single time they want to leave the city.

      B) Has the space of a gasoline vehicle, as demonstrated by the Crossover vs Sedan trend people don’t want to have to rent a vehicle every time they go shopping for at IKEA.

      C) Doesn’t cost a bazillon dollars.

      Right now the Tesla succeeds on A but fails on B and C. Most of the other succeed on C but fail on A and B.

      • Andrew Evans June 24, 2019 at 2:57 pm #

        The truth may be in the middle. My partner and I would need to rent a car maybe twice a year to go on trips outside of a 300 mile range. Their business travel may move that to 5 or 6 times a year, although then the company already offers to pay for a rental or mileage.

        If someone did make weekly cabin trips or need a vehicle that fit outside of what an EV can offer, then it’s not for them. A regular smaller 4 door type EV seems to be mostly affordable on the used market. Prices will only go down as the technology matures.

        Conrad, what may happen is the resale value will be less desirable for your condo and the association will be forced to make the upgrade. In a way it’s no different for the push of modern insulation and windows to a home like mine. Eventually that may become a selling point, and at that time I will deal with any consequence of my action or inaction. Then too, I put a trickle charger on my other car when it’s not being driven for months, ideally if I went to a condo it would have at least a standard outlet for something like that. I think the Jetta is good for 5 or 6 months, although the 911 will wear the battery down with it’s security system after a month or two.

  8. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell June 26, 2019 at 11:17 am #

    I’ve been driving Tesla’s for about 6 years including numerous cross country trips to Florida and elsewhere. My wife’s next car will also be electric (she’s undecided on which). For us and based on our experience there is no reason to have any type of gas engine.

    If you charge overnight then you wake up each morning with a full tank of 200 – 340 miles depending on your car. I’d guess there are no more than maybe 2 days per year when that wasn’t enough for everything I was doing and I needed to charge mid-day. In 2013 a mid-day charge could be difficult to find. That is not the case in 2019.

    Long distance journeys in a Tesla work quite well with the supercharger network (https://supercharge.info/map) alone. The addition of other charging options has made it even easier. Beyond charging during meals we’ll typically charge maybe 2 additional times for perhaps 20 minutes each. These are always located near a café of some sort and we’ve found that the extra stop, walking around, and being off the road to be quite welcomed and make our trips much more enjoyable than our previous focus on as many miles as possible each and every day. Overall journey time is about 45 minutes per day longer but more enjoyable.

    Non Tesla BEV’s may find the going a bit more difficult on long distance journey’s but from people I’ve talked to it is improving rapidly.

    I can’t see the benefit in a hybrid. The gas engine adds extra weight, maintenance and cost that is really unnecessary. Not to mention the burning of fossil fuels and pollution created.

    Charging options are expanding rapidly and personally I think it much better to send a message to auto companies, condo’s and others that much cleaner all electric vehicles are the way to go and push them on this.

    Condo’s and Apt’s on both coasts and in cities like Atlanta are moving rapidly to provide charging options for residents and as mentioned above, those who do not begin to find it increasingly difficult to find owners/renters. The more they hear demands from residents the quicker they’ll move to find solutions.

    I’m happy to answer any questions people have.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell June 26, 2019 at 11:26 am #

      I’ve been using Tesla Autopilot since it first began limited beta testing. It has improved rapidly and more rapidly than I and others expected. In 2014 about 90% of our drive to Florida was on Autopilot. It safely handled nearly 100% of motorway driving with me having to take over to pass slower vehicles or to exit. At that time it also did well on most other well-marked roads.

      There are a plethora of articles about all of the improvements since so I’ll not go in to that except to say that it does work quite well and I would not be surprised to see full autonomy within the next 12 months.

      • Andrew Evans June 26, 2019 at 12:19 pm #

        That’s my biggest concern in a year or so when I’m in the market for a new winter car. It would be great to get another 911, but then with a loan that’s another few year commitment and I’m just not sure what will happen with gas prices at that point. Then too, it would be interesting to see the prices of used EV’s or what the lower end of a Tesla would be.

        It will also be interesting to see what the luxury sports car lineup will be like in 5 years, and then in 10. Apart from those of us who drive for fun or as a hobby, and collectors, gas vehicles for regular consumers may get pretty rare.

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell June 26, 2019 at 5:40 pm #

          The next few years will be fun to watch. A buddy of mine is near the top of the list for a Taycan so I’m waiting anxiously to see how it is. Hopefully this fall.

          The high-end sports and hypercar industry will likely go electric quickly. Petrol engines will not be able to deliver the performance of BEV’s. Koenigsegg and others are investing in Rimac for access to their drivetrain expertise.

          Ferarri has said that they plan to stick with petrol and admitted that it is at least partially due to electrics being quieter and smoother.

          BMW, Audi and Porsche have all taken it in the shorts from Tesla so they’re working hard to come up with a good response.

          • Andrew Evans June 28, 2019 at 12:03 pm #

            Hopefully it works out for your friend! I’m sure we will see a few of them on roads here once they start getting to the dealers.

            What’s amazing too is this is just the start. Assuming we’re only a handful of years away (not a perpetual 5 or 10 years) from EV really completely becoming mainstream, then the future will be really fun to watch.

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