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New Tesla Model 3 vs used Tesla Model S: interiors

The Tesla Model S was the car that proved electric cars could be fast and luxurious, but is a used example a better buy than a new Model 3 for the same money?...

Tesla Model 3 dashboard

Behind the wheel

Driving position, visibility, build quality

The layout and design of the Tesla Model S’s interior may be eight years old, but it still has a minimalist, sci-fi feel to it. There are two screens; the one in front of the steering wheel shows you important driving information, including your speed, energy consumption and Autopilot controls (more on that later), while the other, larger touch-sensitive one in the middle of the dashboard controls the infotainment (see below).

The Tesla Model 3, meanwhile, lumps everything into one touchscreen in the centre of the dash. The result? An even sleeker look – but not without some ergonomic cost. For instance, you’ll need to turn your gaze to the left and look at the top right-hand corner of the screen just to see what speed you’re doing.

Even adjusting the position of the Model 3's steering wheel or door mirrors requires prods of the screen, followed by some fiddling around with scroll wheels on the steering wheel. You face no such complication in the Model S, which has good old-fashioned buttons and levers for those adjustments.

Tesla Model S dashboard

Both cars provide a fundamentally great driving position, but you’ll notice that you sit slightly higher than you do in many petrol and diesel saloons. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself, but the seats in both cars could do with a bit of extra back and side support.

Both Teslas provide a rear-view camera and parking sensors to help with tight manoeuvres. That’s particularly fortunate in the Model S, because its over-the-shoulder visibility isn’t ideal. Not that the Model 3 is flawless in visibility terms; its windscreen pillars are angled in such a way that they can badly hamper your view out at junctions.

The Model 3 proves that Tesla has improved on build quality over the years. Its strikingly minimalist interior looks are backed up by relatively upmarket materials and, while fit and finish can’t match the likes of the BMW 3 Series, nothing feels overly flimsy. By comparison, the older Model S feels a bit less robust and is more prone to interior squeaks and rattles when new; these probably won’t vanish with age.

Infotainment systems

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 touchscreen

Although this touchscreen is 15.0in in size and landscape-orientated, while the Model S’s is 17.0in and portrait, both infotainment systems are essentially the same. The menus are simple, the screen resolution is fantastic and it’s incredibly responsive to inputs, but some icons on both screens are a bit small and tricky to prod accurately. BMW’s dial-controlled system is easier to use on the move.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S touchscreen

If your Model S was built after March 2018, it’ll benefit from a different microchip with faster processing and image rendering than earlier versions. Neither model offers smartphone mirroring, but pretty much every other feature you’d want is included. It’s also great that both models can receive over-the-air updates to improve not only the infotainment but also the battery, motor and safety assistance systems.