What I love - and hate - about my Tesla Model 3: owner review
Grant Browning loves his Model 3 electric car, but that doesn't mean he's not aware of its shortcomings...
Car: Tesla Model 3 Performance
Owner’s name: Grant Browning
I’ve had my car for seven months now, and driven 9100 miles even with lockdown - so that should give you some kind of measure of how much I am willing to use it.
What stands out? The acceleration is intoxicating, but somehow doesn’t feel as anti-social as burning rubber in an engined car. The everyday quietness and ease of use are a joy. The audio system is also excellent, and I think the in-built dashcams are a great idea. The over-the-air updates also standout: since I’ve had the car, it’s power has been increased twice, which is quite special.
But I’m also keen to be balanced, and it’s fair to say that Tesla’s sales service is varied in the extreme. My car was delivered to the wrong side of London, and so little care was taken over rectifying this mighty cock up that I was in two minds whether to accept the car at all, especially as after a 1.5 hour Uber ride from Dartford to Heathrow they still hadn’t managed to charge the car up for me. In contrast, Tesla’s aftersales team have been a delight. Only Toyota have exceeded them in terms of attitude, helpfulness, and attention in my experience.
The continued employment of Franz von Holzhausen as lead stylist at Tesla also continues to mystify me. His design is awkward and, at some angles, downright ugly. The best way to view it is to crouch down. At that height and angle the awkwardness seems to resolve itself (it’s like he’s created an MC Escher drawing) and only then does the Model 3 become a half-decent looking car. The fact that it’s best viewed from the perspective of an 8 year old boy probably says quite a lot about Tesla as a company.
The design also has a few practical flaws: rain water pouring into the car when you open the door is not a great look, while rear visibility and boot access are massively compromised by the styling, without any obvious benefit to the car’s looks. The absence of any kind of solution to getting a puncture - beyond ringing Tesla and bracing your wallet - is also a serious flaw in my view. You can’t even jack the car up without having special protective pads.
While I love owning the car, I have also grown to hate the community of ‘Tesla fans’. I’ve never known a more blinkered owners community. The fact is the Tesla is a good car, but it has glaring flaws. Stamping your feet when someone criticises the car doesn’t improve the breed.
I’m also frustrated by how much Tesla charges for some of the nigh-on unusable-in-the-UK technology (the full lane assist package, for instance) and by the company’s determination to do things differently for the sake of it; I love the cleanliness of the all-screen design, but sometimes a simple, easy to find button is the best solution.
But I said I’d be balanced, and I have to reflect on the fact that, for all of these issues, I love the car. It is an electric car that you can own without compromise. Not only don’t I worry about range, but I also don’t have to drive like a snail, or live without air-con or heating, to preserve the battery - I just use the car as a car, and have never had any second thoughts about it because I was worried I wouldn’t make it somewhere. In my mind, it’s a car first and foremost, and an electric car as an aside, boosted of course by the fact that Tesla’s charging network is so well set up and so easy to use.
I do own a second car - a characterful Volvo C30 - but I hardly drive it now. I can happily live without it, and have only kept it because my wife is working from home for the foreseeable future and needs an occasional car. Moving between the Tesla and that is pretty jarring - the Model 3 just does so much to make life easy. In technical terms I might as well be driving Stephenson’s Rocket as an engined car when I step out of the Tesla.
I’d also urge prospective buyers to really look at the maths when they are weighing up costs. Yes, an electric car is usually more expensive up front, but the savings soon stack up, from fuel savings to tax savings
I’m no electric vehicle evangelist, but I will never buy an everyday car with an engine again. The Tesla is capable of doing almost everything: it’s spacious, practical, long legged, comfortable, and mind-bendingly quick. What it lacks is the precision and fun of a proper hot hatch, or the grin factor of a small lightweight sports car, so those are the sorts of cars I might buy. But not for everyday driving.