By Shari Prymak
The Tesla Model 3 is easily one of the most hyped and talked about cars of the decade. The obsession over Tesla’s most affordable model to date is no doubt exhausting, but the hype is justified. The Model 3 represents the company’s attempt to bring trendy high-tech electric cars to the masses. In this case though, affordable is a relative term. At the time of writing, the only Tesla Model 3’s arriving in customer driveways are optioned to over $64,000, making this more of a BMW 3-Series alternative than a Honda Accord rival. We rented a 2018 Tesla Model 3 through Turo to see whether it has the substance to justify the hype and its lofty price tag.
In a bit of an enigma, the simplest car that Tesla has produced to date has also turned out to be the most challenging. The perils of mass production combined with the pressure of having to fill hundreds of thousands of orders have forced Tesla to streamline production and only produce large battery premium interior models. The result is that all Model 3’s are equipped with a battery pack capable of a 500km range and an interior that includes upgrades such as 12-way power adjustable heated premium seats, premium audio system, a panoramic glass roof, and 1 year of premium connectivity with live traffic satellite mapping, media streaming, and over-the-air updates.
That 500km range alone helps justify a chunk of the Model 3’s price tag. Where most electric cars are relegated to use as urban runabouts due to their range limitations, the Model 3 is capable of going the distance. The driving experience itself is quite pleasurable with a sorted ride free of any squeaks or rattles. With a low centre of gravity granted by the floor-mounted battery pack, the Model 3 can be thrown into corners with minimal roll or body movement. The electric motor provides smooth, silent power with plenty of mid-range torque for effortless passing maneuvers. While there’s no ludicrous mode to be found here, a 0-100km/hr time of 5.4 seconds is nothing to scoff at.
More impressive than the driving experience is the simplistic, yet futuristic interior. The flat floor and expansive glass roof create a spacious, airy-feeling cabin fine for four adults to sit in reasonable comfort. The materials are suitably high quality with good overall fit and finish. The dashboard uses an ultra-minimalist design completely free of any buttons, knobs, or even traditional air vents and instrument gauges. Just about everything is controlled and displayed through a 15 inch centre touchscreen. It’s a clean-sheet approach to interior design that makes the Model 3 look like a tablet on wheels, but it works brilliantly once figured out.
With such a heavy reliance on one system to do just about everything, it’s a good thing that the screen is extremely responsive, well organized, and sharp in appearance. Essential driving information such as speed and range are located in the top left corner of the screen well within peripheral vision. Icons along the bottom of the screen quickly pull up controls for the climate, audio, and navigation system, along with driving, phone, and other settings. Moving an icon with your finger controls the direction of airflow through the long thin vent that sweeps across the dashboard. Even basic functions such as opening the glovebox or adjusting the windshield wipers are performed through the screen.
Pricing for the rear-wheel drive Model 3 equipped with the large battery pack and premium interior starts at $64,100. A dual-motor all-wheel drive model is available in standard and performance variants priced at $69,400 and $84,800 respectively. The much-hyped “affordable” model with the shorter-range standard battery and a base price around $45,000 apparently won’t arrive until 2019, if at all.
As appealing as the Model 3 is, it’s far from what most would consider to be an accessible, affordable car for the masses. And though my test car was largely free from visible build quality issues, I did manage to catch a few mismatched exterior panels that wouldn’t cut it on a low-priced Toyota, let alone a luxury brand. The Model 3 is indeed a revolutionary vehicle that comes as close as ever to fulfilling Tesla’s promise of delivering the future of personal transportation. If the company can just sort out its production issues and start delivering lower-priced models with the quality that customers expect, then the hype would truly be realized.