By : DINESH SRINIVASAN
BAY AREA, USA :
Tess arrived on a beautiful sunny day in December 2018. Now, 25,000+ miles later, I think I can pen down a few words about what it has been like living with the Tesla Model 3. Allow me to break it up into three simple categories – The Good, The Great, and The Glorious. If you are looking for something unbiased, maybe even a hard hitting review – tough luck.
The Good: The overall reported safety features of the car (Best in class), I would say, was the primary reason I made the commitment. The fact that it is greener and in all likelihood, leaves at least one more tree for me to hug, is a huge plus, not to mention the feel good factor.
There is a learning curve, I’d say, more accurately an unlearning curve, associated with owning a Model 3. Tess is quiet, has no dashboard, no key, different kind of door handles, and what you save in fuel costs, you lose in therapy sessions to help cope with a certain amount of “range anxiety.”
Tess has what others have described as a minimalistic design. I would imagine these guys perhaps like their Poha with cashews, dates, gulkand, pistachios, and gold leaves. Give me peanuts in my Poha any day! There is magic when you combine simple aesthetics and function well; in other words, to me, the interior and exterior of the Model 3, add to the enduring legacy of the Bauhaus school of design. To put it simply, if you like peanuts in your Poha you will do good getting yourself a Model 3.
While the display is fun and has some cool features, (More on that in the Glorious category), the Bluetooth works well and the audio quality is decent. Strangely, the radio has only FM but hey, I can live with that. And not having keys and using the phone as the key card has just allowed me to opt for a larger phone in my pocket.
For this Desi family guy of average build, the interior is reasonably spacious and the wide moonroof adds to the illusion of space. My better half did complain initially that the car felt low (We had a Porsche Cayenne S before Tess) but she loves it now. The rear seat has a car seat and can fit one or two additional passengers, if they really like each other. The trunk space is average. I can’t lug around a sofa, but a couple of big bags, for sure. I admit, I still keep popping the hood expecting to see an engine, and am always left disappointed.
Charging is slower than filling up a tank at a gas station but then, there are plenty of superchargers around where I live (Bay Area), so that hasn’t been an issue for me. You also develop patience and actually can use the time (30 mins at the supercharger) to catch up on important WhatsApp messages or if you are so inclined, to work. No judgement. Please do check if there are superchargers available near you, and if not, make sure that you have reliable charging infrastructure at home and/or office, otherwise you are not going to get far.
The Great: I haven’t taken the car in once for servicing and although I do miss my friendly car repair man, I still stay in touch with him on WhatsApp while Tess charges. Actually, I did take Tess in once to get the display replaced (It kept crashing) and the Tesla serviceman came home and replaced my onboard computer for Full Self Driving (FSD). The repair service here is great.
Needless to say, the acceleration is great and instantaneous. The car handles really well. The camera that turns on when in reverse (I didn’t have one my Porsche Cayenne S) is crystal clear and really helpful to avoid obstacles. The dashboard display is really sweet once you get used to it and you can see little icons of things that are around you. If you are someone who is intimidated by trucks or motorcycles just look at the dashboard and then everything is just a little less daunting. The GPS is top-notch, although I guess every car/phone has decent GPS now. One cool feature is that you can use the display to get you to the nearest charging station (Tesla or others) and it even preconditions your car for fast charging, if needed.
The car has so many alerts and safety features that if you still bump into something, it quite definitely is on you.
The Glorious: The FSD feature is pretty awesome. The first few times I tried it I was a nervous wreck. It is also humbling to learn how poorly I drove before. For instance, I used to drive closer to the left lane marker while Tess just stays in the middle of the lane, and now, I have started driving that way too. I used to look at my side view mirror, peek behind, say a little prayer and then change lanes. Tess seamlessly and safely changes lanes on call, and on highways is remarkably safe and effective too.
With a recent update, Tess, automatically stops at lights and stop signs! Pretty awesome though scary for now. I don’t drive in FSD mode when I have my better half or baby in the car because I still don’t trust the tech but hey, if you are driving friends around – Woohoo FSD! The FSD is magnificently futuristic and works well. We humans need to adapt and trust. I will say that now, I routinely use FSD (when alone) and it impresses me every time, and I have gotten a little less restless when using it. The FSD does cost a pretty paisa but if you can afford it, do consider adding on that feature. It is Glorious!
My favorite feature is one for all pet lovers. My boy Lakshu (a 10 pound bundle of love) almost always, tags along for a ride. When I have to go into a store that doesn’t allow pets I can turn on “Dog Mode” which maintains the interior temperature at whatever I set it to. On a hot day I can leave him to chill inside the car for a few minutes with a handy display on the dashboard that clarifies for all the well-intentioned worried passers-by that “My owner will be back soon. Don’t worry! The air-con is on and it is 76 degrees Fahrenheit inside.” This feature is an awesome relief.
Sure, there are still times when I see other rivals and wonder if the extra space or speed or range or comfort would be better. Then again, like I said earlier, I just like peanuts with my Poha! Bottom line – the Tesla Model 3 is awesome, and when it arrives in India, do check it out. At the end of the day it is just an electric car, but a darn good one, I say.
Dinesh Srinivasan, PhD, lives in Bay Area and works in Biotech. He likes trains, bikes, cars and Poha.