The “car of the future”, the “final stage of the master plan”: Superlatives are in abundant supply when Tesla describes the Model 3, its bet to conquer the mass market. Many an automotive writer has supported this narrative; sometimes, a quick spin around the corner in the presence of a Tesla watchdog has proven sufficient to arrive at a comprehensive conclusion.

Lacking such awesome skill, we needed a bit more time to find out how Tesla’s latest car actually performs on the road. We drove a long-range, rear-wheel drive Model 3, fitted with autopilot functionality and priced in the mid-50K dollar range. And the experience was revealing in several ways.

With its grille-less duckface, a large greenhouse and a sloping back, the Model 3 looks somewhat inconspicuous. A first surprise: Despite its sloping roofline, there is no large rear hatch. But there is a good reason for the lack of a tailgate: The generous glass roof that spans over the passenger compartment, reaching far back.

The view of the sky, however, hardly compensates for the inadequate rear seating comfort: the bench forces passengers into an uncomfortable angle. This is the worst rear seat in the segment, hands down.

Up front, the seating position is comfortable, but the Model 3 feels unusually small. The all-round vision is good and the cabin is airy, but we wonder how this look will fare with modern-day customers who often prefer a high, tank-like beltline in order to feel protected.

There is a second luggage compartment up front that complements the average-sized rear trunk. It holds an extra carry-on bag.

The cockpit: Flawed and futuristic

The extremely reduced cockpit contributes to the svelte look: Before the driver, there’s nothing but a horizontal air vent and a wooden strip. And, of course, that huge central screen by which virtually all vehicle functions are controlled. It works in conjunction with two thumbwheels on the cheap- and conventional-looking three-spoke steering wheel. The charging area for two cell phones is well thought out: While charging, they are within the driver’s view.

The central screen itself is a disappointment: The dated graphics are a matter of taste, but hiding important and safety-relevant functions in cumbersome submenus is a serious flaw. And that’s when the screen doesn’t crash, which has been a frequent occurence with Tesla.

To be sure, there are elaborate and expensive gimmicks such as the electronically controlled air vents. But they exist in stark contrast to the frugal and cheap materials throughout the cabin – and build quality so careless that one has to question the priorities of the company. At least the gaps and joint patterns in our particular vehicle were within acceptable standards. But CEO Elon Musk’s statement that “we will keep going until the Model 3 build precision is a factor of ten better than any other car in the world” is simply risible. In actual truth, the various units of the Model 3 that we sampled render it the worst car on the market in this respect – by a considerable margin.

Moderate driving dynamics

Time to briefly tap the center console with the card key, and off we go. We put the old-school column stalk into “Drive”, and the Model 3 takes off in near silence. And it really gets down to business if you press the accelerator pedal. The sprint from 0 to 100 kph takes just over 5 seconds, and Tesla claims it can do a full 225 kph (140 mph). This performance is within the gasoline- or diesel-powered competitive set, and surprisingly good for an electric. Torque is available instantly and without the slightest lag. Moreover, this is quiet car. An Autobahn test is pending, but during our test drive in the speed-limited US, the cabin remained well isolated up to 130 kph (80 mph) and beyond.

The claimed total range is a full 500 kilometers (310 miles), but we did not experience the favourable conditions needed to achieve this figure. In any real-life scenario, the range is far more modest. Recharging can be a lengthy and costly affair, depending on your access to fast-charging or subsidised networks.

While its straight-line performance is convincing, the chassis and handling of the Model 3 are not particularly impressive. The low center of gravity is helpful, but the heft of this EV is always felt. There is considerable body roll, and the Model 3 understeers at the limit, with squealing tires providing an early warning to back off. The steering feel is artificial, and the brakes are utterly joyless: They are spongy, lacking feedback and a defined pressure point. One thing is clear: Tesla did not build a go-kart with the Model 3.

Unfortunately, the just-average handling characteristics do not correspond with superior comfort. To the contrary: The suspension feels overly stiff.

Risky Autopilot

Tesla claims to excel in yet another area: The “autopilot” aims to outclass the competition’s assistance systems by a “magnitude”, as Elon Musk might say. But we found that it needs to be treated with caution. Yes, the steering wheel requires a touch every 30 seconds or so to document the driver’s awareness. But in 30 seconds, a lot can happen.

Tesla’s “autopilot” can take over not only on freeways, but also on curvy, two-lane highways – and it does so in a confidence-inspiring manner. But every so often, the system will take on a demanding corner, only to discover it has bitten off more than it can chew. Then the “autopilot” suddenly disengages, the steering snaps back to the center position, and the car is heading straight off the road. Only extreme driver awareness can save these situations.

When clear lane markings were missing on the freeway, we experienced sudden twitching, and a Model S with the most recent software update, driven at the same time, merrily changed lanes with another car driving right next to it. On Model S and Model X, there have been fatal accidents connected with “autopilot”, and we believe that Tesla’s aggressive implication of the technology calls for extreme driver attention – and, unfortunately, the very regulation that other carmakers have tried to avoid with more responsible approaches.

Tesla is different

But Tesla, so far, has worked by a different set of rules: It is a cult and a lifestyle brand as much as an auto manufacturer. Elon Musk’s Twitter account is followed by over 22 million users, many consider him a universal genius. To better understand the world of the Tesla disciples, it is insightful to check out some of the more or less witty “easter eggs” hidden in the Model 3’s user interface.

For instance, you can pull up a map of Mars, the planet Musk has vowed to cultivate as a travel destination. Another feature turns the road into a shining rainbow, and in yet another mode, the Model 3 is be transformed into a virtual sleigh operated by Santa Claus and surrounded by hopping reindeer. Use the turn signal in this mode, and be exposed to the heartwarming jingle of Christmas bells.

Given the existence of such mythical creatures in the Model 3’s infotainment system, we would not be surprised if Tesla were hiding the vaunted 35,000-dollar version of the Model 3 – as the ultimate “easter egg”. That model, so far, exists only in the dreams and prayers of an army of customers who have made a staggering 1,000-dollar deposit each.

Today, of course, you need to pay at least 49,000 dollars for a Model 3. Perhaps that’s why demand for the Model 3 has crash-landed. That, and the mounting evidence that far too many customers are experiencing serious difficulties with the delivery process and the quality of their vehicles.

There are good reasons to doubt that electric vehicles represent the future of mobility at all. But even if they are, the Model 3 has us convinced that Tesla won’t be anything but a footnote in the long run.

50 COMMENTS

  1. The instant torque and integrated command screen are indeed transformational, but I definitely agree with the author that the long-term future of the company is doubtful given their lack of quality.

    • Jim – keep in mind that Tesla is being highly disruptive in two highly powerful industries – auto manufacturing and big oil. Neither wants to see Tesla succeed. Stories of “low quality” abound and are perpetuated by lazy ass “journalists” that won’t do independent research. You want to know about quality ask an owners group! And while you are at it ask how Tesla deals with quality issues. That is truly transformational.

    • @Jim Battan The car has no “lack of quality”. That’s just straight up a lie. Tesla has the highest customer satisfaction rating of all car companies sold in the US!! Far ahead of Benz, Audi and co. Porsche is 2nd place. This is literally made up stuff. It’s so easy to say that a car is “bad quality” but there is no scientific evidence for it at all.

  2. Wow, this author pissed all over a car that all other car manufacturers are looking to emulate. He found every little thing to complain about, and peppered back-handed compliments every so often. No car is perfect. Based on his whining, it appears there are no other cars being made that would satisfy him. He is what we Americans call a “douche”.

    • In fact nobody try’s to emulate a Tesla 3. This is just e wellpublished myth.
      „He is what we Americans call a “douche“.“
      You have a mirror at home?

    • Porsche Taycan? Jaguar i-pace? BMW i-4? Audi e-tron? Heck – even Ferrari is getting into the game. Not exactly “nobodies”.

    • @Actual Owner You mention cars that don’t exist yet. You’re talking about the next generation of cars. Tesla Model S has been on the market since 2012! They won this by a couple of years. Especially since no electric car that’s on the market today can compete with it.

    • I can see other car makers want to emulate Tesla’s interior. Imagine if they could do a whole interior for $150.

  3. Wow this guy knows nothing!! feels small? what? Tesla is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, and what company has the best infrustructer for charging? Tesla. You will be eating crow in a year.

  4. Wow. Nasty and bitter review, with a taste of positivity to hide the bias. Name of author please? And which company sponsored this deceptive hit-piece, so negative that it won’t fool anyone!

    • Why don’t you look up the name at the top of the article? And yup, for sure it’s sponsored by the competition… your cult leader wouldn’t tell you anything else ;-)

  5. Only an idiot would buy a Tesla, considering their lack of quality and wait time for repairs. They seem to be running out of fools to buy the cars, so support will be even worse after bankruptcy.

    • Regarding “idiots”:
      Only an idiot:
      – doesn’t see the potential of Tesla. All their problems are fixable and will be fixed.
      – doesn’t care about sustainability and carbon free transportation
      – is in denial…Steve Balmer:”Zero chance that the iPhone will be successful”
      – doesn’t see the groundbreaking innovations that Tesla has done….

    • @Mark Usanoff no need to argue with this guy. He made up his mind just like the author did. Some people just don’t like to think with common sense. I am German and work in the car industry. We spy on Tesla quite a bit. Just last month we bought 5 cars from them to get to understand some of the things they are doing. These cars are very impressive, even to us.

  6. I have more than 10,000Km logged in one of these “no future” cars. I respectfully submit that the author has absolutely no clue what he talking about. Can you say “click bait” boys and girls?

    I could debate his individual statements but I would rather go for a drive.

    • Nope. Not one of the ones that traded in a BMW 3 either. But I have had a long love affair with cars. Ranging from Porsche 356B to a Daimler smart. Do yourself a favor – just try driving one. No debate in public forums will ever replace getting behind the wheel and giv’n ‘er.

    • +Skeptic not sure why you’re so offensive and how that will serve you getting more information in life. Open you eyes a little and don’t see everything with some prejudice and you will be surprised what is out there.
      I came from an E60 M5, E350 Mercedes, M3 E90 to a Model S. Couldn’t be happier. I still have a GT3 for the weekends though, because when I am hitting the canyons, I prefer some nice N/A fun.

  7. Poor handling? Interior feels small? Wondering what this reviewers qualifications are? This is both inaccurate and strongly biased.

  8. For anyone who wants to actually see a good/REAL review of the Model 3. Go to Youtube.com and search for Vehicle Virgins Model 3

    or go to – youtube.com/watch?v=R12fyl3NRO4

  9. Love the empty, irrelevant criticism of the superior product. Another argument convincing me to order Model 3. Keep article like this coming, dummies! :)

  10. TESLA is a death trap. The Model 3 has the same two fatal flaws as the Model S.
    The first fatal flaw is that the battery occupies the entire floor area. As a result, the battery is much more likely to combust during crashes than if it was limited to the space that a typical fuel tank occupies. It is difficult to protect the highly charged battery if it occupies 75% of the car’s footprint. This is why over 1% of automobile fire fatalities in the USA are in TESLAs while only 0.06% of all registered cars are TESLAs. What this means is that if everyone drove a TESLA, then fatality rates from automotive fires would increase by 1500%. That’s a HUUUUGE increase.

    But, compared to the second fatal flaw, this is still good news.

    The second fatal flaw is that TESLA ia a BICHIN RIDE.

    EMF is short for Elon Musk Freakshow.

    CANCER…..ain’t it a BICH.

    • @Ace Spade: you need a higher level of thinking here.
      So tell me, how many fatalities would there be if global warming goes unchecked?
      (=8C average warming increase): Droughts, wild fires, floods, storms, sea level rise, ocean acidification, eco system collapse, water wars, mass migration, etc etc…

    • So you’re saying that it is OK for TESLAs to be a death trap and that it is OK to lie to parents who buy it…. because of global warming.

      You are justifying human experimentation of the worst kind… on children.

    • @Ace Spade you sound almost as intellectual as the reviewer. Almost…

      @Mark Tesla ain’t gonna change the worlds climate. So stop using that as an argument. The car doesn’t need it. It’s an excellent car. (Coming from someone who drove only Mercedes and BMW before).

    • “justifying human experimentation of the worst kind”… that’s what the polluting
      industries and the politicians in their pockets are doing with the world climate.
      The car industry by and large is complicit in this, except for Tesla.
      (if you don’t believe me, just see what the experts are telling on this subject)

      “Tesla ain’t gonna change the world’s climate”… correct, but it’s a start,
      and if we have any chance at all to avoid an unimaginable disaster then
      we should hurry up to change out transportation system and everything else
      that will badly mess up this planet, and soon….Tesla is a step in that right direction,
      even though their car might have downsides to them…

    • In TESLAs, children sit on top of electric motors more powerful than 400 swimming pool pumps. EMF causes cancer. This is what the latest and most comprehensive US study shows….and many other studies. TESLAs have electro-magnetic fields much more powerful than cell phones…about 70,000% more powerful.

      Also, TESLAs are horrible for the environment. TESLAs get more like 18 MPGe, not 88 MPGe that the Obama Era EPA dreamt up. Obama wanted everyone to drive a TESLA, so his EPA lied in every way, shape and form to try to persuade folks to buy TESLAs. The MPGe rating on electric vehicles completely neglects power generation, transmission and distribution losses. Charging and degradation losses are also neglected. All these losses are about 80%. In cold climates, you’re going to get another 50% loss on top of that. AND don’t give me any BS about total energy used comparisons based on energy cost…power plants pay 20% of what we the people pay for fossil fuel. 90% of our electricity is from fossil fuel or nuclear which is worse than fossil fuel.

      If you’re so concerned about pollution, why don’t you tell all those people in poor countries to stop burning garbage. The entire oil industry generates less CO2 than the burning of plants in just one country….Indonesia.

      What about all the environmental pollution that will be generated by all the new cancer cases from TESLA? People will have to drive their children to hospitals every week for cancer treatment….which could last several years.

      TESLAs are much worse for the environment than conventional ICE cars, and that’s not even accounting for all the environmental damage from the HUUUGE batteries or all the extra cancer cases….or from the much higher accident rates in TESLAs because EMF also puts people to sleep…due to it’s effects on MELATONIN. By the way, MELATONIN is also 100% linked to our cancer immune system.

      CANCER, ain’t it a BICH!
      TESLA…what a BICHIN RIDE!!!

    • @AceSpade

      Never read so many lies in a comment before. You are even worse than the author of this article.

      >Cancer patients have a greater chance of survival if treated with the sleep hormone melatonin in addition to chemotherapy. … Now, a meta study of melatonin and cancer research shows that the hormone is not only reducing the side effects of chemotherapy but might also be effective at eliminating cancer cells.<

      That out of the way, I don't care if the car is environmental or not. I couldn't care less to be honest. But it's a great car.

      Greetings from a German Motor Journalist located in Stuttgart.

  11. The car has quality control issues and the company is a mess financially.

    This company will be bankrupt soon. Balance sheets and cash flow beat hype and cultism every time.

  12. Interesting comments about the brakes being joyless and not giving feedback, etc. makes me wonder if the author actually even drove a Tesla? Who uses the brakes when the regen does all the work for you 95% of the time? Although if you’re not used to an EV I guess theres a learning curve.

    Multiple strange comments like the one above. Screen resets being common? Not exactly. 800 miles in on my Model 3 and never had to reset anything. Also has great handling compared to my previous cars.

    • John I am with you. Drove a Model S for 2 years (still have a S550 as well) and to me it is very clear that the author who I guess calls himself a “journalist” just wanted to bash Tesla no matter what. There is just so many weak reviewers out there unfortunately. No wonder, he is German. The Germans are currently very afraid of the US car market, especially Tesla.

      Oh… I had 2 screen reboots in 2 years. It’s really nothing special. It’s like restarting your phone once in a while. My S550 had its problems too… and they got VERY expensive.

  13. I think this is one of the worst reviews I’ve ever read. Who are you buying these articles from GT SPIRIT??? This is a pure Tesla bashing article. Nothing else.

  14. I bought my first Tesla, a 4th iteration Roadster in 2011. Drive it for 56K miles – inverter replaced once, poor tire wear and constant tire pressure firmware issues. Not practical for long distance but a fun drive. Re-sale price = minus $80,000. My 2nd Tesla, a 2012 Model S had more issues. Firmware glitches, bubbly screen, cracked windshield and again, poor tire wear. Trade-in for a 2017 100D Model S = minus $70K. Was first day reservation holder for 2 Model 3’s. Was going to sell first DM non-performance for $10K over MSRP but Tesla opened up reservation system to get cash – thanks! Neither car was delivered – both damaged during transport! Customer service is dismal – the first car is apparently missing? No one returns calls about status going on 2 weeks! The other car was totaled- waiting for new production VIN for a Performance DM. Tesla has cut staff by 30% – are hand assembling cars under a big tent – horrible fit & finish issues. Not the same company I supported since 2010. There are 20 different companies with electric cars coming on line in the next few years. Buyer beware!

    • @Arthur that just means you have been pretty unlucky. I’ve had terrible cars from Germany before as well. We bought 2 (E39 I believe) 5 series. One was great the other one was always at service. It had tons of issues. Like it was disabled. Things like that happen and they might follow you. I am on my 3rd Tesla and haven’t had any issues like yourself. I also recently read that Tesla has the highest customer satisfaction rating in the US. Look it up. So I am sure your experience is an exception – but I’d understand why you’re pissed.

    • @Gilbert Arthur is an editor on here that’s why his name is red. Of course he is trying to defend his own kind… It’s pathetic.

    • Arthur, it sounds like your Teslas have been considerable more reliable than the Mercedes I dumped a couple of years ago after unending problems, including an oil cooler leak which was going to continue to fail even out of warranty.

      It’s absurd to continue to drive gas powered cars with engines and transmissions having hundreds of moving parts, hauling around the weight and complexity of emissions and noise control devices, all while achieving a miserable 30% thermal efficiency. My recent Mercedes and Porsche both have annoying start-stop systems, just part of the overly complex systems struggling to make them relevant until they can catch up with modern EV cars.

    • Comparing the reliability and workmanship of a Benz to a TESLA is like comparing the looks of Nicole Kidman to RuPaul when trying to determine which one is a more beautiful woman. With TESLA….it’s all lies covered up by fake news media and FB because they all hate oil and gas.

      An even more important consideration is safety, but then the fake news media also does a good job in protecting its precious TESLA and Musk.

      Lets compare average annual fatality rates in the USA for 2013 and newer model years:

      TESLA MODEL S and X annual fatality rates: gone be over 50 this year
      MERCEDES S-Class and GL annual fatality rates: ZERO

      I was going to write about what I think your silly C.A.F stands for…but I didn’t want to get banned….which I probably will. Anyway, the last word ends in: “aggot”

    • @Ace Diamond
      Damn you must really hate this thing to spread such lies. Unbelievable. I had a E350 2010, had nothing but trouble with it. I blew a Ford engine last month and a GT3 engine yesterday. Talking about reliability and workmanship. And Tesla fatality over 50? lol… Did you get face cancer or something?

  15. While reviewers vary in their opinions and perceptive abilities, when a reviewer’s comments are so askew from reality, it leads one to a “follow the money” scenario.

    I’m a German car fan; I still own a couple of Porsches and a couple of BMWs. I also own a year old Tesla Model S. The Tesla ownership experience is superior in most every way, as is the car itself. My 2016 Porsche recently went in for routine service– $1200 !!, including $500 for an “oil service” (hint, it’s an oil change). My 2016 Tesla has never been back to the dealer, and I have spent $0 in routine maintenance (a local tire shop rotated the tires for free). We had one glitch with the cruise control on the Tesla. We called support while driving. They diagnosed the problem, sent us an update, and the problem was fixed without interrupting our trip, much less requiring a service appointment. The software and features in my Porsche have never been updated; the Tesla updates automatically every couple of weeks, often adding new features.

    I am now ordering a Model 3 Performance version. I really don’t have any desire to buy another “premium” gas powered car. They are noisier, slower and dirtier. Porsche is now touting the fact that the floor battery (a design popularized by Tesla) enables the upcoming (sometime) Taycan to have a lower center of gravity than a 911 (which I also own). No kidding, Porsche! The low center of gravity of the Model S and Model 3 make them quite responsive in day to day driving. It’s not just the phenomenal torque band that make them fun to drive.

  16. This review is a complete joke. Suggesting charging the car is expensive is laughable. Clearly biased against electric.

    • @torontoteslaowner
      Right. I pay around $50/month on electricity for my car. My BMW cost me around $450-$500 a month in gas.

  17. Some would probably say Jens Meiners is biased, being a long-time insider to German carmakers.

    But I am thankful to his competence and ability to provide honest criticism of this impressive, but overhyped brand and car.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here