Tesla Model 3 review: Not so much a car as a portal (to the future) | The Driven

It’s not a car, it’s a portal: That was my good friend’s description of the Tesla model 3 I had the pleasure of driving for a few days recently.

Like many people, my friend has a strong affinity for the simple, authentic things in life. Things like live shredding Australian guitar bands rather than electronica; or camping with an open fire instead of a sterile resort. Or her beloved house on wheels, a VW diesel camper van.

Being a former mechanic, I get it too.  I like the idea of being able to jerry-rig a fix on the side of the road, and I have got my family out of a number of (mostly self-induced) roadside pickles using gaff tape, zip ties and a bit of simple common sense.

But unlike some, I am not sceptical of EVs, or scared of being let down and stranded by new technology. The gain overwhelmingly surpasses the potential pain in my eyes, and I’m ok with a bit of aggravation as an early adopter.

I acknowledge however, most people may not be willing to accept aggravation and indeed, may have even higher service and support expectations if they are forking out for a new, relatively expensive car.

When my boss (Solar Analytics founder and CEO, Stefan Jarnason) took delivery of this new Model 3 recently I didn’t hesitate for a nano-second when he offered the chance to take his new pride and joy home for the weekend.

Apart from the pleasure of a new car, the Model 3 represents a tantalising glimpse of the future (when EVs just make more sense and are overwhelmingly more desirable).

But personally, I was also very keen to get my friend into the latest version of Tesla’s EV because within a few years they will be common and affordable to the masses, and I really, really, really want one.

We took a decent (100km) drive and fiddled with everything. We nit-picked. We debated likely problems and limitations and tried to fit bikes and swags into it.  We talked about what it would be like to live with the car in day to day family life.

Even though I was driving the base Model 3, it is swimming with computer controlled whizz-bangery. Some of it is stuff I really liked, such as the cruise control that adapts to vehicles around it and slows down or speed up automatically.

I like the ability to fine tune and adjust many of the settings in the car to your preferred style, then save it to a driver as a profile.

I like the ability to make fart noises or play games that was a massive hit with the kids, even though the novelty had worn off pretty quickly after a few days and was just causing arguments with the kids. (Note – with upgrades more features are available)

This all pretty cool, but many of these features pretty standard fare in mid premium new cars these days, so while nice, they don’t help to justify buying an EV.

However, as an EV owner, the navigation system and route/charge planning  service is next level. I have literally spent hours meticulously planning routes, ringing in advance to ensure chargers would be available and using a spreadsheet to calculate charging, arrival and departure times.

Tesla seem to have worked out ages ago that the key to overcoming range anxiety is a) lots of chargers in great locations and b) automation on route planning. This is a game changer, works truly beautifully in seconds and personally, I think really addresses a major fear point.

Ultimately, my friend declared:

“I’m sorry but this isn’t like a car. Getting into a Tesla is more like entering a portal.

“It’s not visceral. I can’t get help from almost any mechanic almost anywhere and I’m almost immune from the wind or the heat or the smells of the world around me because everything is automatic, and computer controlled. It’s the future, where decisions are made for me not by me and I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that.”

I get that and respect it, but I’m ready. Bring it. On.

Nigel Morris is a solar industry veteran, EV owners, works for Solar Analytics, and co-hosts the Solar Insiders podcast, where he also talks EVs.

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