2020 Tesla Model 3

2020 Tesla Model 3

The most significant new arrival of 2019 was the Tesla Model 3.

The third of Elon Musk’s landmark electric cars to reach Australia is also the one with the most widespread appeal, and a serious contender for the Car of the Year award from www.carsales.com.au

It is a similar size to a 3 Series BMW, has a range of more than 300 kilometres, and the starting price is a – relatively – affordable $66,000.

No wonder it’s a sellout down under until sometime deeper into 2020 . . .

The basics of the Model 3 are the same as the earlier luxury Model S limousine and the SUV Model X with its signature gullwing rear doors, which means fully-electric motivation through a battery pack that sits at the heart of the car.

Thankfully it’s as good looking as Musk’s Cybertruck, planned to take on American heavyweight haulers led by Ford’s F-Series truck, is ugly.

The 3 is like the BMW 3 Series in size and style, which means it can carry five people but is better with four, has a reasonable boot, and is quite sporty in its driving feel and feedback.

Even the basic car, with a single electric motor, is swift and you can spend more for extra power and drive to make it a road going rival for a Supercars racer.

First impressions of the car are good – it looks stylish, the view over the nose is fantastically expansive, it’s all minimalist design like a Swedish house, and the materials are good. The doors even shut with a nice thunk.

But the technology is over-the-top silly unless you’re a millennial. Or younger.

How many Model 3 owners really want to be able to play fart jokes with electronic whoopee cushions in the seats, or have a game of Mario Kart using the car’s wheel and pedals, or watch a video over a log fire on the central display?

Many of the car’s controls, too, are counter-intuitive and/or require a deep dive into the complicated menus of the infotainment system. Younger people tell me it’s easy, or something you can quickly learn, but different does not mean good.

On a similar topic, the quality is patchy with trim pieces that feel flimsy and don’t fit well, and even a bootlid that wobbles alarmingly on its hinges.

Tesla fans will not care about this stuff, but with Audi and Benz and BMW coming fast with their electric cars it could be a major problem for the company.

On the driving side the Model 3 is impressive. It is superbly quiet, gets along briskly with supercar-style overtaking punch, and rides and handles far better than any previous Tesla.

It’s also easy to drive for more than 350 kilometres between charges, with Tesla spreading its rapid-charger network across Australia’s major roads to make trips like Sydney-Melbourne a one-stop reality instead of a battery dream, and anyone who can afford a Model 3 is also likely to be installing a home charger box.

So the Model 3 is, finally, a Tesla I can recommend. I’m not sure about owning one myself, perhaps a lease would be better, but it’s a good car and it does what Tesla promises.

2020 Tesla Model 3
7 Stars
Prestige electric sedan
Great battery range
Nice design
Good price
Price: from $66,000
Power: 140kW/240Nm
Position: prestige electric sedan