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Car Reviews / 11-20-18

2018 Tesla Model 3

The Critical Turning Point


By Kevin C. Limjoco Photos by by Andréas N. Delos Reyes

 

Let us begin with a number, a huge one:500,000. That is how many sales orders that have reportedly been booked by Tesla since 2016. As of this writing,less than 10% have actually been delivered. Our particular test unit took almost two years to bedelivered and it costway over the celebrated $35,000.00 that it was supposed to be, so was it worth the wait? Astonishingly the owner reckons it was still worth all the hoopla despite paying $23,000.00 more than projected in order to even take delivery on his pure rear-wheel drive unit. He could have theoretically spent less if he waited for the original vehicle that he ordered but there was no clear schedule when he would ever take delivery. With the demand so great and rabid,the Model 3 owner authentically fell for the peer-pressure that was once associated with long lines for the latest smartphone. The parallel is so much closer than many realize as well.

So, what did that extra cash pay for besides making the car available for delivery? The biggest ticket was the extra capacity battery which extends range from an already significant 352 kilometers to 496, for a pure high-performance EV sedan, this alone would sway even the most hardheadedpetrol-head. The next money hit went to the package that combined adjustable seats with a host of creature comforts that includea fabulous 15-speaker premium audio system, a standard glass roof, and 19-inch x 8.5J alloys wrapped with 235/40R19 96W ContiSilent Continental ProContact RX tires. The ultra-modern minimalist interior looks great from afarbut there is still quite a lot of room of improvement with fit-and-finish. The Model 3 was supposed to be much more affordable so I won’t be so forgiving. At these prices, I did expect much better polish.

The 15-inch central control screen looksgreat on paper and in photos but it’s a very steep learning curve for combustion-engine fanatics like me. The functionality isn’t the problem as everything works quicker than your best smartphone and the resolution of the screen is very bright and crisp. I just think that there areway too many basic functions committed to one medium. Speed,for example, is displayed with the important battery-status indicator in the upper-left corner of the screen which is distracting as you use peripheral vision. Heck, even to adjust mirrors, the steering wheel, and the climate control you have to use the touchscreen with similar multistep behavior of a smartphone along with pinching and swiping! There are no conventional gauges with very minimal standard switchgear. Even the air vents are too discreet which are actually neat when they work;at one point, the owner was forced to do a full hard “reboot” as instructed by the Tesla customer support when his wife complained that both the maximum heating and cooling blowers ran continually and simultaneously on theirown which freaked her out understandably. Tesla do constantly send over-the-air updates to the car’s software, so there is a lot to get used to especially if you are one who is anxious about “Big Brother”! Did I mention that there is no key at all? You use your smartphone or a credit card sized key in your wallet. I’m definitely not keen on that feature.

The Model 3’s footprint falls in between an Audi A4 and BMW 3-series sedan with a bit more trunk capacity thanks to having dual boots. It has a remarkable .23 cd drag coefficient which certainly helps it perform quietly and satisfyingly on the move. The weight distribution is about 48 % up front and 52% rear. The handling is actually very good with strong brakes while still being communicative and compliant much like a German sports sedan. It is about as quick from rest to 100 km/h as a new 10-speed Ford Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost. But where it really shines is in the real-world mid-range powerband from 50 km/h to 112 km/h where it actually steadily walked away from our Mustang GT Coupé test unit which had 460 bhp on tap coupled to a 10-speed gearbox. However, by 120 km/h, the big V8 pulled past once again. The Tesla Model 3 does have even more potent variants now with AWD and dual powerplants. I am impressed for sure and I acknowledge that it is the future…but I will hold on to convention as long as I can for now.

Specifications

Engine

EnginePermanent-magnet synchronous AC, 80.5-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Max Power (bhp @ rpm)217.9 bhp
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm)302 lb-ft
Transmission1-Speed Direct Drive

Performance

Top Speed226 km/h (141 mph) Governed
0-100 km/h | 0-62 mph5.3 seconds

Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions

Fuel Milage (km/l)MPGe 136 City / 123 Highway

Ratings

Price as Tested (PHP)US$ 58,000.00
What's GreatUnorthodox, courageous engineering and design, quiet cabin, comfortable, solid 496-kilometer EV range, dynamic
What's Not SoPrice, fit-and-finish, growing pains, delivery woes, perhaps too great a leap forward?
C! Editors Rating9.5/10