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Autonomous Vehicles

Published on July 29th, 2018 | by Kyle Field


8 Things That Surprised Me About The Tesla Model 3 — #CleanTechnica Review

July 29th, 2018 by  

We took delivery of our Tesla Model 3 last week, and even as a long-time Tesla driver, there were a number of things that stood out — some positive, and a few not so much.

The glass roof is really good at keeping heat out. On a recent drive towards Los Angeles, temps hit a toasty 46°C (115°F). That had me wishing I would have brought some cookies to cook in the car while I shopped. I was surprised to find that driving the Model 3 around with its glass roof was still very comfortable, even in the extreme heat.

Morning dew setting off the colors on the glass roof of the Model 3.

Granted, I had the air conditioning blowing for the entirety of the drive, but considering the outside temperature and the glass roof, I was impressed at how I was essentially unaffected by the outside temperature.

Forward Collision Warning is truly helpful. It’s not often that you’re going to find someone giving kudos to a system that’s literally designed to nag the driver, but here I am. Forward Collision Warning looks out in front of the car and provides audible and visual alerts when it detects what it deems to be an imminent collision. When detected, the system offers up an audible alarm coupled with a graphical representation of the dangerous situation, which give the driver the ability to brake or swerve to avoid the situation.

What makes the system even more helpful is that the sensitivity can be adjusted to suit the driver. I set it to Early to see how the system worked and to give myself as big of a safety buffer a possible. At this setting, I have activated the system 3 or 4 times, all of which were just enough to remind me to keep my eyes on the road and resulted in a faster reaction time to a slowing vehicle ahead. I was never in a position of imminent danger, but it was the perfect reminder to pay extra attention when the situation called for it.

I compare this to the alerts in my wife’s Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, which also looks ahead for potential collisions and issues a beep when it notices something awry. Sometimes the issue is obvious, but most of the time there’s nothing there. More often than not, I’m left scanning ahead wondering what it was beeping at, then glancing down to the screen that seems to have forgotten what it was upset about in the first place. The Tesla system is very clear, with the audible beep complemented by a graphical representation on the left-hand side of the screen depicting the slowing vehicle ahead. From that alone, a driver can step on the brake, speeding up an informed reaction to a potential collision. It seems that Tesla keeps safety top of mind, with this being another good example of that.

The absence of Traffic-Adaptive Cruise Control (TACC) is a glaring omission. Teslas are known for being high-tech vehicles, so not including a feature that’s common on most $40,000+ cars because it is a part of the Enhanced Autopilot package makes the car feel a bit cheap, and makes it feel as if the company is begging for the up-sell.

The car is much wider than it seems. This is both a bug and a feature. It’s fantastic that it feels like such a spritely car thanks to its sporty handling and snubby nose making the driving experience feel like that of a Porsche … but it’s not a Porsche. The Model 3 may be smaller than the Model S, but it’s no small car. It’s only 11 inches shorter, nose to tail, and 4 inches narrower. That still makes the Model 3 a big car.

When new drivers get behind the wheel, the power and sporty handling conspire against them with the illusion that the car is narrower than it really is. This has the unfortunate consequence of inevitable rim rash from rubbing curbs on the passenger side of the car. All 3 Model 3s I’ve driven have had intimate relations with a curb, including a handful of Tesla Model 3 display cars and loaners, such as the Performance Model 3 I recently drove. That’s a testament to just how deceptively big the car is.

Buyer beware (seriously). Take your time getting a feel for how big the car is, especially on the passenger side. It probably wouldn’t hurt to pick up a set of rim protectors while you’re at it. This is a real thing.

Supercharging gives a sense of comfort no matter where you drive. For those looking to hit the road, Supercharging unlocks the potential for road trips in electric vehicles. I’ve been pining for a road trip ever since I drove our old 2013 Tesla Model S from Ohio to California over the course of several days.

Not Supercharging

Long trips in other electric vehicles is definitely possible and road trips are not something everyone does, but for me, owning the Model 3 has already started to tease a road trip out of me. It is so much fun to drive, and with the rapid expansion of the Supercharging network just over the last few months, there are so many new possibilities for a trip calling out to me.

Having the assurance that there are plenty of fast chargers that can top up the car in about the time it takes to grab a bite takes me back to the fun I had in my Model S. Now I just need to pony up the extra $6,000 for Enhanced Autopilot and I’ll be all set for some serious time on the freeway.

Speed limit signs automatically translated to metric. This is a funny one in that I typically drive in kilometers, with the temperature in Celsius. We noticed rather immediately that the car is way smarter than we are in that it not only recognizes the posted speed limit and displays that inside the car, but that it also translates the speed from the posted miles per hour limits to kilometers per hour. That is indeed a niche use case but helps me out.

Speed limit signs getting larger when speed limit is exceeded. Speaking of speed limits, the Model 3 has the ability to discourage speeding by making the posted speed limit sign ever so slightly larger when exceeded. An audible chirp can also be added if that’s more your speed.

Haptic feedback from steering wheel when leaving lane. This very subtle implementation of lane keep assist is a nice reminder to drivers that they might be drifting out of the lane. Personally, I don’t find it very helpful, but I’m open to the possibility of it growing on me over time. If it helps drivers to be a smidgen safer, it’s worth it.

Brake hold at stop lights and stop signs. This helpful feature holds the brake in when the vehicle is stopped if the driver pushes the brake pedal in as far as it goes and holds it there for a second or two. The function keeps the brake applied until the driver taps the brake again or accelerates. It’s a nice way to make sitting at a stop light that much easier. Granted, it’s not solving world hunger, but it’s a nice improvement just the same.

That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more learnings from our long-term Tesla Model 3 review right here on CleanTechnica
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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor.

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