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I drove the Tesla Model 3 and it's not 'mainstream'

People often say that the Tesla Model 3 is aimed at "mainstream" car buyers. If that's true, then Tesla has terrible ...

Posted: Jan 11, 2018 10:48 PM
Updated: Jan 11, 2018 10:48 PM

People often say that the Tesla Model 3 is aimed at "mainstream" car buyers. If that's true, then Tesla has terrible aim.

I spent a day or so driving a Model 3 rented through Turo, the peer-to-peer car rental company. It's a handsome car that's fun to drive, but the Model 3 is definitely not mainstream. It feels like a Silicon Valley car designed for Silicon Valley people. You know, the sort of people who use the word "disrupt," but not to describe what their kids do at dinner.

The car I drove had a sticker price of $56,000, far above the $35,000 base price. For that price, it had a larger, more powerful battery giving it an estimated 310 miles of range rather than 220 miles, as well as faster acceleration. It also had Tesla's semi-autonomous "Enhanced AutoPilot" system and a number of other premium features like blue paint. Only black is available at the base price.

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When the older and more expensive Tesla Model S first debuted, it was simply the best car you could buy at its admittedly high price -- gasoline or electric.

I can't say the same for the Model 3. It's a fun car to drive and it looks upscale, but I can think of cars I'd rather have for $56,000.

As I drove, I went through the mental exercise of subtracting out $21,000 in options to get down to the base car. Then I considered how that would hold up in the universe of $35,000 cars. Stripped of options and features, the Model 3 would still be a pretty good car, but I can think of other vehicles that would offer more for that money.

There is one major, and potentially dangerous, flaw. There are no gauges in front of the driver -- but that's not the problem, exactly. There's a big touchscreen to my right, and I had no problem at all glancing over to check my speed and other data. Lots of cars these days have center-mounted computer screens so moving that screen up, making it bigger and just putting everything you want to see there made complete sense to me.

What doesn't work so well is putting so many controls there, too. To do almost anything, from adjusting the mirrors to tweaking the car's speed while driving in Autopilot, I had to use the screen. There are two unmarked knobs on the steering that are involved in various functions but, before you can use the knobs, you have to poke around on the big screen first. It's annoying and most people will hate it. More importantly, it's terribly distracting.

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Electric cars are marketed as being good for for the environment, but here's something you may not be aware of -- they're a lot of fun to drive. With instant power from electric motors, and no transmission gear-shifts to wait for, electric cars respond instantly when you press on the accelerator. They can also respond quickly as you raise your foot and the car slows as it draws power back from the wheels. This way, you can drive along twisting roads while rarely ever touching the brake pedal.

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In the Model 3, highway on-ramps became thrill rides. Squeezing down on the accelerator pedal brought a rush of speed usually associated with roaring V8 engines. Instead of roaring, there was the barely audible whine of a spinning electric motor as the merge lane came rushing towards me.

It wasn't the cannon-like shock of "Ludicrous Mode" -- that's not available on the Model 3 yet. Still, this car's power was plenty for daily use. (Really, "Ludricous Mode" is ludicrous, anyway.) And the Model 3 rips through curves thanks to a battery pack that holds its weight down low. But I did wish for a more finely tuned suspension that could have swallowed bumps more nicely while still providing that sort of handling, though.

If Tesla could somehow bring back a few old-switches and knobs, I'd like this car much better. As it is, lots of people will buy the Model 3 and lots of them will love it. If I wanted to give someone their first taste of electric driving, though, it's not the car I'd put them in. Unless I really wanted to annoy them.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 28770

Reported Deaths: 1092
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds224739
DeSoto144216
Madison124234
Jones109149
Neshoba97070
Lauderdale89479
Rankin86012
Forrest82942
Harrison79410
Scott75715
Copiah58016
Leake56519
Jackson55716
Holmes53641
Wayne52212
Lee51816
Oktibbeha51625
Washington5129
Yazoo4786
Leflore47449
Warren46317
Lowndes45912
Lincoln43734
Lamar4317
Grenada3965
Pike39312
Monroe37529
Lafayette3684
Attala35523
Newton3329
Sunflower3216
Covington3175
Bolivar29813
Panola2956
Adams28018
Simpson2713
Chickasaw26418
Tate2648
Marion26311
Pontotoc2616
Jasper2516
Noxubee2478
Pearl River24532
Clay24410
Winston2446
Claiborne23910
Marshall2123
Smith21111
Clarke20424
Coahoma1906
Union1819
Walthall1794
Kemper17614
Yalobusha1667
Lawrence1621
Carroll16111
Humphreys1309
Itawamba1308
Tippah12711
Webster12610
Calhoun1244
Montgomery1242
Hancock12313
Tallahatchie1153
Jefferson Davis1074
Prentiss1003
Greene968
Jefferson963
Wilkinson929
Tunica903
Amite842
George753
Tishomingo731
Choctaw724
Quitman690
Perry634
Alcorn601
Stone541
Franklin392
Benton270
Sharkey270
Issaquena81
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4532143
Montgomery3875102
Mobile3797134
Tuscaloosa210739
Marshall162210
Lee124537
Shelby110923
Madison11047
Morgan10203
Walker87123
Franklin86314
Dallas8419
Elmore83614
Baldwin7359
Etowah64413
DeKalb6415
Butler60727
Chambers60027
Tallapoosa57269
Autauga55312
Unassigned50724
Russell5030
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4576
Houston4464
Limestone4290
Cullman4114
Pike4075
Colbert3775
Bullock3649
Coffee3592
Barbour3331
Covington3327
St. Clair3192
Marengo29911
Hale29621
Escambia2936
Wilcox2848
Talladega2827
Calhoun2805
Sumter27912
Clarke2686
Dale2620
Jackson2522
Winston2373
Blount2181
Pickens2176
Chilton2152
Marion20613
Monroe2052
Choctaw19212
Randolph1889
Conecuh1866
Greene1788
Macon1778
Bibb1761
Perry1541
Henry1303
Crenshaw1243
Washington1027
Lawrence1000
Cherokee797
Lamar711
Geneva700
Fayette671
Clay612
Coosa571
Cleburne301
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