Car review: Tesla Model 3 has incredible power for its cost

PHOTO: Low Fai Ming

Well, here it is. What you're looking at, is the materialisation of one man's idea of how affordable, all-electric personal mobility should look like.

And, given that this man has arguably become a larger household name than Ecclestone, invited more ire from the business world than Ghosn ever did, and divided the opinions of the automotive community more than Bangle in his greatest years, the car really needs no formal introduction.

You already know what it is. But just how good is it to drive?

Something new

First impressions are great, if a little alien. Other manufacturers have been starting to jump on the idea of using your phone as a means to unlock your car, but in this Tesla, an app is the default way to go.

Step inside and you'll notice that there's hardly any buttons in the cabin. You get rocker switches for the windows and two scroll wheels on the steering wheel, and one at each door to open them. I'm pretty sure that's it.

There isn't even a button to start the car. Instead, you only need to depress the brake pedal, pull down on the steering wheel stalk, and you're off.

And when you've arrived at your destination, you can simply leave the car in park, close the door and walk away. There's no button to turn it off, or to activate the parking brake.

You don't even have to lock the doors, although the option to do so through your phone is offered.

The actions here are all still recognisably driving-related, but have been pared down of any unnecessary steps so that once the excitement of getting in a car from a new brand wears off, setting off in the Model 3 can feel devoid of drama.

Something fast

Ditto for the drive. Don't get me wrong, the car's 506bhp, 660Nm of torque, and all-wheel drive all conspire to deliver head-against-the-backrest performance like no other vehicle I've yet driven.

It's mighty fast. Frighteningly so, in fact. And with no gearbox to offer breaks in the acceleration, gunning it in this car feels more akin to being on a roller coaster than a car, sensations of nausea afterward included.

And it's fun the first few dozen or so times you try it, sure, but the buzz quickly wears off. There's a certain amount of acceleration you come to brace for any given speed and throttle position, and the car always reliably delivers just that, and nothing much else.

There's no chirp of the wheels and no artificial sound played through the speakers as seen in the

It is little wonder I think, that this car comes with toys including an electric whoopee cushion, gimmicks not necessary in other, more entertaining electric vehicles.

If you're the sort that expects a little character from your car, I suspect you'll walk away from the Model 3 rather disappointed.

Something different

But if you're shopping for an appliance to get you from location to location, the Model 3 is great. The Tesla Autopilot works like a charm, with adjustments made smoothly enough that you'd be hard pressed to tell whether the car is in charge of steering.

It's also really intuitive to use. One flick downwards of the right steering wheel stalk turns the adaptive cruise control on, and a second flick relinquishes your control over the car's steering.

There's no need to set a speed limit here, for the Model 3 can reliably figure that out all by itself.

And if cruising is your goal you'll want to note that the ride here is a touch on the firm side, but well compensated for by the downright soft and cushy seats, which, together with the steering wheel, is upholstered in a material that is pleasing to touch.

Something practical

Passengers in the Model 3 will find leg, knee, and head room decent. Having said that, the glasshouse roof will test the car's air-conditioning on sunny days.

And when that 78kWh battery goes flat, you'll want to head down to one of the three Supercharging locations currently available (which you can navigate to and check the availability of on that massive 15-inch central touchscreen).

The 250kW chargers claim to be able to add 270km of range in just 15 minutes, and from our own experience you should expect to be able to top up battery capacity by 35 per cent in just 20 minutes at one such charger, even with other Teslas also charging at the location.

Total range on a full battery as tested stands at 420km. Supercharging for all Tesla owners is currently free.

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If you're looking for a car simply as a means to get from point to point, the Tesla Model 3 is quite the competitive offering.

This performance variant will set you back a mere $155,283 before COE, which is a downright steal given that you're purchasing a 506bhp car. It will, however, invite a $4,884 annual road tax bill.

If that sounds too much for you, there's also a more sensible Standard Range Plus variant, which gets a smaller 50kWh battery but comes in at $113,245 before COE, alongside a more palpable annual road tax bill of $2,726 (all prices as of Dec 2, 2021).

For that price, you still get a 321bhp machine to drive to work in, which is plenty of power for the price compared against the petrol-powered competition. 

This article was first published in sgCarMart.

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