Tesla Model 3 First Viewing!

by Ben N on February 11, 2018


Yesterday, I got my first chance to see a Tesla Model 3 in person! Let me say, I LIKE it!

This is the first Model 3 in the state of Wisconsin. We were holding a Wisconsin Tesla Owners and Enthusiasts meeting at a restaurant in Madison, the state capitol. The meeting was a social gathering, a technical meeting (talking about issues concerning Model S door handles,) and a chance to see the M3. I was mostly there to see the car.

I shot some video of the car being shown off. In it is some of my thoughts, and you can catch some other members saying what they like and what they notice about the car, too.

My first impression of the car is that it looks good! That’s to be expected of Tesla. All of their vehicles of attractive, aerodynamic styling. I loved the red color, and the proportions were nice. The hood design is a little different. The hood itself is actually just a little LOWER than the headlights. The headlights have a nice crisp line that flows from the lights to the front fenders. Likely, this is for aerodynamics, the same as the headlights on the Nissan Leaf, only Tesla makes it look good.

IMG_7829The nose is slightly different from the original announced version. It looks better, but it’s hard to say exactly what’s different. Perhaps just a softening of the radius?
Also on the front is an interesting “pass-through” on the bottom outside of the front bumper. These holes allow air to flow from the front of the car, through the edge of the bumper, and the create an “air-wall” past the front wheels, improving aerodynamics.

Another feature that I noticed right away is that the door handles are different. This was interesting, because at the meeting, the technical portion of the show was talking about the door handles on the Model S, and how they have become a maintenance issue. Those handles are electronic and automatically present themselves as the driver walks up to the car. They are also overly complicated and prone to problems. The Model 3 handle is much simpler. It’s still flush to the body of the car, but is on a swivel. Pushing the handle with my thumb, the other side of the handle levers out to be grasped and pull the door open. This greatly simplifies the handle and saves weight, complexity, cost, and maintenance vs. the Model S.

Multiple cameras are visible on the outside of the car. Modern cars are getting more and more safety features, and Tesla is famous for being a leader in autonomous vehicles. It’s easy to see how they would install as many cameras as possible.

TrunkThe trunk of the car is interesting, and not quite what I was expecting. For starters, yes, it is a trunk, NOT a hatchback. This allows for the piece of glass which is seamless from the middle of the roof, coming down and becoming the rear window, and finally ending at the trunk. The only distinction between roof and rear window is the gradient of heavy tint for the roof to very light tint for the window.

While small compared to a hatch, the trunk opening really utilizes the space available at the back end of the car. And the trunk is LONG – it goes all the wall up to the back seats, which are further up than one might expect at first glance. Besides that, there’s also a drop-down “hidden compartment” below the floor of the trunk. Lastly, a REALLY GOOD DESIGN ELEMENT of the trunk that I think everyone has overlooked is HOW the trunk lid is held open. It actually IS a hatch! Gas shocks hold up the lid, and those shocks are mounted OUTSIDE the enclosed trunk area. Traditionally, a trunk lid is held open from internal supports and springs. Unfortunately, those supports take up some of the interior room, and are notorious for pushing against suitcases. This always drove me crazy on my wife’s old Pontiac Sunfire. The trunk lid swings up very high, not unlike a mini-van hatch, preventing it from becoming something to hit one’s head on while loading cargo.

The “Frunk” is pretty unremarkable. It’s smaller than on the Model S. I guess what’s amazing is that we now have a car company where we EXPECT extra storage built in because of the lack of an engine! One neat little feature in the frunk is a pair of swing-down clips to hold the handles of shopping bags.

Once a few people had cleared out, I was able to hop into the back seat of car and check it out. I was pleasantly surprised that as a six foot tall guy, that I actually FIT in the back seat. Headroom can be SO bad in the back of many cars. When I tested the Chevy Volt when it first came out, the only way that I fit in the back was to lean all the way backwards until my head was inside the back window. On the Model S, the entire roof inside is a window! Not only that, but it’s a couple inches higher than I thought it might be.

27999101_10160364591725221_463720514_o_largeIn the front seat, the member testing the drivers position was 6 foot 8 inches tall. He sat with plenty of headroom to spare. Other people looking at the car all seemed to really like the glass roof. From the inside, it offers panoramic views. From the outside, the tint is so dark that you might not even realize that it’s glass!

I found the seats comfortable. They had a nice texture and just the right amount of squishiness.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to actually go for a ride in the car. The owner said that he loved driving it, and that it was maybe even MORE fun than driving the Model S. He said the cars just have a little different feel from each other.

Overall, this looks like a great car! I loved the color and styling. It has some nice lines. The dashboard is minimalist in a good way. The trunk is well-designed to really maximize cargo space. I think a lot of people are really going to enjoy these cars!

If you get a chance, definitely go take a look for yourself! These cars aren’t everywhere yet, but they are coming, and you will want to check one out.

Until next time, stay charged up!

-Ben Nelson

Photo Credits: I forgot to grab any interior photos, nor did I get a test-ride, so thank you to Brandon VanD for those. Here’s a phone vid of a test ride. Near the end of the video, you can see a 0-60 MPH test pulling away from a traffic light.

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