The wait was long enough: 2019 Tesla Model 3 Performance
Three years ago, I stood in line outside a small store in downtown Frankfurt to place a reservation on a car, with a bunch more excited people:
We didn’t know what it would look like. Only a few key facts were given: the base version would cost 35k$, it would be a sedan slightly smaller than a Model S, and it would have a base range of 210 miles. We each put down a small-ish payment, and got a number in an online account.
A long time later, the car could actually be configured and ordered in Germany. And as soon as I could, I put in an order through a leasing provider, to get one as a company car. One could not order the base version (and still cannot, except in the US) - but I didn’t intend to.
Some three months later still, after a lot of radio silence, I got a text: “Your Model 3 is ready for delivery”.
And finally, a week after that text, this happened:
Originally posted on FinalGear Forums
As is typical for my cars, weather at and after delivery was utterly crap, so better pictures are coming soon™ .
As mentioned above, this is not a base version Model 3. Instead, the specs go:
- Model 3 Long Range AWD Performance
- Pearl White exterior
- Premium Black interior
- Performance Upgrade Package, which used to be optional but is now fitted to all Performance 3s, consisting of:
- 20" wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires
- Upgraded brakes
- Upgraded steering
- Lowered and stiffened suspension
- Small spoiler
- Enhanced Autopilot, which is basically equivalent to having the current Autopilot + FSD packages (for now)
Having had it for close to three days now, I am very impressed with the car, and highly unlikely to make use of the 7-day return policy :) I’ll need a bit more time to gather my thoughts for a full review, but here are a few things that I can make a note of already:
- The acceleration is just stupid. The fastest car I’ve owned was the A5 3.0 TDI, which could press one into the seat when floored at correct revs, on full boost, for a short while until it needed an upshift. The Model 3 has very nearly double the power and a ridiculous amount of torque, available at any time, with no delay and no preconditions to meet. It does not kick like its bigger brother, the Model S; instead you press the pedal, your neck briefly hurts if you didn’t think to put your head against the headrest in time, and then you find yourself going at a million km/h. It doesn’t get old.
- Handling is not lacking either. The steering could use a little more feel, but it’s very direct and precise. The steering wheel itself, while not much of a looker, is nicely small-ish and very grippy, in a good way. And the PS4S tires deliver an unbelievable amount of corner grip for a car this heavy. I am very much looking forward to trying Track Mode, once an opportunity presents itself.
- I’m rather fond of the interior. It is very minimalist and somewhat polarizing because of that, and some design choices are not ideal in my opinion (whyyyy the buttons instead of normal door handles…). But after a very short time, I’m completely used to the display being the main control for pretty much everything. It is placed just within reach without having to lean forward in the seat, and reacts really fast to any input, sort of like a brand new smartphone. The seats are very comfy, and offer very decent support for more spirited driving. Premium interior sound system is awesome, and I just generally feel that the car is a nice place to be in.
- It’s not quite as quiet and refined at Autobahn speeds as the A5 was. Ride comfort is decent, especially considering the fairly low profile tires (235/35ZR20). There is some tire and wind noise, possibly more noticeable than it would usually be because of lack of any motor or exhaust sound. But is still a very good cruiser in my opinion. Especially because…
- Autopilot is just something I don’t ever want to miss anymore. It’s smooth, predictable, and spares the driver a lot of mental capacity that is usually taken up by the mechanical tasks of driving. It is squarely in a league above any other driver assistance package I’ve tried on modern cars. However, a friend who rode with me put it well: “it’s something you can only fully use when you know the tech behind it” - I can sign off on that. One absolutely has to learn and know its quirks and “habits” to be able to relax when it’s safe, and know where the system’s limits are and how it approaches and hits them in various ways. It’s in no way a fully “hands off” system, and will take a long time still to become one imho. But even in the state it is now, it already makes my “point A to point B” drives and sitting in traffic just so much more enjoyable.
Of course, this being a Tesla, there is an issue, and that is the aforementioned Performance spoiler. Which is missing. Apparently a common occurrence with Tesla’s current deliveries :) I was assured it will be delivered and installed in a couple weeks. Looking forward to it completing the look of the car, and unlocking the top speed of 261 km/h (limited to 235 without it - apparently it actually does something for high-speed stability).
I will be keeping this car for a while, and driving the hell out of it. More impressions, thoughts and whatnot are to come.
2022-04-07: better pics
The weather really cleaned up a lot over the weekend, and earlier today I was able to take a couple better shots of the Model 3:
I must say, the more I look at it, the more I’m happy I went for the white paint. I’ve seen all other colors of the Model 3 by now, and white just works best of them all in my opinion. Red is amazing as well, but the Performance brakes and spoiler both don’t work with the red color as well as they contrast against the white. Really want my spoiler now :)
Met another new owner at a local free charger:
Not as fast as Supercharging, but for free and with a very good restaurant (+ brewery) two minute walk away :) Definitely will be coming back here.
Took the car in for the first service appointment. Things were done:
- Reason for the visit: non-working third brake light diagnosed, cable plugged in (how do they even…)
- Wheel alignment checked and found OK. Also checked logs for signs of above-normal consumption, since it seems a bit high to me. Apparently it’s my right foot that’s at fault.
- Small paint defect on the rear trunk lid fixed, car washed.
Had a nice talk with some fellow waiting owners, read some magazines, drank some coffee - overall a fairly neat visit. Everything is under warranty ofc, no cost to me.
Performance spoilers are still back-ordered, which is annoying. Will get a call once they arrive. I was told they can send out a mobile service car to install it at my home or work, no need to bring the car in to the service center - neat.
2022-05-10: first long drive experience
An opportunity presented itself to take the car for a company trip down to our Munich head office. Usually everybody takes the train, but I hate those things :) and it’s a decent test of “long-range” drivability. I’ve done the route more than a couple times in my previous cars.
Overall, I’m very happy with the results. Key points:
Range and charging
The route is ~420km long, definitely doable on a single full charge if one were to drive at <100 km/h in the truck lane. Driving like a normal person (AP set to 150 where possible, 5-10 over limit where there is one), effective range is somewhere around 350 km, with an average consumption of ~220 Wh/km. Meaning a single break at a Supercharger is all that’s needed to make the drive with some comfort reserve. I ate dinner during the stop both ways, making it a little longer than necessary at ~45 minutes - theoretically, 20-25 min are easily enough. Tools like ABRP optimize the route even more, proposing two very short stops (between 5-15 min) instead of a single longer one, making maximum use of higher charging power at low SoC.
Is an awesome thing to have on a long drive. “Navigate of Autopilot” is a little gimmicky and too slow with its automatic lane changes for German autobahn reality, so I didn’t use it, instead relying on “normal” Autopilot and changing lanes manually when necessary. Subjectively I felt a lot less tired than usual after both drives, even though each was at the end of a full working day. Don’t think this one test is enough to say with certainty it’s the Autopilot helping, but I believe it is.
Comfort and noise
I had some worries, since many reviews mention especially the Performance version being a little rough and loud at speed. But it seems not to be an issue for me. Sure, it’s a bit louder than the A5 used to be when sitting at 150, but nowhere near what I’d call “too loud”… and I’ve done the drive in the MX-5, I know how loud cars can get :p Again, this is my perception, but it seems perfectly within comfortable levels, with no need to raise one’s voice for a conversation whatsoever.
Ride comfort is good. I believe the seats help a lot here, they are really damn comfortable. On rougher patches in some construction areas one can feel the sportiness come through a bit, but on normal Autobahn surface (and the Germans in the room know those are typically far from perfect) it’s as smooth as any other car in its class that I’ve been in.
Sitting pretty next to our head office in Munich. On the other side of the road is the Theresienwiese, where Oktoberfest takes place - as well as other festivities all year round, as can be seen here.
Got garage entry and free charging access (yay!) from the office next day. Parked next to a colleague’s Model 3, ordered and delivered at the same time as mine, also as a company car. His used to be the opposite colors of mine (black paint, white interior), but as once can see he got creative with a wrap. No further comment.
Charging at almost full 120kW on the way back. Highest I’ve seen before was 99kW, this session it got up to 118. Looking forward to V3 Superchargers delivering up to 250kW.
Back home, with some dead bugs. This might be the first time I’ll actually have to wash it.
Also used the opportunity to test a piece of software that scrapes Tesla’s owner API for live data from my car and visualizes a bunch of it. Looks something like this, showing the return trip:
As one can see, I left with 99% charge from the Munich office, took a weird route out of town avoiding an hour long traffic jam, and hit the A9 going north. Drove all the way to a supercharger in Dettelbach (close to Würzburg), arrived there at ~18%, and took my dinner/charging break there. Got almost full 120kW power until ~55% SoC, dropping down after that, and left again with 85%. Ultimately arrived home at 39%. Some graphs like speed is a little patchy, I’m pretty sure those are visualization artifacts though, not actual data.
Not sure what I’ll do with all this data. But I have it, and look at it on occasion :p
2022-07-05 - update and drive to Bad Aibling
Fun is still very much being had :) This car doesn’t get boring. I’m comfortable enough with it by now to let others drive every once in a while, and reactions of people who floor it for the first time are amazing. Even from the ones who already experienced it as a passenger, noone expects the zero pedal reaction time and instant tons and tons of torque.
Autopilot and especially the “Navigate on Autopilot” gimmick are definitely improving with software updates. Last I tested it, NoA cancelled half its planned lane changes for no reason and was scared of anything moving in rear view mirrors for like a kilometer behind. Today on my commute, it worked as intended for the first time: engaged on the road leading up to Autobahn entrance, and disengaged half an hour later when entering Frankfurt, having navigated a semi-complex interchange, multiple lane changes and finally the Autobahn exit, with no interventions from me, except for adjusting the desired speed. Really looking forward to it eventually doing lane changes without my confirmation, I feel it’s actually at a point where it will be sane and safe (enough, esp. since one can still cancel them before the maneuver begins) - but I guess the European regulators need more convincing.
Spoiler: still missing. Supposedly new ones will be available in August… annoying, especially since I’ll have to go on the Roadtrip and to Ringmeet (possibly including a ‘Ring lap…) without it. On the plus side, it’ll apparently be the new improved version.
Also did another “long range” drive down to a company event in Bad Aibling, hauling band equipment in a pair with my boss’ LR 3:
One Supercharger stop each way and a destination charger at the hotel, stress level: zero. Finally got all three company Model 3s in one picture, plus a few more EVs (we have a Kona Electric, two e-Smarts, one converted VW T5 with salvaged Tesla batteries, one Fiat 500e imported from California, and there was a hotel-owned i3 there as well…):
Debated stopping at an Ionity location instead of a Supercharger to try the newly acquired 200 kW charging capability, but it made little sense route-planning-wise. Will definitely try on the roadtrip.
2022-07-24 - pre-Roadtrip update
Checked out a HPC at Frankfurt Airport (“Gateway Gardens” charging station), and was glad to discover it outperforms Tesla’s own Superchargers - those cap at 120 kW in Europe. Awesome! Especially since they are apparently installing similar units at a newly built petrol station 5 minutes from where I live.
Further research shows these chargers are capped at 400 amps, which results in ~140 kW top charging rate with the Model 3 battery pack voltage. The ones used by Ionity and Allego at some locations are apparently capable of over 500 amps, giving almost 200 kW total charging power, which is wicked fast - almost as good as V3 Superchargers over in the States, but much more widely available.
This is all very nice in regards to the upcoming roadtrip. CCS chargers are in decent supply in the Alps, having this fast charging capability (and having it tested and proven working) will make the trip this much more relaxed.