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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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 582576

Reported Deaths: 7284
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1208311715
Ramsey50357867
Dakota45046442
Anoka40774432
Washington26338278
Stearns21901220
St. Louis17502302
Scott16980124
Wright15722135
Olmsted1309797
Sherburne1139484
Carver1031645
Clay807492
Rice7952106
Blue Earth739241
Crow Wing651888
Kandiyohi647282
Chisago581051
Otter Tail567578
Benton560197
Goodhue470872
Mower460332
Douglas459574
Winona448450
Itasca417953
McLeod417258
Morrison413660
Isanti408262
Nobles406748
Beltrami387358
Steele381015
Polk379567
Becker375449
Lyon357650
Carlton340353
Freeborn339529
Pine323521
Nicollet320943
Brown303040
Mille Lacs297152
Le Sueur285322
Todd277431
Cass265528
Meeker250140
Waseca235721
Martin227731
Roseau205019
Wabasha20313
Hubbard183341
Dodge18133
Renville178043
Redwood170836
Houston169215
Cottonwood162721
Fillmore153810
Pennington153319
Wadena152321
Chippewa151338
Faribault149919
Kanabec142424
Sibley140910
Aitkin133136
Watonwan13009
Rock127219
Jackson121211
Pipestone113826
Yellow Medicine113520
Pope10806
Murray10559
Swift103918
Stevens88511
Marshall87417
Clearwater85716
Koochiching81314
Lake80619
Wilkin79812
Lac qui Parle74922
Big Stone5934
Lincoln5733
Grant5648
Mahnomen5408
Norman5379
Unassigned48893
Kittson48122
Red Lake3957
Traverse3685
Lake of the Woods3183
Cook1560

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 364579

Reported Deaths: 5902
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57228619
Linn20701333
Scott19754239
Black Hawk15746307
Woodbury15087228
Johnson1439083
Dubuque13322209
Dallas1109597
Pottawattamie11036166
Story1054248
Warren572988
Clinton551692
Cerro Gordo535689
Sioux512474
Webster510892
Marshall480875
Muscatine473899
Des Moines451466
Wapello4283122
Buena Vista424140
Jasper413070
Plymouth400179
Lee372355
Marion360075
Jones296857
Henry290437
Carroll284752
Bremer282460
Crawford264340
Boone262334
Benton254955
Washington253050
Dickinson247343
Mahaska229250
Jackson220742
Clay214725
Kossuth214764
Tama208871
Delaware208040
Winneshiek196433
Page192121
Buchanan190431
Cedar188823
Fayette184441
Hardin184443
Wright183336
Hamilton179249
Harrison179173
Clayton168756
Butler163834
Mills161321
Madison160319
Floyd159542
Cherokee158338
Lyon157541
Poweshiek154633
Allamakee150351
Iowa147924
Hancock146434
Winnebago140831
Cass137654
Grundy135932
Calhoun135813
Emmet133740
Jefferson132135
Shelby130537
Sac130019
Appanoose128047
Louisa127849
Union127632
Mitchell125642
Chickasaw123615
Guthrie120729
Humboldt118726
Franklin116421
Palo Alto112123
Howard104122
Montgomery102737
Unassigned10070
Clarke99624
Keokuk95331
Monroe95028
Ida90334
Adair86232
Pocahontas85422
Monona82830
Davis81324
Osceola77916
Greene77610
Lucas76823
Worth7348
Taylor65612
Fremont6219
Decatur6059
Van Buren55618
Ringgold54524
Wayne53223
Audubon5069
Adams3374
Rochester
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