Tesla Model 3 - first quick drive
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The Tesla Model 3 is one of the most anticipated new car releases of 2017 - and we're here in California, among the first to drive it.
Following the first 30 deliveries tonight, Tesla will begin mass producing the Model 3 for global markets with Australia and New Zealand expecting to get first deliveries in early 2019. It should land here at around NZ$66,541.
So, what's it like to drive? We'll get to that in a minute, but, first, let's look at some of the innovations packed in here.
Releasing just another car would be a bit of a cop out, so it's worth pointing out some of the interesting features that will make the Model 3 unique.
Getting in and out of the car will no longer happen with a key, or even a regular 'fob'. The driver can open the door using their phone (over Bluetooth or GSM) and if they don't have their phone handy, or if the battery is flat, they open it using an RFID card.
Adjusting the mirrors or steering wheel happens electronically, as you'd expect. To save space on the doors and steering column, two joysticks on the steering wheel serve as multipurpose controllers and are activated using the central 15-inch colour touchscreen. When activating the steering controls, for example, the left-hand joystick controls telescopic adjustments, while the right joystick controls tilt adjustments. Likewise, the window mirrors are adjusted using the left joystick for a left mirror and right joystick for the right mirror.
Inside the cabin, Tesla has used coarse-grain wood along the top of the dashboard and integrated air vents between the wood panelling and dashboard. The rest of the storage space has been cleverly hidden, with a larger area at the front with two USB outlets, a central storage cubby and a glove box.
Climate controls are adjusted via the central screen, but also in a first, direction and air blower location are adjusted using the touchscreen as opposed to manual adjustment.
Rear seat passengers get their own air vents, plus two USB charging points. Rear leg room is good, but a little cramped. Thankfully with the Model 3, consideration has been put into toe room, with ample room to slide feet under the seat.
The rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 split folding fashion with a centre armrest. And, they include two child seat anchor points. Both front and rear doors are released using a button on the door, as opposed to a conventional handle.
The one thing you're all wanting to know, of course, is how it drives. Well, it's bloody quick. The Model 3 will debut in two-wheel drive initially, with a 355km driving range and a 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds.
We had the chance to briefly drive the uprated version, which comes with 500 kilometres of range, plus a quicker acceleration time of 0-60mph in 5.1 seconds.
Just like the Model S and X, hit the throttle at any point and the Model 3 is transformed into a rocket. The instant throttle response is backed by an incredibly quiet cabin while cruising.
Off the line, slamming down the throttle offers a small hint of wheel spin before it hooks up and delivers its full complement of torque. The Model 3 will only be available with coil-sprung suspension, which consists of a double wishbone up front with coil-over twin-tube shock absorbers and stabiliser bar. The rear is an independent multi-link suspension setup with twin-tube shock absorbers and stabiliser bar.
Read more about the Tesla 3 here: