AA Driven Car of the Year electric winner: Tesla Model 3, changing the world
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Mainstream manufacturers are starting to cotton on to the EV world, as evidenced by the all-new Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-Pace that launched to New Zealand this year (and the Mercedes-Benz EQC that's coming in 2020). And yet, when it came to AA Driven Car of the Year sorting, it was the 'niche', 'unorthodox', 'different' Tesla Model 3 that took the prize for best electric vehicle/plug-in hybrid instead.
To say that the Model 3 is inherently different to the I-Pace and e-tron is an understatement. While both the Jag and Audi do everything they can to try to look and feel like traditional vehicles (digitial wing mirrors not withstanding), the Model 3 wears its future-orientated tilt with pride.
It does this perhaps even more so than the Model S or X that came before it. The minimalist cabin is unlike anything we've ever seen, features like the key-card, glass roof, and multi-purpose scroll wheels on the steering wheel make you feel like you're in control of a car from an alternate universe. And alongside all of that it comes with a set of powertrains that are incredibly capable.
Yes, while everyone is fixated on the 335kW/640Nm dual-motor all-paw Model 3 Performance, the regular single-motor rear-wheel drive variant is not to be sneezed at. This was the model that Tesla nominated for our stringent two-day test event, and the wide consensus was that it was plenty quick enough for the task.
“The Model 3 is basically an iPad on wheels — and I loved that simplicity,” said chief judge Liz Dobson during her early drive of the Model 3 late last year.
“The Model 3 works incredibly well and made driving in the chaotic southern California roads easy. There is autopilot for the highways that does require you to have some input but it is great when you are cruising along, desperately trying to find your turnoff while following satnav instructions.
“It stop/starts with ease in heavy traffic and the suspension does a great job, especially on some gnarly central LA pot holes. [...] It’s such an easy and enjoyable vehicle to drive — and when it arrives in New Zealand, it’s set to change the EV world here.”
Perhaps the best party trick of all with the Model 3 is the fact that, despite all the efforts to make it look and feel like something out of this world, it's still a remarkably sensible car to live with. The standard model's 460km claimed range is good enough to wipe range anxiety out of the minds of most commuters, and the smart interior layout lends itself to excellent leg and headroom all round.
Whether the Tesla Model 3 has changed the world is a topic that's up for debate. However, it's undoubtedly changed the way the world looks at electric cars.