Model 3 first-day notes

My Tesla Model 3 arrived yesterday.

I ordered it on the morning of the first day they were open for pre-order: March 31, 2016. The expected delivery date kept getting pushed back (for about a year, starting in late 2017, their delivery estimator said my car would be ready in 4–6 months); even after the Model 3 was finally available, the low-end base-model version that I wanted still wasn’t available for several more months. And then when the version I wanted was available, I finalized the order and was told it would arrive in 2–4 weeks, and they set a delivery date (March 29), and then they canceled that delivery date. So it’s now been eight weeks since I finalized the order. But it finally arrived yesterday.

They delivered the car to my door; they gave me a brief tour of the car (I had test-driven one several months ago); I gave them a check for the remainder of the amount owed; the person who had brought the car called Uber and got a ride back to their workplace.

Tesla Model 3
Tesla Model 3

The car is gorgeous. I am very happy with its looks. It’s a lovely rich blue, nicely streamlined. (It’s also the same color chosen by my two neighbors who also bought Model 3s recently.)

I drove it around the block, then later drove a couple miles down the freeway and back. I’m enjoying driving it so far.

Some assorted notes:

  • I had ordered the “standard” (low-end) interior, but Tesla decided that not enough people ordered that, so they upgraded everyone who had ordered it to the mid-range interior for free. (That distressed me initially, because they said that they had given me leather seats and I try to avoid buying leather; but it turns out that they meant “premium engineered leather,” which is to say fake leather, which is fine with me. And the interior is nice.)
  • I had forgotten that the front part of the roof is (darkened) glass, even on the low-end model. Kind of neat to be able to look up and see (dimly) the sky.
  • In my previous rides in Model 3s, I had been concerned that looking at the center-mounted control panel was going to be much more annoying and harder to do than looking at a traditional dashboard. But so far, the control panel placement hasn’t given me any trouble.
  • The cup-holder area between the front two seats also provides a place to put two mobile phones, with iPhone or USB-C connectors plugged into USB ports. The setup for those connectors is nifty—a little instruction booklet shows where to run the cables, through areas that I wouldn’t have guessed could hold them, and it all fits neatly into place.
  • I was sad to learn that the control panel doesn’t interface nicely with iTunes on my iPhone. It will take as input whatever audio is coming out of the phone, and it will play that audio over the car speakers, but it doesn’t provide any sort of interface for selecting a playlist or selecting songs. Very disappointing. My old car didn’t do that either, but my old car is nearly fifteen years old; most newer cars that I rent while traveling have much more sophisticated interfaces for connecting to my phone’s music than the Tesla Model 3 does.
  • The control panel has a lovely huge map display, but doesn’t show live traffic unless you pay for the $3,000 midrange package. I can get live traffic on my phone in Google Maps for free, but that would mean mounting my phone on the dashboard somehow. I’m hoping that Tesla will allow me to buy some sort of software upgrade to get live traffic on the control panel display without having to pay the full $3k to get all the other stuff, which I don’t want.
  • The live view of cars all around while you’re driving is super cool; a great way to see what’s in your blind spot. However, it’s also a little wavery. For example, its display showing the right edge of the rightmost lane on the freeway kind of wobbles left and right a bit, and its display of the relative sizes of the cars around you (which is super cool) also wobbles a bit, so the car that was slightly ahead of me and to my left blinked back and forth occasionally between being shown as a car and being shown as a minivan. Also, when I was stopped at a light with a car in front of me, the icon of the car in front of me wobbled left and right a little even though neither my car nor theirs was moving. None of that is a problem, but it leaves me even more dubious about Tesla’s claims of impending full-autonomous mode than I already was; if the sensors have these wobbly little inaccuracies, I don’t know how much I would trust them. But maybe the full-autonomy-capable cars have more accurate sensors (I didn’t pre-order autonomy, as I don’t expect to use it), or maybe inaccuracies on the scale of a few inches left or right just don’t matter that much.
  • My brief freeway drive was during a period of fairly heavy traffic, so I was mostly well below the speed limit. Which is fine; I have no desire to drive super fast.
  • I haven’t yet tried Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC).
  • The fact that nearly all controls are via the touchscreen will take some getting used to. In particular, adjusting the mirrors is no longer something you can do while driving, by feel; you have to look at the interface and tap various things to get it into mirror-adjustment mode.
  • Tiny detail: I really like the design of the mirrors in the sun visors. You flip down the visor, and then you pull back the mirror-cover (which is magnetic), and then lights at the sides of the mirror light up. I rarely use visor mirrors, but I found this design pleasing.
  • The iPhone app does various neat things. I can, for example, set the temperature in the car before I leave the house. Unfortunately, so far my attempts to set up the phone-as-car-key option have failed. I’ll talk with the Tesla people about that. A Tesla customer-forum thread suggests that this lack of ability to set up the feature can happen when your phone is trying to make too many Bluetooth connections at once, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on with mine.
  • I set various driving settings to be fairly close to the way non-Tesla cars work. I put the acceleration in “Chill” mode because I have no need to be slammed back into my seat when I accelerate :), and I set the system to creep forward when I take my foot off the brake because that’s what I’m used to, and I set regenerative braking to the mode where the car slows down faster than I expect when I take my foot off the accelerator but not that much faster. Overall, the responsiveness to accelerator and brake is well within what I think of as a normal range for cars.
  • I spent a while trying to figure out whether there’s an off switch. Turns out there isn’t; when you’re done, you put the car in Park and then you get out and lock the doors and walk away, and it turns stuff off as appropriate. (There’s also apparently a software control that lets you turn it off manually, buried in one of the menus, but I don’t think I’ll need that.)
  • I haven’t yet tried putting my bike in the trunk, but Tesla people told me a while back that a bike would fit fine in there.
  • I haven’t yet tried to plug the car in. It arrived with about 120 miles’ worth of charge, which should last me for a while. There are Superchargers nearby, and chargers at work, and I can plug the car in to a regular outlet at home and it’ll charge in 15 hours. I might at some point buy the Tesla power station that will fully charge the car overnight, but I suspect I won’t really need that. We’ll see.

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