The Tesla Model 3 on test for Changing Lanes!
The Tesla Model 3 on test for Changing Lanes!

Caroline drives the Tesla Model 3!

Tesla has arguably done more to accelerate the movement of the motor industry to electrification than any other car brand. And they really don’t operate like any other car brand. In fact, this relative newcomer (Est. 2003) does everything a little bit differently. And as I was soon to find out as I approached the Tesla Model 3 for the first time, there is nothing ordinary about the car in front me!

What’s so hot about the Tesla Model 3?

Designed as Tesla’s smaller, simpler, and more affordable car, slotting in below the brand-defining Model S and ‘groovy-doored’ Model X SUV, the Tesla Model 3 officially went on sale in Ireland in 2019.

With pricing starting from €48,990, this car has massively contributed to the rapid widening of Tesla’s customer base. The brand has registered 340 cars in Ireland so far in 2021, with 335 of them Model 3s.

As I approach the car with what looks like a Tesla-branded credit card in my hand, it’s probably already done a background check on me and knows my first pet’s name. A swipe of the card against the B pillar and I’m in!

Glistening in ruby red, the Tesla Model 3 brings next generation glamour to Irish roads. Three variants are available all with varying levels of performance and battery wizardry: the Standard Range Plus (448 km WLTP, priced from €48,990), Model 3 Performance (567 km WLTP, priced from €65,990) and Long Range (580 km WLTP, priced from €58,990).

Topping up the Model 3's battery at the Tesla Supercharger
Topping up the Model 3’s battery at the Tesla Supercharger

What’s new for the Model 3 in 2021?

The Model 3 has also received a range of styling improvements for 2021 including matte black trim around the car’s exterior features like the door handles, more efficient tyres and updated 18/19” Sports Wheels. The Model 3 Performance can now be ordered with new 20” ‘Uberturbine’ wheels. There’s also a new electrically operated boot lid, which opens at the touch of a button or from the touchscreen or Tesla app.

Interior updates include more matte black finish, which replaces the gloss finish in previous versions of the car. The centre console has been redesigned, featuring fixed inductive charging mats for two smartphones. Two additional high-powered USB-C ports have been added for high-speed device charging. Plus, an additional USB-A port in the glove compartment to use for storage devices for Sentry Mode and Dash Cam footage. A new heat pump improves how fast the cabin heats up.

Eight surround cameras allow for 360-degree vision, while twelve ultrasonic sensors provide detection of surrounding objects. Driver assistance features such as emergency braking, collision warning and blind-spot monitoring try their best to keep you out of trouble, while Autopilot is included as standard which, under driver supervision, enables the car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane.

Inside the 2021 Tesla Model 3
Inside the 2021 Tesla Model 3

Inside the Tesla Model 3

Yes, Tesla do things differently – but depending on how you like your cars, the Tesla’s austere cabin design and gigantic 15″ touchscreen in the centre of the dash might have you running for something more analogue and familiarly square.

Even moving the side mirrors requires a quick detour into the central operating system. But as smart as Tesla is, the pure mechanical action of adjusting the wing mirrors is then done through a few twists, turns and slides of a reassuringly normal button on the steering wheel. And except for some stalks for the wipers, indicators, and gear selection, that’s about it. There’s no ON button or ignition – the Tesla just knows you’re ready to go. The Tesla Model 3 is the smartest car I’ve ever met. And I’ve met a lot of cars. Over 300!

The finish of the cabin and the quality of the design is an improvement on the Model 3 but it feels more basic than a premium German saloon that would command a similar list price. Cabin space is excellent with lots of glazing making it a pleasant place to travel in. The rear bench can seat three, while the boot opens to reveal over 500 litres of cargo space.

So will I be stopping a lot to charge it?

Tesla’s battery technology is truly astounding. Seeing over 500 km on your range counter means less time plugged in or even contemplating where the next charger is when driving between destinations. And Tesla has been building these big milers for years, with well-established car brands only beginning to catch up now. And they are still not there yet.

Yes, it is a very clever car. I sat for hours behind the wheel thinking about this. No need to do rapid calculations in my head, extrapolating, predicting, estimating, and still not having enough range to get home comfortably. With a real world driving range in excess of 500 km, this model moves the conversation on completely when it comes to normalising electric cars, what you can do with them and how it feels to own one.

The Tesla Model 3 has a great design with plenty of interior space
The Tesla Model 3 has a great design with plenty of interior space

Driving the 2021 Tesla Model 3

And how you can drive them! If the range doesn’t excite your passengers, then the performance surely will. The Tesla Model 3 Long Range can accelerate to 100 km/h in just 4.4 seconds and it feels just as fast with a silent shove of torque that requires a small warning to passengers of warp speed that is about to be engaged.

Rapid acceleration is a novelty but the Model 3 Long Range is a talented handler with all wheel drive delivering a distinct style of tarmac hugging charm.

It’s very comfortable for the most part but the ride falls short of truly magic carpet premium.

Most buyers will charge their Model 3 at home from a wallbox and rarely need to charge on the go. But the Model 3 also comes with a built-in CCS Charge Port for compatibility with third party fast charging networks like IONITY and ESB, or Tesla’s own Supercharger network and Destination chargers.

The Tesla Model 3 Long Range available from €58,990
The Tesla Model 3 Long Range available from €58,990

Did you like it?

The Tesla Model 3 is a marvel, no doubt about it. The smartest car on the road, already set up for self-driving in a world that isn’t ready for that yet.

But it is not emotional at all. From the cut of the cabin to the myriad of functions and games set in the central operating system, the Model 3 has the distinct feeling of being a device. A good one, but it’s a different approach to building cars. Not wrong, simply different.

The on-road performance is silently charming but the Model 3 will never talk to you through the steering rim or the pedals and whisper words of encouragement like some of the best cars I’ve ever known.

But over 500 km driving range on battery power and not a bead of sweat on my forehead hustling through four counties in one day? With reliable fast charging at the other end on the Tesla Supercharger network? Maybe we need a new definition of ‘best’ at Changing Lanes!

The undeniable magnificent battery technology, next level operating and design mean this car has and will continue to attract its own loyal following. It remains a status symbol of futurism and cleverness, and reassures that someday we won’t talk about cars and electric cars as if one is somehow compromised over the other. Just cars that can take you from A to B.

Caroline behind the wheel of the 2021 Tesla Model 3!
Caroline behind the wheel of the 2021 Tesla Model 3!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Tesla Model 3 Long Range Dual Motor All Wheel Drive
Price: 
€58,990
Battery: 
75 kWh
Range (WLTP): 580 km
Top speed: 233 km/h
Acceleration (0-100 km/h): 4.4 seconds
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 0 g/km
Motor Tax: 
€120 per year