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2024 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range – or how I learned to stop worrying and love the drive.

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Tesla has been having a moment recently. With the release of the Cybertruck marred with absolute hilarity and memes, and the recent Model 3 getting absolutely dunked on for its stalkless steering column (Despite the fact that the Model S had that for quite some time, but regardless) by countless reviewers, as well as their… recent flops in fiscal performance, the recent reductions in Q1 deliveries… Yeah. Not so great on paper, right?

This for a brief while, made me consider the purchase of yet another ICEV, because EVs have had a bit of a slump recently. EV prices have gotten quite expensive, and the circumstances around my charging situation briefly made me reconsider whether or not I can even make one work in the first place. For that time, I was considering a ND3 Mazda MX5. I even got the chance to sit in one. It was nice. But when it came time to test drive one, the Salesperson at the Mazda dealer said that they’d have a ND3 GT RS in for me to test next week, but well… They reneged on that offer.

That lead me back to considering testing someting else. I decided that perhaps if i took a drive of Tesla’s latest creation, the refreshed Model 3, (also known as the “Highland” after its internal codename got leaked from Tesla by avid fans of the car.) that perhaps my mind would be changed… After all, with its recent price cuts as of the time of writing, as well as my previous dealings with Tesla’s dealership in Osborne park, I might be able to perhaps score a slightly longer drive than 30 minutes to see if I can make it work.

Well, good news. I am beginning to actually see what Teslas and indeed, current-day electric cars are supposed to be about. Comfort, simplicity, and just making the act of driving as seamless as possible. In short, I love this car. It’s wonderful. Nicer than the previous model, and a great contender for being at the top of my next vehicle list.

Part 1: Addressing the elephant, or rather, lack-thereof, in the room.

It’s no surprise that Tesla’s been doing some real controversial stuff lately when it comes to its designs. It all started with the Model S’s Yoke steering wheel design. Initially touted as a way to make it harder to block the dashboard with your hands, it was a controversial statement about the direction that Tesla was going to take. The yoke, was a signal that Tesla was working on something that’d make the need for a “wheel” less necessary. This would end up being the Steer-by-wire system in the Cybertruck, with its Squircle steering wheel shape, but seeing as the 48V system and the Steer-by-wire system was not really ready yet, they thought, well, “let’s chuck the yoke in for a larf. It’ll get clicks, yeah?”

On top of this, with the Yoke addition, came the stalkless design, with touch-screen shifting. The aim here was to have the car select a gear for you, based upon what the cameras can spot around it. If it detects a wall on the rear stereo cameras? No problem. It’ll select the drive gear for you. The touch-screen was to be a manual override, or as a way to switch directions. Oh, and for legal reasons? There’s a hidden gear selector in the centre console, but you ideally shouldn’t have to use that.

The new Model 3, is basically a case of “Honey, I shrunk the Model S” but with less controversy and a more cohesive ethos. It retained the stalkless design, the screen shifting, and the backup touch buttons for gear selection, albeit in the overhead compartment where the reading lights are, and a sunglass holder would normally be. It ditches the more unconventional yoke for a conventional circular steering wheel, which feels meaty, and it also has nice little sculpted thumb rests where you can comfortably rest them. (Because you know, you really should be driving with your thumbs resting on the wheel, not in it)

So did I find the choice to ditch stalks for buttons and screen gear selection a pain? Absolutely not. I got used to it in about five seconds or so. This is mostly because I prepared myself for the whole experience beforehand, and did a little “button-to-stalk” association with the current ICEV I drive, my partner’s Getz. Basically, i tapped the steering wheel with my left thumb in the approximate location as to where the buttons would be, and It was relatively easy. The good thing is, Tesla gives you a notch on the indicator side of the wheel so you can feel around for where the buttons actually are. Want to indicate left out of a roundabout when the wheel is upside-down? No worries. Just tap the top right side of the wheel. What’s pretty brilliant about this implementation is that when you switch lanes you don’t have to “force-cancel” the blinkers. It does what the old car does, and detects that you’ve switched lanes, therefore it’s safe to cancel the blinker. It still doesn’t auto-cancel for roundabouts, but seeing as different countries have different laws regarding roundabout signalling, it’ll be pretty tricky to program the car for each country it’s released in. A simple tap of the current indicated direction will cancel the signal.

As for the screen-based gear shift? Once again, this wasn’t a big deal for me. Push the car forward to go forward, push the car in reverse to go into reverse, push the P button to Park. Never needed to use the overhead selector at all, but it’s good knowing there’s a backup, just in case.

Now the real question is. Was all this necessary? Absolutely not. The stalk based design is much more ergonomic and usable by more people. If Tesla aims to get people into EVs, doing so in a way that scares as few people as possible from the idea is something that has to be done. This is what Polestar recognises and indeed does with the Polestar 2, because cars, especially electric cars, need to be somewhat “normal” for people to accept them. Changes need to be gradual and slow. EVs already cop a bad rap from some people for being too weird, the last thing we need is to make them even weirder.

However, is this a decent implementation of a stalkless design? Yeah. I have never experienced Ferrari’s or Lamborghini’s implementations of a stalkless steering wheel, but from what I know, Ferrari uses buttons on either side above the spokes for signals, and Lamborghini uses a motorcycle-esque toggle switch on the left side, as a subtle little nod to the fact that VW owns Ducati. Both of these look like ergonomically usable implementations, but with an actual purpose, to declutter the steering column to make way for paddle shifters. Tesla on the other hand, doesn’t have a need for paddle shifters, due to the fact that it’s an EV, and in EVs, paddles are used to adjust the level of regenerative braking (as seen from the likes of Mercedes and Hyundai/Kia’s EVs). Tesla wants you to use one-pedal drive as much as possible to harvest energy from the car as it slows down, so instead their reasoning is different. It’s to “declutter” the interior, or in other words, save RnD costs.

Surely though, the cost of implementing an already-designed stalk set would not be that much right? Well… Probably not, but at the same time, it’s less part cost for Tesla. It makes them more money. It is a business after all, and the good thing about Teslas is that because they are backed by an avid enthusiast community, the aftermarket will always be your saviour when it comes to stalks.

Part 2: Getting settled in.

The car’s interior, stalks notwithstanding, is definitely a lot better than the previous Model 3. Tesla has made huge, bold statements about how their focus of this generation of Model 3 isn’t sportiness, but comfort, so much so that their recent release of the Model 3 Performance takes potential buyers to a separated page on their website with unique bumpfs about the car and its overall design changes. They want the base Model 3 to be a comfortable daily driver, with an emphasis on reducing noise.

This shows with the changes in the usage of materials. The door cards themselves are lined with a fabric weave that reminds me of springboards used for acoustic dampening in offices. There’s acoustic glass on all four windows now, and much larger, flatter areas with bigger material sections to absorb more sound. The previous model 3 felt a little echoey, the current one? It feels… A little bit like i’m in an amateur recording studio. Not anything like say, a proper setup with well-tuned acoustic panelling and such, but like, something that you’d scratch together with a bunch of timber, earthwool and eBay acoustic panels. There’s still a tiny bit of reverb, but not so much that it’s noticeable by most.

Then there’s the sound deadening. If I was to say, run over the catseyes in the middle of the road in say, the Getz, you’d hear a pretty loud “dah-duh” coming from the shock of running them over just ricocheting around the chassis. Likewise in the Commodore, which, keep in mind has a whole ton of padding (not literally) in the carpets, door cards and so on. The Tesla takes this to a whole new level, at least in my experience. It felt a lot quieter, more like the Polestar 2 I drove earlier than the previous Model 3. (Trust me here, that comparison is going to come up, a lot.)

If you’ve driven a Tesla before, most of what makes a Tesla a Tesla lies in the massive display in the centre of the dashboard, in that massive 15-ish inch infotainment display. Now, i’ve been reading a lot into Tesla and how its kinda sorta handles its electronics side of things. From what little cursory reading i’ve done, Powering this display and in particular, the HMI and Infotainment side of things, is a Ryzen CPU with a built in graphics chip that’s similar in horsepower to what’s found in the Valve Steam Deck, except this time it’s free to go absolutely ham sandwich thanks to its liquid cooling block. This chip is what drives the MCU, or Main Control Unit, which is what Tesla refers the display to. The MCU runs a highly modified version of Linux, with a proprietary interface on top. This is akin to the same way that Apple can say that MacOS is based on Unix. For those who don’t know, MacOS is based on a Unix operating system previously called NeXtSTEP, which in and of itself is based on the Mach kernel. Apple’s more proprietary version of this Kernel is hilariously called XNU, short for “X’s Not Unix” in the same way as GNU means “GNU’s Not Unix”.

The MCU shares a liquid cooling block with the much more powerful FSD computer, which uses a pair of Samsung-Exynos based ARM CPUs with 20 performance cores, for a total of 40 cores of computing horsepower that draws no more than 200W at full tilt. This basically gives this FSD computer about the same level of horsepower as the performance cores of two-and-a-bit specced up Apple M2 Ultra chips. All this grunt is absolutely necessary, as it has to process the video from about 10-12 cameras in real time, with a resolution that’s just a hair over 1440p per camera. There’s also a bunch of specially designed memory and video controllers which handle the inputs of the video. It uses these cameras in stereo pairs for its range-finding, in the same way as you would to roughly guesstimate how far ahead of the car in from you are using your own sense of depth perception. Tesla’s philosophy here being that if it can see like a human, then eventually it can drive like one. The additional cameras basically end up substituting head-checks that you as a human driver would normally do when switching lanes and so on, since it’s a lot less expensive to just add more cameras than it is to make a swivelling mechanism that like, does head-checks or whatever.

I’m not an engineer, okay, just a guy who fuck-arses around with cars.

Anyways, it’s pretty neat tech, and so long as you’re just pootling along, it does a pretty decent job when it comes to keeping you centred in lanes and such. It even uses these cameras to cancel your turn signals, when you change lanes, which makes the use of those buttons a lot easier than their terrible ergonomics would have you believe.

Teslas do a lot of really complicated things behind the scenes whilst all wrapping them in a simple-ish to use package that, whilst it takes some getting used to, it becomes pretty easy to operate once you’re used to it.

In some ways as well the relocation of some elements of control to the steering wheel, such as the light controls for your lights and your wipers, is a welcome change from having to dig through the screen for these settings. Want to give someone a friendly light flash to let them know it’s safe to pass? tap the light button once and it’ll flash your brights. Want to turn on your wipers? No problem. Tap the wiper button once to do a quick wipe, press and hold to do a wet wipe, or if you want to turn them on, just double tap the button and it turns on to speed 1, triple-tap for speed 2, quad-tap for speed 3. Don’t use the auto wipers. They suck, apparently.

Part 3: So, how does it feel to drive?

Like a goddamn cloud. Seriously, the suspension tweaks, seating changes and interior changes as I mentioned before, make it feel like you’re wafting gently on the wind in total silence. Tesla did say they were focusing on comfort without compromising handling, and by golly did they do that well. I’m not too experienced with luxury cars in terms of their ride comfort, but this car’s variable frequency response dampers did a fantastic job soaking up the rough bumps of Tonkin Highway, they did a really good job on rougher roads in and around the city, and when the roads got smooth, by golly was it comfortable.

The seats as well reminded me of an old Volvo. Plush yet supportive. The seat ventilation was also a real welcome touch. The heating works very well too and my dear partner loved the fact that it can keep you warm without the use of the HVAC system (which is, let’s be real here, better for overall efficiency). She’s also not a huge fan of leather/leatherette seats, (these seats are of the latter variety, a PU seat made by Ultraleather), but the perforations in the seats made them feel less “sticky” than standard leather seats, something which the ventilators will come in real handy to help stop.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for? The acceleration. The one thing that always brings me back to EVs is the roll-on acceleration they have, even in lower-spec models. Because torque requests don’t have to wait, you get a level of throttle responsiveness you usually only get in engines equipped with ITBs. Sure, you don’t get the godlike induction noise that ITBs deliver, but you do get a subtle little “whoooooom” from the rear motor as the drive inverter pumps electrons through the stator windings as the car shoves you forward. Sure, 0-100kph in six seconds seems quite slow, but let’s think about this realistically. Who the hell is doing 0-100 on a daily? Most of the time in traffic you want torque to squeeze past trucks or between cars, and what this Tesla does, is allows you to think more like a motorcycle when driving. Wanna pass that 18-wheeler? No problem. No need to drop a gear and disappear, just mash the throttle and rocket forward. To ICEV drivers, imagine a big, well tuned V8 engine that’s constantly locked in say, third gear.

Speaking of getting stuck in a gear, regenerative braking is something that a lot of ICEV drivers won’t be too familiar with, so the best way to explain it, is to imagine you’re in a manual-powered car, and you’re using your engine to slow down when downshifting. the Regen braking in a Tesla is a lot like shifting your car into second just before the lights to reduce wear on your brakes. This kind of driving is actually good for an EV as it’ll harvest energy from the motor to slow you down and give a little bit of energy back to your battery pack. Anyone as well who is familiar with driving an RC car with a little bit of drag brake enabled would be familiar with regenerative braking on throttle lift-off. In this case, you use the throttle to modulate your car in corners, which ends up being quicker than the few milliseconds used to shift your finger back to the brake side of the throttle arm on your radio.

Tesla’s regen braking comes on quite progressively and strongly. It takes some time getting used to it after driving an ICEV for almost a year since my last Tesla drive, but once I got used to it, it was basically effortless. Realistically you can use the middle pedal to slow down in an emergency, and thanks to the Tesla’s massive (by comparison to my current car) 4-piston callipers up front, there’s more than enough stopping power to stop you in a pinch if the Hydraulics are needed. The brakes on Teslas will more than likely be used so little that you may even have to burnish the rotors to clean rust off of them. I would advise people to use the brakes occasionally to slow down so that there’s no rust buildup on the rotors… And make sure the slides are lubricated at least once a year.

The steering is very… Video-gamey. Okay, do you remember those old SEGA Rally cabinets you used to play at Leisure Island or Timezone? Okay, imagine that, but with a tiiiiiny bit more feedback. The steering feel is very Toyota-esque. over-boosted, with only a little bit of feedback. The rate of responsiveness to input however will have you feeling like the car is more agile than it should be. You go from shifting your perception of where the car is going away from the steering wheel and more towards the actual shift in weight you feel in cornering.

The mass of the car is about 1700kg, however the car feels a lot lighter than this thanks to that effortless steering and acceleration, and the powerful brakes. It’s got no business turning as quickly as it does, but with the large bulk of the weight of the vehicle being way, way down low under the floor in that massive battery pack, it has the centre-of-gravity of a worm. As such cornering feels planted, confident and when combined with the dampers and steering, you can still chuck this car about just as well as the old one, only this time you can feel like you’re driving a Lexus one minute, and then a Toyota 86 the next. Well, a very fat, very roly-poly Toyota 86, but still.

I think though that the philosophy of what this car is all about is best shown when you get out of the car and look at it from the front and the back.

Part 4: Looks. Same, same, but kinda different.

The looks of the Model 3 are both familiar, yet new. It still retains that coupe-like shape, with a swooping roofline, muscular haunches, and the same annoying-for-normies flushmount door handles we’ve come to love, and in some cases, hate from Tesla. Franz Von Holzhausen has done a pretty good job tidying up the looks of his previous creation, whilst still retaining what made the Model 3 so iconic in the first place.

Great example? The rear tail lights. Whilst they adopt a brand new design that’s incorporated into the rear tailgate, minimising the chances of leaks and condensation issues, they still retail a very similar overall shape when you draw an imaginary border around where the lights go. There’s a bit more of a protruded spoiler. The headlights got thinner, to bring it just that little bit closer to the Model S in terms of looks. In addition there’s been a bit of a cleanup going on with the front end, with the removal of the dimples the old Model 3 had from the front bar, and a slight kickup at the rear of the hood, which apparently, according to Tesla, helps to cut down on wind noise.

The parking bays in my apartment complex are… small, to say the least. They basically are the bare minimum needed to meet the building code requirements. As such people have a habit of hitting poles when reversing. The camera systems and the neat little trick the passenger-side mirror does by dipping down slightly when reversing, help to make parking a breeze, and despite the Commodore-esque fender flares, its more modest size, (being just a hair bigger than a Toyota Corolla) makes it an easy fit in these tiny parking bays.

Tesla has also taken the aftermarket community to heart and incorporated a couple of aftermarket common mods into the design. For example, the charging pad is now lined with Alcantara, and the rear badging reads “T E S L A” instead of the classic T logo (which fun fact for anyone out there, is modelled off of a diagram of the stator windings of an AC Induction motor.) there’s also an LED light strip in the interior, which is customisable to suit the colour preferences of the driver who’s behind the wheel. If I do decide to buy this car? I’ll probably leave these on white. The cabin feels comfortable, spacious and airy, even though it seems Australian models get a darker roof tint than normal. Good news for my dear partner then. Speaking of her needs, the dashboard is also really quite low, which means shorter drivers can such as herself can easily see over the dashboard. Forward visibility is fantastic. The forward centre console in front of the cupholders, is big enough to fit a smallish women’s handbag and have the lid close properly.

All in all, this is very easily recognisable as a Model 3. Hopefully if it ever comes out, Project Juniper (aka. the refreshed Model Y) will bring some of these features across. I got a friend who really wants one!

Part 5: Making an EV work for my apartment.

So yeah, I live in an apartment complex, and the charging situation will be, let’s just say interesting to say the least. In Australia we have a lot of these complexes, where they consist of two stories of apartments spread out over several blocks of two, four, six, and so on units. In my particular complex, I’m in luck, because firstly, I live in Australia, where we have an entirely seperate industrial plug standard, and we have that tasty 240V power, and secondly, because I am situated right next to open-use visitor bays where I can easily park the car with a simple plug arrangement.

They say that sometimes overengineering is the best engineering, so with a little pluck and my trusty Snapmaker Artisan, i’m thinking of making some sort of pulley system to go over the capping of my balcony, that’s attached to said balcony by means of using some really, really strong magnets I pilfered from an IKEA knife holder. You also get to see how messy my handwriting is. Yay!

There’s also been some recent studies that Fast Charging does not contribute significantly to battery degradation, and as a result this makes living with an EV just that little bit easier. Even if the visitor bay is full, the pulley system really only needs to get the plug down to arm’s level. Then, it’s as simple as screwing in the IP67 GPO modified version of a Tesla UMC into said cable, locking the charger in and securing the plug to the fence of the apartment below with a non-destructive clip, and then parking in any bay that is within two bays either side of the one shown in the previous photo. I’d only have to be parked there for a mere 5 hours if the battery’s at 80% to get it back up to 100%. (1.8kW is the maximum rate in which a standard 10A socket can charge, given an 8A limit on consistent current)

Is this sketchy? Sure. But it’s a temporary solution until I can conduct at least a year’s worth of EV charging in order to present our council of owners an overall energy consumption report that’ll inform them of how demanding an EV is going to be.

Part 6: Contemplation on the drive home.

So once midday came, we knew that it was time to head back. We took a different route. I pulled up the energy panel to see how we were doing in terms of energy consumption and well, to say that I was impressed was an understatement. 13.5kWh/100km. To put that into perspective? That’s roughly 1.8L/100km equivalent in an ICEV.

To get all this car, the performance, the technology, the practicality of literally having two boots with one of those boots containing… More boot below the floor, cavernous amounts of interior storage space, an on-board security system, it made me think why I even considered an MX5 in the first place. I think the main reason why I thought about it was perhaps if I did end up buying one of those, I’d be trying to reclaim the past a little. I would be looking backwards. Now I have yet to try out the ND MX5, but the entire premise of the MX5 is to inject a little driving joy into even the dreariest of days. The entire point, is to make a depressing commute more exciting by encouraging you to take the winding back roads. Dodge the freeway, drive a little.

I think the Tesla, eases your anxieties about driving. The entire purpose of that vehicle, baffling controls notwithstanding, is to attempt to make driving as anxiety-free and as effortless as possible. Scared that a truck’s going to hit you from behind? no problem, you have all the torque in the world to get out of the way of even the angriest driver. Want to change songs but don’t want to dig through a mountain of menus? No problem. Let the voice commands handle it. Worried about range? Sure, we all are, but Tesla’s Supercharger network as the networks of pretty much every other EV charging company has you covered there too. (All thanks to Tesla adopting the CCS2 standard here in Australia). Worried about taking your car in for a service? Fugghedaboutit, Tesla comes to you.

This car’s entire purpose is to make driving easier for normies. It’s to make the experience of driving, a chore which frankly, not a lot of people really want to do, so much easier. No need to worry about fuel when you charge at home. No need to worry about passing when you’ve got a surge of grunt. No need to worry about servicing, when you rarely even have to do it, and even then, if it does get done the guys come to you. No need to worry about thieves breaking into your fancypants new car, when you can lock the car with a PIN code to stop people from stealing it, even if they nick your phone or your wallet.

In a way it offers an entirely different experience to what you’re probably used to. Elon’s vision is to basically get the car to eventually drive itself anyway, so why bother making the car a curated experience car like the MX5 is. Just make it as practical of a car as is feasible, make it as affordable as possible, and pack it full of stuff that makes normies think “wow! that guy’s made it.” or “wow, that thing’s cool as hell”

In a way a Model 3 is kinda like a Macbook or an iPhone. Sure, it’s quite literally the default choice, but it’s the default choice for a reason, and what level of default choice you make is entirely dependent on how good of a choice you want to make. Want the basics? Get a Model 3 Standard range. Want a bit more Pizazz and more endurance? Get the Model 3 Long Range. Want to blow the doors off of pretty much anything outside of high end supercars at the lights, whilst also hauling several people in the process? Go buy a Model 3 Performance. In Apple terms? iPhone, iPhone Pro, iPhone Pro Max. Macbook Air, Macbook Pro with a Pro chip, Macbook Pro with a Max chip. All default choices for tech products, all great choices for tech products. I say this as i’m plinking away on an M1P MBP.

This is a car that does have its enthusiasts, in the same way that Macs have enthusiasts. It’s just a different way to do cars. This does come at the cost of repairability for some components, sure, but who’s out here fixing their Macbooks. Take care of what you own and you’ll never have to fix it.

I mill around several Discord groups for both Teslas and Electric Vehicles as a whole. The EV community is friendly and enthusiastic. Tesla bros can be a mixed bag, depending on whether or not they like or dislike Elon. I’m in the latter camp. He’s too Henry Ford for my liking. But, that’s still not going to stop me from buying a Model 3. What will stop me, is whether or not I find a more compelling offer from an EV than this. The Model 3 is efficient, comfortable, practical and it goes like stink. It’s also cool as all hell. But coolness is subjective. Some would argue that I should get a Long Range, or perhaps spend a little more and get say, a Polestar, which in my opinion, looks nicer. But there’s a reason why there’s such a good following behind the Model 3. It’s the same reason why so many people buy Camries or Corollas. They’re ubiquitous and common. They’re the default option for a reason. People have enough decisions to make in their lives, why bother with that whole dealership negotiation debacle when you can literally buy a car through your phone.

It even came through in the customer service when we returned back to the dealership. They were friendly to me. They didn’t see me as another tirekicker. The experience was a lot like the time I went to look at the Lexus UX300e, which is on paper, a pretty bad car. But the dealer was at least friendly and nice to us. Tesla salespeople seem to be enthusiastic about the brand. Tesla owners seem to enjoy their cars. Some get enthused about FSD, others like the convenience of at-home charging, but most of them seem to be pretty cool people.

You can easily separate a car from its present or previous CEOs and its present or previous history. People who buy Fords, Mitsubishis, Mercedes and Volkswagens do it all the time. Ford’s a brand founded by a raging antisemite. Mercedes unabashedly supported Hitler during WWII. Volkswagen was literally created because Hitler was apeing Henry Ford’s idea of a “People’s car.” Mitsubishi built planes that would eventually bomb Pearl Harbor and Darwin, the very city I was born in.

It helps to detach the product from the person who runs the company, and instead look at it for what it is. What it is, is the car at the top of my list.

If this is the car I end up with next. I can’t wait to drive one again.

Beano out.