First Drivers of Model 3 Rave Mostly About Minimalist Interior

By · August 01, 2017

Tesla Model 3 dash

Tesla achieved a major milestone in its corporate strategy on Friday night when it handed keys over to the first 30 drivers of its so-called first affordable electric car, the Model 3. Those drivers are all employees who will provide important feedback to engineers about the car’s daily operation. While the company has perhaps as many as a half-million customers waiting to complete a purchase (according to CEO Elon Musk)—and therefore doesn’t need to garner more publicity or sales—a number of fans and journalists were granted their first few minutes of seat time last week. The chorus of feedback focused on the minimalist interior that uses a single 15-inch touchscreen instead of any buttons, knobs, dials, or gauges on the dashboard.

That’s right. Every aspect of the car’s operation—including AC adjustments, positioning the mirrors, and even opening the glove box—is controlled by the screen. Drivers will have to grow accustomed to looking slightly to the right to get vehicle information that usually appears in an instrument cluster. But most of the first drivers appreciated how much the all-important screen frees the dashboard from any design elements or distractions. Many also explained that, while the Model 3 is not yet an autonomous car, relegating vehicle functions to the iPad-like interface was one of the auto industry’s biggest steps so far in that direction.

There were more remarks focusing on the absence of things rather than their presence. For example, the Model 3 does not use a conventional key or fob. Instead, a phone-based app and Bluetooth connectivity take care of the same functions. Also, there’s no hatch in back. Instead, the Model 3 has a conventional and generous trunk. The Model 3’s DNA—and its production strategy—is all about minimalism.

It's a Tesla

While there have also been plenty of comments about the Model 3’s quick acceleration and taut handling, observations about the car’s driving manners were not news. It’s simply no longer surprising that a Tesla—or for that matter, an EV—excels at providing rapid acceleration, a low center of gravity, and a quiet refined ride. Review after review from the first drivers claim, “It’s still a Tesla.” Or, “It’s not as fast as a Model S, but it’s still very fast.” Depending on which of the two versions of the Model 3 that you’re driving, the zero-to-60 speed is between five and six seconds. (For comparison, the Chevy Bolt is less than seven seconds.)

As Electrek pointed out as if to summarize, the Model 3 is like a “~20-percent smaller Model S with a design refresh.”

There’s another striking similarity between the Model S and the Model 3: the pricing strategy. While the much-publicized goal of Tesla’s affordable sedan is to hit the $35,000 mark—the approximate average transaction paid by US car buyers—very few Model 3 purchasers will drive off for that amount.

In the coming months, Tesla will be focusing its production on the $44,000 faster model with 310 miles of range—rather than the $35,000 220-mile variant. Add-ons for a premium interior, advanced tech features, and bigger wheels will push the price even higher (as it does with all vehicles). According to Motor Trend, the fully loaded gorgeous Model 3 that Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer, was driving last week would be priced closer to $60,000.

Tesla deserves big-time kudos for putting its first production Model 3 cars on the road—ahead of schedule. It already feels like the more affordable electric sedan is a critical success. But as media reports—and Mr. Musk himself declares—the true test lies ahead: making the car in high enough numbers to meet demand.

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