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Review: Tesla Model 3: Elon Musk's mass-market car is a magic carpet ride

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

And the Model 3's Autopark system is very effective. As a notoriously bad parallel parker, I was delighted to see how well the 3 angled into tight spaces without any driver input.

I could quibble about the clunkiness of the suspension damping, which seemed to amplify the impact of certain potholes, and about the squeaky front left body panel -- things that would not be noticeable on a gas-powered car but stood out in the silence of the electric 3, and would drive me nuts if I'd paid top price for the car and then waited so long to get it.

Over three days of driving, while I was enjoying the acceleration and silent sporty feel of the 3, I didn't do a very good job of maximizing range. Though the unit I drove was fitted with the $9,000 "long-range battery" upgrade -- as well as other upgrades for the enhanced Autopilot, premium interior, special wheels and special paint -- I found I had only 52 percent of battery power remaining after I'd driven my first 100 miles, suggesting that my total distance between recharges would be closer to 220 miles than the promised 310, unless I began driving more conservatively.

That should be easy on the Model 3. Unlike the Models S and X, there are no driving modes on this mass-market car. There's no "chill" mode, for relaxed, range-extending driving, and there's no "insane" or "ludicrous" mode, for maximum acceleration.

Will owners like their cars? That may depend on which 3 they've ordered. I drove the top-of-the-line version but wasn't able to test or even see one of the base models. So it's difficult to know just how stripped-down a stripped-down model would feel.

It also may depend, after the long wait and resulting high expectations, on what drivers think they're buying. If they've driven an S or X and are expecting the same build quality and performance, they may be disappointed. If they've never driven an electric car, they'll be blown away.


Times' take: The most eagerly awaited car in history delivers

Highs: Brilliant design; loaded with technology

Lows: Base model trim level may disappoint

Vehicle type: Four-door, five-passenger sedan


Base price: $35,000

Price as tested: $57,500

Powertrain: Lithium-ion battery, permanent magnet electric motor

Transmission: Direct rear-wheel drive

Battery range: 220 miles on base model, 310 miles on long-range model

EPA fuel economy rating: 131 miles per gallon equivalent city / 120 highway / 126 combined

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