The Tesla Model 3 raked in the sales across Australia last year, and although there might be a spot of bother with supply at the moment, it shows no sign of slowing down.
According to the Electric Vehicle Council, 15,054 units of this electric American sedan were sold in 2021. And while Tesla is coy about releasing exact sales data for the ACT, we already know we are taking up EVs faster than anywhere else in the country. Couple this with a quick look around the street and it’s clear the Tesla Model 3 is the new fidget spinner: everyone has to have one.
The reason, as I see it, is simple.
While parked, select ‘Toybox’ on the enormous 15-inch touchscreen taking pride of place inside, and there are many childish gadgets to choose from.
The ‘Light Show’ option flashes the lights and raises and lowers the windows in time to music, the ‘Sketch Pad’ is for when you get bored at traffic lights and feel like a doodle, and there’s a virtual fireplace to make for a romantic evening in the Tesla. Last but not least, there’s essentially a digital whoopee cushion. You can even adjust it so the ‘noise’ comes from a different seat.
Then there is ‘Arcade’, giving you the option of watching YouTube and Netflix or playing a video game, using the steering wheel as your controller.
It’s clear Elon Musk and his design team are having a lot of fun. But for those of us over the age of 10, you’ll be glad to know the allure of the Tesla goes deeper than fart sounds.
Car manufacturers had been lazily toying with the idea of moving away from fossil fuel for decades when Tesla barged in and flipped the board with the Model S in 2012. EVs suddenly became serious business because, suddenly, Tesla had made them cool.
But while other car brands had to grapple with decades of old-fashioned internal-combustion thinking, Tesla was starting with a blank sheet of paper. The scope was endless, so it obviously seemed right and proper to not only design an EV from the ground up but also rethink the entire concept of the car.
Can you feel this difference out on the long straights and curling corners of Old Cooma Road? In short, no.
Nothing is coming through your hands or the seat of your pants that really sets the Tesla apart from your electric Volvo XC40. It handles flat – as something with a tonne of batteries level with the wheels should, the steering is pin-sharp, and the suspension is so good you don’t notice it.
In this dual-motor Performance spec, it is fighter-jet quick, though. Tesla claims a 0-100 km/h time of 3.3 seconds, which is what some Ferraris dream about at night. Bury your foot in the carpet and it’s all over before your brains, eyes and stomach have even started reeling.
It is astonishing and would be addictive if it weren’t for the fact your whole body is aching before too long. At a moment like this, it’s touching Tesla has installed ‘Auto Pilot’. Double-tap downwards on the gear shift lever on the steering wheel and the driving will be done for you.
I would normally argue that driving will be more interesting than whatever is going past the window, but it is nice to sit back and smell the roses occasionally. You will still have to keep a hand on the wheel, though.
Presumably, because there was never an engine under the bonnet, the front end tapers off quite quickly which, in turn, makes the roof appear too high for the rest of the body. Some might find the innards too bare too. And the massive screen is nice in theory, but it does make keeping an eye on your speed a little awkward, which is important, given your access to near-boundless torque.
But this is nit-picking. Where the Tesla really stands out is in every other area. If there’s ever a bug, there’ll be an over-the-air software update coming its way. If I want more range, the car will show me where the next charge point is and prepare the battery for the fastest charge possible. If my daughter wants to use the car in years to come, I could limit the speed to 10 km/h from the Tesla mobile app in my hands.
It’s clear Tesla has hauled car-dom into the smartphone age. Some of it is gimmicky and silly, and you’ll use it once and never again, but a lot of it is just delightfully clean and simple.
The cheapest Model 3 can be yours for $63,900, while this Performance model comes in at $91,800 (including $2,900 for the dashing red paint). So it isn’t what you’d call ‘cheap’. And you have to wait six to nine months after placing your online order.
But we can still be glad it’s here. After all, Tesla gave the world the first electric car you’d actually want, so what’s stopping it from giving the world a fart mode?
Tesla Model 3 Performance
- $91,800 (as tested)
- Dual motors, all-wheel drive, 377 kW
- 0-100 km/h in 3.3 seconds
- Estimated range: 615 km
- 1,844 kg.
This car was provided for testing by Tesla Australia. Region Media has no commercial arrangement with Tesla Australia.