There’s more to Elon Musk’s model for the masses than meets the eye

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - ASH WESTERMAN

SLID­ING INTO the driver’s seat of Tesla’s Model 3 is ini­tially a lit­tle star­tling. It’s like com­ing home to find your sleek Scan­di­na­vian­in­spired apart­ment has been bur­gled, and all that’s been left by the thiev­ing bas­tards is your ipad.

So my first ques­tion is: do you still call an in­stru­ment panel by that name if there are no in­stru­ments in­volved? ‘Min­i­mal­ist’ doesn’t even be­gin to de­scribe it. Any­way, get fa­mil­iar with that 15.0-inch tablet, be­cause ev­ery­thing – from ad­just­ing the height and reach of the wheel, even open­ing the boot and frunk – are con­trolled from here. There’s no head-up dis­play, so you’ll need to glance side­ways at the tablet to mon­i­tor your speed. Er­gonom­i­cally op­ti­mised? I’m not so sure.

Good thing it drives well. We sam­pled the top-spec Per­for­mance model, with a 188kw mo­tor on the rear axle, a 147kw unit up front, and a 75kw/h bat­tery pro­vid­ing a real-world range in ex­cess of 430km. At $92,000, it un­der­cuts the likes of the Mercedes-amg C43 ($108K) and Audi’s tasty S4 ($99K), but smokes both of them with claimed 0-100km/h ac­cel­er­a­tion of 3.4 sec­onds, along with an am­ple 260km/h top speed. All of which it man­ages with just one gear.

Throt­tle tip-in at low speed is per­fectly judged, but give it a proper squirt and the in­stan­ta­neous wal­lop of torque has the 20-inch Miche­lins claw­ing at the tar­mac and brings the scenery rush­ing through the screen, with lit­tle more than the sound of dis­turbed air

around the mirrors and faint thrum of rub­ber on bi­tu­men.

Dy­nam­ics? It car­ries the bulk of its 1900kg mass low, but the chas­sis still has more roll than you’d ideally like in hard driv­ing – there are no adap­tive dampers of­fered – and given the speed at which you ar­rive at cor­ners, the brakes cop a huge test. In nor­mal driv­ing, though, with re­gen op­er­at­ing, the brake pedal will ac­tu­ally see bug­ger all use.

Steer­ing is su­per quick at 2.0 turns lock-to-lock, but pro­vides lit­tle road feel. Drive the 3 pre­cisely, how­ever, and it re­wards with plenty of lat­eral grip, and loads of trac­tion that just sling­shots the car from apex to exit.

Lug­gage space is gen­er­ous. The boot is big, the seats split-fold 60/40, and the front trunk will swal­low a slab or big duf­fel bag. But it’s the rear seat that’s some­thing of a con­cern. The seat base is low, but the floor is high to ac­com­mo­date the bat­ter­ies, so adult pas­sen­gers will find their knees bent at an acute an­gle.

But all this re­ally only scratches the sur­face of the Model 3. There’s so much more to this car, in­clud­ing its safety story and self-driv­ing ca­pa­bil­ity. Elon’s next chap­ter is only just be­gin­ning.

Model Tesla Model 3 Per­for­mance Motors Asyn­chronous (f); per­ma­nent mag­net (r) Bat­tery 75kw/h Max power 335kw Max torque 640Nm @ 0rpm Trans­mis­sion sin­gle-speed re­duc­tion gear Weight 1900kg (es­ti­mated) 0-100km/h 3.4sec (claimed) Econ­omy 18kw/h/100km (es­ti­mated) Price $91,200 On sale Now

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