Sunday, January 12, 2020

Tesla Model 3 Review at 10,000 Miles

After exactly five months, we just reached 10,000 miles with our Tesla Model 3. Every mile has been amazing.

We picked up our Tesla the day after we returned from Kenya. We ordered it while still overseas and requested a delivery date the week we returned, which worked out perfectly. Tesla does not haggle on pricing, so every vehicle is purchased through the website even if you go to a showroom in person. There was an option either to have the car delivered to our address or to pick it up from a service center, but I read that it's best to choose the service center in case there are any minor defects that can be resolved on the spot. The delivery specialist at the Tysons Corner service center had us fill out some basic paperwork, and we carefully checked over the car for any flaws. There was some minor residue from shipping that they cleaned off immediately, but there was also a noticeable misalignment where the top glass met the windshield which we scheduled to be fixed at a later time. We collected our key cards (there are no traditional keys; you normally use your phone and have the key cards as a backup) and off we went.

Driving a Tesla is unlike anything else. Since there are no gears to shift, all of the power is available the moment you press the accelerator—and there is no shortage of power. The Model 3 currently comes in three variations, including the low-end Standard Range Plus RWD (250mi, 5.3s 0-60), up to the high-end Performance AWD version (310mi, 3.2s 0-60). We choose the intermediate option, the Long Range AWD which gets 322 miles of range and goes from 0 to 60 mph in 4.4s. (N is reminded of the specs everytime we are at the front of the line at a stop light.) When you do have to slow down, you almost never need to move your foot. The electric motors of the car will use friction not only to slow down the car, but also charge the battery at the same time. This is referred to as regenerative braking. It's called one-pedal driving since you only have to manipulate the accelerator both to speed up and slow down, and you'll never want to go back to two pedals after you get used to it.

Even if you are not interested in the performance aspects or do not like driving at all, a Tesla is still the best vehicle you can buy. Tesla's full-featured autopilot is years ahead of any other manufacturer's, and it makes even stop-and-go traffic manageable. It uses eight cameras and various sensors to recognize the entire environment and drive accordingly. Also, since the Tesla has few moving parts, there is practically no scheduled maintenance. Other than tires and windshield wipers, which need to be periodically replaced on any car, there are only a few things to be checked every few years. Even the brake pads rarely get replaced due to the regenerative braking. It's expected that most Teslas will last for over a million miles. In the case of something unexpected, the car tells you exactly the problem on the screen; it does not just display a small "check engine" light that leaves you wondering what is wrong.

Many people dismiss full-electric vehicles because they are worried about running out of charge or not being able to drive long distances. However, neither of these are an issue with a Tesla. Besides the fact that an electric vehicle will travel much further on the same amount of energy than a internal combustion engine (ICE) car, it also provides highly accurate estimates of how much charge you'll have remaining when you reach your destination—unlike an ICE vehicle where you have to guess how much fuel you'll use and have remaining. Typically you should have a way to plug in the car at your home, and most people charging overnight will easily recoup the electricity used for their normal commute. But in addition to home charging, there are also thousands of public chargers scattered around. These are usually located at businesses that use the chargers as a way to bring in more customers, many of which are free while others will charge a minimal rate. We happen to have a free charger in our apartment building's garage, so driving our car is virtually free.

For people like us who like road trips, Tesla has built the most extensive network of fast chargers (called Superchargers) across the country. You can travel anywhere in the U.S. just by using the supercharger network. You typically only need to wait 15-20 minutes to charge enough to get to your next stop: just enough time to stretch your legs, get something to eat (most superchargers are at shopping centers or convenience stores), watch an episode of your favorite show on Netflix (or Hulu, YouTube, Twitch, etc.) with the 15" screen and amazing sound system, or play a video game (including Stardew Valley, Cuphead, Beach Buggy Racing, and multiple board and arcade games). Tesla also makes the highway hours more enjoyable, with autopilot doing most of the driving, and Caraoke providing entertainment for the passengers. We have taken three long trips so far (2400mi, $50 / 1300mi, $50 / 600mi, $20) and they were all the best times on the road that we have had.

One of the best parts of having a Tesla is how often they get over-the-air updates. In the five months that we have had the car, we have received six updates. Two of them have been "bug fix" updates, but all the others have included new features, including multiple entertainment options, a 5% performance increase (yes, the car is now faster than when we bought it), and improvements to the security system (four of the cameras constantly monitor all sides of the car and record if anything gets nearby). Tesla also takes feedback from users, so popular feature requests can actually be implemented within months. This is one reason why Tesla does not really use model years, since a car bought years ago can have the same features and functionality of a car bought today. You can go to bed one night and wake up in the morning with a car that still feels brand new.

If there is anything bad to say about Tesla, it would be that their customer service can be hit or miss. Unfortunately for those of us in Northern Virginia, we normally have to deal with the Tysons Corner service center, which has to be one of the worst service centers in the country, both with communication and workmanship. However, Tesla also has Mobile Service, which can come to your location to take care of most small issues, such as replacing a damaged or faulty part, and for larger issues we can drive to Richmond, which has one of the best service centers around. Luckily you rarely ever need service, but hopefully Tesla is able to standardize their service level at all locations in the future.

Sadly we will not be able to take our Tesla with us when we move to Seoul in July, but we plan to enjoy every minute of driving until then. If you have any questions about our experience or you plan to buy a Tesla and want a referral code for a free 1,000 miles of supercharging, please post in the comments below.

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