Rear View Mirror

This is a post I mainly wrote for myself, as a debrief for the period driving a Tesla, but I thought I’d share it anyway, as it may be helpful to others who consider buying a Tesla.

Bye Bye Tesla

At the end of December 2023, and inspired by Michael Stipe, I traded-in my 2021 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range+ (LFP battery, Made in China), having done just under 28.000 km. Back then, it was the cheapest model, just under $60k AUD. I liked the slick shape, but it had a boring colour selection (I went for dark grey). It was a smooth drive, a clean and simple interior, and the fastest car I ever owned (which wasn’t any goal, it just happened to be that way, because “EV”), and efficient, giving me about 400km range. Although I can’t ever be quite sure if I would have ever gotten 400km, or if it always was more around 350km. It has a deep booth, with a large under-floor storage space, as well as a large frunk.

The Tesla Super Charging network was a great, exclusive addition when buying the car (got limited free charging), as well as the many Tesla destination chargers (also often free to charge). You plug in, it knows the VIN, and it integrates with the car’s software, showing you on the centre console how much it costs you as you charge. This is one of those Tesla experiences, which you buy into. And I still don’t understand why legacy manufacturers don’t see this as a future growth business model. They have a network of dealers, which could all potentially become charging destination hubs.

I started out at 426km of range, and ended at 402km, having used 3.732 kWh total energy, which gives an average of 135kWh/km (or 7.4 km/kWh), which is amazing as I certainly wasn’t hyper-miling. Since it was an LFP battery, I topped it up every week to 100%. I could trickle charge at home, overnight, doing 40% (20kWh between 10pm-8am on the cheapest tarrifs), and as such could always depend on the full driving range. This is different to other lithium-ion batteries (like NMC batteries, in the Longe Range and Performance variants) which don’t like to be in a 100% state, and so you’d only charge up to 90%, for the battery’s longevity sake.

The Model 3 is a sedan. It’s low, which makes it less easy to get in and out of. It’s actually so low (groundclearance of 140mm unladen), with a passenger I quite often scraped the bottom on my driveway (due to angle of departure), an issue I hadn’t anticipated when I ordered the car (so I need to drive backwards at a certain angle, or have the passenger exit early). The Performance model is even lower.

I never had a problem with the screen based instrumentation and tools, glancing sideways to check your speed wasn’t an issue, you get used to it, but a HUD would really make a difference for most people. Also, it all was a bit boring, and could use a bit of colour.

The 3D car display is cool initially (“look you can see a pedestrian walking”, “look a traffic cone”), but it’s quite useless while driving and a waste of space, and often at traffic lights it kept moving around in a jerky manner. The novelty wears out quickly. Why is it there? You’re not supposed to be watching it, you should keep your eyes on the road.

The car software has some cool little features like a Valet mode limiting speed, or enabling a PIN code to drive away, or limiting speed when you lend out your car (or get your kids to drive it). And I’m sure I forget a lot of other small features (that I never used). But it also has some dumb stuff, like a farthing app or a fireplace app. Having Netflix and Disney+ apps is great on the big screen, but you’d still need to have a subscription for them too. And you’re often not long enough at a charger to finish anything, so I never ended up watching anything as I would want to watch it at home instead. The car comes with an internet browser, but you can’t actually play any videos with audio (last time I tried it), so no third party streaming (like ABC iView).

Over the two years, the Netflix app (and to a lesser extend the Disney+ app too) became quite unusable and unresponsive navigating its catalog, due to the Intel Atom based entertainment system and lack of memory, and somehow the increase in size or number of images in the catalog.

The dashcam/sentry mode is a great feature which you don’t need, until you do. Why don’t other manufacturers with 360 cameras implement this too (especially dashcam, maybe not sentry)? Just know that sentry mode can take up to 3% of your battery a day though.

The Tesla auto-wipers is one of the worst I ever had. I didn’t know it could be this bad. There is no control of how often it should (auto) wipe. It is either auto or it isn’t. But it was always way too eager, wiping too often or too fast. “Isn’t that a good thing?” If on other cars I can choose between 5 auto settings (part of the interval settings), on a physical stalk, why can’t I set the interval in software? This also has to do with the vision system, as two rain drops would “obscure” the camera, it would wipe. It is just a bad driving experience. Over the years they updated the way and when the wiper selector appears on screen, and apparently in the latest 2023 Holiday update something changed in this regard, but haven’t been able to find out online what exactly. As is the blind spot camera view. Something that they added in 2021, because the Ioniq 5 had that feature (on its driver instrument cluster, which makes much more sense). The center console is far from the ideal location for blind spot camera display, often the opposite direction of where you’re supposed to be looking. Again, in the latest 2023 Holiday update they now added an orange light indication for objects in the blind spot, which they should have added the first time around.

The Auto Pilot (adaptive cruise control, lane assist) was great on highway trips, and now something I would want on any other new car. I don’t have any reference to compare it to, so don’t really know if it’s better than anything else. Just don’t use it on secondary roads, where a lot of ghost breaking would happen, which is dangerous for the traffic behind you. Seriously, the number of WTF moments, breaking for parked cars, oncoming traffic,… It is only supposed to be used on multilane highways (which I initially didn’t know, and lots of people don’t know). If you drive behind a Tesla (and there are a lot around now), assume it’s on Auto Pilot and keep a bit more distance in case it phantom breaks…

The A-pillars are quite obstructive (because of width, angle and length). You need to look around them turning left or right, looking for pedestrians crossing, or other cars. The first few days I had a near miss because of this. Not sure if it was the car breaking itself, or my own reaction, but it was close.

The glass roof is initially pretty cool, but as a driver you don’t get to enjoy any of it. It is also kind of ridiculous how hot it gets, Tesla being a California designed car (which is also pretty sunny). I often clocked in 56C for the interior. The Cabin Overheating Protection is supposed to kick in at 40C, but if the car is “asleep”, it doesn’t. So I’d often turn on the AC manually, after which the car would be awake, and keep track of the interior temperature. I also got me the Tesla roof shade, which helps a little bit, but you can still feel the sun burning the top of your skull. Really, not a fan of the full glass roof (which doesn’t open).

The Tesla app is fabulous, it holds a lot of car information and remotely accessible functionality, and it works well. It’s your car key, it allows you to drive away without anything else. It’s one of the best, seamless car experiences.

The Model 3 is very quick in locking itself. It feels like 5 seconds (I didn’t time it). It knows I am still around, as I grab the door handle, it opens. Why does it need to lock itself so quickly? Another small annoyance. But, you can walk away knowing it is locked.

I had three warranty service claims, one for my driver’s seat squeaking sound (really annoying), a replacement of the charging port (after a warning message I couldn’t fast charge anymore), and a replacement of an o-ring of the booth power strut. I always felt that booth power strut was under-powered, always seeming to struggle with its job. No issues with the service. You get a an Uber voucher ($60 if I remember correctly) for getting to work and back (for me Chatswood - CBD). Though I do wish they would have invited me (they didn’t) for the first scheduled service after 24 months (since I hadn’t hit the 30k yet).

And then there was the interior squeaking noises, especially on the highway with a rough surface, next to my head, on the passenger side, and somewhere in the back. Not something you’d expect on a 2 year old car. Also quite hard to explain on a service request, driving around in the inner city where this doesn’t occur.

So yeah, it had its qualities for sure, it was good but it wasn’t a great car. It is an influential car, but it isn’t a luxury car (maybe the Model S is). It felt cheap. Light (relatively speaking, it is still 1.7T). Which is the point you could say, making it more efficient. The A-pillar interior cover felt cheap and misaligned (you can press it with your finger). The seats were ok-ish, but didn’t give enough support (example when cornering), or were particularly comfortable for long drives. The backseat feels like cardboard.
A lot of those little things just add up.

And then there are That Man’s shenanigans, which I simply do not want to be associated with. Bye bye Tesla.

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