TESLA began the modern electric car movement, kicking off with the Roadster in 2005, ahead of the Model S, and more recently, the more affordable Model 3. It’s the latter we’re testing, in its Long Range form.
At first glance, the Telsa Model 3 looks like a normal car, except for the fact it doesn’t have a front grille, the handles are flush with the car, giving an illusion they aren’t there at all, and there isn’t a key, just a card you hold on the B-pillar to lock and unlock it.
Not freaky at all. The exterior is simple but eye catching. Even the colour choices are basic, and include Pearl White Multi-Coat, Solid Black, Midnight Silver, Deep Blue and Red Multi-Coat.
Stepping inside there are the same general concepts of a normal car, seats, steering wheel, and all that stuff. But there’s no instrument cluster, no hand brake and no gear selector.
What you do get is a 15-inch centre touchscreen which controls everything from media, navigation, and communications to the fireplace. No that’s not a typo, there really is a virtual fireplace, which plays music to set the mood and blows hot air from the vents.
Kooky features are nothing new to Tesla, and there’s been plenty over time (particularly in the early generations of the Model S), with the sketch pad still among the weirder options you can choose from.
Among the newer choices though are things like an expanded roster of games, the ability to watch Netflix, and increased web functionality. From a practical perspective, the screen lets you literally control the car.
You can adjust air flow to the hidden air vents, view your speed, open the glovebox and the boot. You also score not one, but two wireless charging stations. The seats are crafted from ‘vegan’ leather (which is apparently a thing), with black the standard colour.
You can also choose a combination of white and black ‘vegan’ leather, should you so desire. There are top tether and ISOFIX child seat anchor points in the rear, and impressively, there’s enough room for the passengers in the front and rear.
We say the front too, because the bulkiness of a rear facing child seat in the back can often see the front passenger kissing the dash. Not so in the Tesla Model 3 Long Range. Storage is impressive too.
The lack of engine sees the front bay turned into a frunk (that’s a front trunk). Given most Aussies would call it a front boot, maybe it should be called a froot. Storage is an impressive 542-litres across the combined luggage spaces.
The Model 3 also has multiple cup holders and bottle holders. The cup holders are a little stress inducing though, as they are quite large in diameter. What makes them scary is small coffee cups, and the fear they’ll fall over.
On the road, because there’s no gears, there’s no lag. There’s just acceleration and torque. You put your foot down, and it goes, and well, goes, sprinting to 100km/h in 4.4. seconds. It has a top speed of 233km/h, according to the car maker. We didn’t test that.
Range on the Long Range variant is rather impressive, with Tesla claiming 657km of potential distance. We say potential distance because it really does depends on how you drive it. Cane it, and you can expect to not even get close to that number.
With the Tesla Model 3, like most EVs, it’s the battle between charge times and the desire to get on the road and simply drive. Granted, the car will show you where fast charge stations are if you’re running low, and how much it will cost you to charge.
But it’s the 75 odd minutes you have to kill while waiting for it to power back up, as well as having to go out of your way to find a place to plug in. There isn’t a super charger on every second corner like a petrol station. At least not yet.
There are other ways to charge of course, including a wall box at home. It’s an added cost, but it’s much more convenient. You get home, plug in the car, and forget about it until the next morning, when it’s fully powered and ready to get on its way, just like you.
The car comes with a regular plug-in 240v charger as well. You’ll need to find something to do for a day or two if that’s your only method of feeding electricity to your Tesla Model 3 Long Range though.
The suspension is rather stiff, and you’ll feel the bumps on rougher terrains. That said, the Tesla stays glued to the road, with impressive and responsive cornering, and no play in the wheel. It’s very point and shoot, if that makes sense. Direct. Just the way we like it.
Riding on 19-inch sports alloys, the Model 3 is loaded with safety gear, including eight surround view cameras for 360-degree vision, and twelve ultrasonic sensors, which can detect surrounding objects.
Forward-facing radar see through heavy rain, fog, dust, and beyond the vehicle ahead helping to prevent accidents by providing simultaneous visibility in every direction. The 2021 Tesla Model 3 was also awarded a 5-star ANCAP safety rating.
Pricing starts at $66,900 plus on-roads for the Standard Range Plus variant, with the Long Range version we tested priced at $81,990 plus on-roads. Servicing costs are also low. It comes with a 4-year 80,000km warranty, and an 8-year 192,000km battery warranty.
Our test vehicle was provided by Tesla Motors Australia. To find out more about the 2021 Tesla Model 3 Long Range, contact your local Tesla dealer.