Touted as the affordable electric sports sedan, the Model 3 is Tesla’s eco-friendly gift to the motoring masses. Rear-wheel-drive models should travel about 220 miles on a single charge according to the EPA; all-wheel drive may be offered eventually, and the optional long-range battery increases range to an estimated 310 miles. The Model 3 is appropriately quick, hitting 60 mph in 5.1 seconds in our testing. Options include a self-driving feature, which may someday be capable of full autonomy.
The Model 3’s 15.0-inch infotainment display, mounted on the center of the dashboard, beautifully presents everything from range and charging information to navigation and audio. It’s a good thing that this touchscreen is responsive, clearly organized, and graphically appealing, because the monolithic screen is the point of contact for nearly all the car’s functions. There are hardly any physical secondary controls inside the Model 3 other than power-window switches, electronic door-release buttons, two multifunction control buttons on the steering wheel, and two column-mounted stalks (one controlling turn signals and certain windshield-wiper functions and the other serving as the shifter and the cruise-control/Autosteer activation switch). Conventional gauges, radio buttons, and HVAC knobs are nowhere to be found. It’s not even immediately apparent where the air vents are.
This aggressively minimalistic approach results in some strange and unsuccessful attempts to reinvent the automotive interior. The process required to move the mirrors and to manipulate the power-adjustable tilting and telescoping steering wheel incorporates both a menu within the touchscreen and the finicky steering-wheel scroll buttons. Changing the direction of airflow from the HVAC vent that stretches across the full width of the dash is, similarly, a multistep affair in which you must pinch and swipe a display within the climate-control menu that resembles a not very addictive smartphone game.
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