Monday, June 10, 2019

Tesla Report

We've had our Tesla Model 3 for several weeks now and it is time for the post I promised with our impressions.

The short version is: This is a really, really nice car. I have two quibbles (and I'll list them!) but overall, the car is great.

First, the quibbles:

The biggest annoyance is the fact that is uses your cell phone as a key. The phone communicates with the car via bluetooth, and in theory you're supposed to just be able to walk up to your car, open the door, get in and drive. This is in fact what happens for my husband. It does not happen for me - 9 times out of 10, I'd have to toggle in and out of airplane mode to get the car and phone to "talk."

I spent far too much time reading about bluetooth and fiddling with the settings on my phone. Nothing I tried worked reliably, and so I gave up and started using the key card that came with the car. This is a card like a hotel key that I present to a sensor by the driver's side door to open the car. To drive with the key card, you present the card to a specific spot on the central console. However, I've discovered that while my phone won't connect to the car to open the car, once the car "wakes up" due to the use of the key card, my phone will connect and let me drive the car. My theory is that both the car and the phone are a bit too aggressive in saving battery and aren't "pinging" on bluetooth - they are waiting to be pinged, and so neither wakes up when I walk up to the car. I have nothing to support this theory, but it fits the available evidence!

Anyway, I can apparently buy an old-fashioned "clicker" that has buttons to open the car and the trunk, and I think I'll probably get one, because there is no key card sensor on the trunk, so I either have to present my key card at the driver's door and then walk and open the trunk or use my phone app to open the trunk.

I can live with this, but I think they should have just used an RFID key like our twelve-year old Prius had. I think this is tech guys getting to clever for their own good.

My second annoyance is much smaller: I don't like how the air vents are controlled. There is no manual toggle,  you control them via a little diagram on the screen. The diagram lets you direct where the air flows, but I don't see a way to just turn the air OFF. This is no big deal when I'm alone in the car (or just driving the kids), as I just set the air at a comfortable temperature/speed. But when Mr. Snarky is in the car, he turns the air up much higher and I get cold.

And that's really all I can complain about. I think it is stupid that the button to open the trunk in the app isn't on the main screen (although the button to open the "frunk" - the front trunk - is), but since I rarely use the app to open anything, I don't really care.

Mr. Snarky dislikes the fact that you can only open the glovebox from the screen (there's no mechanical button), but since I almost never get into the glovebox, this doesn't bother me at all.

I guess I have one more complaint: There is a certain type of young man, usually one driving a souped up Honda Civic or a Mazda 3 (but occasionally driving a big truck or SUV), who wants to drag me off at stoplights. Mostly this is just funny, though, because there is no way they'd beat the Tesla if I actually tried to beat them, but I'm not going to go drag racing on city streets, particularly not when I've got a kid or two in the back seat. Dudes, your car is NOT faster than a Tesla. Get over yourselves.

And now what I like about the car:

First and foremost, it is a real pleasure to drive. It is responsive and the steering is tight. We got the dual motor version, which gives us all-wheel drive that my husband credits for making the car feel like it is on rails in turns. And that "rocket car" reputation - yeah, that's real. I don't think I've ever put my foot all the way down on the accelerator and I can still vouch for the fact that the car goes ZOOOM. Petunia loves this, and if I accelerate quickly to get on the freeway she yells "wheeeee!" Pumpkin hates it, and if I accelerate quickly she yells "Mommy! Stop it!"

We have a very steep hill in our neighborhood and we took the Tesla on it for the first time last weekend and all I can say is DAMN. I thought the Prius was good on that hill (the Mazda 5 chugs up the hill reluctantly), but the Tesla accelerates as if there were no hill. Soon, we'll be taking it on its first long road trip to deliver our kids to my parents and I think it is going to be an absolute blast in the mountains between San Diego and El Centro. We'll see what that does to the battery range - luckily there is a supercharger in El Centro if we need it. On mileage alone, we should be able to make it to Yuma easily, so we're curious to see how it goes.

Other things I like:

  • It has very comfortable seats.
  • Most of the automated things (e.g., wipers, lights) work like you want them to - although the automatic switch to brights is a little more sensitive than I'd have thought it should be, it always switches back to regular lights before blinding anyone, so perhaps I'm just used to driving through our urban canyons with weaker lighting than is desirable.
  • The frunk is mostly just an extra storage space, but there is one awesome use I've found: If you have leftovers from a dinner out and want to put them in your car without stinking up your car, the frunk is somehow more isolated from the cabin than the trunk. 
  • Never stopping at a gas station. Seriously, I love this. We charge a couple of times a week at home, so that we can get all the charge time in our super off-peak electricity usage hours (12:30 - 6 a.m.). We had a 240 volt outlet installed in our garage and charge using the portable charger that came with the Tesla.
Mr. Snarky loves one additional thing: You can use the app to turn the AC on in the car remotely so that it cools down before you get in it. 

Mr. Snarky also says he loves how he can just walk up to the car and get in and go, but I think he's just saying that to piss me off since I can't do that. Anyway, we could do that with the Prius.

So that's our basic summary - I'll post an update after the road trip and let you know how that goes! If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.

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