Posted on April 11, 2016 by Matt Pressman
It's a testament to Tesla's design prowess to be able to attract so many Model 3 pre-orders so quickly. This car is sexy. That said, some critics have taken issue with a few design elements that Tesla Motors [NASDAQ: TSLA] introduced with the Model 3. Sure, it's impossible to please everyone... but, at the end of the day, 325,000 pre-orders in one week is proof-positive Tesla designed a gorgeous car.
Source: Business Insider*
I was fortunate enough to enjoy a Model 3 test drive. But I also spent a significant amount of time analyzing the car (both inside and out) during the launch event. Most of the buzz surrounding the Tesla Model 3 design aesthetic has been extremely positive. But, in this post, I'll attempt to tackle three of the more controversial design elements. So, let's review the following: 1. the front grille; 2. frunk/trunk space; and, 3. the dashboard display.
A GRILLE-LESS FRONT GRILL
The design element that immediately jumped out at me upon seeing the Model 3 was the lack of a front grille. As an electric vehicle, a front grille is not a "necessary" design feature. It's taken some time to get used to the Model 3 front end, but, I think the Model 3 lack-of-grille is a refreshing break from the norm. It represents "family traits" seen on the Tesla Model X, and, the Tesla Roadster (see below). In person, the front end looked a lot like a Porsche. That's a striking characteristic on a $35,000 car.
FRUNK AND TRUNK SPACE
Another design element that some critics are concerned about is the Model 3's smaller frunk (front trunk) and trunk. However, it's important to remember that the Model 3 is 20% smaller than the Model S and it's necessary to sacrifice space somewhere in the vehicle. It's understandable that some storage space will be cannibalized in order to allow more room in the passenger cabin. Let's take a look at the trunk and frunk...
First it's critical to remember that the Tesla Model 3 has two storage compartments -- both a trunk and frunk storage area. Remember: two distinct storage compartments are something Model 3's competitors do not have in their vehicles. Second, the frunk image above is for an AWD Model 3 and its likely that RWD models will have more ample frunk space. Third, there were clearly some design limitations to consider when trying to create a more spacious interior passenger cabin (see graphic below).
Tesla CEO Elon Musk discussed the trunk on Twitter, "Only way to get enough rear passenger headroom was to move the rear roof cross-car support beam. A bike will still fit no problem." Nevertheless, Musk conceded, "We are working on enlarging the opening. Aperture will be big enough for almost anything." Even if there are no changes to the trunk, I'm 6'1" and I felt it was a worthwhile sacrifice as it was very spacious in the back seat.
In addition, if the Model 3's follow-up car (rumored to be the Model Y) turns out to be a hatchback, this particular "Tesla Model 3 hatchback rendering looks scary if you are Audi or BMW" according to Auto Evolution. Check it out, scary good looks and plenty of trunk space here...
SIMPLIFIED DASHBOARD DISPLAY
Perhaps the most buzzed-about design element is the lack of instrumentation behind the steering wheel. However, Slash Gear reports, "Musk has also been dropping hints about a bold new dashboard design, particularly around the steering wheel. Responding to criticisms of the wheel found in the prototype cars Tesla demonstrated at its launch event, Musk teased [via Twitter] that the final system 'feels like a spaceship', prompting speculation among some that Autopilot's self-driving abilities would be moved even further to the fore."
Source: I4U News
Slash Gear offers some pretty radical predictions, "the steering assembly and the 15-inch touchscreen that comprises the Model 3's entire driver display and infotainment system could be articulated. That could push the touchscreen - and a steering wheel assembly - closer to the driver when the car is being piloted manually, but stow that steering wheel and move the display into a more entertainment-focused position when Autopilot is engaged. Volvo previewed one [concept car] interpretation of such an approach... [and] BMW's Vision Next 100 hides the wheel too, in addition to drawing back the dashboard." See below...
Source: Slash Gear
Slash Gear predicts: "Tesla’s going to leapfrog rivals with Model 3 Autopilot... Tesla's Model 3 could take pole position in a new breed of near-autonomous vehicles." Regardless of how the final interior design looks, it's good to see Tesla pushing the envelope with such an innovative design language on the interior. The Model 3 interior design appears to be centered around self-driving functionality far more than other cars in its competitive set.
Final thoughts? I'll agree with Business Insider* as they conclude: "The Model 3, shown first as a sedan, has some controversial features. But it also has some cool and even spectacular ones. It's a dramatically minimalist, all-electric car, and it appears to be something that quite a few people would like to put in their garage: over 325,000 pre-orders, at $1,000 a pop, have come in," and that's impressive by any measure.
*Source: Business Insider