Don’t cling to the past - Tesla’s Model 3 interior is the future

As promised, the new Model 3 has all the basic features we’ve come to expect from Tesla: generous range, excellent acceleration and handling, Supercharging capability, and all the latest high-tech bells and whistles. However, its one truly unique attribute, the one that’s getting the most ink in the reviews, is its strikingly minimalist interior. 

Above: Tesla Model 3's minimalist interior (Image: Tesla)

Some reviewers have waxed poetic. Georg Kacher, writing in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, calls it “reminiscent of a completely cleared, black-washed Bauhaus living room.” Others are less enthusiastic - Consumer Reports is “on the fence” - but no one can ignore it. Model 3’s almost complete lack of physical knobs, switches and dials is revolutionary, and almost every reviewer to date has had a lot to say about it.

Hollis Johnson, writing in Business Insider, says that Tesla has “reset expectations” with “the Zen-like interior environment, where subtraction is everything.”

The mastermind behind the minimalist design is Tesla’s Senior Design Executive Franz von Holzhausen. When he designed Model S, he took as his model an endurance athlete. “Our goal is to modernize the design of the classic sedan silhouette and make it unique to Tesla,” wrote von Holzhausen in a 2011 blog post. “We wanted it to express speed and motion, even when at rest.”

Above: Minimalism carries over from the interior design to the sleek exterior design aesthetic of Tesla's Model 3 (Image: Tesla)

It’s easy to see some of this sleek visual language in the shape of Model 3. Inside, however, minimalism has reached new heights. According to Johnson, Von Holzhausen’s minimalism expresses how he believes cars should look and feel, and embodies Tesla’s philosophy that cars shouldn’t be complicated. It also connects Tesla with the world of consumer technology - some have called Model 3 the iPhone of cars.

The only physical controls, aside from the pedals, are two column stalks and two trackballs on the steering wheel, a button to engage the hazard flasher (required by law) and buttons and a lever to control the windows and doors (also required). There’s no traditional instrument cluster - your speedometer, and everything else, appears on the 15-inch touchscreen slightly to your right. Some are nervous about letting go of the usual array of gauges and dials, but in a modern car, there’s no real reason to have anything other than a speedometer (and the nav system) in your line of sight - tachometers, oil-pressure gauges and so on are quaint vestiges of a much earlier era.

Johnson points out that Tesla didn’t invent the minimalist dashboard - the humble old Toyota Echo featured a compact digital instrument cluster - but with Model 3, the California trendsetters have taken various ideas that have been kicking around the auto industry for a while, refined them and reduced them to their essence.

Above: Less is more in Tesla's new Model 3 interior (Image: Tesla)

The overall black interior is relieved by brushed metallic trim and a single strip of open-grain wood running the width of the dashboard. Johnson calls it a brilliant touch, noting that early versions of Model S also featured a minimalist interior look that some found a bit too cold and insufficiently luxurious. Model 3’s strip of wood is a welcome accent from the natural world that contrasts with the high-tech look of black leather and brushed metal.

Of course, not everyone loves the minimalist aesthetic, but it’s rapidly becoming the predominant style in our touchscreen-controlled world, so let the Model 3 dashboard be a metaphor for your mind: let go of the past, clear out the clutter, click the right-hand stalk twice to engage Autopilot, relax and enjoy the drive.


Written by: Charles Morris