Posted on August 19, 2017 by Charles Morris
Tesla’s Model S has dominated the large luxury sedan segment for at least two years, outselling competing cars from legacy automakers such as Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes. Will the Model 3 pull off a similar feat? Unsurprisingly, followers of the industry have been comparing the new EV’s features and pricing to popular upscale small and mid-size sedans. Their conclusions aren’t good news for the old guard.
Above: Model 3 parked at Tesla's Fremont factory (Reddit: cpbdba)
The differences between a Model 3 and a competing dinosaur-burner fall into two categories: those that relate directly to the propulsion system and those that don’t. In the first category are the instant torque and silent ride of an EV, and these are things that no vehicle with an internal combustion engine will ever be able to offer. Here is a hugely important point, and one that the endless “EVs will never catch on” articles never mention: electric driving is more pleasant driving. As CleanTechnica puts it, once you’ve experienced the torque of an electric car, going back to a gasmobile feels like driving a tractor. The peaceful, serene and quiet drive is “even more powerful. The silky smooth ride of an electric car - especially a Tesla - is another level of premium. No amount of insulation or noise reduction technology in a gasmobile can replace that experience. Your foot can feel it, your body can feel it, and your mind can sense it.”
Model 3 is unique in other ways. Many reviewers have been impressed by its spacious, open feel. Although Model 3 is smaller than Model S, it actually has more headroom in the back, thanks to the fact that it is not a hatchback. There is a trade-off, however - Model 3 has substantially less cargo-carrying capacity. On the other hand, it’s not pretending to be anything other than a small sedan, and when it comes to total cubic feet, it actually has more than almost all its competitors. The trunk and frunk combined add up to 15 cubic feet - in its class, only the BMW 4 Series and Jaguar XE have more (each has 16 cubic ft).
Above: A look at the stunning Tesla Model 3 (Youtube: AutoDrive)
Several other features add to the open, spacious feel, including the large window in the back, the absence of a transmission tunnel, and the smooth, instrument-cluster-free dashboard. CleanTechnica says that Model 3’s open layout feels something like sitting in the front seats on the top level of a double-decker bus.
When it comes to quickness off the line, Model 3 likewise beats almost every other sedan in its price class. And there’s more - much more. Elon Musk has promised that Model 3’s safety ratings will be second to none. Autopilot is probably already the equal of any of the driver assistance systems offered by its competitors, and will be continuously improved via over-the-air updates. And we haven’t even mentioned the money you’ll save on fuel and maintenance.
Above: Comparing Tesla's Model 3 with similar-priced competitors from BMW and Mercedes (Source: Bloomberg)
Several of our colleagues have prepared charts that compare Model 3 to other popular sedans side-by-side. Bloomberg compares it to the BMW 320i and Mercedes C300 (oh, by the way, Model 3 offers a powertrain warranty that’s twice as long). Electrek likens the Tesla to the BMW 330i (hmm...the Standard Model 3, at $35,000, includes roughly the same features as a BMW 330i that would cost $43,950).
Electric Moose offers a detailed comparison (see below) of the Model 3, the Audi A4 and the BMW 320i (golly gee, the 3’s touchscreen is almost triple the size of what those two offer, and neither of them include internet access). CleanTechnica compares Model 3’s 0-60 time and total trunk space to 14 competing sedans from Audi, Mercedes, Lexus, BMW and Jaguar (okay, two of them have one cubic foot more trunk space, and three of the BMWs are a little quicker).
Above: Pitting Model 3 against a BMW 320i and Audi A4 (Source: Electric Moose)
Looking at comparisons like these, it’s hard to see why any prospective buyer wouldn’t opt for the Model 3, unless they really hate new technology, or truly love the feel of a gas engine. Should the men (and one woman) in the corner offices be cashing in their stock options, and planning for early retirement (or, more constructively, designing new EVs of their own)? Well, maybe not just yet, because there’s one little problem with Tesla’s wonderful new machine - you can’t get one. According to Tesla’s web site, if you place an order today, you can expect delivery in 12 to 18 months. And once the 3 starts hitting the streets in numbers, and the reviews start piling up, demand is going to balloon. Tesla plans to be building 500,000 cars a year someday soon, but that won’t be anywhere near enough to meet demand. The waiting list will grow longer.