- Earlier this week, I took my first-ever ride in a Tesla Model 3 when I hailed a car via Lyft.
- On the long drive back from the airport, I learned a ton about the Model 3, and why it’s one of the best cars you can buy right now.
- After my Lyft ride, I feel way more compelled to buy a Model 3 if and when it becomes the right time to buy a car.
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This past Sunday, I got my first chance to ride in Tesla’s Model 3, the company’s most affordable electric cars.
Once I loaded my luggage into the trunk and stepped inside, I immediately noticed how spacious the car was — especially in the back seat, where the sloping roof gives the impression of a much roomier car.
My wife mentioned to the driver that I had always been interested in the Model 3, so my gracious driver said I could ask him anything I wanted. (He may have regretted that.) So on our drive back from the airport, we spent the next 15 minutes or so talking about the various high and low points of owning a Model 3. I feel like I took a lot out of that brief car ride, so I wanted to share some of what I learned.
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It can take about 30 to 45 minutes to recharge your car at a Supercharger station — but it’s faster and usually best to charge your car to about 80% instead of the full 100%.
The Model 3 features tons of little batteries, and filling them all up to 100% takes time. That’s why my driver recommended charging your Tesla to about 80% when you’re stopped at a Supercharger, but letting the car fill all the way up to 100% when you’re stopped for the night, assuming you’re at your destination.
Getting those batteries all the way to 100% takes longer because the car is still trying to keep the batteries cool, so it charges more slowly for the sake of safety. A lot of Tesla customers say it takes the same amount of time to get from 80% to 100% as it takes to get from 15% to 80%.
When the car is fully stopped, you can play games, or activate a digital fireplace to set the mood right.
Our driver demonstrated this feature while we were parked in front of a stoplight. When he chose a game to play, his seat started automatically adjusting itself as if this was the predetermined “game mode.” He also showed us a crackling digital fireplace, which got a laugh out of us — as if you need more bells and whistles to showcase when you’re already driving your date around in a Tesla.
Our Lyft driver said he uses the Autopilot feature “all the time,” but that it’s really ideal for the highway.
He said Tesla’s Autopilot had “saved” him on a few occasions — he wasn’t close to any kind of serious accident, but the car has helped him brake when it senses other cars far ahead have also slowed down, and it’s great for changing lanes and navigating the highway. I asked him if he’s ever fallen asleep while Autopilot was on; thankfully, he said no.
The map on the in-car display can show you the immediate area, or the entire country — and you can see every single Supercharger station quickly and easily. (There are a lot of them!)
One of the signature features of the Model 3 is its giant 15-inch touchscreen display. It can show you information about your car, apps and music, and of course the map of your area. To me, the map was one of the coolest features. It was big and beautiful. Seeing the immediate area in great detail, and then seeing what happened when our driver seamlessly zoomed out using gestures to show all of North America, was simply awesome. I felt like I would never get lost in this car. I also had no idea how many Supercharger stations existed until I saw the map. I was impressed.
Our driver liked having his touchscreen display default to showing rear-camera footage of the area around his car. It’s a smart idea — so you can actually see your blind spots.
Most cars have rear cameras, so when you’re backing up, you can see what’s immediately behind your car so you don’t bump into anything. But during our journey, I noticed our driver was able to keep this feature on for our entire drive. While we were talking, I noticed cars behind us, speeding up, slowing down, and changing lanes in high definition. That said, our driver said he bought a separate dashcam for the front of his car.
I asked my Lyft driver if there was anything he didn’t like about owning a Model 3. He said the car is pretty much perfect, but mentioned a delay when it comes to unlocking your car. He said with your smartphone, or with the physical key card, it can take about 5 to 8 seconds for your car to register you’re there, and unlock the door. That feels like a long time.
Hopefully, Tesla makes unlocking a bit snappier through software updates. I don’t want to feel like I need to wait for my car to notice me to get in.
Even though you can use your phone as a key for the car, our driver suggested always carrying around the physical key in case your phone dies.
He said this happened to him on just one occasion, but being unable to charge his phone — and thus, drive his car — was the only motivation he needed to carry his physical key at all times.
Tesla’s algorithms will estimate you how much battery you’ll have left when you arrive at your destination — and it’s incredibly accurate.
Tesla’s algorithms are improving all the time, since its cars regularly collect data from drivers about how the cars perform in various ways.
The Model 3 takes longer to charge when it’s cold outside.
This makes sense since most electronics take a hit to performance in cold temperatures. But it’s something to keep in mind if you live in a cool climate and you’re thinking about buying a Tesla.
My driver said he has his break alert set to turn on early, which is helpful for catching things he doesn’t see, and has saved him from rear-ending.
Having to stop short is the worst feeling while driving. It’s always scary when your response time can literally be the difference between having an accident and avoiding one. But it’s somewhat comforting to know that Tesla’s advanced sensors and systems can be your second pair of eyes, should you need it.