Keep my New Model 3 or Old Model S?

Tesla No Dashboard

Model 3 review: Model 3 Versus Model S

I’ve owned a Model S p85d (autopilot 1 hardware) for a little over two years, so when I went to pick up my Model 3 yesterday I was curious if it was going to be a good replacement (lease is up on the Model S in a few months.) This article is a quick summary based on the first few hours of quality time with the new Model 3 – I’ll update it later with longer-term impressions.

Picking up the Model 3 at the Tesla delivery center in Fremont

BTW, for those of you calculating your delivery date I was the 500th customer in line the first day to put reservations down at Santana Row in Santa Clara, CA. Since I was a Model S owner and could pick up at the Fremont factory I was pretty high up on the priority list. I got the email to configure on Dec 14th and picked it up Dec 29th. VIN number is just under 2000.

The good:

  • The build quality is excellent
  • The sound system is MUCH better than the top of the line one in my Model S (pleasantly surprised by this)
  • Acceleration is great too – not quite as good as Insane mode on Model S but it will do for day to day driving
  • The range – I’ve only ever come close to using up the full charge on the Model S (240 miles) in day-to-day driving a few times, and the extra 60 miles with Model 3 means I probably never will
  • Looking over to see everything on the Model 3 screen rather than having the cluttered Model S dashboard is a win – I adjusted to it instantly and actually prefer it over Model S. The only funky thing for me is driving at night and not having anything lit up directly in front of me on the dashboard
  • On-screen controls are always at your fingertips (don’t have to tap the screen once to get the controls to show up at the top like Model S)
  • Smaller and easier and sportier to drive

The not so good:

  • Autopilot isn’t quite as good as AP1 in the Model S, but I expect it to get much better and surpass Model S in the not too distant future. As it calibrated more it seemed to improve to AP1 levels
  • I can’t have both the map and the rear view camera showing at the same time on the screen – with Model S I could check my blind spots using the camera when changing lanes
  • Can’t have the radio showing when the backup camera is on
  • The backup camera isn’t as good as the model S – the picture is grainier and it seems like the resolution seems lower
  • No hatchback – have to get used to having less room and no ability to put bikes in the back

Not enabled yet but coming with future updates:

    • Wifi updates (all updates come via the built-in connectivity on Model 3 for now)
    • Auto dimming of headlights from bright to normal
    • Auto sensing of moisture to start the wipers
    • Summon

The bottom line:
The Model 3 is a keeper. I REALLY like the way it handles on curvy mountain roads – since it is smaller it just hugs the road. I drove a very windy mountain road for about an hour and easily kept up with a small Honda convertible two seater who was trying to lose me. It is ALL Tesla in terms of how it drives.  If I had a newer Model S with AP2 hardware I would probably stick with it (or would buy a p100D if money didn’t matter), but since my Model S lease is up in June I’m turning it in then and not looking back. I’ll keep the Model 3 as an around-the-town car (and probably trade up to the dual motor M3 a year from now with my second reservation), and then replace my old Porsche Boxster with the Tesla Roadster in two years as my weekend car. Goodbye to ICE cars forever, and good luck, seriously, to all of the car companies out there who are going to attempt to compete with Tesla.

  2015 Model S P85D 2017 Model 3
Price new $153k $65k
Range 245 estimated miles on full charge – usually only get about 80% of estimated miles on long trips because I drive fast 310 estimated miles – don’t have enough data yet to determine what the real number will be
Acceleration Excellent – have never turned off Insane mode Very good, especially when passing, but I’ll miss blowing people’s minds going 0 to 60
Auto Pilot Pretty good even on windy roads, although it hasn’t really improved in the past year. Having the AP1 hardware and no upgrade path made me REALLY happy I had leased and not bought the Model S Pretty good, assuming it will improve dramatically with future software updates and the AP2 hardware
Roominess Very roomy – easily seats 5 adults Smaller, but comfortable
Trunk space Excellent – two trunks and fold down seats. Can fit two bicycles easily The rear trunk is quite large. The frunk is quite small
Interior design I loved it when I first got it – very minimalist. Compared to the Model 3 it now looks dated and overwhelming Really, really nice
Initial build quality Model S had been manufactured for a long time when I got mine – build quality was good and no problems Very good. My impression is that they delayed production in order to get it right
Screen I’m VERY used to the huge Model S screen, particularly because I like to have both the map and rear camera up all the time The smaller screen works for me. It’s just a simpler experience that nails the 90/10 of what you really use the screen for
Keyless entry I like using the key fob to easily summon the car – not sure I’ll like having to open up the app I’m not sure if having the Tesla app open all of the time will drain my phone battery, but I like it so far. And I’m down to just having my phone in a wallet case and not having to carry anything else


3 Replies to “Keep my New Model 3 or Old Model S?”

  • How about leg and headroom comparison. I am 6’8” and fit in a model s great. Any leg or knee obstructions? Great article!

  • I love my CPO 2013 S 85 RWD with high mileage but re-consitioned to as new, currently 100,500 mi. I bought it in July 2017 at model 3 base price: $33.5k. It is California car never meets snow. Both rear wheel bearings were replaced at 98k mi, free of charge, before the CPO warranty 100k mi expires. I enjoy the 17″ touch screen, quietness, speed, roominess, performance and serenity. Plus Free supercharging for life, as well as 8 years unlimited mile warranty for the drive unit and battery. I don’t care about Autopilot so I’m seriously considering to keep this S, as the first production year of model 3 will met with some bugs.

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