Tesla Model 3: The Pros And Cons Of Extreme Innovation

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Tesla is reinventing the fundamental aspects of driving. But there’s a learning curve.

By now everybody knows that Tesla vehicles are fast and offer long-range capability. That was clear when I recently took a Tesla Model 3 Performance on a 515-mile drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. But what surprised me about my time in the car was how Tesla fundamentally reshaped the driving experience. It was a revelation about the benefits of thoughtful, user-oriented design applied to an automobile. But extreme innovations also can present challenges to users behind the wheel.

*If you’re viewing this article as a slideshow, click the arrow on the image above to proceed to the next slide.

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Pro: App-Based Entry and Start-Up

Tesla turns your smartphone and an app into a key fob on steroids. There’s no need to think about unlocking doors or pushing a start button. Step on the brake pedal and the car is ready to roll. After reaching your destination, simply put the Model 3 in Park and leave. The smart tech knows when you walk away. It automatically turns the car off and locks the doors. It’s brilliant. Tesla manages to eliminate unnecessary steps to create an experience that feels lighter and easier than a traditional vehicle.

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Con: App-Based Entry and Start-Up

I usually carry my phone in my back pocket. It took me a few days to realize that I needed to twist my hip for the car to pick up the phone’s low-range signal. It didn’t happen to me, but a phone that runs out of juice could require pulling a near field communication (NFD) card from my wallet to open the door like a hotel room. I can see why some folks want buttons but, for me, the Tesla system of egress and ingress is progress.

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Pro: Flush Door Handles

Slippery aerodynamics are essential for maximizing EV range, so it’s only logical to cut drag with door handles that are flush with the body panels. The flush handles help make the Model 3’s drag-coefficient among the lowest in the industry. Besides, it creates a sleek look. That alone makes it a worthwhile innovation.

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Con: Flush Door Handles

The cool aero effect of the handles comes with a small learning curve. For the week that I had the Model 3, every new passenger had to figure out the idiosyncrasies of the car’s doors. It’s Vulcan-esque handshake in which you press first with your thumb and then grab with your fingers. It only takes a few seconds to figure it out, and then you’re fine. That said, Tesla’s clever designers could concoct an even easier flush handle for the next generation of EVs.

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Pro: Huge Center Screen for Everything

Tesla’s most risky tech innovation in the Model 3 was the use of a 15-inch screen to control nearly every interior function. If the interface had not been so deftly handled, it would be confusing and perhaps dangerous. But Tesla’s skillful interface designers make it entirely intuitive. The benefits go way beyond best-in-class turn-by-turn navigation because the screen becomes your primary way to understand your state-of-charge, as well as when and where to plug in for longer trips. Also, when charging at home, you can easily peer into the car from the outside to see the charging speed and time remaining to a full pack.

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Con: Huge Center Screen for Everything

For all the benefits of the huge screen, it requires that drivers make a conscious decision to keep your eyes on the road. If one of the pleasures of driving is to disconnect from our screen-dominated lives, you don’t get that opportunity with a Tesla Model 3. On my drive down the majestic California coast, the view of the craggy seaside was never free of the screen’s light. Switching between controls for infotainment and, say, climate control wasn’t difficult but definitely required split attention.

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Pro: Scroll Wheels on Steering Wheel

Some of the few pieces of hardware in the dashboard are small twin scroll wheels on the steering wheel. They are elegant, useful, and multi-functional, providing such functions as turning audio volume up and down with your thumb, adjusting cruise control speed, or clicking right or left to affect which side mirror can be adjusted. These buttons are masterful examples of industrial design both in terms of how they feel and their potential to control driving functions the same way computer users wield a scrolling, clickable mouse.

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Con: Scroll Wheels on Steering Wheel

The ease of scrolling is mostly a good thing. However, several times throughout the week, as I was making a turn (sometimes with one hand on the wheel), I mistakenly slid my hand over the scrolling device, thus inadvertently quickly blasting the audio volume. This quirk in user function might not be frequent or common, but the discomfort to my ears was real. The novel tool feels like it has not yet been fully utilized, with rumors about using them for easier AC fan control as just one example. Fortunately, the possibilities are endless by virtue of over-the-air updates.

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Pro: Big Panoramic Glass Reinvents the Sunroof

All of the currently available versions of the Tesla Model 3 come with the premium interior, which brings a long, panoramic tinted glass roof. The experience was transcendent for my drive down the coast and through the coastal redwoods around Big Sur. We felt a part of the landscape.

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Con: Big Panoramic Glass Reinvents the Sunroof

The driving experience was less delightful when we were driving directly toward the morning or late afternoon sun. During that time, there was little relief from the glare (although the Tesla shop offers an aftermarket sunshade). Also, after a rain, the roof was streaky. A metal roof is still being promised but, despite my encounters with glare, I would still go with glass.

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Pro: Auto-Pilot

The use and importance of Tesla’s Autopilot are too numerous to name here. It’s arguably the most transformative of the Tesla innovations that I experienced. It’s also the most tempting to play with – just to explore which types of road situations it can handle and for how long versus the conditions that were less certain.

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Con: Auto-Pilot

Unfortunately, my experiments with Autopilot made my fellow passengers freak out. So before long, I reserved its usage for its more straightforward intended use: more pleasant highway driving with my hands gently placed on the wheel to not interfere. If Tesla can fully realize the potential of Autopilot, as it has electric motor and battery technology, driving as we know it will cease to exist.

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44 Comments on "Tesla Model 3: The Pros And Cons Of Extreme Innovation"

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Tesla ad?

Well, there are just as many cons as there are pros, so probably not.

Oh, I thought I was reading a Lexus brochure….:)

All cons, had a last sentence added, that the con will not really be a con in the future. Thats not, how, you do a proper con argumentation. So i see what he means. But in the end i found it to be a rather fair article.

To me, the steering wheel scroll wheels are an example of why a modular user interface isn’t ideal. What these scroll wheels control depends on the state of the user interface on the screen which requires the driver to remember this state or to be distracted from driving by looking at the screen to determine its state. It would not cost much to add a couple of tiny LCD screens adjacent to the scroll wheels to indicated what they currently control.

With the model 3 the steering wheel buttons really only have 1 state while driving. The other things that they can control such as steering wheel position and mirror position should be set while the car is in Park. Left is always volume when driving and right is always cruise-control settings (scroll for speed, click for following distance).

actually, we set the scroll wheels defaults. And yes, if you are speaking, then it is different. Otherwise, it is pretty much the same thing.

If everyone drove a Tesla we wouldn’t need the US 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean protecting Arab Assets.

That Straight of Hormuz / “US 6th Flleet” statement would be true, if only Tesla made their Model S/X/3 plastic parts, as well as space X tires, and Boring Co. road asphalt, from excess Unicorn flatulence.

Until then, expect more of the same from the existing M.E. OPEC stronghold / stranglehold.

US has plenty of oil reserves to make it’s own plastics. They account for something like 4% of the global oil use (87% goes to transportation, energy and heating). Oil in plastics is recoverable.

Natural gas is actually the primary feedstock for plastics produced in the US. (EIA)

Biopolymers can be made to work as well.

Can also make plastics from bio sources such as hemp.

nat gas and oil are truely black gold. Sadly, we waste it as energy. We need to stop that. The chemical use is so much more important.

Actually, if we quit burning our oil, we would have plenty in the ground for the next 1000 years.

If we recycle plastic and polymer, as we should instead of dumping it everywhere like we actually do, plastic would be eternel and surely never depleted any stock.

But we chose not to do it because it’s so much more profitable to keep producing virgin plastic and pollute every way we can the world and oceans all over.
We’re champions of rubish!

While I generally agree with your statement, I think we should discourage the broader idea that the U.S. Armed Forces are a tool to be used to defend assets that have economic value to us. Even if/when we do achieve oil independence, I don’t want to get into the kind of isolationism that followed WW1 (and led to WW2).

In other words, I don’t necessarily have a problem with the 6th Fleet being sent to the Middle East; I just don’t want them sent there because someone has determined that there’s a lot of money to be made/saved.

Don’t worry the USA (and the west in general) is addicted to cheap products from abroad.

No, we are not addicted to it. Our companies are doing this because taxes are so much cheaper for offshore. Seriously, we are charging more for American companies to work at home, than we charge them if they work offshore. That is insane. Finally, I have seen further BS. I went to sell a product to Home Depot. The Xmas Buyer that I dealt with fought against me and pushed hard for me to go to China with it. When I found out why, I was livid. She goes 2x a year and was supposed to travel coach/bus on united, stay at a marriot, and be back in a week. HOWEVER, turns out that Chinese gov would fly her in fist class on CHina air, and then put her in a 5 star hotel, and finally, she would take a week vacation afterwards, but she said that the CHinese gov was paying her wages. IOW, she was being bribed (and probably still is). I was disgusted. Sadly, I told the CEO after he stepped down (I thought he had too many things to do), and he was mad at me for not telling him sooner. Said he could not do… Read more »

The Med. sea is not the middle east.

Well you seem to have a problem to understand how geopolitics works😵

THIS x a really large number! This is the primary reason I got into EVs, for energy independence which is a national security issue. This is actually why W signed the EV tax credit into law, as I remind my fellow conservatives quite often.

Except for the mess known as Libia oil isn’t around the Mediterranean, Perhaps you were thinking of the Persian Gulf.

yes we would.
Israel and Iran were the original reasons we were there. Now, it is about ISIS, Syria, Russia, etc.
However, if Trump does his owner’s bidding, we will be out of ISIS, Russia, Iran, and Syria’s way.

Approaching the door I spread my hand out, press the pivot point with my index finger and the handle pops into my grasp.


A lot of reviewers have pointed out how intuitive Tesla has made using and controlling its cars, and how that helps them attract buyers so strongly. But when it comes to the TM3 door handles… not so much.

It could also be a generation-related issues. For me it was also the single screen to the right for just about everything, and the scroll wheels. Those caused me to back out of the purchase, having been one of the early enthusiasts/deposit holders.

I’m 63 years old and got mine this morning, and I agree with the reviewers who have said that within 10-20 minutes their already getting acclimated.

anybody gripping about it, is either demented or is working to knock Tesla.
I love the scroll wheels. they make things easy.
Heck, my 14, 12, and 6 y.o loved those even more as we went into the easter eggs. 🙂

You never actuated one but you dislike them?

Go figure!

Totally agree. Got my Model 3 this morning and found the dorr handles to be absolutely fine. What’s the fuss?

I think I’m gonna love this car and my wife, who said she didn’t care, is already talking about our car.

The door handle problem comes in cold weather, not something this author (or Musk) experiences.

Center screen also has cold weather issues. At minimum you need special gloves. The interface is still a work in progress, some items have improved, some are still too deep in sub-menus to safely use while driving. Lack of manual glove box latch is silly.

Glass roofs, steering wheel controls, assisted driver, fast cars, … are Tesla inventions!


I thought I was reading a car charger article.

Clearly you need to own a Model 3 for way longer. You didn’t mention so many more good things about the car.
Traction control? Pre-heat/Pre-cool? Idling forever? Sleep in the car?
Best sound system on any car,
AP is also very reliable if you just give it some trust.

Use AP as much as you like, but don’t ever trust it.

I am curious…
Will tesla cars have free internet connection for the life of the car?
For example, will the 3rd owner of a Model 3 be able to pre-heat the car interior and check battery charge level when parked away from home on their smartphone even in 2027?

The plan is to charge for the internet connection. It is not a priority for now. Originally, the Model X and S were promised 4 years of free internet and the Model 3 was planned for 1 year.
We are over 5 years from the first Model S and 1.4 years from the first Model 3.
It will make sense soon since the first 12 months of either car’s production was very low. But there are probably 15,000 2013/2014 Model S’s that should be paying. But a year from now, the amount of cars that should be paying is over 100k.
I got my car in May of 2015 and I suspect I will get very little extra free internet.

I believe for the model 3 one gets 1 year of premium internet connectivity which allows streaming, web surfing, over the air updates via LTE and Google satellite view on maps. After that unless you pay an amount rumored to be $10 / month you get map updates and traffic but lose the other features.

I suspect that the internet will be tied in with maintenance. You buy maintenance and you get free internet. The fact is, that at this time, Tesla actually makes heavier use of ‘OUR’ internet and data, than we do.

That’s the issue with connected cars. Companies like Ford offer 5 years, but after that it could start getting expensive when the timeframe runs out, leaving the app as worthless and.

Yeah, other cars apps are worthless from the beginning.

My MCU sometimes doesn’t come on or crashes and requires multiple reboots in my 2017 Model S. Is this ever an Issue with the model 3 I would imagined the car would be undriveable if it happened

Tesla and extreme innovation? That’s a yesterday headline.