New In-Depth Video Review: Tesla Model 3 With Model S Comparison

7 days ago by EVANNEX 45

Tesla Model 3

Considering the differences between the Tesla Model 3 and Model S sedans (Photo: EVANNEX)

TESLA SHOWDOWN: WE GOT A TESLA MODEL 3, FILMED IT, AND COMPARED IT TO A MODEL S [VIDEO]

We’ve seen a handful of Tesla Model 3 review videos floating around — including an excellent hour-long, deep-dive into the car’s features by our friends at Model 3 Owners Club. That said, we just got a chance to conduct an in-depth evaluation of Model 3 for ourselves. It’s a fascinating car and in our view, will come to dominate the mid-sized sedan segment over the next few years.

In some ways, Model 3 demonstrates how Tesla has elevated its interior design capabilities and improved the integration of features, functionality, and storage as the company moves forward. In other ways, Model 3 reinforces the contention that Model S remains Tesla’s flagship sedan. We think it’s worth comparing and contrasting the two Tesla sedans to better understand the differences between the cars.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman.

Above: Examining a few of the subtle, and not-so-subtle similarities and differences between a Tesla Model 3 and Model S (Youtube: EVANNEX)

We spent two full days with the Model 3, reviewing the interior and exterior in granular detail. We examined the car through the lens of five years (since 2012!) of Model S ownership. Sure, some Tesla owners (like us) are wondering how these siblings stack up against one another. But there are many others pondering the possibility of owning their first Tesla. The big question is… if you’re considering the purchase of a Tesla Model 3 or Tesla Model S, which one should you buy?

Interior

Let’s compare and contrast some of the interior features of Model 3 and Model S with particular emphasis on driving and vehicle control displays, HVAC capabilities, interior volume and storage, the front driver’s compartment, and the little things that add functionality to the interior.

Tesla Model 3

A look inside the Tesla Model 3 interior (Photo: EVANNEX)

Driving and vehicle control displays.  The Model S boasts two digital displays instead of one in the Model 3. The Model 3’s horizontal, center display is also smaller (15-inch) vs. a vertical, center display which is larger (17-inch) in the Model S. Because Model S retains an information display immediately in front of the driver, it provides somewhat more comprehensive information content. As an aside, the 15-inch landscape display in Model 3 appears to be larger than it is and provides a full range of driving and vehicle information at a glance.

HVAC.  Model 3’s HVAC approach demonstrates a significant step forward for Tesla. Both the Model S and Model 3 HVAC approaches are functional and capable, but the Model 3 has a definite advantage in terms of directional control and aesthetics. In addition, its novel design is impressive.

Interior volume and storage.  Because Model 3 is a mid-size sedan, it can’t compete with Model S in interior volume—an important factor for many owners. Overall, interior volume in the Model S is far superior to Model 3. You get 30 cubic feet in Model S vs. 15 cubic feet in Model 3. As important in our view, the Model S hatchback design has significant advantages over the Model 3 conventional trunk opening. The hatchback opening provides very easy placement of large objects. It should be noted that the Model 3 trunk, when coupled with second-row fold-down seats, does offer the ability to carry long objects with relative ease. The Model S also has a power liftgate instead of the Model 3’s manual trunk. In addition, Model S has a larger frunk than Model 3.

Seating. Model S has seating for 5 adults + 2 children (with rear-facing “jump” seats). Model 3 only has seating for 5 adults. That said, Model 3’s seat quality, design, and overall spaciousness of the cabin were comparable to Model S.

Driver visibility. The interior design of Model 3 is striking in the sense that it eliminates the binnacle that normally sits directly in front of the driver, replacing it with a 15-inch landscape center display. With the binnacle removed, the Model 3 dash is lowered, allowing a more complete view of the road immediately in front of the vehicle. The large expanse of glass above the driver provides the feeling of an aircraft cockpit.

Center console. Sitting in the driver side cockpit of Model 3, it becomes obvious that Tesla has improved its interior design chops. The center console for Model 3 (available with the premium option package) is well-designed and functional. It offers easy mobile device charging, dual USB ports along with a 12V port, and elegant storage, complemented by storage compartments in the doors.

Lack of buttons. For Model 3, just about everything except window and door opening is controlled via the landscape display. This level of software control is impressive, but we felt that there might be times when it would be easier to use an analog alternative for, say, the control of the side mirrors or glove box.

The little things.  There are little things you’ll find in a Model 3 that are absent from the Model S — coats hooks, a built-in rear seat armrest, small storage compartments, back-of-seat kangaroo pockets, etc. To be a bit self-serving for a moment, most of these items can be had (in the aftermarket) for Model S from EVANNEX.

Exterior

Moving to the exterior, it’s apparent that Model 3 has the same vehicle DNA as Model S, but like all siblings, there are visual (as well as characteristic) differences.

Tesla Model 3

Sleek design of the new Tesla Model 3 (Photo: EVANNEX)

Looks. The most obvious (in-person) differences are the shorter hood for Model 3, the noticeably narrower width of the vehicle, and smaller wheels. Because it is shorter and narrower, Model 3 has a less striking stance than Model S. Overall, the larger size of the Model S is more visually impressive. We think it’s fair to state that many Model 3 owners will remedy some of these issues in the aftermarket, but in the case of Tesla’s sedan siblings, size matters.

Sensor suite. Autopilot (and ultimately, autonomous driving capability) will be available for both Model S and Model 3. It appears that functionality and capabilities in this domain will be identical.

Door handles. We did have a few small quibbles with Model 3. The push-rotate-grab door handles of Model 3 achieve the required aerodynamic advantages for an electric vehicle, but they pale in comparison to the auto-present and retract door-handles for Model S. We felt that Model 3 handles weren’t as ergonomic, particularly if you’re carrying something as you get into the vehicle.

Wheels. The 18-inch Model 3 aero covers are a matter of personal taste, but the underlying wheel (rim) is a bit conventional in our view and doesn’t offer an aesthetic that Model 3 deserves. The 19-inch wheels (available as an option) are more interesting, but still a bit less luxe than Model S (19-inch and 21-inch) wheel options.

Driving

Performance.  Before going any further, it’s important to note that we weren’t able to test drive the Model 3 during our recent evaluation. Last year, we did enjoy a test ride in the Model 3 prototype at Tesla’s launch event. At that time the ride of Model 3 felt like a Model S, but it didn’t have the explosive torque and power that Model S owners are accustomed to. If you’re looking for ludicrous 0-60 mph times (gulp, 2.28 seconds), the Model S is your car. On the other hand, the published findings of a number of different test drives indicate that drivability and overall performance of Model 3 are quite impressive for a car at its price point. To that end, Model 3 can race a respectable 0-60 mph in 5.1 – 5.6 seconds.

Range. Both Model S and Model 3 have plenty of range for road trips and access to Tesla’s vast Supercharger network. On the whole, depending on which variant you look at, Model S will provide more range (259 – 335 miles of range) than Model 3 (220 – 310 miles of range). Also, many Model S owners will be able to take advantage of free supercharging (with a referral) whereas Model 3 owners will not have access to that particular perk.

The Verdict

In reality, the Model 3 and Model S are different vehicles for different demographics. Both have the same vehicle DNA, both will turn heads, and both are the epitome of current automotive technology. It’s clear — you definitely want a Tesla. Which Tesla is right for you?

Foreground: A new “refresh” Tesla Model S (left) across from a used “signature” Tesla Model S (right); Background: Tesla Model 3 (Photo: EVANNEX)

Although we were extremely impressed with the Model 3, if you’re considering a Tesla (and can afford it), we recommend going with Model S. On performance and premium feel, Model S wins going away. On exterior aesthetics, Model S provides a head-turning design that Model 3 can’t match. On (a few) interior design cues, it’s Model 3 by a nose. On interior space, seating, and storage volume, Model S triumphs. And if you consider availability, you can get your hands on a new or used Model S in a matter of weeks. Model 3 availability? That’s an entirely different discussion.

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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45 responses to "New In-Depth Video Review: Tesla Model 3 With Model S Comparison"

  1. Chris Stork says:

    All the people complaining about the minimalist interface sight-unseen remind me of the days when Apple OSX first came out. The rally cry was “it’s too hard to learn!” What that really meant was: it’s too different from the Microsoft Way that I grew up using. But for novices who didn’t have much experience with either OS, they found Apple OS much more intuitive. Same here. The bashers (like our own beloved bro1999, who has never even been in a Tesla) say buttons are better, but like Elon said: you won’t care.

    1. Jack says:

      I had a TV, which had a remote with a touch screen. It was crap, not usable without real buttons. Will be the same with that tablet in Model 3.
      Try it out youself, for most TVs you can download an app to control with smart phone

      1. Chris Stork says:

        So you had one crappy little made-in-China consumer electronic device with a poorly designed touchscreen interface… and you’re extrapolating your bad experience with it to the Model 3 sight-unseen?

      2. Steven says:

        I have an X, I can tell you, voice and touch control isn’t bad. Most importantly, you can control everything from your steering wheel. The scroll buttons change functionality based on what you’re doing. Genius.

      3. Scott Franco says:

        I have three TVs in the house, none with obvious controls on the front. They have hidden controls under or on the side, one just has a joystick there and an onscreen menu.

        In the case of all three, I don’t even know what they do, I have never used them, since I used the remote to set the TV up. Except for one TV, I adjust all features of the TV on other connected boxes with the exception of power. The other I also adjust volume.

      4. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Yeah, a touchscreen with virtual buttons never works well. That’s why the iPhone and Android phones are so unpopular.

        Oh, wait…

        1. Raymond Ramirez says:

          The Android phones still have physical buttons. Even if the latest Samsung Galaxy S8 removed the physical home button, there are several real hard-wired buttons on the sides that one can handle unseen. BTW, they do sell more Android phones than ALL the EVs combined!

          But in a driving situation, you have to divert your sight and see what you are touching on that Model 3 center touchscreen, so it is a safety risk! Tesla should have left the buttons on the Model 3 steering wheel as the Model S has.

          1. Jerry says:

            +2

            Cruse first 🙂

      5. HN says:

        Did you try to live with a Tesla Model 3 for an extended time? If you didn’t then how do you know ?

        1. Voice of Reason says:

          Did you type that on your BlackBerry?

          Watching enough online videos, clearly show that most controls are within reach while driving or controlled via steering wheel. Time to adjust your thinking. Complain about the key or something else.

          1. Ron says:

            Try touch-typing on your screen, while looking away from it. Now try touch typing on a mechanical keyboard while looking away from it. One is much simpler than the other.
            In busy traffic, I would have a hard time using a touch screen. OTOH, I suspect it has voice control.

    2. Mister G says:

      Yes bro1999 still drives a gas guzzler LOL

      1. bro1999 says:

        I’m guessing you have no clue what I drive (a Bolt and Volt), but if you somehow did know I have a Volt, the ~20 gallons of gas (probably a lot less now that I have the Bolt too) I purchased on average each year the last 5 years is certainly guzzling the gas. Lol

    3. Pjwood1 says:

      There’s a difference between a computer and functional automotive controls, Chris.

      1. Chris Stork says:

        Not really, Woody. It’s all about the interface, and even the guys at Motor Trend agree with me: https://youtu.be/scyYfbL5P9w?t=6m
        With all the functionality crammed into modern cars, touchscreens are here to stay, and Tesla just happens to have the best.

        Unless you’re talking about the critical driving functions, none of which are controlled through the touchscreen (steering, braking, acceleration, turn signals). Did you know you can actually reboot the main touchscreen while driving? I bet you didn’t because you’ve never been in one (not stopping you from bashing it on the daily though, is it?). I actually had to do that once because my voice nav was supposed to say “Turn right on Elm,” but instead it said “turn ririririririririririririririririri…” No big deal; I just couldn’t use my autopilot for 60 seconds and had to steer and maintain speed like a commoner.

        1. pjwood1 says:

          Motor Trend didn’t say touch screens are better. To quote: Tesla’s is the “only one not feloniously distracting”. That sounds like faint praise, to me, but thanks for sharing a great link.

          A more *functional* way to praise the car comes at 7:40, regarding why Tesla acceleration is unrivaled. Gas cars need to, “open the throttle, the fuel has to be delivered, the turbo has to spool, transmission has to shift down and revs have to come up”.

          I think I’d define functional, or “ergonomic”, by steps and what’s involved. Does a process have many, or few, does it require just hands, or hands and eyes? Stuff like that. My heresy about this one aspect where I think Tesla screwed up, has certainly gotten you worked up. Fine, I’ll wear it.

          1. John M says:

            Were these guys paid by tesla? they didn’t point anything bad about the car, the old guy acted more like a salesman than a reviewer!

            And of course touchscreen has its uses, but touchscreen HVAC controls should be flatout forbidden!

    4. wavelet says:

      Your opinion aside, your example is 100% wrong.
      OS X’s GUI is and was overall very similar to Windows; if you meant the pre-OS X mac, MacOS, it predated Windows by several years, and Windows purposely emulated it, including copying the specific shortcut keys used. Bottom line, noone grew up using Windows without being of MacOS.

      If you mean MacOS vs. MS-DOS, everyone agreed MacOS was more intuitive. The problem was that the first generations of Macs were too expensive and and much weaker hardware (both internal and screen… That original 9″ display didn’t cut it) in order to succeed widely.

    5. Four Electrics says:

      Touchscreens are dangerous because you can’t push buttons without taking your eyes off the road, period. That’s why most cars retain physical buttons for common tasks.

      1. Scott Franco says:

        Mostly I agree. The world has gone touchscreen happy. My new control panel for my airplane went touchscreen, and they discontinued the old button only panel. I have very mixed feelings about this, but it is the way the world is going.

        All I can say is you get used to it. My Bolt is the same way. Typically you develop a “two step” procedure to get work done, that is you glance at the screen, decide what it is you need to do, go back to looking at the road ahead, then go back to the screen and execute it. Some things like scrolling though the phone book (which is poorly designed on the bolt) pretty much have to be done at full stop.

        Do touchscreens take more fiddling than other interfaces? I would say yes. For some tasks they are better. for example, panning or zooming a map is more fiddly on a non-touch screen than with.

        Does a touchscreen impact safety? Yes of course it does. Any heads down task does that. In the case of airplanes this has been cited as a major safety issue.

        What is the answer? For airplanes, and I would also argue for cars, the answer is: you have to know the interface down pat. In airplanes we actually use simulators at home to learn the interface. If you know exactly what to do, it takes less time, and you can mix it up better with your scan.

      2. HN says:

        @Four Electrics

        Most current cars have ICE.

    6. bro1999 says:

      I’ve been in an S. It’s pretty nice actually. I mean for 100k+, it better be pretty nice.

      Now a Model 3, you are 100% correct I’ve never been inside one. Neither have 99.8% of the ~500k people that plopped down $1,000 on a reservation. Bet they are glad Tesla is holding investor-only showings though, because THEY are the people Tesla truly cares about currently.
      https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/10/tesla-is-inviting-institutional-investors-for-a-model-3-joy-ride.html

    7. Brian says:

      I probably could handle the lack of buttons, but failure to put basic instrumentation in front of the driver kills it. I’d be looking for an aftermarket HUD, and every one I’ve seen looks like trash.

      1. Brian says:

        I should add that in the time when distracted driving is an increasing issue, the instrument panel being as distracting as the radio is unacceptable.

  2. CDAVIS says:

    I agree with this EVANNEX review based on Model S being my daily driver & my having had a recent opportunity to inspect & take a short drive in a Model 3. It’s too bad that EVANNEX was not able to test drive the Model 3; this car has amazing road tracking agility at both low & high speed… I’m not sure why mechanically but the Model 3 seems to have a slight advantage over Model S on this… perhaps it’s simply due to Model 3 being a more compact car?

    A great EVANNEX review and possible bias (as a Tesla after-market seller) is properly disclosed in the article by InsideEVs.

  3. georgeS says:

    @CDavis,

    I agree it was a pretty decent review. It kind of soured me on the trunk. I had kind of gotton used to the idea of living without my hatch but now I’m not so sure.

    Plus I didn’t know the screen was smaller in the model 3.

    The number I am still waiting for is Vampire loss.

    My model S uses 5-9 miles a day just sitting . If you are on a 2 day trip and have no way to charge then it adds up and if you are marginal on range then you are screwed. …and this is in MILD weather.

    1. Chris Stork says:

      Wow, that’s pretty bad drain, GeorgeS. You might want to get your 12v battery checked. That seems pretty high for mild weather. I lose that much only in extreme weather, and when not plugged in.

    2. pjwood1 says:

      The 2012’s were pretty bad. Much “vampire” discussion on TMC in the early days, but throughout 2013 I think they dialed-out most of it.

    3. CDAVIS says:

      @georgeS,

      Trunk:
      For sure the hatchback trunk on the Model S will spoil you big time… absolutely amazing the HomeDepot or Costco haul you can cram into the back of a Model S especially with the back seats folded down. The Model 3 trunk opening is very large (much larger than a conventional trunk) and does appear lager in person than in video… but still it’s no Model S.

      Screen:
      The 15″ screen size in Model 3 did not to me seem too small… I was not wishing the screen was larger while driving the car. The 17″ screen in Model S is simply over-the-top luxury (which I enjoy) that goes beyond what is necessary. But the Model 3 smaller screen seemed more responsive (verily little UI delay) than my larger Model S screen.

      Vampire Drain:
      I was getting ~4miles/day but now less than 2miles/day. My Vampire Drain went down slightly after if I in settings Power Managment > Energy Saving > [ON] with “Always Connected” checked ON. And Vampire Drain went down further again after I had Tesla Service Center replace the 12volt battery. Apparently the 12volt battery is kept constantly charged by a DC/DC inverter tied to the main battery pack… so a faulty/degraded 12volt battery may have its state of degradation (higher internal resistance/shorting) masked by the constant charging from the main battery pack… in a conventional ICE car that same degragated battery would simply fully decharge while the car was off (because alternator not charging the battery) and thus we would know need a battery replacement due the battery being dead. There is an indicator warning that displays when the 12volt battery needs replacing but that did not appear for me… perhaps that indicator warning only turns on if the battery is nearly fully degraded?

      As much as I like the Model 3 after frist hand seeing it (it’s an amazing car and I think amazing value proposition), I would not trade my Model S for a Model 3. If Model S was not an option for me then hands down I’d choose Model 3 or wait for Model Y.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Hank S. says:

        The “Home Depot” haul is one reason I’m hesitant on the Model 3 vs Model S. My last 2 vehicles were pickups so I would really prefer the Model S hatch, but I’m not sure I’d want to throw 10 bags of mulch into the back such an expensive car anyways! Maybe I’ll use the savings to pay for delivery or rent a pickup when needed.

        1. All-Purpose Guru says:

          Another thing to consider if you have a place to store it would be a small utility trailer.

          You can find small ones you can stand up on end when you’re not using it, and they hold a LOT more than even the S’ hatch.

          Worst case if you only need it occasionally or don’t have a place to store it would be to rent one from U-Haul when you need it. $10 per day last time I needed one.

  4. Mister G says:

    I WANT MY I WANT MY MODEL 3

    1. ffbj says:

      Cute. I get it.

  5. Four Electrics says:

    Great review.

    The door handles look to be the most annoying aspect of the 3, but I haven’t tried them in person.

    1. CDAVIS says:

      @Four Electric said: “The door handles look to be the most annoying aspect of the 3, but I haven’t tried them in person.”
      ———

      When I personally opened Model 3 door for the first time it was ackward for me… it does take some learning curve especially to learn how to open single handed which can be done. After a few practices it becomes more natural but for a first time passenger opening the door it does require a bit of decoding.

  6. WadeTyhon says:

    Good overview! Can’t wait to take one of these for a test drive.

    I have my issues with some of the UI related aspects. (Too much reliance on the touch screen and I absolutely hate the lack of a key fob. The bluetooth and keycard are terrible ideas.)

    But otherwise I’m super excited that the Model 3 is getting so close. Hopefully we can have ours by 2019 at the latest.

  7. Mark.ca says:

    Absolutely brilliant and beautiful. I will join the waiting list in 2018 unless someone else brings up something similar…doubtful.

  8. Bill Howland says:

    Hummm thanks GeorgeS for reporting that the “S”‘s still leak 5-9 miles/day in mild weather…. Would be nice if someone would report the same information in COLD weather (Californians note please, 40 deg F is NOT cold).

    Unknown whether the ‘3’ does this…. One thing that is a BIG improvement is you can actually get to the 12 volt battery and there isn’t all kinds of junk that has to be removed first. – Also the center console seems well designed.

    Well Done Tesla – so far so good.

    Now about those trim and fit and finish issues – to me personally its scary since if they can’t get the 2 pieces to match within 1/2” how is the precision going to be on something more important?

    Especially since Musk apparently now wants “Magician Robots” doing a sleight of hand cobbling of the car together. Whether they’re used for batteries or body, the same concern applies.

  9. MDEV says:

    Hundreds of thousands of Model S sold, everybody including car magazines likes and love the Tesla touch screen, and here we are debating something that was settled lond time ago, in fact the competition is moving toward huge screens “Volvo, Prius” among others, please move on.

  10. Nix says:

    If lots of buttons were the best interface, we would all have blackberries.

    1. Raymond Ramirez says:

      Believe it or not, many phone users do buy versions with physical buttons, especially for texting without looking at the screen. That proves the human brain capacity of using touch to communicate better than just sight. Even sightless phone users can send text messages with buttons!

  11. Of course the S is a better car. Model 3 is intended for those on a tight budget while the S is a premium grade vehicle.

    1. Raymond Ramirez says:

      So a Model 3 is like ordering a Burger King Whopper Junior with just the meat. I prefer to pay extra and get the full Whopper with everything.

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