We Hitched A Ride With The Tesla Model 3 Road Trip

Tesla Model 3


Customer picks up the ball dropped by Tesla via the Tesla Model 3 Road Trip

It happened! I’ve been writing about electric vehicle maker Tesla for some ten years now, and after many fruitless attempts to get myself behind a wheel, I finally got to drive one of the California-built cars. Not only that, it was the somewhat elusive “affordable” Tesla Model 3. Though it was a relatively short ride, hours later, I’m still pretty jazzed.

Tesla Model 3

Every orifice open, the Tesla Model 3 gets swarmed.

This professional breakthrough came about due to the whim of a student by the name of You You Xue (pronounced Yo-Yo Shay). A first-day reservation holder and Model S owner (P100D, thank you very much), he had kicked around the idea of driving his new Model 3 across the country, meeting other reservation holders who hadn’t had a chance to see the car in person.  Before he knew it, the impulse had turned into a full-fledged effort, with a Facebook page inventively named “Tesla Model 3 Road Trip,” and hundreds following his progress on Glympse.

Four days into his unexpected adventure, Xue pulled into the Tallahassee, Florida Supercharger station under leaden skies, where a handful of eager reservation holders were waiting to see their future vehicle up close. Quickly plugging in, he set about some housekeeping chores, simultaneously answering a peppering of questions with practiced efficiency. This was his 20th such stop on a journey that had started in California, and will continue for the next couple weeks, as he dips down to South Florida before making his way up the length of the east coast, crossing the border into Canada for the 460-mile jaunt from Quebec City, Quebec to Toronto, Ontario, and then re-entering the U.S. in Michigan. A hundred more stops after holding court in Florida’s capital city, the tour will end its North American component in Vacaville, California. Or possibly Fremont. His itinerary is a bit fluid.

Besides creating first in-person impressions for potentially thousands — letting many (for a small fee) get some wheel time of their own — Xue is also jotting down his own unvarnished feelings and findings, both good and bad. No Tesla apologist, he faithfully notes a number of faults and issues he’s found. Everything from weird speaker issues to the windshield wipers making a knocking sound, he faithfully records every concern and compliment. Indeed, while we were just sitting in it in the parking lot, a metallic clunk sounded from from the back of the car for no apparent reason (I thought it might have been a contactor switch), followed by a worrying warning on the big center screen that said the car “may not restart.” Luckily, it was something transitory, and the message went away, and the car operated normally when we headed out moments later.

Tesla Model 3

The big screen that dominates the minimalist Tesla Model 3’s dash.

The steering wheel was my first pleasant surprise. Slightly on the small side, its quality seemed much better in person than in pictures, and the two track wheels had very little play and responded nicely to upward scrolling and sideways clicking. Pushing up on the gear selector to put it in reverse, the 3 didn’t start to roll backward as I’d expected, waiting instead for me to add a touch of pressure to the accelerator. Approaching the first traffic light, I found the regenerative braking to be much stronger than I had expected. My time in the driver’s seat was too short to adjust to the character of the regen, but most owners should become accustomed pretty quickly.

With rain now softly falling, the wiper controls on the screen were too elusive for me to quickly grasp on the fly, so I settled for pressing on the end of the wiper stalk for a quick sweep now and then. “Intuitive” is not a word that sprang to mind as I struggled with several of the controls. Still, I prefer the Tesla touch screen approach to the massive array of buttons and knobs found in some other vehicles.

Making my way through traffic, Xue suggested trying out the acceleration, and I was only too happy to oblige. Up to this point, I had been driving demurely, but having gained permission, I gave the accelerator a bit of a shove. The car sprung instantly to life, leaping forward, pushing me back into the comfortable faux leather seat. The surge is ironically dramatic due to the lack of the aural drama of an engine revving. I let off the pedal and the regen brought our speed quickly back within the posted limit. I can see where this ability to suddenly and silently rake the flanks could deepen an appreciation of red lights and merging from off-ramps.

As many reviewers have commented, the steering is very direct with decent feel. I pulled a (legal) U-turn to head back to the Superchargers and noted the turning radius wasn’t larger than I might have expected. This would have also been a good opportunity to give it the beans and further decrease the turning circle by breaking the back wheels loose, but for two things: it could be a slightly risky thing in a vehicle I’m not familiar with, and there’s a strong chance that traction control would have prevented the rear end from sliding out. As you can see in the video below, in the Model 3 doughnuts are not really a thing you can do.

When we got back to the parking lot, we decided to try out the auto park feature. To get it to take effect, you have to slowly roll through the lot close to the parked vehicles, and when the sensors detect a spot the car can fit in, a green “P” appears on the screen.  It wasn’t great at recognizing available spaces that were more than one vehicle wide, but when it did eventually find one, I braked and touched the “P” that had materialized on the screen. I then took my hands and feet off the controls and, somewhat slowly, the car executed a 3-point parking maneuver, at one point coming extremely close to one of the vehicles it was parking beside, before pulling ahead to make the final ingress.

Tesla Model 3

Your humble scribe who, at 6’2″, has lots of headspace in the back seat.

My drive too quickly over, I spent some time weighing the Model 3 and its place in the universe. It’s the car that could make, or possibly break Tesla. With an estimated half million reservations outstanding, it could help put the company in the black if they can crank them out as quickly as the 10,000 per week it’s targeted. On the other hand, if early owners like You You Xue experience too many problems or some other unforeseen issue arises, like the need to upgrade equipment to eventually achieve full autonomy as promised, that massive order book could shrivel up, forcing the automaker to restructure, and slow down the rollout of other announced models like the Tesla Semi, Roadster, Model Y, and Pickup.

If history is any example, Tesla will ultimately succeed in smoothing out the roughest of the wrinkles, but it really needs to push hard to improve quality and customer experience even at this early stage. Actually, earlier. It’s not acceptable for a car to have as many issues as the Tesla Model 3 Road Trip vehicle has had. (Other owners with even more miles on their Model 3’s have said they aren’t experiencing any issues, so at least it seems the cars aren’t uniformly problematic.)

Still, a lot of customers may be willing to forgive small imperfections in panel gaps or other annoyances if the overall experience is as satisfying as nailing the accelerator. That’s because Tesla isn’t just hawking cars. It’s selling the opportunity to participate in a technical revolution that will see transportation move from fossil fuels to a better, cleaner alternative. Until the traditional manufacturers catch up, there’s lots of value there. The challenge is in balancing speed of innovation with quality.


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45 Comments on "We Hitched A Ride With The Tesla Model 3 Road Trip"

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Comparison to other EVs?

A lot more spacious than the electric motorcycles I’ve driven. 🙂

Definitely more comfortable and upscale than the LEAF. Lots more power, too. This was the long range version, but I imagine the short range feels just about as strong.

Unsure how I feel about the faux leather. I’m glad the real stuff isn’t an option, but would like to see what the cloth is like.

Still waiting on my local dealer to get a Chevy Bolt in so I can try it.

Oh your the crazy cross country zero rider. Crazy there’s no Bolt EV in your area.

Once drove through Tallahassee. That’s all I can say about Tallahassee.

I’m not the crazy cross-country Zero rider, but I know him. Good guy, that Terry Hershner.

(He did help hook me up with Zero to get a test ride, though.)

My prediction of your reaction to the Bolt.

I have one that I leased recently. Meh about sums it up. One of the most uncomfortable cars I’ve ever driven because of the terrible seat design. I’m 6’4″ and 220lbs. Not fat, but not petite. Some of the ones I test drive were fine, others were terrible. I had to lease mine sight unseen from a dealer that shipped it to my house, so no chance of test driving it. Took a big gamble and regret it.

Only good things I can say are that the Regen in L mode is way better than the Tesla’s I’ve driven, and I love Android Auto. The Regen paddle is also a nice touch.

I have to say after my 2012 Volt that is the last GM car I will ever buy. The volt started at 40k when it first came out and the interior has some of the most uncomfortable seats I have ever sat it. It is way to small for its size and their is no visibility. I test drove the Bolt and liked some things. But again, the interior is beyond cheap and the seats are not at all conferrable. My car only has 35k and I have to take it to the dealership every 3 months. The air bags failed and the axles are clicking.

The Bolts with the worst seats seem to have one of two issues: thin foam in the seat bottom, or a too-long bolt jutting into the seat bottom. Have you tried adding foam under the seat bottom upholstery as shown in the forums? Have you checked for an overly long bolt in the seat as shown in the forums? Adding padded height in the bottom and removing a piece of metal jutting into your hip won’t magically make the seat awesome, but it will make it work just fine.

Remember when Acura Legend in the 80’s showed the marble rolling around on panel gaps to show other companies their build quality. Remember when GM in the 60’s, stared Americans buy anything we make, let them find the bugs! Remember the Chevy Vega with the disposable engine. Each generation of Tesla will improve. Your buying a model 3 that competes against cars in that price range, gas or electric with all new tech and a new company that had do to all its R&D/factory builds. The Model S had to compete against the best out of Germany with the same price point with all new tech, new factory/R&D. They are doing a great job. Big Oil lobbyists do not like Tesla.


That is the way I see it too.

Based on this I called Tesla Sunnyvale dealership, and asked them if they plan to show a demo M3 anytime soon. They said no Tesla showroom has one, and they don’t know when.

We have seen some deliveries (and orders) to “show clients” like Ben Sullens. I don’t think things are very real if they don’t at least provide an M3 for demo to the dealerships.

My guess at this point: well below 1,000 model 3s in user hands.

Yeah, I personally think Tesla should have built cars for showrooms and demos before sending them to customers.

They’re taking that negative selling thing just a bit too far. (imo, of course)

It doesn’t really make sense yet. If there are customers who are willing to buy it sight unseen, with production volume still low, having a massive percentage of production cars sitting idle in stores is useless. Get the super eager, willing guinea pig customers their cars (and take their money), then once reservation holders start delaying orders because they want to test drive it, start filling up the stores. Definitely not until production is at or above 5000/week and not at the end of a quarter.

Both you and @scott franco must have missed Elon’s ‘hamburger’ speech. It makes ZERO sense to stimulate more demand by having Model 3 in galleries. All that would do is steal focus from Model S and X (which they still need to sell in the meantime) and add many more questions for staff for a car Tesla won’t be able to deliver to new folks for a year or more. Current reservation holders can delay if they feel uncomfortable, but hundreds of thousands won’t.

That isn’t always the case…!

If that was, then elon wouldn’t have send M3 for promotion to LA auto show.

Why guess? Teslamotorsclub.com has the details on VINs released. Based off that, and the fact that I know two Model III owners, I’d say 3,000 is a better year-end figure.


Congrats and thank you for the story! The best concise Model 3 review I’ve read.

And You You Xue’s story is amazing. Did he fly from England to get his Tesla? Or is he not a student at “The” ****** (school name redacted upon request)?

Thanks for the kind words.

You You is an American, but studying at “that” school. He plans on shipping his car there when he gets back to California.

He may also do a similar tour across Europe, though that hasn’t been decided for sure. I’m not supposed to say anything about it yet.


Interesting. While I don’t know for sure, I was under the impression it was not possible to use European Superchargers with US-spec cars, which would rob a lot of the usability from a Tesla:

That’s a great point. I need to look into this.

The US-Tesla Chademo adapter should work in Europe, though.

The MODEL 3 currently has NO activated CHAdeMO ability So sending a US M3 to Europe is a nightmare.
2. NO SC access
3 No CHAdeMO

Believe it or not, Tesla made an adapter so that US cars can charge on the European SuperCharger network. No word on if these will be made available to consumers (because it has to be a very rare use case). But you could ask nicely.

I do not believe that. So why is there no reverse adaptor. When the 80eDays race crossed North America with mostly European TESLAs they had NO access to TESLA charging infrastructure. Rafael de Mestre had approached TESLA for an adaptor before the race but TESLA would not co-operate.

Getting my turn to take a test drive and see the car tomorrow night in NJ.

My Biggest concern is the space in the car. Especially the driver’s seat because I am a BIG guy.

Don’t worry there is plenty of room, I sat in it yesterday and am 6’3″ 215LBs, even fit in the back seat just fine

I think passenger space is plenty. But trunk space is a lot smaller than i would need it. Sure the falling roof helps efficiency, but you can load it easily to the top. And it seems way smaller than the leaf trunk when loaded to the ceiling. And I already deem the leaf trunk to be too small…

Per specs, Leaf cargo volume is 1.5x that of the Model 3.
I don’t know whether this includes the Frunk… but the Model 3 Frunk is pretty sall, so I hear.

The trunk is rather large although the opening will make loading difficult. I get mine in four hours but I have driven my friends and loved it

Another Euro point of view

“It’s not acceptable for a car to have as many issues as the Tesla Model 3 Road Trip vehicle has had”.

For that Tesla does well to keep most of 2018 production sold in the US so quality issues are smoothed out before export starts.

Charging for test drives isn’t surprising. I’m surprised he is showing his car given the rude comments he replies with on the FB Tesla Owners group. Often ruining the joy from new owners. You would think he doesn’t like answering the same questions over and over and going on tour is just asking for more of it.

Some of his comments can be quite blunt, it’s true.
He came across quite nice in person. One has to remember that he’s not working for Tesla as a PR agent. He doesn’t hold back on his opinions, positive or negative.

I think you should try the Bolt. All of the advantages of the M3, none of the problems, and the company is there for the long run for sure…

I’m looking forward to driving the Bolt, though I have to say I doubt I’d like it as much. (I have a strong preference for rear-wheel or all-wheel drive)

Also, after hearing all the Bolt seat complaints, I doubt they can match the Model 3’s, which I found really comfy.

When I do drive it, I’m going to try to take it on its own merits, of which it definitely has some.

I’ve driven both and the Bolt seats are unusable. A real deal killer

Tesla has been in business longer than GM. When gas goes back up to $4 per gallon Tesla will still be around.

I’ve read a lot of dumb things by Tesla fan boys but literally nothing a fan boy could say can be more wrong

I believe the point @Shane was trying to make is that of GM and Tesla, only one has gone bankrupt (GM filed for Chapter 11 reorganization on June 1, 2009 ultimately costing the US taxpayers around $10B after selling their resulting shares).

Domenick Yoney wrote:

“It’s not acceptable for a car to have as many issues as the Tesla Model 3 Road Trip vehicle has had.”

Are you talking about the various issues the owner has reported on his FaceBook page?

Domenick, if you made a list of problems you encountered yourself, then I’d appreciate it if you’d posts that list here or on the Forum.

I was referring to the issues the owner has had. I didn’t really have any that couldn’t be solved by learning how different things work.

I’m adding a few more observations, video and possibly a few more pics over on the Forum in this thread.


I’m not a Facebook user so I don’t know how to use it, but I went to You You Xue’s Facebook page and saw a picture of his Model 3, but could not find any comments from him about his car. Could someone explain to me how to access that information? Nothing under Reviews etc.

Go to the Facebook page “Tesla Model 3 Road Trip.” If you follow it, you will get his regular updates. You should also be able to see all his past posts. A site called Glympse shows his progress as well. Good luck! Happy New Year!



Understeer sucks on Teslas. Tried sliding the S,… no chance except with really really crappy tires. Hope the Roadster will be better.

Get mine in four hours. Picking it up in LA at the Marina Del Rey facility. Red with big batterie and interior options