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Here are my thoughts and opinions on the model 3 SR+ which as of tomorrow we've had for 1 year. The car is privately owned, not leased and is the first new car that I've ever bought in my life. We've done just over 7500 miles in it.

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In november of 2017 we purchased a second-hand Leaf 24 Tekna for £11k. This was as a second car alongside a Volvo V70 diesel, which we later sold and replaced with a 2015 Lexus GS450h. When UK orders for model 3 opened in May of 2019 I looked at the numbers and two things stood out to me - one was that between savings and being able to borrow at very low rates, the model 3 was within our reach and by that point was the car that I WANTED. The other was that were I to sell the Leaf at that point, after putting 12000 miles on it over 18 months, it would be worth very nearly what we paid for it - in other words I could feed almost its full value into the model 3, but I also felt that the Leaf value was on a bubble - it was going to come down.

So, with my Man Maths™ complete and acceptance from HWMBO (hey, he's got his Lexus), on the evening of May 4th I ordered a blue Model 3 SR+. After a few weeks the price dropped, and I thought about cancelling/reordering until a few days later Tesla confirmed that they were honouring the new, lower price. During July we sold the Leaf for £10650, and finally after much impatience on August 28th (Yes, it's on a 19 plate rather than a few days later getting a 69 🤭) it was delivery day. Because we ordered early our SR+ has Foglights (from factory, not even the retrofit that some SR+ buyers had) and it has the auto-dimming door mirrors that later cars do not.

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So, here's a rundown of my thoughts and experiences with the model 3.

Quality
Let's dive straight into the "controversial" one. I think that there are 3 facets to quality that get mixed up in peoples minds.

First of all let's talk about "initial quality" - ie things that are fundamentally incorrect from the factory or that fail within a short period. We had 3 initial quality faults - the driver's visor mirror was broken from delivery, noticed a few days later. The headlamps had some oily residue on the inside of the lens, and later on began to show water droplets. One TPMS sensor was intermittent, and would cause a "TPMS Fault" to come up on journeys of over about an hour. I'll talk about the resolution of these items under Service.

Second is "reliability" - does the car break down and leave you stranded by the side of the road? So far, no it has not done so. I would not expect any modern car under 5 years to do so, from any manufacturer.

Third is "fit and finish" - panel gaps, interior material feel, paint quality, etc. This is clearly an area where Tesla have work to do, and there are literally thousands of voices saying so all over the place. However, I think there's also a huge amount of people "piling on" - people who don't own nor have ever particularly looked over a model 3 that are convinced they are terrible, and I think there are owners that have heard the horror stories and look very critically over the car in a way they never have with any previous car. Our model 3 seems to be a good one - there were a few paint blemishes that I've largely dealt with (polish and seal), mostly the panel gaps are pretty good, with just a couple of spots where they aren't quite right. However, what are other cars like? My Leaf had some iffy panel gaps and paint quality was worse than the Tesla, the Lexus has some paint quality issues, and once I was looking at a Jag XE in a carpark with panel gaps that would make Tesla blush! If you look hard over any car you'll see these things, and I don't feel that the model 3 is lacking.

Overall I expect that the car will be reliable with respect to the major components. I will keep a close eye on stonechipping etc.

Service
I have had two service calls with Tesla. The first was to deal with the broken visor mirror previously mentioned. This service call allows me to make a very interesting direct comparison to Volvo, as we had a problem with a visor mirror (lights intermittent then failed) on our V70. Both cars under warranty.

With Volvo it went like this: Phoned the dealer up and explained the problem, "Ok no problem, bring the car in and we'll take a look". 25 mile round trip to the dealer... "Ok, we've tried to fix it, see how it goes". They didn't appear to have done anything and the light was still intermittent. Phone the dealer up again "Ok, no problem, bring the car in and we'll take a look". 25 mile round trip to the dealer "We're not sure if it's under warranty, hmmmm....Maybe it is. Ok, we'll order the part and let you know when it's in". Dealer phones back a few days later "The part is in, bring the car in and we'll get it done". 25 mile round trip to the dealer...

With Tesla it went like this: Opened the app and booked service appointment to have it fixed. Get email back within a few minutes requesting picture. Send picture back, Tesla immediately order a new visor, cancel my existing service appointment and say they will reschedule when the part is available. A few days later I get a message back saying the part is in and setting up an appointment time for a ranger to come to me. I arrange for the ranger to come to my workplace, 10 minutes in the carpark and he's done.

Obviously far superior to the Volvo experience! I didn't have to make 75 miles of journeys, wait around the dealership for several cumulative hours, etc.

The second service call was about a month ago - I figured that with the car coming up towards a year old that I would get a number of little things sorted out all together. I put 4 items on the service request - Steering loom work (our car had no problem, but the fix is good prevention), update battery breather (newer parts reduce noises during supercharging and altitude changes), TPMS fault and the headlamps. I booked the car in for a monday morning at Stockport. They phoned me to ask if I needed a loaner, arranged that no problems. The virtual technician logged into the car remotely to review the TPMS logs and reset the TPMS system before the appointment. I had arranged the appointment for 10am, but I actually had a meeting at 10, so I dropped the car off at 9. As soon as I drove on site I got a text message thanking me for dropping the car off. Left the car with them, took the loaner (S75D), went about my day and got a text at 12.39 telling me that the car was ready to be collected. I drove back and it was indeed ready to be collected, and they had given it some charge as well. They replaced the headlamps because of the oily residue, they replaced one TPMS sensor, replaced the battery breather with the updated part and inspected the steering loom (no problem) and did the additional protection on it. I was very happy with the service work, and especially how the app, virtual service and text messaging worked much more efficiently than other dealers do.

One thing, however, about the second service call that might be upsetting to those coming from other brands is that the car was not washed or vacuumed. I'm fine with that, I don't care about frilly stuff like that (and volvo damaged our V70 by leaving caustic jet-wash solution on it too long - permanently marked some of the rubber door seals and chrome) which is often used by other manufacturers to mask real poor service (like having to take the car in repeatedly for a simple visor replacement). On the upside, I don't have someone leaving me voicemails every other day asking if I want to buy the extended warranty (seriously Lexus, this is aimed at you! Why do you push warranties so hard at the same time as crowing about how reliable you are?!)

Driving
So, onto other things. I LOVE how the model 3 drives. The instantaneousness of the drivetrain is as expected, and although more powerful it's not wildly different to the Leaf in that respect. However, the chassis is very different to the Leaf. The model 3 is a lovely car to drive - incredibly grippy, fast steering, brilliant traction. The SR+ has a bit more rear-ward weight distribution than the LR or P, as it doesn't have the front motor and the active (heavy) part of the battery is at the back of the battery box - the front 1/3rd of the battery box is filled with lightweight "gap filler" material. I have no figures or data on it, but I believe from various online readings that the SR+ is about 46:54 weight distribution. It sometimes feels a little light on the front end, and sometimes needs a few little steering adjustments because it doesn't always have the front-end confidence you want (I am far from an expert, but I am told by those more knowledgeable that it's also to do with the interplay between the springs and bump stops in the front suspension), but you can bring the back end around with the throttle.

The traction control is very different to other cars I've driven - in many cars traction control is very blunt, simply cutting power after wheel slip and making you wait before you can have it back again. The Volvo was spectacularly awful in how the traction control would interplay with the rest of the drivetrain (470Nm diesel driving front wheels, on soft engine/transmission mounts. Traction control would cut in hard and the whole engine/transmission would bang on its mounts due to the very sudden torque change). In the Tesla, it will give you every bit as much drive as the surface that you are on will allow.

Road noise is a bit higher than I'd like - a bit more than the Leaf, and quite a lot more than the Lexus (but the GS is one of the quietest cars there is on the motorway). Ride quality is firm but not at all uncomfortable. I've always gone for the squidgier end of ride quality in my cars, but I don't have a problem with the way the 3 rides. I think that it could be better, from what I've read, with some fancier springs and dampers. I'd love a set of mountain pass comfort coilover adjustables.

Overall, I really enjoy driving the 3. It made me look forward to my commutes (when commuting was a thing) and punting it down a country road puts a smile on my face.

Comfort and Practicality
I find the model 3 seats extremely comfortable. Of course, seats are a personal thing, but the 3 seats fit me so well. Strangely I've never managed to get on with the seats in our GS - despite 18-way power adjustment, the one thing they notably lack is 2D lumbar - instead, the GS has a low and a high lumbar that can be moved in and out, and they're both in the wrong place for my back! The Low is too low and the high is too high. The Model 3 may have fewer adjustments but it has the right ones, at least as far as lumbar support is concerned! I don't particularly like the "Vegan Leather". I'd rather just have a decent cloth seat material, or better yet something like the real semi-aniline leather that the Lexus has.

The model 3 practicality is actually very good indeed. I took a trip to pick up some 3.1m long 2x4s, which can be put into the car into the front passenger footwell to the back corner of the boot. There's plenty of cars that wouldn't be possible in. The boot is huge, the underfloor well is huge, the seats fold down.... it's really very good and I don't find the lack of hatch to be that annoying (and had a lot of estate cars in the past).

I love the interior. The minimalism doesn't feel cheap to me - I like that I know exactly where everything is, unlike the Lexus with its buttons strewn all over the place. For example, at one point the Lexus stopped folding in the door mirrors when locked - I searched through every single menu in the infotainment, looked all over, eventually gave up. A while later I noticed a button on the door, near the mirror controls simply marked "Auto" with a green LED telltale that wasn't lit. One of more than 10 buttons in the Lexus that is marked "Auto". Even the Lexus has some creaky plastics in the centre console, and the Volvo would give off a whole cacophony of creaking plastic when pressing one of the climate or audio controls. The perceived quality from touch points in the model 3 is much higher - the screen is totally rigidly mounted and feels responsive, and feels like a higher quality control than many in the Lexus (and I found the climate knobs in the merc GLE to be incredibly cheap wobbly plastic - really nasty!).

The ventilation system is a revelation. In every over car that I've had there's been a real juggling act of trying to get the vents set up right so that I'm not being blown away, my knuckles aren't being frozen or roasted, etc. The model 3 just feels so soft and comfortable - easily the best ventilation system of any car I've been in. It doesn't feel stuffy, it doesn't drastically cool one spot while leaving others roasting, it just works!

Software, autopilot, stuff
I'm not a heavy user of autopilot. We do not have FSD. When using autopilot or TACC we've had a few phantom braking events, and they are concerning when they happen. However, they have definitely improved over time, and I have no doubt will continue to do so.

When we first got the car the auto wipers were disappointingly poor. However, the "deep rain" update changed them significantly, and then a few more updates really got their behaviour in order. In the past couple of months they've performed really well for me, and easily on a par with traditional rain-sensors in the Volvo, Leaf and Lexus.

Software updates are mostly positive and I've not suffered any major behaviour reversions that some people complain of (but as I said, I'm not a heavy autopilot user). Lots of good features and updates have been made. I love how seamless the experience is compared to other car makers battles with software.

Infotainment
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The system is big, clear, simple to use, responsive and offers all sorts of things others don't. Touchscreen isn't difficult to use and no more distracting than other non-touch systems. Systems in Volvo (both our pre-Sensus V70, and later Sensus touch V60 at my workplace), Leaf 24 and Lexus are way worse to use. Tesla make the simple things really simple - cancelling a sat nav route is one press (not delving through multiple menu levels as per Volvo and Lexus). Setting a route home is a single swipe (swipe right on the destination box and it will route you home). Voice commands have been variable with software updates, but again WAY better than Lexus or Leaf which.

Getting podcasts through TuneIn is great, and of course all my own music off USB. The Tesla supports FLAC, which is now a realistic proposition with the amount of storage that you can buy very cheaply now, so my own music collection is easily accessible. Accessing the USB music isn't perfect, but again it is much easier than in volvo or Lexus or especially the Leaf which was spectacularly awful (completely ignored the artist level of folder structure)

Supercharger
Many people say that supercharger is the real advantage of a Tesla over other good EVs. Some people say it's not that big of a deal. As someone who owned a Leaf, and I have friends, family and colleagues with other EVs (Among those groups, 4 Leaf 24s, 1 Leaf 40, 1 Ioniq 38, 1 other Model 3 SR+, 1 e-Niro and 1 I-Pace) I have my own view.

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Supercharger is just a level above any other EV charging network. A massively overlooked benefit of supercharger against even the likes of Ionity is that it's just simple "plug'n'go". There's no faffing with contactless or app authorisation. Compared to the absolute torture that is trying to get an EH charge started through the app, it's a revelation. And a key point is that if you don't have that faff then you start charging sooner so you finish charging sooner. Supercharger is leagues ahead of any other in terms of widespread high-speed chargers in large numbers on trunk routes, and being able to see ahead at how busy a station is is useful too. Speed is great - 5% to 70% in 20 minutes at Tebay (120kW peak), and I've had higher rates at Grantham (132kW is highest I've personally had) and Hopwood park. As V3 rolls out then it will get even faster. Yes, Ionity will match for speed, but not for price as Supercharger is also one of the very cheapest paid charging networks without a subscription (only Lidl Podpoint is cheaper that I know of).

The rapid expansion of supercharger is also amazing to see - 74 new bays open so far in 2020, with 48 more under active construction and a further 190 in planning/early stages. By contrast, Ionity have opened 38, with 4 more under construction and 6 in planning.

And of course, any CCS charger on any network is a charge point the model 3 can use, so it will always use everything its competitors can, PLUS supercharger in addition. It's a big deal. Maybe a few years in future when supercharger represents less than 10% of the >100kW chargers available then it won't be, but for now while supercharger represents >75% of all >100kW chargers in the UK then it is.

Range, speed and other charging
Real world range of the 3 SR+ is 150-270 miles. 150 is trying to drive at 70-75 through heavy rain in winter. 270 is driving at 60 with the AC off in summer. Basically it's exactly 3x what my Leaf 24 Tekna would do (50-90, same conditions).

What's really noticeable with the 3 is its high-speed drivetrain efficiency - it will cruise at 70-75 and average around 225-250Wh/mi (aero caps off, mudflaps fitted) at that speed. Thanks to its charging speed, the quickest way to reach a destination in the 3SR+ is simply to drive at the limit and take a 10 minute charge stop, rather than sitting at 60mph (eg 2hrs at 70mph = 140 miles, vs 120 miles for 60mph. Those 20 miles will take a further 20 minutes to cover at 60, but a 10 minute comfort break gets you a decent whack of charge, easily enough for the next hour of 70mph and you're still 10 minutes ahead of travelling at 60mph).

The thing that isn't so wonderful is the climate system efficiency. I tend to leave it on auto, but some experiments I've done suggest that on shorter (ie less than 20 mile) journeys this has a huge impact as compared to just setting the fan. In winter, the heating is a big draw because there's no heatpump. I think that in the real world the Ioniq 38 is more efficient when all of these things are taken into account, plus the other elements of power consumption that the model 3 has (eg autopilot computer/cameras uses about 150W constantly regardless of whether AP is active or not. At 50mph that's adding 3Wh/mi to consumption. On my typical commute it's closer to 6 or 7 Wh/mi. Other examples are battery heating for rapid charging, which will draw 7kW from a 50kW rapid that doesn't make it into the battery)

11kW AC charging is useful. I use it at my workplace, and we used it a few times while travelling in Scotland. It will give 20% per hour approx. We spent 3 hours wandering around Oban and had a cup of coffee, and got a decent charge from 11kW in that time.

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Long Journeys
We've taken the 3 to Scotland (Edinburgh, up to Elgin, back down Loch ness, around Oban and the coast there. Not the NC500. We've taken it down to london, and down to my mother's in gloucestershire. I have no hesitation in using it for long journeys as it isn't fatiguing to drive. I tell non-EV people that ask what it's like that you can drive on regular UK motorways for about 3 hours, then after a 20 minute supercharge you can do another 2 hours - 20 mins stop in 5 hour journey doesn't seem bothersome to most people.

SR+ or LR?
We simply couldn't afford to an LR so it wasn't really a question for us. Do I regret the SR+... not at all. After the Leaf it has plenty of range and performance, and more than most people need. Range isn't the be-all and end-all of EV livability. For example, the SR+ will do a trip from London to Edinburgh 45 minutes or so quicker than a longer ranged Kia e-Niro because of its charging performance. Yes, for any given journey that needs charging, the LR will be quicker, but not by a huge margin. Certainly in the context of realistic journeys within the UK, the advantage of the LR is limited. AWD would be nice in the snow, but the tesla traction control is so good that the SR+ feels surefooted. When it comes to trying to brake or turn in the snow, AWD won't help you and it's down to tyres anyway. If I were to buy another 3 then I'd quite happily take the SR+ again and keep the cash.

Conclusion

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The Model 3 is not flawless by any stretch. However, I find it the least flawed car that I've ever owned. It's a car that I look forward to driving, whether it's for a B-road blast, a motorway schlep or the daily grind of a commute. It costs less to run than a 1.0 econobox, it drives really well and is comfortable and does everything that I want it to do. It is the best thing that I've ever bought.

This doesn't mean that there aren't other great cars out there or that it will be perfect for everyone. However, I find it one that is extremely satisfying to own and drive and that's all that I need it to be.
 

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What a fantastic write up! Did you get a bank loan for the rest of the money? Just wondering how to fund my next car as dont fancy a lease.

I also wonder if a tesla is "Too posh" for my neighbourhood. My neighbour commented that i should move house before i get a tesla!
 
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Discussion Starter #6
What a fantastic write up! Did you get a bank loan for the rest of the money? Just wondering how to fund my next car as dont fancy a lease.
Savings + what i sold the Leaf for + £20k unsecured loan @ 2.9% APR (ie cheaper than most car finance products). I've been saving up pretty hard since, and if I can roll another debt next summer in the way I plan then I should have that loan paid off in 2 years for a total finance cost of less than £1k (which is a good deal given that since then the model 3 has gone up in price by £3k and the leaf would have depreciated £3k)
 

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Real world range of the 3 SR+ is 150-270 miles. 150 is trying to drive at 70-75 through heavy rain in winter. 270 is driving at 60 with the AC off in summer. Basically it's exactly 3x what my Leaf 24 Tekna would do (50-90, same conditions).
Thank you for a very balanced write up of your thoughts.

I especially like the quoted bit, my wife has a Leaf 24 Tekna, I often drive it when she doesn't need it. We can relate to those numbers.

So basically you've upgraded from driving 45min and charging 30min to driving 2 hr and charge 20min with much lower possibility of queuing. Good numbers to run paste my wife in support of my Man Maths™ :D
 

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Excellent positive review and just what I wanted to hear before I will be collecting my M3LR in less than two weeks.
Makes a welcome change from the various negatives posted about problems encountered.
And curiously I will be moving from a Volvo V70 to a Tesla too :)
 

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Yes, but what do you really think of the M3? ;):)

Always good to hear balanced reviews from owners after the honeymoon period is over, some useful info so thanks. 👍
 

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Because we ordered early our SR+ has Foglights (from factory, not even the retrofit that some SR+ buyers had) and it has the auto-dimming door mirrors that later cars do not.

I've got a 19 plate SR+ (July registered), I've also got the fog lights included, but can you explain the "auto dimming door mirrors" ??
 
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Discussion Starter #12
I've got a 19 plate SR+ (July registered), I've also got the fog lights included, but can you explain the "auto dimming door mirrors" ??
Model 3s had auto-dimming rear view and door mirrors. At some point the door mirrors were replaced with conventional, non-dimming door mirrors.

Your car, being a 19 plate, should have the auto-dimming mirrors. At night (controlled solely by a timer, that changes each day along with sunrise/sunset times - it's not ambient light level controlled) the door mirrors dim to reduce glare from following headlamps, just like the inside mirror does. They darken automatically, and you can not stop them doing so, there's no control for it.
 

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Model 3s had auto-dimming rear view and door mirrors. At some point the door mirrors were replaced with conventional, non-dimming door mirrors.

Your car, being a 19 plate, should have the auto-dimming mirrors. At night (controlled solely by a timer, that changes each day along with sunrise/sunset times - it's not ambient light level controlled) the door mirrors dim to reduce glare from following headlamps, just like the inside mirror does. They darken automatically, and you can not stop them doing so, there's no control for it.
Cheers, I learn something new about the car every week, one day I might even read the manual.
 
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Really informative write up @i-s, thank you. Am torn between SR+ and LR, your experiences help with the decision making process.
 
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A great read that, enjoyed it.

I'm testing the M3 tomorrow in Leeds. I ordered one back in 2016 but cancelled a few months later and despite preferring looks of others (I've got a Polestar 2 test planned) I keep thinking of the benefits of the Tesla and the network - that you have summed up really well.

I need AWD where I live to be fair so will go LR but good to hear your reasoning and thoughts on SRvLR.

Ideally want the Model Y but that's too far away. I know I'll see the boot tomorrow but I use my current car (XC40) as a lugger for my bikes and stuff. That's my only worry

But thanks for a great write up
 

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Excellent write-up and funny (as a 19 plate SR+ owner who also sold a Leaf that had barely depreciated) how similar my experience is to yours! Good to see you also chose the correct colour :)

I've not much to add to that write up so I'll sum up my year of ownership -

"The Tesla Model 3 SR+ in the the best daily-driver in the world"
 

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Very good review and similar to my own views. The M3 SR+ is a very good car and is probably the best I've ever owned. But you don't mention the stupid things that unfortunately are included in this fine car, like the voice control that just plain doesn't work, the cruise control that sets itself at the maximum speed of that road irrespective of the speed you pressed the lever down at (roadworks on motorway, press lever down at 50mph, immediately accelerates to 70mph!!!!) and my top annoyance, the dashcam that doesn't keep recording in a continuous loop like any other dashcam, it only saves the recording if you press the save button. Great if you're unconscious after an accident.
Anyway, rant over, perhaps those things don't annoy others, just me, and again, a good review of a good car.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
You make some fair criticisms. Voice commands work for me (I have a fairly generic RP English accent - think 1970s open university videos), and even when they don't work flawlessly they are still leagues ahead of the ridiculous and clunky voice command systems in the Lexus or the leaf. For example, a voice command that shocked me that it got first time was "navigate to Aberlour distillery". Commands like turning the seat heaters on and off, cancelling navigation, etc work well for me.

Cruise control enable doesn't particularly bother me (I use the throttle-pedal workaround when needed) and the built in dashcam is infinitely better than the non-existant ones built into any other vehicle (although I also have a Viofo A129 Duo installed in the car also, as well as using Teslacam). So, as you say, those points you raise can surely be considered annoyances, but they don't particularly bother me - they certainly don't detract from the ownership experience for me.
 
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