There seems to be a bit of bias in the auto press when it comes to Tesla. For whatever reason, media pundits can’t bring themselves to admit that Elon Musk might be onto something with his electric cars. Even more so, they find it hard to accept that the new kid on the block and the first new car company to enter the market since the 1920s could somehow be showing all their favorite brands how you really make a great car.
But the evidence is already out there for everybody to see. The Model S wasn’t just voted the best electric car by car owners, it was also voted the best car out of all cars. This tiny company from Fremont California has somehow managed to show up the best in the world.
To substantiate the point that the media might be a little biased, take the review by Auto Express. The UK-based car magazine recently did its top ten best electric cars in the world. It chose the BMW i3 for its top stop, inching out the Tesla Model S, despite the fact that it is by all comparisons an inferior car. Whereas the Model 3 will do around 300 miles on a single charge, the i3 will go between 80 and 125, depending on how you drive it.
How the media will react when the Model 3 – Tesla’s mass-market car – is released later this year remains to be seen, but one can expect more backlash. Commentators are already gearing up for a Tesla failure. First, we had the news that the car would be much more expensive than the $35,000 touted by Elon Musk in the run-up to the launch. Then we had the news that production was marred by quality control issues and that owners should be wary. Then we had reports that the company was going to go bust, thanks to its merger with SolarCity. And yet none of this has actually happened. In fact, the news from the stock market is only good for Tesla, having recently surpassed both Ford and GM.
But the Model 3 is a lot more that just a new, cheaper sedan for Tesla. It’s probably the most important car in the history of the world, both for general car users as well as car enthusiasts.
The reasons for this are many. But let’s just take acceleration for instance. For decades, the average working man has dreamed of owning a car that’s able to rocket him from 0 to 60 mph in under 5 seconds. If you wanted a car with that kind of performance, you either had to go with something outrageous, like a Nissan GTR or you had to remortgage your house. It simply wasn’t an option for the vast majority of people using petrol technology.
But Musk has promised that the Model 3 will be able to catapult drivers from 0 to 60 mph in around 4 seconds for the higher end models, meaning that the car will have similar performance to the Ferraris and the McClarens of a decade ago. That’s quite an achievement.
The performance of the car comes down to the fact that it uses an electric engine. Thanks to their simplicity and the way torque works on an electric drivetrain, electric engines are able to produce far more acceleration than similarly-priced gas engines. It’s essentially a stepwise change in the technology, like the first transition from horse and carriage to automobiles, which will change the way we think about cars. Fast acceleration will no longer be hard to achieve, and so luxury cars will have to come up with new ways of being luxurious.
They’ll have a hard time, of course. The other way in which the Model 3 will be revolutionary is thanks to the fact that all that performance won’t come at the cost of creature comforts. The interior of the car showcased at the Tesla teaser event back in 2016 revealed that it wasn’t a stripped down cockpit you might expect in a petrol performance car. Instead, it was like the inside of an iPhone, complete with large landscape tablet display, stunning vegan leather upholstery and minute attention to detail in the cabin design. Suffice to say, it certainly wasn’t cheap.
Although Tesla was undoubtedly putting its best foot forward at the show, there’s no denying that the interior of the car was worthy of the supercar moniker. It was a little different. But it was certainly stylish. It was techy but also classy – pretty much exactly what you might expect from the automaker.
Then there is the matter of safety. Like Volvo, Tesla is a company that wants to help its customers avoid crashing in its vehicle. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans have to visit an auto wreck lawyer because they’ve been injured. But that figure could start to fall with the Model 3. From a safety perspective, the car is a supercar. Just like people, the car uses vision to detect hazards in the world. But unlike people, it has eight eyes staring out in 360 degrees, it never gets tired, and it never gets drunk. It’s able to monitor the road around it and take action if it suspects there’s going to be an accident.
We’ve already seen the Model S doing exactly this while out on the road. There is dashcam footage of Model S cars bringing themselves to a stop because they’ve predicted that there is going to be an accident on the road ahead. It freaks drivers out (how does it know?), but there’s no denying that the technology is pretty groundbreaking. AI in vehicles is going to mean significant changes to the way we think about cars.
So are there any negatives with the Model 3? Not likely. Tesla is set to produce 80,000 units this year and maybe 500,000 next year. That means that we’re going to see a whole bunch of new supercar owners rather quickly.