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Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/29/19 12:57 a.m.

Your homework: pre-purchase discussion

For those who don't read: I bought a black on black Tesla Model 3. It's the Long Range Dual Motor version, which means up to 310 miles of range, AWD and a 0-60 0f 4.4 according to Tesla. This is what it's like owning and living with this next-generation vehicle.

I bought it using Apple Pay on my phone because I could and because...well, because I could. Seriously.

First, we did the EV version of a fly and drive. In order to qualify for free Supercharging for two years, we had to take delivery by the end of Sept 2019. Problem - there weren't any available for delivery in time. I was watching the inventory in Denver to see if one showed up so I could grab it, but nothing. Then, on Friday the 27th, I looked at Salt Lake City and hit the jackpot. They had the exact spec we wanted in inventory. Our car!

A quick phone call to my pre-delivery contact person and we changed from a truck delivery in Colorado to a pickup in Utah with about 24 hours notice. If you're not aware, Tesla doesn't do dealerships - you buy directly from the company. And this is the sort of thing you can do in that case. I cannot imagine trying to pull this stunt with a Chevy.

So now we had signed up to take delivery of our new EV and take it on an immediate 300 mile road trip through some pretty desolate sections of Utah. Traditionally, this would have been basically impossible for an EV - but Tesla has changed the game over the past half decade by both stepping up the amount of range found in electrics and building out the high-speed Supercharger charging network. Let's see if it works in practice.

Saturday morning, Janel and I jumped in her 2000 Grand Cherokee and motored out to Salt Lake. 4.5 hours door to door. We showed up just in time for our 12:30 appointment and cooled our heels for 30 minutes as the dealership had to deal with various other problems like a lady who was very upset about her Model X doors. The store feels more like an Apple Store than a dealership, very decentralized and staffed by young enthusiasts. The Utah store had downloaded all the Colorado DMV paperwork for us. No complaints about the service there, that's for sure. We did have to sign a paper saying that we were going to take the car out of Utah which meant we didn't have to pay sales tax. The store also apologized for a rainstorm that had just spotted the car up and offered to detail the exterior again for us, but since we had a 300 mile trip ahead that seemed a little ridiculous.

The car was parked outside, plugged into a Supercharger to ensure it was fully topped up. We changed the maximum charge from 80% to 90% so we'd have a little more buffer for the trip and were given a tour of the car. I went over the car pretty carefully to see if I could spot any assembly line screwups but didn't spot anything. Without the ability to pop the hood and check out the motor, a gearhead feels a little lost. 

All done, we got in the car to drive away and it refused. We then unplugged it from the charger and it allowed us to leave. Car 1, Keith 0.

I took the first stint at the wheel because the new car was weird and we were in a city we don't know well so Janel wasn't comfortable. I'd read the owner's manual too. I put in the destination and the car proposed a 15 minute stop at a Supercharger in Price, 115 miles down the road. It told me I'd have 48% battery when I arrived there and then 16% when I got home after the top-up. The store had told us it would take a couple of weeks to activate the free Supercharger access so I wasn't sure what the payment might look like, but this is an adventure.

I'll cover driving impressions later, but we picked up the car with 3 miles on it. They have to calibrate a bunch of systems before they come online, so the cruise control wouldn't work for 15 miles or so until all the cameras got their act together. I could feel the steering sort of coming into focus as well - it started off darty and then became nice and stable, almost like the toe was dialing in. That could have also been grooved concrete and a cross wind, but that didn't go away while the dartiness did.

In Price, we found the Supercharger cluster in the parking lot of a Holiday Inn. I backed up and plugged in with 49% charge remaining. Almost had to back a little closer - those are short cables and I haven't figured out exactly how close you can get with the rear camera. There was a DQ sharing the parking lot so we stopped in for a pee and an ice cream cone. The car was asking for 10 minutes of charging but we got talking and accidentally charged the car all the way to full in 30 minutes. I turned on the AC in the car via my phone because it was getting warm inside and I'm a big softy who loves the idea of a car that cools itself down for me. 

I don't know how/if we paid for it, but the car said it was under $8 worth of charging. There's no payment method attached to my Tesla account or anything. It's a mystery.

Janel decided to keep driving her beloved Jeep and let me deal with the weird new car. Back on the road, past a set of Superchargers in Green River (the only other set on the trip, but not needed) and we pulled into our driveway with 27% charge remaining. Not only had we charged more than necessary, but the car proved to be a little more frugal on the 80 mph interstate than expected due to a tailwind so the estimated charge remaining after the full "tank" ended up being a little pessimistic.

Unpacked the charger in the trunk - this thing is in a fitted bag that has a high traction bottom on it so it locks into the carpet and doesn't slide around - attached the $35 6-50 plug for the charger that I'd ordered last week, and the car happily started to slurp away at my own electrons. It predicted 7 hours to go to a full charge at 7.3 kW, which works well for an overnight stop. Superchargers are mostly 150 kW I believe, so they'll ram range into the car a whoooole lot faster.

So there we go. Turns out you can do city-to-city electric car trips without too much hassle. We had a pleasant stop in Price and ice cream that cost more than our fillup. The Jeep also got a fillup before we left SLC but you all know what that's like. The Tesla now has 294 miles on the odometer and a lifetime average speed that's north of 75 mph. Now we'll find out what it's like to live with day to day.

Javelin GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/29/19 1:09 a.m.

Berkeleying epic already!!

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/29/19 1:36 a.m.

Driving impressions. Warning, this is a book because I had 4.5 hours to think about this and you folks are paying the price because my wife won't listen to me anymore.

I also have an E39 M5, and it's remarkably similar to this car as a road tripper. The same effortless ability to maintain a given speed on the cruise control and the ability to instantly transform from a quiet cruiser to a maniac. The M5 is my usual road trip choice because it's like a small plane and the Tesla shares a lot of these attributes.

The Tesla is remarkably quiet inside, of course. You really notice it when you're talking to someone, you talk in very quiet conversational tones. Also, when you go full throttle (full potentiometer?) it has that eerie immediate hit of torque. I did a roll-on beside Janel on the way home and actually bounced my head off the headrest. Okay, that's the stuff everyone knows.

Otherwise, as a road trip car it's pretty darn good. Good stability and well judged shock damping - better than a lot of modern cars. I'm looking at you, BMW X1. You can set the regenerative braking to light or heavy. In the latter state, you basically drive with one pedal as it will decelerate hard if you take your foot off. It will light up the brake lights in this scenario, you'll be glad to know.

The adaptive cruise is pretty good. Very similar to the setup in my Mom's 2018 Sportwagen and it gets tentative in the same situations. A car that's moved over to an exit lane and started slowing down may be mistaken for a car on a curve ahead that is about to become an obstacle. Oncoming traffic on the outside of a curve can make it hesitate. No worries - but with the heavy regen on the Tesla, this can mean a fairly strong "eyeballs out" g force as the car slows fairly hard and then you go eyeballs in as it picks up speed immediately. Not super-smooth when it has a moment of indecision where the VW is more subtle due to much less engine braking effect. The BMW doesn't have this problem, of course, but it will also plow right into the back of another car if you're not there to override the cruise!

Telsa does distinguish between Autopilot (aka adaptive cruise) and Autosteer (aka Jesus take the wheel) in the menus and documentation, although I've never heard this distinction in any discussion of the cars. I did not try Autosteer. That's the one that is controversial, I found Autopilot to be nothing more than an adaptive cruise system with a little more awareness of cars around.

The car is very aware of traffic around it. There's a view on the center screen that shows all the vehicles ahead and to the sides, right to the level of identifying their body shapes. Kinda useful, but I found that with my hands at 9 and 3 my right hand blocks any cars that might be in the driver's blind spot. 

The big screen contains almost all the controls for the car. When you're driving, you can engage/cancel cruise with a stalk. You can also change the cruise speed and adjust the minimum following distance by using the right trackball on the steering wheel. The left one controls the audio - volume up/down, track forward/back and pause/restart. Those are the settings I find myself using often while driving so this is a pretty good setup. Other frequently accessed controls such as the target HVAC temp are permanently fixed at the bottom of the screen so you don't need to dig through menus to get to them. If you want to adjust mirrors while driving, well, that takes a couple of taps/swipes.

The right trackball also triggers voice activation. This thing came with streaming radio built in, and I was able to make requests like "Play Sure Got Cold When The Rain Fell by ZZ Top" and it will play the song for you (even if it IS called Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell) and then go into Pandora mode of similar songs that you can thumbs up or down. It even dealt well with stumbles like "Play Dabro no David Gilmour Live In Gdansk" without missing a beat. This is all hand-off so it's pretty easy to deal with.

It did take me a little while to get used to the speedo being over in the center display, but of course that's where it is on my classic Mini. Without the usual engine note cues for road speed, it's hard to judge your speed. A heads-up display would be a good option. The adaptive cruise is a better one, it just takes care of things for you. One more note about the cruise - the following gap setting is based on time and not distance, and I found the maximum gap to be a little close for my taste in slower traffic. Seemed to be about 3.5s. On the highway, it was about the same distance I'd choose.

The car has a tall bootlid and I found myself wishing for a rear window that was lower at the base. You can't see very closely behind you, so if you're like me and like to see how the car behind dealt with the bump in the road you just hit  by watching its relationship to its wheels you will be disappointed. In more open traffic this isn't noticeable, but it sure is in an urban interstate.

The tactile feel of the steering wheel controls were better in this car than the one I test drove last month. Evolution? Car-to-car variation? Unknown. The only assembly problem I found with my car was a loose trim piece at the passenger side sunvisor. I'll see if I can snap that back into place, I suspect it just didn't seat.

HVAC is a bit odd with the hidden vents. You can adjust the flow of the air with one tap and a swipe on the touchscreen, but I never got it exactly where I wanted. The car has a tinted glass roof and there's definitely some solar gain going on. I found myself adjusting the target temperature a few times to deal with that, as I would feel the direct sun more than the car would.

Okay, enough for now. More later.

Ransom GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
9/29/19 5:55 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Hardly the most pressing question, but the one on top as I get to the end of your impressions... So there's no shade/cover/adjustment on the glass roof?

I like having the glass panel on the Mini, but there are a lot of conditions where I draw the shade, whether due to too much direct sun or just a quality of light where it's cozier without it.

Is there a non-adaptive mode on the cruise control? I like that it would ease my constant futzing with the set speed as I ease up to follow a slower car while a faster car goes by and back to normal, but... I hope to always be paying that much attention, and it sounds about as smooth as having the passenger work the pedals based on verbal descriptions of surrounding traffic...

Karacticus GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/29/19 6:36 a.m.

What is insurance looking like for you?

SVreX MegaDork
9/29/19 6:57 a.m.

I’m super excited to get this blow-by-blow from one of the most trusted car gurus I know!!

I may have missed it in the other thread, but would you mind sharing purchase price, etc?

Slippery GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/29/19 7:53 a.m.


Woody GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/29/19 8:24 a.m.

Cool. I'll be following this one as well.

How do they handle test drives without a traditional dealer network?

Do they all have the glass roof?

OHSCrifle GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/29/19 9:05 a.m.

Website shows $525/month for a 36 month/12,000 annual miles lease with zero down payment

RevRico GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/29/19 9:09 a.m.

How did the "bought it with Apple pay" part work? Did it sign you up on auto pay or take the whole enchiladas at once? I didn't know buying a car through Apple pay was a thing you could do.

MrChaos GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/29/19 10:54 a.m.
RevRico said:

How did the "bought it with Apple pay" part work? Did it sign you up on auto pay or take the whole enchiladas at once? I didn't know buying a car through Apple pay was a thing you could do.

iirc the deposit on one is like $2500. then you go through the standard finance/wire transfer stuff.

Slippery GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/29/19 11:08 a.m.
Woody said:

Cool. I'll be following this one as well.

How do they handle test drives without a traditional dealer network?

Do they all have the glass roof?

You can go to the Tesla store and test drive them. Here at the mall they have a few cars as well to test drive. 

Its worth mentioning that if you buy without a test drive, you can return the car whithin 7 days no questions asked for a full refund. If you do test drive, the return period is shorter, maybe 3 days. Its best to find someone that has one and borrow it if you are not really sure. 

All Model 3s have the glass roof. 

Slippery GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/29/19 11:11 a.m.

The one thing that I would really like to know more is the charging hardware. Can you take pictures of the outlet you are using at the house and what the Tesla hardware that comes with the car looks like?

I am only familiar with a Volvo hybrid and, at least on the XC90, you can plug it on a regular 20a 230v outlet. Its a much smaller battery, so that is probably the reason. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/29/19 11:18 a.m.

The cruise isn't as bad as my description makes it sound. Over the drive home, I probably had about three or four situations where there was significant deceleration. Simply switching over to the light regen would solve the hard decel problem, and you can also drive around it by not coming screaming up behind another car. The biggest decels came from when the car in front of me got close to a slow vehicle then pulled out. The Tesla couldn't really "see" the slow vehicle before it suddenly appeared so it had to react more abruptly. The difference between a human driver and the Tesla in this case is that with the Autosteer turned off, the car didn't have the option of changing lanes to avoid the obstacle so all it could do was slow down. I'll get to know the systems better as time goes on.

Pricing is non-negotiable, so if you want to know what I paid the information is right there on the Tesla website. They play a bit of a game with "include potential savings" that takes tax incentives into account (that's legit) as well as fuel savings (a little fuzzier). They're quite up-front about how the math works on the fuel savings and they're not ridiculous numbers, but it's still a bit of a fake. We do have nearly $7000 in incentives coming back at tax time which will be nice. That puts it in shouting distance of a high-end Outback. The fuel savings are real - I figure it'll cost about $6 to go from 0-100% battery at my house, which isn't really something you ever do because the car prefers the battery to be between 15-80%. With the free Supercharging, I don't really have to pay for "fuel" for two years if I'm willing to park the car at the mall for half an hour. Maintenance costs should be less as well, I think the first real service is a brake fluid flush.

The Apple Pay trick is indeed for the $2500 deposit. You then get to fill out more traditional paperwork for financing if applicable. But it is all very slick and easy, and you can take delivery of the car without ever having to actually visit a dealership. You then have 7 days or 1000 miles to return the car for a full refund if you don't like it.  We chose to finance (this is a long-term purchase) and ended up with 3.49%. We'll pay it off aggressively because that's what we do.

Tesla does have dealerships of sorts, but they're not independently owned. They belong to the company. There's one in a mall in Denver - you can walk in and poke at the touchscreen and laugh at the easter eggs, and if you want to test drive you just walk out to the parking lot. The one in Salt Lake is much more like a traditional dealership and probably used to be one. It was hopping because that's where the Superchargers are for the center of town, so there are Teslas coming and going constantly as they come to the waterhole for a drink. Makes it look really busy.

All Model 3s have a glass roof. It's tinted and they do say there's a significant decrease in heat gain because of it, but we live in an area with extremely strong sun. There are some accessory shades for them that pop into place and fold up when you're not using them. We'll see how things go but I suspect we'll be picking up a couple of those for our climate. The car can turn on the interior fans or the AC (it's a setting) automatically if the interior gets above a certain temp.

Insurance was okay. I don't have much to compare it too as I have many old, questionable vehicles but it's about 35% more than the 2010 Dodge Ram 2500 and nearly 3x the amount of the 2000 Grand Cherokee. Then again, not many cars cost $59/year for collision. I did make sure that I had full glass coverage due to that see-through roof!

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/29/19 11:22 a.m.
Slippery said:

The one thing that I would really like to know more is the charging hardware. Can you take pictures of the outlet you are using at the house and what the Tesla hardware that comes with the car looks like?

I am only familiar with a Volvo hybrid and, at least on the XC90, you can plug it on a regular 20a 230v outlet. Its a much smaller battery, so that is probably the reason. 

I'll post a picture of the included charger, but it's basically a giant wall wart with interchangeable plugs. It comes with a 110v plug, but that's obviously for emergencies only. Alternate plugs are $35 and the charging rate depends on what you plug it into. I park right beside the main panel for the house so adding a 230V 50A outlet was the work of a few minutes. If you have a 20A, it'll work with that as well but will charge slower.
Details and charging rates for each plug

Knurled. GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/29/19 11:26 a.m.

Watching this thread.


It starts with "I bought an all electric car from three states away and paid with my phone."  Guess what - you didn't buy it from the future, you're IN the future.  The future is exciting and sometimes weird.

Slippery GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/29/19 11:34 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Ok, got it. So its the same as the Volvo. A cable and then you change to the proper plug that works with the outlet you have available. 

I thought you had some sort of box you had to install somewhere in the garage. 

mattm GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/29/19 12:00 p.m.

In reply to Slippery :

If you do not have an existing outlet suitable for charging or you want or need to charge at faster rates, Tesla will sell you a wall charger for $500.  You probably want an electrician to install it and I supports charging I believe up to 80 amps.  I already had the circuit and plug installed when the house was built so I continue to just use the included cable as it charges fast enough for my needs.  I also have free supercharging for as long as I own my Model S so if I absolutely need to charge more quickly I can always utilize the Superchargers.  I just find that with my normal usage pattern, an overnight charge suffices unless I am traveling.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/29/19 12:16 p.m.

You can buy a $500 wall charger from Tesla which will get you a 11.5 kW charging rate. My setup taps out at 8 kW. Given the price difference and the fact that the 8 kW charging rate will still get you full overnight, I decided that was unnecessary. The car also comes with an adapter to use the common J1772 Level 2 chargers that work with any EV. 

One problem I have to solve - the car wants Wifi access so it can upload driving data (Teslas share information about everything) and so it can download software updates. But in my parking spot, the car can't find the network due to the thick concrete walls in the garage. So I'm going to have to put an access point in there for the goofy thing. Car wants its own internet.

Reading the manual, the cruise system does use data from other Teslas. If a number of Teslas historically slow down at a given interstate exchange, the car will slow down a bit there as well. It also drops out of cruise (or slows) if you put on the right turn indicator approaching an exit. I'm going to enjoy learning this system.

Energy management is interesting. The car is pretty darn good at estimating range for trips as we found yesterday, it was almost bang-on for the SLC-Price leg and that included some twisty roads and at least one mountain pass. You can open up the "Energy" screen to get a feel for your consumption in Wh/mi - Watt-hours per mile? Anyhow, the higher your Wh/mi the faster you're sucking down the juice. You can see on the first screenshot what a 75 mph highway cruise on rolling terrain looks like. The second is the last 5 miles, and there's even a long hill where I was regenerating long enough to show up on the graph. The car's sitting in the garage on the charger with 84% battery so the range is fairly healthy right now. I just found out you can change that to miles instead of percent, that's more useful.

Since I'm sitting in the car looking at the screen, here's the default. The car on the left turns into a car driving down the road when you're driving and it shows ghosted vehicles around indicating surrounding traffic. I'll get a shot if I ever get Janel to drive the car. The three icons below the car are (from left) turn on rear camera, check battery level (also shows the cost of the last Supercharger stop, apparently) and "listen to me now". Directly below that is the wiper control (off, slow, medium, fast, auto) which can be swiped sideways to show tire pressures or a trip computer (distance since last stop, etc).

The bar of icons on the bottom are permanent, so you can turn things like seat heaters and defrosters on/off with one touch. The audio volume is obviously for passenger override as the driver has it on the wheel :) Tap the car icon and you pull up the big menu that lets you get into everything from Autopilot settings to steering wheel adjustment to booking a service appointment (second picture). The caret icon pulls up a second level of rapid access options like the energy screen. It's all pretty easy to use for normal car functions pretty quickly, but you can get lost trying to remember how to find some things at first.

Windows and door opening are traditional, thank goodness.

Knurled. GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/29/19 12:42 p.m.

 Between the glass roof and the mandatory smartphone-touchscreen driving experience, I'm unsold.


Ford has already committed to abandoning cars.  I guess this leaves GM or Toyota for making an awesome electric.

9/29/19 12:43 p.m.

I would poke around on forums about the whole "internet connectivity" thing. Tons of white-hat crackers have found their way into that owner and driver data through the Tesla's constant want for uploading information- thankfully there's some easy VPN things to do that will keep you protected at home. I'll try finding them for you.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/29/19 1:14 p.m.

You can turn off the data sharing.

Knurled, you don’t really need the touchscreen for the majority of driving. Sure, you need it to turn on the heated seats or defroster - but they’re single-touch icons in a fixed location, so they’re really no different than fixed, dedicated buttons at that point. It’s a complex car, there’s no other way to adjust stuff like the amount of forward collision avoidance. Those racks of tiny buttons in old German cars didn’t work from an interface standpoint either. I expect that any modern car is going to have a touchscreen with nested menus. 

The software button for the glovebox is a little goofy for sure, I’d call that one unnecessary. 

I don’t know why the glass roof, but between that and the flat floor it’s a very airy feeling interior. I’ll get a photo that shows the tint level of the glass. If you don’t live in a 5000’ desert, it may not be a problem. 

Agent98 Reader
9/29/19 1:37 p.m.

Is it true "supercharging" the battery shortens the lifespan?BTW nice write up

bearmtnmartin GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
9/29/19 1:40 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I was in a RAV4 rental with the adaptive cruise on and it mistook a large concrete wall on a curve for an obstacle and applied emergency braking. I was in the outside of three lanes with a semi behind me and it was reall ugly for a minute. So now the first thing I do in a rental is disable it. If nothing else, it slows your speed imperceptibly if you are slowly coming up behind a slower vehicle, and if you are daydreaming a bit you wind up loosing 5 mph without noticing which I find very irritating.

Norma66-Brent Reader
9/29/19 4:00 p.m.

This is applicable to my interests. I do 84 miles of commuting a day. No gas bill sounds wonderful. My current DD is a 2011 sho with 184k, whenever that kicks the bucket a Tesla will be a top contender 

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