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Tesla Model 3 Second Ride Review

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 5/10/2016 Kim Reynolds, Motor Trend Staff
2017 Tesla Model 3 top view© Provided by MotorTrend 2017 Tesla Model 3 top view

"Be on the left side of the stage and ready to go," the Tesla PR person urged us during the Model 3 unveiling in March. "There's going to be a big line." As Musk was winding up his Model 3 presentation, Christian Seabaugh texted me, "Where are you?" Amid the shifting crowd, I spotted the back of his head in the murky hall. "Turn around," I typed. He turned 90 degrees. Oh lord. "Turn around again." He turned another 90 degrees. Christian made a funny face, and we started fast-walking toward the empty line. Handlers clicked open the slinky silver Model 3's doors, and we swiveled in—cool. Its first passengers.

Invariably, being directed to a test car at a press event is about as exciting as getting a room key at a Motel 6. "Name?" the guy types without looking up and pushes a key toward you. "That way," a finger points. "Blue car." Yeah, OK, thanks. But amid the bass thump of rock music, teeming tight-pants-wearing hors d'oeuvres servers, empty liquor glasses crowding linen-draped tables, and abstract lighting splintering the cool black night, this was a chic Hollywood premiere transplanted 12 miles south to nearby Hawthorne. Oh, and there's Musk's SpaceX rocket factory looming next door as a heroic, high-tech prop. Except it's not a prop.

Space X Dragon capsule mock up© Provided by MotorTrend Space X Dragon capsule mock up
Christian took shotgun up front while Chris Bacarella and I bookended an interloper from Tesla in the back row. How roomy is the smaller Tesla? My kneecap-to-seat-back gap (behind the tall Tesla driver, and I'm 6-foot-1) was a good 2 inches. Laterally, though, that guy in the middle must have wondered if I was a part-time pickpocket as I wriggled my fingers between our thighs stretching for the seat-belt latch. (In truth, the squeeze is no worse than that of any other sedan of this size.) Headroom? I felt above my head. Plenty there, too, and then—tap—I felt the glass.

Tesla Model 3 on stage© Provided by MotorTrend Tesla Model 3 on stage

An acquaintance once had a business meeting with Elon Musk and told me that among Musk's first words were, "I'm the world's greatest salesman." This glass reminds me of that. Design (that you really desire) should both function and affect you; a trademark feature of Frank Lloyd Wright homes was their unusually low entranceway ceilings that suddenly shot up high as you entered the main room. You looked up and automatically felt better. Wright was a salesman. This view from inside the Model 3 shoots up to the clouds. I'm already envying kids who'll eventually ride back here and stare up at stars on inky nights.

But the glass is more than translucent. Its thinness allows great rear headroom and a critical roofline shave; indeed, the whole car's design pivots on how deftly designer Franz von Holzhausen and Co. have handled this one problem. However, the glazing—it's in three segments—continues forward, arching all the way to the unusually low base of the windshield, a panoramic backdrop for the dashboard.

Tesla Model 3 interior 1© Provided by MotorTrend Tesla Model 3 interior 1 Tesla has warned that this car's interior is a placeholder. The presentation was hardly over before Musk was tweeting that the absence of a driver-facing gauge cluster and the minimalist center-mounted multitouch panel "will make sense after part 2" of the Model 3's introduction. "Wait until you see the real steering controls and system for the 3. It feels like a spaceship." Not far away at SpaceX, the controls of the Falcon 9's Dragon capsule are being readied for manned launches in two or three years. Spaceship interiors aren't science fiction around here. Space X Dragon© Provided by MotorTrend Space X Dragon

Musk's said an all-autonomous Tesla could be ready in three years (aside from pesky regulatory issues). Might the Model 3 be anticipating autonomous driving in the same way the Model S was quietly pre-engineered for its dual-motor AWD? Maybe we'll find out when the World's Greatest Salesman lifts the sheet at the Model 3's next reveal.

Read our Tesla Model 3 First Ride review here.

2017 Tesla Model 3 top view interior seats© Provided by MotorTrend 2017 Tesla Model 3 top view interior seats

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