The name Tesla gets everyone’s attention – be it for the cars like the Tesla Model 3, Model S or Model X – or indeed the man behind them – Elon Musk. And the Model 3 is of particular importance to where the Tesla brand will go. After all, given that Tesla Motors has a higher valuation than even SpaceX, the volumes-driving Model 3 becomes the make or break product in many ways. In India there has been tremendous curiosity and intrigue about all of that, and a lot of inexplicable anticipation about the arrival of this brand of all-electric automobiles to our country.
Mr Musk had hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015, and soon after promised that the brand would come to India – on twitter where all things are apparently true – nothing as yet suggests it is happening anytime soon.Yet were it to happen, the car in question would undoubtedly be the smallest EV (electric vehicle) in the range – the Tesla Model 3. In fact when its bookings opened online, several Indians had also booked it by putting in the $1000 down payment. While most have cancelled and received a full refund, others still live on in hope. To them I say – it’s worth it. Yes I have driven the new Tesla Model 3, and I can tell you straight away it lives up to the hype. And while I obviously mean that in terms of the cool and the tech, I also think it does on driveability. Surprised? I know I was.
The Tesla Model 3 is a compact car, and has rather simple styling. The face is almost bland and inexpressive, yet futuristic because of the lack of too many styling details – so there’s no grille or air dams. The profile is a bit hatch cum coupé like, almost invoking the Toyota Prius in some ways – not the best thing to relate it to I know. The rear is also clean, and the taillights stand out – you know from a mile it’s a Tesla. And the compact proportions tell you it’s the Model 3. But those proportions belie the kind of cabin space you get.
Quite generous for a car this size. This was always meant to have been a BMW 3 Series rival, and up until the previous generation 3 Series that was a very valid argument. The new recently unveiled 3 Series though is a slightly larger, much sportier and more ample sedan than its predecessor, but here is how the numbers stack up in dimension terms anyway – Model 3: Length 4690 mm, Wheelbase 2880 mm, Height 1440 mm, Width 1930 mm / BMW 3 Series (G20): 4709 mm, Wheelbase: 2851 mm, Height 1442 mm, Width 1827 mm.
Tesla offers the Model 3 in three variants, but given the options available on each, the actual options go into multiples of three! The broad variants are – the entry level single-motor option (with 400 kms drive range), the dual-motor long range with all-wheel drive (500 kms range) and the Performance variant which makes the dual-motor go faster (0-100 kmph happens in about 3.4 seconds!) and gives it a top speed of 250 kmph. While it would have been great to have the latter, I was quite pleased getting my hands on the dual-motor version at least. And there is a badge at the rear that tells you it is this variant. The big deal on this car is its cabin, and again I got lucky, as my car for the day has the optional white interior – for which (you guessed it!) you have to pay extra! Also an optional extra – the 19-inch wheels on this car.
And do I think we need it in India? Well as a flagship for the EV wave that will come at some point – yes. And maybe we don’t need the supercharger, and can make do with the home wall box or even a simple three pin option – no doubt both will mean longer charge times. But that is fine since it could be plugged in overnight for instance. Given the announcements from several carmakers about bringing in EVs by 2020, the acceptance will also only grow. And Tesla already has a halo around it – meaning the pull factor is already there in India.