By David Morgan
We rented a Tesla 3 recently for a 2,000-kilometer road trip in Quebec. How different was it? If you already
have an EV, in some ways, it’s a lot like you’d expect. And at the same time, not at all. But if you still
drive a gas car, I wouldn’t know where to begin. How about this: Do the kids really need to go to
I’m not going to go into all the nerdy details although enthusiastically I could. Here are a few anecdotes.
I downloaded the Tesla app in Her driveway. (We learned that in French a car is a she.) In a couple of
clicks She smooth-talked my phone, turned it into a key, and 10 seconds later She knew our names and
remembered how we preferred the settings for mirrors, seat, wheel, etc. Then She drove off with us,
slowly, attracting attention like a gorgeous shiny red head-turner. Everyone was looking at us (actually,
Where are the Buttons?
There aren’t any, except two on the wheel. No start button. No speedometer. A key? You’re joking.
Instead there’s a 15” screen and interface so intuitive that even if the owner Daniel hadn’t showed us
anything, we would’ve figured it out as fast as any device we’ve ever used. At first, you might think it’s
overkill, then you realize a full web browser and a big screen is a beautiful thing for a road trip. Even the
air vents are adjusted from the touch screen in a manner more intuitive than you ever considered. And
yes, it tells you your speed, if you really need to know.
I went into this skeptical of what I consider to be Elon Musk’s negligent bragging about a Tesla’s supposed
autonomous self-driving abilities, which encourage reckless expectations and behavior, not to mention
undermine public support for what I think he’s trying to achieve. But I quickly realized this car would
not allow me to misbehave, at least not in the modes I selected from the simple menu. Fail to pay
attention for a few seconds and heed the gentle prompts, and the system disables itself for the rest of
the trip. Although this car did not have Tesla’s Full Self Driving software installed, it was still light years
ahead of anything I’d experienced. Even in out-of-the-way Gaspe, it was impressive how precisely it
steered itself on winding roads as if on rails, even anticipating blind curves and slowing down by itself.
Also impressive was how generally cautious the default settings were. I adjusted them from time to
time and at no time did it appear I could choose a ludicrously irresponsible mode. Which is good
because She was worth half again as much as our two cars combined, and we needed to return Her in a
few days, sadly.
Han Solo Is Never Reckless
Remember the getaway scene when worried Luke asks Han about jumping to hyperspace? Han barks
about loading the coordinates into the computer first, otherwise they’re likely to fly through a star and
have a short trip. Now, substitute a storm of asteroids and buzzing Tie fighters for a pack of idiot
motorcycles blocking a string of cars in the pelting rain. Next, de-select 3’s “Chill” driving mode and
select “Normal”. Then, stomp the “gas” pedal. Voila! Before your foot reaches the floor, your head and
body are pressed against the comfy black leather seat. A nanosecond later while still accelerating you
realize not only is the first elongated motorcycle already behind you, but so’s the second one, and the
third looms like the approaching Death Star. But the Force is with you, so you apply force to the brakes,
and realize they too are Jedi-like. Belatedly recognizing what they’re dealing with, the remainder of the
motorcycle swarm humbly decides it’s time to be considerate as they motion for you to pass, heads
bowed. For the record, this was not the “Performance” version of the car, merely the regular long-
range, AWD version. So Tesla has essentially redefined regular? PS - I looked it up later and the 0 to 60
time is faster than many Ferraris. Also, my wife remembers this incident slightly different than I do.
Junk in the Frunk
The 3 is a low four-door sedan. It doesn’t appear to be a large car, until you take a family of four with a
lot of luggage on a long trip. The trunk is deceptively huge, in part due to a hidden yet easily accessed
extra compartment under the main floor, which occupies the space where a gas tank might go in a so-
called normal car. Then there’s the additional compartment between the front wheels where you might
expect to find the engine. This seems like the place to mention that despite these voids, the 3 is arguably
the safest car in the world, according to numerous authorities who crash test and compare them. It may
defy logic, but Tesla figured it out. And while we’re on the topic of safety, Daniel says She is the best of
several AWD cars he has owned through all the long snowy winters.
Amelia (8 years old): “You can actually make the turn signal noise sound like farts!” Sasha (16): “There are
subtle, aesthetically pleasing interior lights in places like the cup holders, footwells, etc.” Christine: “Seeing
David feeling like Han Solo when driving the Tesla. David: “The tip-out door handles. Not to mention
feeling like Han Solo when driving the Tesla.”
Actually, charging the Telsa has got to be the best feature
If you own an EV you probably quickly figured out that typical concerns about how and where to charge
are overstated. But until you drive a Tesla you don’t understand quite how much. #1- Daniel had Tesla
adapters to use with almost every kind of outlet. #2- Tesla’s navigation makes it extra easy to find them.
#3- In a Tesla, when using the standard 240 volt J-plug that all EVs can use, it charges faster than they
do. #4- The long-range Model 3 can go more than 300 miles on a full battery. #5- The Supercharger,
which we only used once on this trip just to try it right before we returned Her, must be seen to be
believed (and deserves its own paragraph).
When you connect a 3 to a Tesla Supercharger, which no other brand can use, you simply plug in and a
Mississippi River of power starts invisibly flowing into your battery at a rate of 500 miles per hour.
Except for the newest Superchargers which deliver 1,000 miles per hour. Assuming you’re on a long trip
the car tells you how many minutes wait and then it navigates you to the next Supercharger to repeat
the process. What this means is unlike our Bolt and Leaf, where we think seriously about eating a quick
meal while we “fast” charge, in the 3 it was more like: Do all four of us have time to for a pee break and
a banana before it’ll be time to go? This is a thing of beauty and I could easily imagine driving across the
continent like so. And if you think there aren’t multiple Superchargers on the way to nearly every place
you ever drive south of the Yukon, then you haven’t Googled it lately.
Is this car perfect? No. My complaints really aren’t worth mentioning here but ask me and I’ll gladly tell
you. Am I a Tesla cheerleader? Heck no. It might sound like it, but I frequently scoff over the latest
hoopla about the company. And while She’s worth $60,000, many of the features I liked best are available
in cheaper models.
By David Morgan, Leavenworth, Wash.