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Won over by the wonders of electric: Andrew Martin embraces the Tesla 3

The Tesla Model 3.
The Tesla Model 3.

I’ve sold out on my principles… again.

My early college days had a feel of an “Inbetweeners” episode to them. And before you ask, I was the “briefcase” character who relied on humour to keep bullies at bay and was spectacularly unsuccessful in charming girls.

I remember joining an amateur dramatics group to try to get closer to a young politics student. This is the point where I sold out on my beliefs.

There is a belief I hold to be true, and that is my almost religious belief in the internal combustion engine

Even prior to joining college my political stance was a bit right wing, then as a result of attending my economics lectures, I became an advocate of Capitalism and the Market, thus shunning the Socialist argument.

Electrifying seven-seater rides

But, when a the student invited me to join her on a Socialist Workers Party demonstration, I swapped my pinstripe suit (yes, I owned one) for a donkey jacket. Of course, it didn’t work out.

A near perfect driving position

As you know, readers, there is a belief I hold to be true – and that is my almost religious belief in, and love of, the internal combustion engine. Surely, I could never sell out on burning hydrocarbons for electric power? Enter the Tesla Model 3.

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On collecting this car from Tesla at Altens in Aberdeen I was embarrassed that I had to ask for help to get into the car and get it moving. Forget a key, this car uses a credit card and an app on your phone.

Once in the supple vegan leather Tesla driving seat, there’s not much I recognised; two pedals on the floor, a steering wheel, and a Mercedes E Class style gear selector stalk.

It’s modern, clear, simple, and different to other cars

Although the seat is narrow, the comfort and driving position I was able to find was as near perfect as I’ve found on any car (with my 6ft 5in friend also easily finding a comfortable driving position).

The interior has a British Airways lounge feel, which I guess makes owners feel right at home. It’s modern, clear, simple, and different to other cars. It also feels very spacious, the ambience and visibility enhanced by a massive front windscreen and, on the test car, a moon roof.

Transportation with entertainment

However, it took days for me to stop looking through the real leather steering wheel for a speedometer and driver information, which, of course, is all housed in the big screen in the middle of the car facia.

There is so much stuff available on this screen that a Tesla could be seen as a 21st century entertainment system that doubles as transportation.

I could fill pages with the features you can find on screen, as you could happily spend hours in here, with friends, and never want to go anywhere.

I’m going to mention only one. Leaving home for a night out with the Tesla and partner Alice, I tell her I’m going on ahead to light a fire and warm the car up. And when she gets in, I have a crackling roaring fire on screen.

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It’s crammed full of electronic gizmos, too, but this is a great driver’s car. On the test car the Dual Motor four-wheel drive system ensures plenty of grip and stability so you can make the most of all the torque.

It also lets you carry a fair amount of speed through corners, then slingshot out the other side. The steering is the work of some latter-day magician, as although I know it’s electric it feels great.

That said, driving the four-wheeled entertainment system took a bit of getting used to. I wasn’t initially able to drive smoothly, using the brake pedal to slow down meant brutal deceleration.

On the road there’s no need to use the brakes, just lift off the throttle and the car slows down.

Tesla uses electric disc brakes made by Brembo with electric drive motors for regenerative braking, as they generate power and slow the car down. I got used to it eventually, but there was an element of driver learning required.

The revelation is the acceleration and power delivery. On a safe track at Alford I floored the car from standstill and, honestly, it took off so fast I felt dizzy and sick. The G forces were akin to a fighter aircraft.

Range anxiety remains

Which, allied to the braking, makes it safe on the road. On my regular run out to Braemar on the A93 I was able to make safe overtakes that I wouldn’t even attempt on the motorbike.

It’s that rapid. (For safety Big Brother at Tesla were able to speed limit the top speed on the test car, so I cannot confirm the performance claim of 162mph, but don’t doubt the 3.1 seconds to 60mph).

Range anxiety? Yes, I got it. My car has a claimed range of 340 miles, but in everyday use, in hilly, cold Scotland, and using the performance I’d expect 290-ish.

I took the adapter to fill up at night at the house, which is just as well as none of the three public charging units in the Braemar carpark were working at 6.30am on a dark winter’s morning (they all are now).

I had a run from Aberdeen to Dundee to do that day and managed there and back, with miles to spare, on the overnight charge only with careful driving.

The Model 3 offers several different options for charging: Tesla’s network of fast-charging stations called Superchargers (which does give the brand competitive advantage over other EVs), adapters for DC public-charging stations, 240- and 120-volt outlets, and a home-charging station.

Handing the Tesla 3 back wasn’t easy. It can be a great sports car, and more importantly, one that I could easily live with, a machine that encouraged me to drive smoothly (while seeking the maximum range from the batteries).

Embracing the Tesla 3 for all the reasons I love the internal combustion engine in a car – a great driving experience

Ideally, I’d like a longer range for the few times a year we travel some 450 miles in a day, and a charging network that is 100% dependable, as it’s not, yet.

But yes, I’ve sold out for the second time. Embracing the Tesla 3 for all the reasons I love the internal combustion engine in a car – a great driving experience.

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