The "small" Tesla sees big

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The Tesla Model 3 offers a deliberately sober silhouette.
The Tesla Model 3 offers a deliberately sober silhouette. You're here

With more than a year and a half behind, the Model 3 which has been so talked about but that we have so little view, will be marketed in France in February-March 2019. This car to be produced at very large scale experienced manufacturing difficulties such as they plunged Tesla into a " near-death experience " ("Near-death experience"), according to Elon Musk, the whimsical boss of the Californian brand. Everything seems now in order. Customers who have deposited a deposit of 1,000 euros will have to pay 53,000 euros to acquire the first copies, which will be high-end versions. The basic model, billed around 40,000 euros, is expected later in the year. Present at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the Model 3 evokes, in condensed (and, incidentally, in almost half the price), the now famous Model S. The Californian manufacturer has entrusted to us the steering wheel for a few hours.

The cabin that cultivates its difference

The "small" Tesla, which measures 4.69 m, is elegantly remote from traditional car codes. Thus, it saves the calender, superfluous element for an electric car – but that its competitors "zero emission" at Audi or Mercedes, can not help but wear – which helps to give him the 'originality. The balanced profile and deliberately sober silhouette designate a classic beauty. It is above all the cockpit that cultivates its difference. While the presence of a bouncy 17-inch vertical touch screen characterizes the Model S and X, that of the new Tesla becomes horizontal and is content with a size of 15 inches.

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No aerators or usual controls. The dashboard, completely unobstructed, unfolds behind this multifunctional screen to the irreproachable definition, placed just within reach of the driver, gives access to the various settings including the elaborate, air conditioning flow. These sliced ​​choices create a special atmosphere and the feeling of being in a truly different car. It was the goal.

The touch screen, positioned horizontally, is 15 inches.
The touch screen, positioned horizontally, is 15 inches. You're here

The glass roof brings a pleasant increase of brightness and the storage is legion but the rigor of the assemblies and the quality of the materials, although in progress, remain below the productions of the "premium" European or Japanese. With regard to the size of the car, the space appears relatively reckoned in the rear seats because of the height of the floor imposed by the presence of the batteries, just below, and the inclined roof line. In tight turns, the driver will regret the thickness of the side upright and the front passenger, the lack of grip. A large trunk is arranged at the rear, with not really practical access, and another, smaller, under the front hood. Their cumulative capacity reaches 542 liters.

House specialty: semi-automatic piloting. A double impulse on a lever behind the steering wheel, and this is the car entrusted to the Autopilot which adapts the pace to the density of the traffic.

The Model 3 can receive a single engine, placed at the rear, or two (one on each axle, to make an all-wheel drive) and its maximum autonomy varies, depending on the version, from 350 to 500 km. Our test model, with its unique engine, did not disappoint. It pushes hard, like any self-respecting electric vehicle, with spectacular acceleration. The 0 to 100 km / h is executed in 4.8 seconds only, against 3.7 seconds for the high end. The quiet operation, the ability to adjust the engine brake as much as possible, the somewhat firm but precise steering, the adjustable driving position to the millimeter and the suspensions that cash without flinching the poor quality of the coatings of American highways contribute to a driving relaxed. Less powerful than the Model S and X, the Model 3 delivers no less special sensations that reserve electric propulsion while appearing more manageable thanks to its weight (1.7 tons) content.

The Tesla 3 integrates another house specialty: semi-automatic piloting. A double impulse on a lever behind the steering wheel, and this is the car entrusted to the Autopilot which adapts the pace to the density of traffic. The display indicates the presence of surrounding vehicles and, if the flashing light is activated, the Tesla will change lanes without driver intervention, and without checking that no other car is likely to come from behind. Present on the Tesla range, this system which uses eight cameras, twelve sensors and a radar, has further improved. It tolerates the release of the steering wheel much longer than the semi-autonomous driving devices of other manufacturers, provided not to abuse. In the opposite case, the penalty falls: no more automatic piloting until the next stop!

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Will Model 3 become, despite its price and the constraints inherent to an electric vehicle, a mass-market car, broadcast worldwide on a very large scale? If no major quality problem hinders its dissemination, it could well make Tesla a builder who counts and no longer a outsider a little exotic. In just a few months, the Model 3 has already risen to fourth place in the best-selling sedan rankings in the United States and to number one worldwide sales of electric vehicles ahead of the Nissan Leaf. What seems to confirm Tesla case law: to sell a car
"Zero emission" must make you want.

Jean-Michel Normand

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