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      10-03-2019, 04:50 PM   #1
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Tesla Model 3 - thoughts coming from BMW

I promised over on another thread to give you all a write up on the Model 3 that I've just received.

I tried to do the usual quick review, but the problem is that comparing a BMW 3-series to a Tesla Model 3 is not an easy comparison. They are quite different cars and a simple A/B comparison really doesnít work. The problem is that the BMW is, IMHO, the high water mark of the affordable, quality ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car; whilst the Model 3 is the first, quality EV that gets close to doing what a BMW does for most of us.

So, Iíve ended up writing an epic Ė sorry. Read on if you wantÖ

My love affair with BMW

Iíve had a BMW since 2006. The list has been: e46 330d coupe, f11 530d estate, f31 330d estate, and f31 335i estate. Iíve been very happy with the brand. The dealerships are excellent overall; the cars are a fantastic blend of price, features, performance, quality and style; the service network is first rate; and Iíve never been let down by any of the cars Iíve owned. I came from a succession of Audis and my wife has a VW Golf that she loves, so I have a soft spot for VAG too. But I never contemplated going back to Audi after the 330Cd. Merc, Volvo, Jag etc never interested me. Their brands donít match my own ďbrandingĒ (&#128522 and their cars never seemed to offer anything over a BMW. I thought Iíd never leave BMW.

Tesla Insanity

So, why the Tesla? As anyone whoís even casually looked into how Tesla operate, especially since the launch of the Model 3, the decision might be viewed as a bit insane. For your £50k you get the privilege of self-service on-line ordering only (like buying an iPhone); vague and unrealistic delivery dates; zero communication on order progress; chaotic and rushed handover; minimal PDI; questionable after-sales service based on ďservice centresĒ of which there are precisely 10 today in the UK (forget the idea of the local dealership); and to top it all, a service model that disempowers the customer via an app-centric request system that tries its best to prevent you talking to a real human.

And all thatís before you start getting spooked by endless stories of poor paint quality, bad panel alignment, leaking doors and boot lids, lights that fog up, and a long list of other complaints that even a brief scan of the various Tesla forums will reveal. Then if all that isnít enough thereís range anxiety.

But EVs are the Future

If all that sounds pretty negative, then I concur. I cancelled one order before reversing my decision. But I stuck it out and actually Iím very glad I did.
The essential point is this Ė EVs are the future. Once you get your head around EVs you realise that the ICE is yesterdayís technology. After my first drive in a Tesla I got back into my 335i and my immediate thought was ďwow - all this noise, vibration, fumes, gear-changing, turbo lag, heat, torque converter slip, etc etc is just sooooo clunkyĒ. An electric drivetrain gives instant torque and power, is near silent, is way more efficient, and itís an order of magnitude less complex mechanically. If you were to invent the car today and had access to current battery and charging technology, deciding to build an ICE car wouldnít even enter your head. And this is before you look at the environmental benefits.

The Environmental Argument

Iím no eco freak, but Iíve got a science background and am totally convinced by the global warming hypothesis. Iím equally convinced that air quality is a massive hidden health issue in nearly all our towns and cities. If you believe those two points, then itís hard not to look to EVs. EVs reduce tailpipe emissions to zero and thatís a big deal for air quality. Particulates are a massive contributor to a range of health issues. And beyond the tailpipe, thereís the CO2 emissions. Some people will try to convince you that the life-time CO2 costs of EVs are no better than ICE cars. But actually, every properly-conducted study shows that this is just plain wrong. If you look at total CO2 use over a carís lifetime Ė so including the energy needed to produce the raw materials, manufacture the car, produce the carís fuel, and finally to dispose of it Ė EVs typically consume a quarter or less of the CO2 compared to ICE cars. Thatís a long way from zero emissions, but itís a massive step nonetheless.

Convinced by the EV Drivetrain

So, Iím now personally convinced by the EV drivetrain Ė for reasons of driveability, maintenance costs, and environmental impact. It also makes economic sense. BIK from April will be 0% and thereís also a scheme to use a salary sacrifice if you donít run a company-provided car. In Scotland thereís a £30k interest-free loan and if Jezzer gets into power, weíll have the same in England and Wales. Then in terms of running costs, an EV beats the pants off an ICE. If you charge at home, fuel costs are as low as a tenth of a car like the 335i. Even with a mix of home and public charging, itíll still be much, much cheaper than petrol or diesel. And with a much simpler mechanical design service costs are much lower too.

The Tesla Charging Network is as Important as the Cars

Wanting an EV doesnít immediately lead to wanting to buy a Tesla though Ė there are, after all, plenty of other EVs out there. That true, but all aside Tesla have a massive disadvantage Ė a completely dysfunctional public charging network. I canít even begin to describe the mess weíre in. Weíve got about 50 independent operators out there, many requiring you to have an account and access card, some needing a monthly subscription. Then the reliability is diabolical. Itís fairly common to arrive at a charger and find that itís not working.

Recent legislative changes are pushing all operators to accept regular contactless payment cards Ė but that often comes with a sting in the tail of higher prices. BP Chargemaster for instance will charge you 40p per unit at one of their 150kW fast chargers Ė thatís about 10x the price of overnight domestic electricity and 2x the cost if you have an account with them. Thatís daylight robbery. And finally, many public chargers are down at glacial charge speeds Ė 7kW mostly - thatíll give you about 25 miles/hr of charge. A Tesla supercharger is typically 150kW with new generation chargers coming on stream soon at 250kW. Today I get about 300 miles per hour charge rate on my Model 3.

The good news is that these problems are gradually being shaken out Ė with new entrants such as Ionity (a JV between BMW, Ford, Merc Benz and VAG) pushing things along. Hopefully, thatíll force some of the current crappy operators like Ecotricity to either measure up or give up.

In the meantime though, Teslaís charging network remains the only viable solution if you want an EV as a replacement vehicle that does more than potter around within its range from your house. So, as of Oct 2019, the iPace, eTron, Mercedes EQC, etc are marginal at best as ICE car replacements. The range and charging infrastructure just isnít there yet.

If you want more than a local runabout, it has to be a Tesla

If youíre still with me, you can see that if you want an EV today that can do sensible distances, Tesla is really the only option. But it shouldnít be viewed as a Hobsonís choice purchase. Any current Tesla has a lot more going for it than just ďthe only viable EV available todayĒ. The Model 3 in particular is actually a great car in its own right. Itís fast, comfortable, drives well, is loaded with tech, and pretty desirable as a brand and a vehicle.

Whatís not to like? Well, thereís all the things I listed at the start. Teslaís service model is clearly trying to disrupt, but my own view is that theyíve gone too far. I canít think of anyone whoís bought a Model 3 who is anything but critical of the whole purchase, delivery and after-sales service model. Frankly it stinks and if the established players ever get round to building a competitive car and have the charging network to support it, then theyíll eat Tesla for breakfast. This is clearly a long-term concern if youíre buying into the brand. However, the success of the Model 3 (I reckon itíll be the UKís top-selling car in Sept 2019), clearly shows that the right product will attract the buyers. We are at a tipping point in EV sales.

Some BMW 3 / Tesla Model Comparisons

So, to the specifics Ė how does a Model 3 compare to an f31 BMW 335i? Well, here goesÖ

- The BMW is better built, has a better quality interior, a better service model from pre-sales to after-sales, and delivers an excellent overall ownership experience. But itís old tech and once youíve bitten off the EV tree, youíll never go back. The current BMW range probably represents the high summit of the ICE art. You could say that itís its swansong.

- In the areas where BMW excel, the Tesla basically measures up as ďgood enoughĒ - except for the service model where, frankly, you just need to grit your teeth and hope you donít need to use it! This sounds overly negative I know, but itís an honest assessment. Itís an expensive car but it doesnít feel as premium inside as, say, the new G20. Itís certainly better than a Renault or a Nissan, but itís not a BMW or an Audi. Itís not far behind, but itís still behind. Sure there are interior things that the Model 3 delivers that are very nice Ė things like the huge glass roof and the stunningly-good sound system, so itís actually a nice place to be Ė but I keep thinking that BMW would have done it better.

- However, the Tesla excels in areas where the BMW just canít reach. Iím talking of the EV drivetrain with its refinement, instant torque and power; the tech (autopilot, ďfullĒ self-driving, big touch-screen UI, integrated streaming services, first-rate remote app support); and the running costs.

- The Tesla is not a driverís car in the same way as a well-setup BMW is. Itís too heavy for that and the AWD nowhere near as playful as a nice RWD 3-series. But the track tests show that the Model Performance will best the BMW M3 in all categories Ė by quite a margin. Faster 0-60. Faster 0-100-0. Faster around a circuit. And itís cheaper. Personally, I donít do track days but if I did I think Iíd prefer a nice E90 M3 with its delightful V8 engine.

- As a day-to-day car though Ė the Tesla is way more than good enough and in some areas is superior. The tech is better, it rides better, itís quieter, the sound system is better and itís more comfortable. It also pollutes less, is cheaper to run and just brings a few more smiles to the face.

- But what of the claimed Tesla Model 3 build quality issues? Spend more than a minute on the web and youíll find a lot of complaints about paint and build quality issues. I was personally very concerned but in fact, the car I have is pretty good. The paint in general is fine (but I have pearlescent white which is excellent at hiding surface imperfections). Thereís a little missing top-coat on the insides of the front wings in the door jambs, but it doesnít bother me. Panel alignment is pretty good too. Thereís a slight asymmetry in the front bumper fit, but itís not much and again I can live with it. Maybe others wouldnít - we all have our own OCD levels. Door and boot alignment is spot on, as is the glazing. Thereís certainly nothing on my car that would get most people worked up about. However, as I said above, Iím pretty sure that a BMW would be just that little bit better. Neither would be perfect Ė theyíre both mass-produced cars Ė but itís clear to me that BMW have more experience and expertise in the art.

In Summary

In summary Ė Iím very happy to have made the switch. The car is definitely the first step on the road to the next generation and it makes any ICE car seem dated. I just wish that this was a BMW Model 3 EV Ė Iíd be beating the door of the dealership down to buy it!

And in fact, I think that BMW have, a bit late, realised this. I expect to see a Model 3 competitor from BMW by 2022 by which time the Ionity network will be in place and then weíll see if Tesla can continue to succeed. Theyíll have to up their game significantly on their service offering and build quality to survive. But right now they have 2-3 years lead on any EV competitor.

So, as of Oct 2019, if you want a quality EV car that will replace your 3-series, then get a Tesla Model 3. If you do, use my referral code below Ė that way weíll both get 1000 free Supercharger miles.

https://ts.la/paul26340

And finally, the obligatory pickup shot:


Model3Pickup by Paul Kaye, on Flickr
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      10-03-2019, 05:57 PM   #2
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Excellent commentary! Thanks!
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      10-03-2019, 06:43 PM   #3
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Excellent, and objective, review
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      10-03-2019, 06:45 PM   #4
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A very interesting read indeed.
Thanks for taking the trouble to do the write-up.
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      10-03-2019, 07:04 PM   #5
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Great stuff. Enjoy it and thanks for the write up.
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      10-03-2019, 07:06 PM   #6
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Really interesting and nice to have a balanced view. I completely share your opinion that ICE is on the way out pretty quickly now. I just can’t yet bring myself to pay £50k for something that doesn’t excite me, even if it’s cheap to run. 10 years from now I’m sure I’ll have kicked the ICE habit for good!
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      10-04-2019, 03:26 AM   #7
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That a great write up thanks for that!

I've got a model 3 on order; opted for a 3 year lease though in black... which strangely has black as the non cost option compared to the white direct from Tesla.

How do you get on having no speedo etc in front of you - and using that slab for everything?
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      10-04-2019, 04:09 AM   #8
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What is the cost of Supercharger use for Model 3 drivers?

I know Model S/X drivers have free access
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      10-04-2019, 04:09 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aquazi View Post
That a great write up thanks for that!

I've got a model 3 on order; opted for a 3 year lease though in black... which strangely has black as the non cost option compared to the white direct from Tesla.

How do you get on having no speedo etc in front of you - and using that slab for everything?
The speedo is a non-issue. It's just left of the wheel and high-up in the line of sight. Completely natural. No worse than a Mini.

As to other things on the screen - the only thing that doesn't work well is the wipers. There is no wiper stalk so changing speed has to be done on the screen. There's a button on the indicator stalk for wash/wipe and pushing it does bring up the wiper control on the screen as well - but overall it's a terrible UI design and Tesla should fire whoever came up with it (if they've not done it already!). It's made worse by the fact that the auto mode is a bit unreliable too (not as bad as some would have you believe, but not as good as the BMW system).

Apart from the wipers, the screen interface is great. It takes no time at all to get the hang of it. It's a well-designed UI.

Weird regarding the black/white. White is definitely now the no-cost option. It used to be black until July - so I'm guessing the lease people have missed this. Unless you really want black, I'd avoid it. Like all black cars, it shows swirls etc very easily and given the concerns over Tesla paint it's a risky option. The white is IMHO the best of the colours (closely followed by red). The grey looks drab as soon as there's any dirt on it and the shine is gone. The same is true for the blue, which is just a little too dark to keep looking decent when it's not freshly cleaned. The red is fantastic, but it's now a £1900 option!
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      10-04-2019, 04:13 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by DB118D View Post
What is the cost of Supercharger use for Model 3 drivers?

I know Model S/X drivers have free access
It's 24p/kWh. That equates to about a tenner for 200 miles range. Home charging will be the norm though - and that can be as low as 5p/kWh (e.g. with Octopus overnight) so closer to £2.50.
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      10-04-2019, 04:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JD6 View Post
Really interesting and nice to have a balanced view. I completely share your opinion that ICE is on the way out pretty quickly now. I just can’t yet bring myself to pay £50k for something that doesn’t excite me, even if it’s cheap to run. 10 years from now I’m sure I’ll have kicked the ICE habit for good!
I think this is where I'm at on EV's as well. I acknowledge they're the future but I'm not sure they're quite there yet; as the OP says, perhaps a BMW equivalent the Tesla Model 3 would be tempting but personally I'm not brave enough to sink £50k into a marque with the sort of questionable back-up Tesla has! There's also an element EV's don't really excite me; I can see the point (no pun intended!) as a low cost, low emission, vehicle to get you from A to B but I can't imagine taking one out to drive it just for the fun of it. Having said that I've never done that with my F31 either so I can certainly see the ICE being replaced by electric power in most cars.

And great post OP, good to have a balanced view even if to some extent it's telling me something I don't really want to hear!

Last edited by JNW1; 10-04-2019 at 04:28 AM..
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      10-04-2019, 04:21 AM   #12
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One of the most balanced reviews on the subject matter. OP, thanks for creating time.

Purchasing a car creates a long term relationship with people who designed, built and ready to help you after the sale. Tesla isn't yet ready to manage this relationship.

I look forward to i4 and several other BMW ICE powered models if i4 doesn't deliver on its promise.
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      10-04-2019, 05:56 AM   #13
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Great write up and as others have said before a nice balanced review, something of a rarity these days. It's certainly given me a lot more food for thought about moving away from an EV.

I'm not quite there yet, I've not even been able to let go of 6MT yet, but I'm sure I'll be there soon.
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      10-04-2019, 06:02 AM   #14
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Thanks for the write-up. Good read. I drive a F30 330e PHEV, love it and have had a charging point installed at home. Electric is definitely the way it's going but the charging infrastructure isn't quite good enough yet. Improving definitely but severely lacking in places. I recently stayed at a hotel in the middle of the Cotswolds miles from anywhere which had an electric car charging point. Only 1 but better than nothing. However I plugged my car in but it failed to charge/ fortunately for me I had the backup of my 2l petrol engine but if I'd been purely electric I could have been stuck.
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      10-04-2019, 06:19 AM   #15
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Thanks for the write up, really interesting thoughts. I'm really tempted to get a Model 3, been researching and looking at videos. One thing I cannot find is if has has a speed limiter, also read it doesn't read road signs for current road speed limit, is that true? Thanks
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      10-04-2019, 07:59 AM   #16
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Great write up and saw your post on the Tesla forums as have been lurking there for a while. Looking forward to my test drive next month as planning on Model 3 P+ for April 2020 as a company car. This will replace my excellent 440i.
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      10-04-2019, 08:12 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by psp888 View Post
Thanks for the write up, really interesting thoughts. I'm really tempted to get a Model 3, been researching and looking at videos. One thing I cannot find is if has has a speed limiter, also read it doesn't read road signs for current road speed limit, is that true? Thanks
Yes to speed limiter. No to reading street signs.
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      10-04-2019, 08:39 AM   #18
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Was expecting the usual 'my new car is so much better than my old one' however that's a really interesting review, thanks for taking the time.
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      10-04-2019, 08:41 AM   #19
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Very informative, thank you!
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      10-04-2019, 08:47 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdk42 View Post
It's 24p/kWh. That equates to about a tenner for 200 miles range. Home charging will be the norm though - and that can be as low as 5p/kWh (e.g. with Octopus overnight) so closer to £2.50.
Of course, home charging would be used mostly, or at the workplace

Just curious to see what the costs outwith the "norm" would be
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      10-04-2019, 08:49 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdk42 View Post
Yes to speed limiter. No to reading street signs.
I'm sure I read that TSR is coming as part of an Auto Pilot software update

I also see that Auto Pilot is a £6k option
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      10-04-2019, 09:09 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DB118D View Post
I'm sure I read that TSR is coming as part of an Auto Pilot software update

I also see that Auto Pilot is a £6k option
Autopilot is standard. So called "Full Self Driving" (FSD) is the £6k option. Due to regulatory issues (and, frankly, being not yet fit for purpose), it's a bit pointless in the UK.
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