April 28th, 2018 – While having my Tesla Model 3 in the service center for a few weeks, I was lucky enough to get to drive around a Tesla Model S 100D for a few weeks. The following are my thoughts around both cars and why ultimately, I prefer the Tesla Model 3 over the S.
The first thing I noticed when I got in the car was how complex everything felt, which was odd. You get so used to how sparse and simple everything is in the 3 and then you get into the Model S and are just overwhelmed with screens, buttons, stalks. It’s like going from an iPhone back to going to a smartphone with a keyboard. I kept looking for how to use the scroll wheels to move the steering wheel up and down like you do on the 3 until I remembered the S has a dedicated physical control for that. The crazy thing is the Model S, compared to most cars, is pretty simple. If I went from a Model 3 and tried to drive a BMW 3 series, I think I would really feel very overwhelmed.
It’s pretty clear where Tesla is going with it’s design language for future cars. Simplicity is king.
Now while the Model S does have 2 screens, I didn’t really think it added all that much more to the driving experience. I did like how navigation directions show up on the screen behind the steering wheel, but other than that, I didn’t really wish the Model 3 had that secondary screen.
After living with the Model 3 for a while, I also realized I really missed that long slit vent while driving the 3. The ability to shoot air through the steering wheel at your face or just to the sides of your face is a very underrated feature of the 3.
Overall, I thought the Model 3’s interior was actually a bit nicer than the S’s. The Model S has weird cupholder placement, no door pockets, no coat hooks, no vanity mirror lights. I thought the seats in the 3 were slightly more comfortable and the 3’s design just seems more ergonomic. There are more places to rest your arms while driving, the cup holders are in the right place in the 3. Though, for what it’s worth, the Model S does have higher quality finishes, though I don’t think their worth the extra price tag.
The Model 3 has more headroom than the Model S with the panoramic sunroof, not sure about the one with the all glass roof. The Model S’s rear visibility is also worse than the Model 3’s and the Model 3’s front visibility is also better, probably due to the angle of the windshield in the Model S and how it slants. It definitely feels like a smaller windshield than the 3.
The last thing about the S’s interior that I found a bit lacking was the sound system. I had an S outfitted with the premium sound system and I thought the 3’s was definitely better. You can hear way more detail in the music your playing in the 3’s sound system. The base also seems better in the 3 and overall, I think Tesla really refined and improved upon their sound system design in the 3 vs. the S. I wasn’t expecting all that much of a difference, but you can really tell which one is better.
One thing about the S that I do like better than the 3 is the door handles. I think the 3’s are fine, but they’re harder for most people to open the door than the Model S’s.
I also wish the Model 3 had bioweapons defense mode because 1, what a name! Who wouldn’t want a bioweapons defense mode in their car!! The more important reason to get it is that it’ll clean the car’s air and is really great at getting rid of smells out of the car’s interior, like if you’re driving near a swamp or paper mill.
One of the things I wish the Model 3 had that the Model S does is the auto-liftgate for the hatch at the back. I love how you can double tap the key fob and it opens, double press it again and the hatch closes. I wish the Model 3 had this feature.
While cute, I don’t think having a key fob in the shape of your car is necessary. I found that just using my smartphone as a key worked really well and I always have my phone in my pocket already, so it makes it pretty effortless getting in and out of the 3.
The S drives very similar to the 3. It’s bigger and heavier so it doesn’t feel as sporty as the 3, though it’s acceleration is better and more gut-puncy, the 3’s acceleration feels almost just as fast as the S’s because you’re sitting up further forward and the car feels smaller and a bit more nible. The 3 also doesn’t have the motor whine of the S, probably due to the fact they don’t share the same motor design at all. The 3 is a permanent magnet motor.
The S with dual motors has great handling and a low center of gravity, the regen is also similar to the 3, though I feel that the 3’s is a bit stronger than the S’s which I know some people have said the opposite. When letting your foot off the accelerator pedal, the 3 slows down faster than the S does, probably due to the S’s larger size and substantial weight.
The air suspension in the S is pretty nice. I can’t really tell if I prefer it over the coil suspension on the 3 because I do like the sportier feel of that suspension, but at this point I’d be happy with either suspension. I do think it’s really cool how the Model S can lower itself when going faster to increase it’s aerodynamic efficiency. Or how it can raise itself to not scrape the bottom of a car on a steep driveway and then remember the location where it did that.
Overall, I’ve loved driving the Model S for the past few days while my Model 3 is at the service center. The one thing that has astounded me though is that the Model S costs almost double what my Model 3 does.
I think it’s pretty obvious that Tesla is not afraid to canabilize Model S sales with how they designed the Model 3 and then tried to anti-sell the 3 for the past year because they still can’t keep up with demand for the 3. The Model S is a truly great car that anyone would be happy with owning, but I don’t think there is any doubt in my mind which one I’d go with, especially when considering the cost of both cars and all of their options. When they completely refresh the Model S, I think that decision will be harder, but right now, if you had to decide between a Model S and a Model 3, I’d steer you towards the Model 3 if you can get one.
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