By Tony Rushin
I’m not a car guy. My last car was a 1999 Lexus GS named Leonardo (Nardo for short) that I bought used in 2005 (by the way, I’m actively looking to sell it; are you interested? Only 255,000 miles). Before that, I drove a 1990 Dodge Dynasty named Rocky that I bought used in 1992.
However, I am a tech guy, and I’m excited about my latest gadget: a brand new, midlife-crisis-red Tesla Model 3. Here we are on May 30th when I picked her up and went through the one-hour orientation. I’ve been learning more about Stela (name inspired by my niece, Kim) over the last three weeks; she does some pretty cool things. I had already been oriented to an electric car when I leased a Nissan Leaf, named The Blackberry, a few years ago (see Get Your Free Car and Free Car, Redux). At that time, since my gas car was so old, the coolest piece of technology for me – besides running on electricity – was having bluetooth for my phone. With Stela, there’s a lot more cool technology to share, and I’ve organized my favorites into two sections below.
Before we get to the highlights, though, here (for those who are Tesla fans or simply curious) are the options I got on my Model 3:
- 310-mile long-range battery (as my friend, Mike Blake, told me, “You’ll never hear anyone say, ‘I wish I would have gotten less range’”)
- Premium upgrade package (power seats, mirrors, and steering wheel; premium fake leather; upgraded audio; four USB ports; dock for two smartphones; glass roof; LED fog lamps)
- Enhanced autopilot
- Red multi-coat paint
Those first two options were required if I wanted to get my Tesla this year. Autopilot is a safety feature my wife recommended, and red was required for my midlife crisis.
New Car Technology
(Stela has it – and so do some other cars, whether gas or electric)
- App-control the car. What I like the most and use every day – when I remember – is the climate control feature. I start the AC from my iPhone while sitting at my desk, and when I get to Stela five minutes later, she’s gone from 110 degrees down to 68 degrees. Aaahhhhhh….
- Self-parking. I haven’t used this much yet, but when I do it will come in handy. I’m a decent parallel parker, but I’m also the guy who always used to hit the curb to make sure I was close enough. That habit was fine with my 15+ year old car, but I don’t want to do that with Stela.
- Autopilot. Numerous automakers have some self-driving features on their new cars. The feature I use most with Stela is the Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TAC). Set the max speed you want, and it brakes and accelerates on its own – keeping the distance you’ve selected behind the car in front of you.
- Streaming radio. Funny – this wasn’t an option on my 1999 Lexus.
- Runs on electricity. It’s so much fun to charge at home at night and never have to stop for gas.
Tesla Model 3 Technology
- Touchscreen/no instrument cluster. It’s a cool, minimalist look. The left one-third of the screen displays relevant real-time info like speed. The right two-thirds changes based on what’s going on: nav, backing up, controlling functions. And the knobs on the steering wheel are “shortcuts” that change functionality based on the screen you are on.
- Hidden air vents. And you can select where the air flows and aim it precisely.
- Glass roof. From front to back. Gives it an airy, open feeling (unfortunately, no sunroof option).
- Supercharger network. Tesla recently exceeded 10,000 stations globally – by far the biggest network out there. They are strategically placed in the U.S. so you can drive anywhere and be able to “fill up.” Stela will supposedly charge from 0-80% full in about 30 minutes (Tesla has announced that they will start rolling out enhanced superchargers by the end of 2018 that will charge in about 50% of the time). My first road trip is coming up in August when I drive to Pennsyltucky; we’ll see how robust the Supercharger network is at that point.
- Software updates while I sleep. I got two software updates in the first 10 days – both providing Stela with new features and functionality. Nothing earth-shattering yet, but it’s great to wake up to new features! This, I believe, is the wave of the future for all cars.
Here is a cockpit view of Stela where you can see the touchscreen, programmable steering wheel knobs, and the air vent hidden above the wood panel:
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