My Model 3 experience so far

PatrickM

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#1
I have long been a fan of Tesla as a company, but the price of the cars always seemed a bit out of reach for my financial situation. In 2014, I was with my father when his Ford Fusion Plug-in hybrid was sideswiped and totaled, and when he looked for a replacement I suggested my father replace it with a Tesla Model S. At first he wasn't convinced but I talked him through a bunch of his concerns and finally said "Dad, just go and sit in one and maybe take it for a test drive" and once he got in the car, he was convinced, but once he went into "launch mode", he was sold. He loves his Model S and I was contemplating getting a used one right around the time when I first heard about the Model 3 in late 2015 and decided instead that the Model 3 would be my next car. So I called up my parents in March and asked them to come drive down with me on a cold and lightly snowing March 31st, 2016 to line up at Park Meadows Mall near Denver, Colorado, at 6:30am to put down $1000 for a reservation on a Model 3 when the store opened at 10am. I had thought maybe 100 people might show up to line up with me, but by 10am it seemed like there was well over 1000 people in line but with our early arrival we were near the front and my mother and I both put down a reservations in my father's name at around 40 minutes after the store opened that morning.

Later that night my parents and I watched the "unveiling" of the design of the car and I was completely sold the instant I saw it and heard Elon's sales pitch. To me it looked like a cross between a Porsche and a British sportscar and I loved the lines and the interior and was impressed with the glass ceiling. I was a bit dubious of this single screen and I was one of many who were hoping for a Heads-Up Display and later disappointed when the HUD didn't make the final design. So with the "unveiling" completed, I waited mostly patiently until the production release of the car in July 2017 with the idea that Elon had said on March 31st that "shipments will begin in late 2017" so I figured I was early enough in line that I'd get mine around December 2017. In July at the production launch, the delivery estimation tool gave me a reservation date of Oct-Dec. 2017 and so I waited and was a bit disappointed when they shifted that date to Nov-Jan. 2017. And then as we entered January, I waited with slightly less patience as the invitations went out to owners who waited in line and I didn't get one. But on Jan. 17th, I checked logged into my father's account and I saw that the configuration option was available and I ordered the car about as quickly as I could complete the entries, and then I settled down to wait some more for production - as one of my co-workers put it "congratulations, you moved from one long line to another shorter line". I was expecting 4-5 weeks, and so I was surprised when I checked the account on the 22nd of January and had a VIN number assigned - a process that normally takes 2 weeks happened in less than half a week - but I still expected to get my car some time in the third week of February, so I was completely surprised when a Tesla salesperson called me January 30th to tell me that my car was ready and I could pick it up on Thursday, Feb 1st. I delayed for a few days to set up financing and get appraisals for the 2010 Toyota Prius that I would be trading in and then drove down with a friend to pick up my car on Sat. Feb 3rd.

The funny thing for me about seeing a Model 3 in person is that after a year and a half of reading everything that I could about the car and watching all of the detailed YouTube videos is that seeing it in person is more like a reinforcement of things you already know and have seen. It's a lot of "oh, yeah, I thought it would work like that" and "wow, that glass roof is just as gorgeous as I thought it would be". There was almost nothing that was a surprise and yet I was completely pleased with everything about it - even the lack of a dashboard display. The purchase experience went very smoothly and I felt like I was in a bit of a daze throughout and then I drove the car out and drove it around.

The car itself continues to look like a sleek gorgeous driving machine. My previous car was a Toyota Prius and so in every respect except maximum range, the Model 3 is a huge improvement but particularly the lines of the Model 3 stand out and to me they look sleek and futuristic and fast. When I first saw one in person I thought "it looks even better in person than in video" and this is something that I've heard several people say. The door handles work exactly like I thought they would and it's easy to open the door if you know how to but one of the things that takes some getting used to in the car is that you have to explain to everyone else this "push on this spot and then pull on that handle that pops out". It works fine but it's not intuitive to the uninitiated and so one of the things that takes getting used to is that when you hop in the car, your passenger will likely be stuck outside staring at the door in consternation. The door itself feels solid, weighty and substantial.

The first thing that I noticed when I sat down is that it smells like a Tesla. I'm not sure what exactly constitutes "Tesla Smell" but it's a nice sort of smell that reminds me of my father's Model S and smells like a leathery version "new car smell" but with a tinge that is something that I only smell in a Tesla. The second thing that I noticed in the Model 3 is that it felt open and airy. The forward-shifted seat combined with the large windscreen and the glass roof and the lack of a instrument cluster all combine to make the car feel bigger than it really is and more open. The steering wheel has a nice heavy sort of heft to it and the seats are comfortable. In a marked improvement over the Model S there is lots of little cubbies for personal items and there's a very nice spot under the center display to charge phones, and there are lots and lots of cupholders - I think I counted 6. The display is the next thing that I noticed because it's big and just "there". It feels very fast and responsive - and another notable improvement over the Model S and X is that the Model 3 touch display feels "snappier" than it's larger siblings. One of the first things that I did was adjust the steering wheel and mirrors and using the steering wheel scroll wheels, this is easily accomplished and it feels high-tech to control it with the steering wheel controls.

The driving experience is great. I sort of knew that going into the purchase because when "Car and Driver" and "Motortrend" magazines all gush about how well it drives then I knew it was going to be a nice experience. I don't have extensive sportscar driving experience but I've driven a couple of Porsches, and over the years and all the rental cars that I've rented, I am far from a neophyte to driving new cars and so I can say with limited authority that I love driving the Model 3. It corners like a sportscar and feels solid and powerful on the road. The acceleration has a small amount of initial hesitation and then pushes you back in the seat and feels not as powerful as the Model S but more than sufficient for every day driving. Merging onto the freeway is just a matter of picking your spot to merge in and then you are where you need to be seemingly effortlessly. Every time that I push the pedal down hard there's a feeling of satisfaction and a bit of amusement. It's not a Model S but it's plenty powerful enough for me. And then when you take your foot off the accelerator, the regen is not as strong as the Bolt but it's just about enough to take the car to complete stop moderately quickly. You don't need to use a brake most of the time - which is not quite as cool in my mind as the Bolt's one-pedal driving where you more or less never need to use the brake pedal but the system on the Model 3 is good enough most of the time. And then "creep" or how much the car moves when your foot is off both pedals can be set in the menus but I have it set to "no creep" and that took some getting used to but now I'm a no-creep kind of guy. :)

The sound is crisp and excellent, the seat heaters work really quickly but don't quite to the level of "toasty" that our Subaru Outback can get to. The heater is disappointingly not as hot as I might have hoped. Given that it's an electric car and electric heat burns up range, you know that it's not going to power up like a hair dryer but it would be nice if the heating would get a bit hotter on full given the longer range of the Model 3. The fit and finish on my particular car seems great to me. Having read about panel alignment issues both myself and my friend walked the car looking for issues and didn't find anything. The trunk corners were very slightly off but it's subtle enough that I couldn't even convince my friend that there was an issue - he kept saying it looked perfect to him. Nothing has rattled for me so far - it feels really solid. On the inside as well, I didn't see any issues of any kind. There is "alcantara-gate" - or an issue where pre-2018 versions of the Model 3 shipped with an alcantara headliner ("alcantara" is a brand name of some fancy suede) and after around the first week of January, Model 3's shipped with "premium fabric" on the A-pillars and headliners. I got one of the premium fabric models and I have to say that I like it a lot. I understand customer disappointment over the change but from my perspective the problem is more a lack of communication on Tesla's part, not the actual change itself. I'm not a fan of alcantara, or even just plain suede, I think it's hard to keep clean and I honestly just think it looks shabby. I truly love the look of the fabric - which also looks like it will be easier to maintain - and I'm glad I'm on this side of the 2018 shipments for that reason alone.

For the doors and the bluetooth locking, I have heard people talk about issues with it unlocking the car at a distance and needing to be reset, but I haven't seen any of this so far. I have an iPhone 6S though, and I've heard the issues are mostly with Android phones. So far the phone-as-key has worked perfectly - and, to be honest, magically. I walk up to the car and it wakes up itself like some futuristic AI-powered spaceship, then I drive, get out and it shuts off when I get about a dozen feet away. The hardest part of it is getting used to it - and I feel like I get too used to it I might forget to turn off any ICE cars that I drive. And on other magical features, I have engaged autopilot several times and it seems fine to me. It has a bit more of a slight tendency to wander across the lanes than I might have hoped but it seems to work well and I trust it and am pleased with it. It is picky about having your hand on the wheel and this does seem to be a bit of a dichotomy to me that on the one hand it's driving the car allowing your attention to wander a bit, but on the other hand, your attention is not supposed to be wandering at all. But aside from this issue of me trying to figure out how useful this system is outside of rush-hour gridlocked traffic, it worked just like it's supposed to. It doesn't seem as smooth or as "stick-to-the-middle-of-the-lane" solid as my father's Model S autopilot 1 system but I'm pleased enough with it and I'll look forward to future improvements.

On the things that I don't like, they are few and minor. I wish the heater got warmer. I wish the rearview mirror was a bit bigger. I had to reboot the touchscreen today because it got stuck tuning in a station. But the biggest issue for me is that using the touchscreen for everything is a bit distracting. People say it isn't, but when I'm trying to change the radio station, my eyes aren't on the road and it is more distracting than dials. I really wish Tesla would come up with some multi-touch gesture control system - like something where you could change the station just by simply swiping multiple fingers across the screen anywhere on the screen without looking. I think the solution will include voice control but for now the voice control doesn't even seem as good as Apple's Siri, and that's a pretty low bar. But these are minor quibbles and once I get used to the touchscreen I think I'll be faster at navigating it.

And so overall I am totally thrilled with the car. My 13 year old daughter said "Dad, if I were to imagine a car in the future, it would be like this". The car is quite simply amazing. From the roof window to the way it drives to the high tech features it includes to the bluetooth key which automatically turns on the car when you get close, it simply seems magical. I know there's a whole lot of people waiting for this car with varying degrees of patience and that I'm one of the very lucky early owners, but the thing that I can say is that the wait is worth it... at least to me. I can picture that the $35,000 version of the car won't have all of the features of the premium long-range car, but even still it seems like it will be an amazing car for that price.

My parents and I just before my mother and I went in to order our Model 3's:
IMG_7297.JPG
My friend Carl and I picking up the Model 3 down in Denver on 3Feb18 IMG_0133.JPG
 
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Michael Russo

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#2
Very nice write-up, @PatrickM ! And congrats again. :)

Though you know your father's S, I think it is fair to say that you still qualify as a non-T≡SLA owner which makes your detailed first impressions review so valuable for of all us mere reservation holders anxiously awaiting our time... ;)
Also, we should never forget the formidable value-add differentiator that T≡SLA's OTA upgrade represents. To your point, some of the areas of improvement can & will get fixed that way!

Enjoy! :cool::cool::cool:
 

KarenRei

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#3
But the biggest issue for me is that using the touchscreen for everything is a bit distracting. People say it isn't, but when I'm trying to change the radio station, my eyes aren't on the road and it is more distracting than dials.
Why aren't you using the steering wheel controls? Left control, tap left/right = change station.
 

KarenRei

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#5
I believe the right click just skips the song it does not change the radio station. Left click to restart the track.
I could be wrong, but my understanding is that when you're listening to stations, left/right changes stations, and that it changes tracks when you're listening to tracks.

------------------------

ED: From the manual, p. 33 ("Steering Wheel" / "Scroll Buttons"):

"1. Use the left scroll button to control the audio system:
...
* Skip to the next/previous radio frequency, song, station or favorite (depending on what's playing). Push the scroll button to the left to go to the previous, and to the right to go to the next."
 
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3V Pilot

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#6
I could be wrong, but my understanding is that when you're listening to stations, left/right changes stations, and that it changes tracks when you're listening to tracks.

------------------------

ED: From the manual, p. 33 ("Steering Wheel" / "Scroll Buttons"):

"1. Use the left scroll button to control the audio system:
...
* Skip to the next/previous radio frequency, song, station or favorite (depending on what's playing). Push the scroll button to the left to go to the previous, and to the right to go to the next."
I took it as meaning streaming radio "stations". In the case of listening to FM I'm sure it would skip to the next radio preset but I think if you want to select another streaming station you have to look at the screen to select one. I do like his idea of multi gesture on the touch screen, that would be a nice way to keep your eyes on the road.
 

TesLou

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#8
Thanks for the extensive write up, Patrick. I love these and hope everyone on this forum shares their initial ownership experience with the group. It’s therapeutic reading for all of us who are playing the waiting game.
 

PatrickM

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#9
Thanks for the extensive write up, Patrick. I love these and hope everyone on this forum shares their initial ownership experience with the group. It’s therapeutic reading for all of us who are playing the waiting game.
Thanks for saying that. I thought I wrote too much and that maybe after people have read a bunch of these they aren't that interesting any more. :)



I meant to add a few things to above wall-o-text relevant to everyone waiting. So one thing the delivery specialist in Denver told was "we haven't sold too many so far but deliveries are coming much faster now". Then later he mentioned "yeah as of last week employees aren't allowed to park here [at the Denver Tesla Service Center] and we have to park and take a shuttle to get here so that there's room for all the vehicles." And finally at the end of the ~40 minute walkthrough of the car - and I swear on this by my honor as an Eagle Scout - he said "you are one of the last people for a Model 3 who will get an individualized experience. In the coming weeks and months we are planning on doing group overview tours of the car". At one point he said something close to "This place will be a lot crazier in March". I don't know why "March", I'm just repeating what he said.

I recognize that after a lot of waiting - and rumors and delays - that there's a tendency to start to get discouraged, but there are two things that I would say: I definitely heard multiple times that the Tesla rep said directly or indirectly that a big ramp up is coming, and remember, go back and watch the original Tesla unveiling video from Elon on March 31st, 2016. He said "Deliveries begin in late 2017". We aren't that far off the original schedule.

For right now, I am in a bit of a unique position by having the car but I think by the end of this year - which granted, is a while, but we've been waiting 20 months already - most of you guys reading this will either have your car or have deferred for one reason or another. Maybe the guys in England and Australia will need to wait for the steering wheel on the right and I'm not sure how it will work in Europe, but I strongly feel that we will exit 2018 with most everyone super happy customers. The car is simply amazing.
 
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John

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#10
Thanks for saying that. I thought I wrote too much and that maybe after people have read a bunch of these they aren't that interesting any more. :)
Thanks for taking the time to write up your experiences. Yes, much of it echoes what other early owners have said, but there's some good color in there, too.

If you could, maybe write an update in a few weeks? I'm wondering if much of the UI awkwardness will dissipate with familiarity. It's disconcerting and slightly stressful to be in a familiar setting and not be familiar with controls.

Also, sounds like you aren't finding the ride to be too stiff or harsh over bumps. Did you get 18" or 19" wheels?
 

PatrickM

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#11
I could be wrong, but my understanding is that when you're listening to stations, left/right changes stations, and that it changes tracks when you're listening to tracks.

------------------------

ED: From the manual, p. 33 ("Steering Wheel" / "Scroll Buttons"):

"1. Use the left scroll button to control the audio system:
...
* Skip to the next/previous radio frequency, song, station or favorite (depending on what's playing). Push the scroll button to the left to go to the previous, and to the right to go to the next."
You are exactly correct and that is super helpful. It worked just like you said. Thank you so much for mentioning it - it is much safer than searching the screen for stations.
 

PatrickM

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#12
Also, sounds like you aren't finding the ride to be too stiff or harsh over bumps. Did you get 18" or 19" wheels?
I can see why people say it's harsh - it's certainly not as smooth as a Model S. I think it's fine in that it sort of fits the sportcar-like feel of the car. I'm fine with the ride and with the car noise. Definitely not as nice as a Model S, but the Model 3 is a lower price car and I can imagine that they would want to differentiate it from it's older, more expensive siblings by making them more luxurious and the best way to do that, I think, is a smoother ride and a quieter cabin. But the ride is pretty nice to me and the road noise is markedly less than in my Prius.

Edit: oops - forgot. 18" wheels.
 
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Michel Zehnder

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#13
I can see why people say it's harsh - it's certainly not as smooth as a Model S. I think it's fine in that it sort of fits the sportcar-like feel of the car. I'm fine with the ride and with the car noise. Definitely not as nice as a Model S, but the Model 3 is a lower price car and I can imagine that they would want to differentiate it from it's older, more expensive siblings by making them more luxurious and the best way to do that, I think, is a smoother ride and a quieter cabin. But the ride is pretty nice to me and the road noise is markedly less than in my Prius.
They will add SAS at some point in the future to Model 3, too. I hope that by the time it hits europe it has got this option. Only upside for us europeans / rest of world
 

Runt8

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#15
You’re the first person I’ve seen in the forums who has taken delivery in Colorado - makes it more real for me and now I’m even more excited (if that’s even possible)! Also love the blue color!

Congrats on the new car. If you ever decide to do a Tesla meetup or event please let us know - I’d love to see it in person!
 

PatrickM

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#16
You’re the first person I’ve seen in the forums who has taken delivery in Colorado - makes it more real for me and now I’m even more excited (if that’s even possible)! Also love the blue color!

Congrats on the new car. If you ever decide to do a Tesla meetup or event please let us know - I’d love to see it in person!
I'll be taking it to the Northern Colorado Drive EV meeting tomorrow at 6:30pm at Snowbank Brewery in north Fort Collins, but that's probably too far and too short of notice for you. If you'd be willing to make the trek, I could meet you at the Loveland Supercharger more or less any time you want with some notice.

If you just want to see them on the outside - and see all of the colors - they had about 10 Model 3's on the lot at the Littleton Tesla Service Center last weekend and they said there were getting more later this week. I'd park and walk over like you belong there. I have done this myself and it works. :) But they won't let you get inside one or drive it - just look.
 
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Runt8

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#17
I'll be taking it to the Northern Colorado Drive EV meeting tomorrow at 6:30pm at Snowbank Brewery in north Fort Collins, but that's probably too far and too short of notice for you. If you'd be willing to make the trek, I could meet you at the Loveland Supercharger more or less any time you want with some notice.

If you just want to see them on the outside - and see all of the colors - they had about 10 Model 3's on the lot at the Littleton Tesla Service Center last weekend and they said there were getting more later this week. I'd park and walk over like you belong there. I have done this myself and it works. :) But they won't let you get inside one or drive it - just look.
Yeah, don't think I'll be able to work out the schedule for tomorrow, but I sincerely appreciate the offer. Responding to your PM!
 

Tom3

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#18
Great review Patrick I am a reservation holder and reading everything I can about the Model 3. I have downloaded and read the Owner's manual PDF. I have a few questions: (1) Can you view the rearview camera image on the touchscreen while driving and still have the map or other functions present, too? I test drove a Model S, which can do that, and it is a great feature. (2) The owner's manual makes closing the frunk sound like a delicate process, lest you dent or crease the hood. True? (3) I notice that the headrests are not adjustable, except for the mid rear one. Has that been a problem for you or your passengers? (4) Is the rear seat comfortable for 2-3 adults of moderate build in the 5' 10" to 6' range? I have read that the rear seats are not very high and there isn't much room for feet under the rear of the front seats, resulting in rear-passenger's knees being pretty high up off the seat.
These, of course, are probably small issues in such a technologically advanced, good-looking, fun EV; but they could be a bit of a downer on a day-to-day basis.
[I currently drive a Subaru Outback and occasionally get behind the wheel of my wife's Prius. Nice cars; but I really can't wait until I get my Vin# and go all electric.]
Thanks for your feedback!
Tom
 

PatrickM

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#19
(1) Can you view the rearview camera image on the touchscreen while driving and still have the map or other functions present, too? I test drove a Model S, which can do that, and it is a great feature.
No, when you have the rearview camera on it fills the whole screen so it covers everything else. You can turn it on while you are driving forward though.

(2) The owner's manual makes closing the frunk sound like a delicate process, lest you dent or crease the hood. True?
True, I guess, because I was warned about this from the delivery specialist. But it's not *that* bad... you close it by holding it until the latch is sitting there, then you put your palm on it to latch it closed. It's definitely more involved than just slamming it shut, but it's really not that bad. A couple non-EV cars had that I've rented/driven has hoods that required you to do more or less the same thing - except you could slam it down in the first step, but to engage the latch you had to palm it closed. But I guess I use the frunk more than a hood so maybe this isn't relevant. Anyway, I don't think it's that bad. The more annoying thing about the frunk is trying to open it - you either use the touchscreen (annoying) or you use your phone (can be awkward).

(3) I notice that the headrests are not adjustable, except for the mid rear one. Has that been a problem for you or your passengers?
I actually didn't know that they weren't adjustable... I'm kind of surprised actually that they aren't. But anyway, as you can tell by the fact that I didn't even know they weren't ajustable, no, this hasn't been a problem so far.

(4) Is the rear seat comfortable for 2-3 adults of moderate build in the 5' 10" to 6' range? I have read that the rear seats are not very high and there isn't much room for feet under the rear of the front seats, resulting in rear-passenger's knees being pretty high up off the seat.
So this is a very subjective thing... what is comfortable... I hear a bunch of people say things like "wow there's more space back here than I thought" and there's certainly is a bit of headroom even for someone in the 6' range due to the glass. But I've heard people say that the seats are bit low and so it's your knees are higher than they could be, which is what you said... but I don't know. I think they are ok and think they are pretty good a for a sedan, but I'm still in love with the car even after a month and so I don't analyze much and instead I just admire it without critiquing it. Certainly you can fit two 6' people in the back and they won't be cramped.. and then three... well, three works but I don't think I call that comfortable, it's a bit tight. This is tough to answer, but I think the answer is 2 6' people would be fine and they would probably be comfortable for even a medium length drive, but three would be pushing it.

For what it's worth, even after a month, I'm still loving every aspect of the car. The latest firmware messed up my battery louvers (they move all the time when it's parked) and so that left me with a "WTH, Tesla?" but it's a minor issue and only happens when I'm close to the car. Aside from that bit of weirdness that a OTA firmware update would essentially break something, everything else has continued to be amazing. My wife's car is an Outback, my previous car was a Prius. I don't miss anything about the Prius except how much stuff you could show in the back - the Model 3 trunk is big but nothing like a Prius. I still think the Model 3 looks amazing from the outside and driving it makes me feel like some sort of superhero or something - or maybe like James Bond in one of his sportscars. There's not much bad that I can say about it and a whole lot of "wow, I love this thing".
 
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John Slaby

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#20
This seemed like a good place to share my initial Model 3 experiences after two weeks of ownership, so, here are the biggest take-aways for me.

1. A friend asked me "What's your favorite feature of the car?" I had to think for a moment, but I answered "The quiet, smooth, instantaneous acceleration at any speed." There are many things I love about this car, but this brings me joy every time I do it, and it doesn't get old.
2. Autopilot drives better than I do. Yes, I know about the issues with it getting confused at various times for various reasons, but in the general case - commuting an hour to work in rush hour traffic or driving on a clear highway - autopilot is incredible. It maintains a safe following distance at all times (where I get impatient and tend to get too close to the car ahead of me), and it slows down when there is congestion ahead before I even recognize it's happening. It is a more patient and more attentive driver than I am.
3. Speaking of autopilot, I have learned that by driving in the middle lanes on the highway, rather than the outside lanes, autopilot never gets confused. So, I tend to stay centered until I really need to do something - pass slow traffic or exit the highway, in which case I am fully attentive to the task at hand. Don't get me wrong, I am always paying attention, but I have found I can avoid most cases of autopilot confusion by following this practice.
4. I really appreciate the ability to pre-condition the interior before I get to the car. As I am just about to leave work (or anywhere else for that matter), I go to the Tesla app and turn on the climate system. In the two minutes it takes to get to the car, the interior is comfortable. Nice!
5. The navigation system is fantastic. The large display is beautiful. I thought I might have a problem with the turn-by-turn on the far side of the screen, but this hasn't really been a problem for me. (Having said that, I would like an option to move it to the left side)
6. I still can't figure out exactly how to clear the autopilot 'Hold the steering wheel' warning in a consistent way. I read (and found) that squeezing the steering wheel does nothing, as there are no sensors in the steering wheel itself. It is done by providing a small amount of torque to the steering wheel which is recognized by the steering system. Sometimes it seems I can do just the tiniest jiggle of the wheel and it is happy. Other times I wiggle aggressively or push hard enough that autopilot finally disengages without recognizing that I am in control of the steering. Any thoughts from the forum?
7. Still practicing the proper techniques for maximizing regenerative breaking. I haven't found the proper timing in certain cases to avoid having to brake at faster than 4 or 5 mph.

And finally, to echo the sentiments of many other Model 3 owners: This is the best freakin' car I have ever owned. Hands down. No questions. No caveats. I love this car.
 
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