Sunday Drive by Hormazd Sorabjee: We’re ready for this Tesla!
You’ve probably heard of Tesla even if you’ve never seen a vehicle. It’s the most talked about electric car brand, and its founder, Elon Musk, is the poster boy of the EV world. So, what is it about Tesla that makes it such a big deal? In a word: success. Tesla has succeeded where other electric car makers have failed. It has approached the business of cars like no other automaker. It’s about technology first and cars second. Tesla has re-written the rules, set itself apart from traditional automakers that are too big and slow to respond and has captured the biggest trend in mobility which, is to go electric.
So, when Tesla announced it was coming to India, the excitement was palpable, even if only a handful can afford its cars.
One of the cars Tesla plans to launch in India is the Model 3 which is also the entry model in the Tesla range. It’s nothing like your average four-door sedan. There’s no grille for one, not even the mock grille you see on other EVs, as if to drive the point home that this car never had an engine to begin with.
The Model 3 is driven by two electric motors, one each for the front and rear set of wheels, developing a combined 449hp (for the ‘Long Range’ model I’m driving). The 79.5k Wh battery is good for a range of over 500km in real world driving conditions which is fantastic.
Entering the Model 3 is again very un-car like. There’s no key fob, no pressing the unlock button to enter. Access is via a credit card-size key card which you tap on the door pillar to unlock the car, much like entering a hotel room.
The cabin is minimally furnished and absolutely uncluttered. What shocks you is the dashboard which is devoid of any buttons or dials. Most functions have to be accessed through the touchscreen, which is a good and bad thing. Bad because you have to dig into the menus to adjust something basic, like the air vents which you would otherwise physically move around. But the good thing is the screen itself. It’s sharp, has ultra-high resolution and is incredibly responsive, intuitive and makes the touchscreens in all other cars feel several generations behind.
The Tesla’s real party trick is its ‘Easter Egg’ content, which ranges from fun to ludicrous and gives the Model 3 a sense of humour. In Mars mode, the navigation map turns into a Martian surface just for kicks and if you want to cosy up with your partner, you hit the Romance mode, where a log fire flickers on the screen with the accompanying sound of crackling wood and warm air blowing through the vents! Not crazy enough? The maddest or most outrageous mode is the Emissions mode which emits sounds of human flatulence!
There’s more. You have a range of video games to play with and the steering wheel and pedal double up as gaming controls!
Home on the range
But what’s it like to drive? Press down on the perfectly damped accelerator pedal and you’re caught off guard with the ferocious acceleration which nails you to your seat.
A slight flex of the right foot is met with an instant response and if you push down further you get a sustained rush of hushed speed that makes every car south of `60 lakh look pedestrian. What’s amazing is that consistent jabs of the throttle pedal didn’t deplete the battery as quickly as I thought, and after a day of testing I returned with 220km of range left.
If there is a flaw, it’s the ground clearance or lack of it. The Model 3 struggles even over a moderately sized speed breaker and the low floor is prone to hitting the ground. Tesla will need to raise the Model 3’s ground clearance before launching it in India.
Elon Musk likes to keep his company’s news close to his chest, so it’s not clear when Tesla will officially come to India and what price the Model 3 will be launched at. Our guess is `60 lakh, which is not cheap but not stupidly expensive either. The Model 3 fits into the wide gap between the affordable end of the EV spectrum and the handful of crore-plus luxury SUV EVs on sale. Bring it on, Elon!
The views expressed by the columnist are personal
From HT Brunch, October 3, 2021
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