Long Term: 2018 Tesla Model 3 Mid Range

Yes, it’s happened. The most sports-car-minded, petrol-brained enthusiast (me!) has bought his first electric vehicle. So what’s the new EV in my long-term fleet? Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 2018 Tesla Model 3 Mid Range!

Why did you buy a Tesla Model 3?

I wasn’t planning to purchase a new car, but my lust for the Tesla grew during a six-week loan of my dad’s 2018 Tesla Model 3 Mid Range. I enjoyed that Model 3’s potent torque, loved its BMW 3-series shaming dynamics and marveled at its semi-autonomous driving technology. I never expected the Model 3 to accelerate and corner with the spirit of a finely-honed sports sedan, but it did. I tried the Autopilot cruise control on highway drives and in bumper-to-bumper traffic and found it alluring. To my surprise, I’d found the Model 3 lust-worthy. Telsa is on a mission to make EVs sexy, and the sex appeal worked on me.

So automotive lust drove my purchase. And I rationalized that lust by calculating that the Tesla Model 3 is more practical, economical, socially acceptable and environmentally responsible than the 2011 BMW M3 it is replacing.

Yes: The 2011 BMW M3 it is replacing.

How is a Tesla Model 3 a replacement for a BMW M3?

I admit that comparing the Tesla Model 3 Mid Range to the BMW M3 is like comparing apples to onions; they are not remotely in the same category. But please understand how my M3 is used. My 2011 M3 is a sporty family-friendly commuter. Five days a week, it climbs Grizzly Peak’s twisting back roads and then sprints down Hwy 24 to my wife’s office in Walnut Creek. It picks up my daughter from school and takes my family on weekend road trips. While the M3’s comfortable cabin and sporting dynamics are appreciated on the mountainous 50-mile commute, its daily habit of three gallons of premium is not. For all of the uses above, the Tesla Model 3 is just as capable as the M3.

How is the Tesla more practical than the BMW?

The Model 3 has more interior room and cargo capacity than the M3. This is thanks to the packaging advantages that a flat battery pack and electric motor have over a front-engined car with a driveshaft for RWD. (The Model 3 Mid Range powers its back wheels with a single, rear-mounted motor.) The Tesla’s spacious cabin can comfortably accommodate five people—four adults and one child in a car seat in my case—and its twin trunks gobble up a generous amount of luggage.

The Model 3 also has better ground clearance than my M3, so it climbs my steep driveway without scraping. My wife is overjoyed that she can now park in our driveway instead of searching for street parking every night.

How is the Model 3 more economical?

Actually, the BMW M3 is so wildly expensive to fuel, maintain and repair that pretty much any car would be more economical. My M3 costs about $0.24/mile to fuel at current gas prices, as compared to $0.08/mile for the Model 3 at my local electric rates. Over the last six months, the M3 has incurred $0.59/mile ($3,905!) in maintenance and repairs. (My M3’s extended warranty expires in three months, so those costs will soon fall to me!) Since a new Model 3 comes with a full warranty, I estimate just $0.05/mile in maintenance and repairs for the Tesla.

There are one-time costs in acquiring a new car, purchase taxes and registration fees, but these are mostly covered by the tax and utility credits available in Northern California. Thus it’s depreciation that weighs against the Model 3. Over the next 3 years and 39k miles, I estimate that the Model 3 will depreciate $13,362. In the same period, I guess my M3 will lose $5,500. Sum it all up, and my new Tesla Model 3 may save me $16,780 over the next 3 years and 39k miles of commuting.

How is it more socially acceptable?

Here in eco-minded Berkeley, California, the only way to generate more smiles than frowns with a car purchase is to buy an alternative-fuel vehicle. While I don’t especially care about appeasing my neighbors with my car purchases, California has been burning to the ground around me, and my climate-change guilt is real when I’m driving my big-engine M3 or CTS-V. Thankfully, the Tesla Model 3 is a great alternative-fuel sports sedan and thrifty with its energy consumption.

How is it more environmentally responsible?

Simply put, the M3 is a gas guzzler, while the Model 3 is impressively frugal. The Model 3 sips energy like a Toyota Prius yet sprints like a BMW 330i.

People argue that there is a greater environmental cost to constructing a new Tesla instead of driving your old car, but the calculations done by Engineering Explained have me convinced otherwise: The Model 3’s efficient energy consumption pays back its manufacturing costs in just a few years. This is especially true since a high percentage of my electricity comes from renewable sources, and my BMW is a glutton.

Check out Engineering Explained’s videos here:

Which Model 3 did you buy?

I bought a Model 3 Mid Range.

When the Model 3 was initially released, it was only available with the long-range, +300 mile, battery pack. Once the demand for the ~$50k Model 3 Long Range waned, Tesla introduced the cheaper Mid Range as a stepping-stone to the much ballyhooed $35k Model 3.

All of the Model 3 Long Range’s premium interior fittings—its vegan-leather heated seats (front and rear), premium sound system, internet streaming radio, and traffic-aware maps—were present in the Model 3 Mid Range, but the battery pack was reduced to 62 kWh for 265 miles of range, and the car was only available as a single-motor RWD.

You’ll notice that I am talking about the Model 3 Mid Range in the past tense. That is because in May 2018, when I purchased my car, the Mid Range trim level had been dead for several weeks. Tesla replaced the Mid Range with the cheaper, but less feature-full, Standard Range Plus.

 How much did you pay?

The original MSRP for my 2018 Tesla Model 3 Mid Range was $40k. Tesla has a no-haggle sales model and won’t negotiate purchase prices, but it does put incentives on already-built cars that are lingering on store lots. (This is especially true at the end of business quarters when the company is trying to make its financial numbers.) My car was a lot-leftover, the last Model 3 Mid Range on the West Coast, and it had $3,460 on the hood.

On top of the $36,540 base price, I added the $3k for distance-aware, lane-following Autopilot and $5k for the Full Self Driving package. The FSD package gave me access to Navigate by Autopilot, a feature that pilots the car through highway ramps and interchanges, Summon, which remotely drives the car into or out of tight parking spots, and Autopark parking assistance. I like using Autopark, but mostly I purchased FSD as it guarantees me all future Autopilot upgrades; I want to see what Telsa does with Autopilot in the future.

How was the purchase experience?

In a word, disappointing.

My purchase process was done via email and phone calls to my local Tesla store, and the Telsa sales representative I was assigned was terrible. He was bad at responding to my messages, and I frequently had to contact his supervisor or call the corporate office in Las Vegas to get the information I needed. He gave me little information about the shipping status of my car—my Model 3 was shipped down from the Portland, Oregon Tesla store—and bad information about the pick-up process. We were told that I could sign for the car alone, when in fact, my wife needed to be present too. My sales representative never called me when the car arrived in San Francisco; I found out three days later when I phoned the delivery team to iron out the delivery details.

When the car arrived, it had a few minor fit-and-finish issues that Tesla was quick to fix. The hood emblem was crooked, some of the door seals were poorly fitted, and there were minor scratches on the piano-black plastic of the center console and rear door handle. Tesla addressed all these without argument. I have not noticed any paint issues or panel gap issues with my Model 3.

How much did the BMW M3 sell for? 

<Blushing…> Actually, I didn’t sell the M3.

Now that the M3 is freed of its commuting duties, I plan to track it more often. So I’ve fitted racing brake pads, and it’s ready to go whenever I find a free weekend!

How do you like the Model 3?

I like it a lot, and I want to tell you more about life with a Model 3, but this article is long enough. I’ll share more in a future article, and until then, happy motoring!

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