Unless you have been living under a rock, the hype surrounding Tesla in Singapore would not have gone unnoticed.
In the few months since they opened their dealership here, the number of Tesla vehicles on Singapore roads has increased more than 10-fold. As of Q3 2021, there were 487 Teslas registered in Singapore, making it the best-selling electric vehicle (EV) in Singapore.
Offering an all-electric line-up, Tesla vehicles such as the Model S (sedan), Model X (SUV) and Model Y (crossover) are already available in other markets. In Singapore, only two variants of the Model 3 sedan (Standard Range Plus and Performance) are currently being sold.
MINIMALIST TECH STYLE
While I have my reservations about the frog-eyed face and slightly dumpy rear, I do like the fastback silhouette accentuated by an all-glass roof that extends all the way from front to rear. There is something about curved glass that is just so sexy.
The 20-inch Uberturbine wheels with the red performance brake callipers peeking through, the front fog lamps and carbon fibre rear spoiler up the sporty factor. These are also external visual cues that set the Performance model apart from the Standard Range Plus.
The flush door handle pivots out when you press on one end of it, but snaps back in if you release your finger. It takes some degree of dexterity involving all five fingers and the wrist, maybe even two hands for some folks. But all is forgotten the minute you enter the cabin.
The minimalist interior looks like it came right out of a computer rendering. It feels more like the stuff of concept designs rather than reality.
Instead of the usual instrument cluster and the plethora of buttons and knobs on the centre console, all you have is a 15-inch touchscreen that controls almost everything. Even the air-conditioning vents are inconspicuously integrated into the dashboard.
The Model 3 sedan offers plenty of cabin space for five, with generous legroom both in front and in the rear. The absence of buttons and knobs on the centre console frees up the space for two capacious storage compartments and cup holders.
You also get not one, but two wireless chargers. Singapore-bound Model 3s are from Tesla’s Shanghai factory and the overall build quality is very decent, save for one, maybe two contentious junctions that my OCD eye may have spotted.
Apart from the door release button above the internal door handle, the only other buttons are the two on the steering wheel. The one on the left controls the volume when you scroll up or down and changes radio stations or tracks when you push it left or right.
However, when you select the steering wheel menu on the touchscreen, this same button allows you to make telescopic and height adjustments to the steering wheel.
Press the button on the right of the steering wheel to initiate voice command and scroll it to adjust the cruise control speed and distance settings.
Levers on either side of the steering wheel are used to toggle between Drive and Reverse, activate Autopilot, signal and switch on the wipers.
Thankfully, the horn is where it has always been.
The almost fully-digital interface with just that one touchscreen on the dashboard almost feels like you bought a tablet and it came with a car. The absence of the usual controls can be a little disconcerting at first, but as with any gadget, you soon get the hang of the various menus and sub-menus.
An app makes it possible to execute certain controls remotely. Besides locking and unlocking the car and releasing the trunk and frunk (Tesla-speak for front boot) among other features, it also turns your smartphone into your car key.
All that tech may be impressive, but ultimately, the Model 3 is a car and it has to be evaluated based on how well it performs as one.
Everyone waxes lyrical over the Model 3 Performance’s 3.3-second acceleration from zero to 100km/h. While it is most definitely something to shout about, it isn’t the only thing that is impressive about this EV.
The all-wheel-drive Performance variant that was tested is endowed with twin motors that digitally distribute the torque to the front and rear wheels.
This enhances the handling and traction control, and coupled with a low centre of gravity and precise steering responses, makes for a rather engaging drive. I have to admit, this was not something I was expecting from a car manufactured by a tech company at all.
While some people may protest about the relatively stiff ride, I find that it complements the Model 3’s sporty nature despite it being labelled a sedan. This is a car that I did not mind driving mostly in Chill mode instead of Sport.
I like the steering weight set to Standard. Comfort feels a little too light. Sport is on the heavy side and required just a little too much effort for my liking, although it may also feel more responsive at higher speeds.
Autopilot is another Tesla feature that has been much talked-about. The suite of features available are dependent on market region, vehicle configuration and options, as well as software version.
Full self-driving capabilities include auto lane change, Autopark and Summon. Navigation on autopilot, traffic light and stop sign control, as well as Autosteer in city streets, are some of the upcoming functions.
For now, in Singapore, autopilot in the Model 3 is limited to the ability to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within the car’s lane, which is similar to the adaptive cruise control systems that can be found in many other cars.
On a full charge, the Model 3 Performance provides a range of up to 567km. On paper, this is one of the furthers, if not the furthest, among EVs currently available in Singapore.
Based on my test-drive, the real-world range is probably somewhere between 400 to 500km. The range of the Standard Range Plus is shorter, but at 448km on paper, it is still plenty for the average daily commute within the island.
The Tesla Wall Connector is currently being reviewed by the authorities, so until it is approved, home charging is only available via LTA-approved third-party EV charger models.
Apart from home charging, the Model 3 comes with a built-in CCS Charge Port for compatibility with third-party fast-charging networks islandwide.
A third charging option is the Tesla Superchargers, which are currently available at three locations in Singapore: Orchard Central, Millenia Walk and Katong V, with more to come in the near future. A Supercharger delivers a quick recharge of up to 270km in 15 minutes, perfect for a quick cuppa.
Being a tech instead of a car company allows Tesla to throw out the rule book and start from a clean slate. The Model 3 is a piece of tech-on-wheels that is definitely a game changer.
It is an option worth considering if you are ready to embark on your emission-free journey.
Well, emission-free, apart from the “fart” that the car makes, which is part of some of the toys available in the Tesla’s Toybox. How’s that for some American humour?
Tesla Model 3 Performance (A)
MOTORS Front permanent magnet, rear induction
MAX POWER 506hp
MAX TORQUE 660Nm
BATTERY CAPACITY 78kWh
POWER TO WEIGHT 274.4hp per tonne
GEARBOX Single-speed fixed gear
0-100KM/H 3.3 seconds
TOP SPEED 261km/h
CONSUMPTION 16.6kWh/100km (combined)
MAX RANGE 567km
PRICE EXCL. COE $155,283
AGENT Tesla Singapore