Model 3 vs Model S

With the huge waiting list for the Model 3 and reportedly higher margins on the Model S, Tesla continues to anti-sell the Model 3 and advertises the Model S as the premium vehicle in their line up. Elon recommends that the Model 3 only be considered for budget or space limitations.

Many Model 3 reservation holders are getting calls or emails from Tesla encouraging us to upgrade to the Model S (custom, inventory or used) as they claim it’s a better car and available now. I got that call recently and explained that the Model 3 is likely a better car than what I have now and is a good deal less expensive than the Model S.

Is the Model 3 better than an older Model S?

It’s arguably true that a new Model S better than the Model 3 in almost every way, but for those of us who already own an older Model S, is the Model 3 better than what we have today? In the sections below I’m going to look at my April 2014 Model S vs the Model 3 and compare these differences.

Model S unique (vs Model 3) features

  • Size
    • As Elon noted, the Model S is a larger car with more than double the cargo capacity of the Model 3. If you haul a lot of people and baggage, run Nimber tasks or just like to haul stuff, then this extra space may be just what you need.
    • There’s more room for passengers in the Model S (although both are rated at seating for 5 adults and Tesla went out of their way to make sure 5 adults fit well in the Model 3)
  • Hatch back
    • With all that extra cargo capacity in the S, you need access. The S provides that with a wonderful powered lift gate that allows you to fit all sorts of things into the S without worrying about clearing a trunk opening height etc.
  • Dash (binnacle)
    • The Model S has a “more normal” dashboard in that there’s a binnacle with your speed, the current time and other important things about your drive. Tesla has taken that all to a new level in the S with the customizable screen and different widgets available.
  • 17″ screen
    • The screens in the Model S (and X) are huge and built into the dashes of the car. The extra size and built in appearance make for a great experience.
  • Unlimited supercharging
    • For any reasonable road trip, you need access to a fast charger. Tesla has put Superchargers everywhere, and for us early owners, they made them available for free (or at least included in the price of the car).
  • Sunroof
    • The Model 3 doesn’t (yet) have a sunroof option. I’ve always loved sunroofs for the extra visibility and openness. I don’t often open mine though, so this is one I don’t mind going away with the 3.

Newer Model S’s have other advantages such as faster 0-60 times, longer range, air suspension, front consoles, and a number of other things. My Model S lacks all of those features.

Model 3 Unique Features

The Model 3 is 3.5 years newer than my Model S, and will probably be 4.5 years newer by the time I can get my hands on what I want. Here’s the list of things it will have that my Model S doesn’t, assuming the feature set of the current loaded long-range Model 3 and AWD to be available sometime next year:

  • Autopilot
    • Didn’t exist in April 2014 for Tesla
  • Active safety
    • Automatic emergency braking, collision avoidance etc. These didn’t exist on the S in 2014.
  • All-Wheel Drive
    • Also didn’t exist in April 2014
  • LTE network connectivity
    • Also not available in 2014. Faster maps, faster streaming
    • Available as a $500 upgrade for my Model S, but not worth the price
  • Built-in front console
  • Rear cup holders
  • Rear USB ports
  • Coat hooks
  • Front door storage areas/pockets
  • Rear set pockets
  • Cargo cover
    • In this case via a trunk, but in my Model S they didn’t provide the rear cargo cover and it was always too pricey after the fact
  • Size
    • The smaller size of the 3 can also be a benefit for those with smaller garages, and parking in the cities or in general. The Model S is a very long and wide car which can make it a real pain to park at times.
  • Speed
    • While new Model S’s all outperform the Model 3, the 0-60 is 5.4s in my Model S85. The long range Model 3 does 0-60 in 5.1s and will probably be a bit better when configured with AWD. The Model 3 will be faster than my S.
  • Range
    • The long range Model 3 has a smaller battery than my Model S (80kWh vs 85kWh), yet is rated at 310 miles of range vs my 265 mile rating. That 310 will also likely be a shade longer with AWD configured.
  • Premium audio
    • I have standard Audio in my S and wouldn’t pay for premium as an extra but it seems it would come with the package in the 3.
  • Fog lamps
  • Smart phone docking in center console
  • Model 3 climate control system with the fancy new air direction controls
  • Adjustable height seat belts
    • This is a big deal for my wife as she’s 5’0″ and the S ones are too high for her
  • Lighted vanity mirrors
    • My S has vanity mirrors, but no lighting.
  • Power close charge port door
    • This doesn’t exist on early Model S’s

Unkown items

There are also a few items that I suspect will be better in the 3 than my S:

  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System
    • This one I’m a bit unsure of. A TPMS exists in the 3, but can you see individual tire pressures as you can on the newer S’s? If so that is something I don’t have. Today, I can only tell if a tire is low and then I have to check all 4 to find out which one is low. It would be great to be able to see the actual pressures in each tire rather than checking them all by hand weekly.
  • Seating
    • While I don’t have a problem with leather, supposedly the new material they’re using instead of leather is quite durable and comfortable.
    • I have the first-generation Model S seats, they’re on the 3rd generation right now for the S. Those first generation seats are pretty uncomfortable on long drives.
    • I expect the Model 3 seats to be better than the ones in my Model S.
  • Heated steering wheel
    • This doesn’t exist on my S even though I have the cold weather package as it was added into the package later. The newer Model S’s have this. I don’t know if it exists on the Model 3 or not. If it does it would be a welcome addition.
  • Road noise
    • The original Model S’s were poorly insulated from road noise. In newer cars, they tightened up the tolerances, added more sound deadening material and generally reduced the noise. I suspect the Model 3 will be quieter than my Model S.

Summary

I’ve been intentionally comparing the Model 3 to my own well-equipped Model S. The newer Model S’s have many (but not all) of the features listed above for the Model 3.

In the 3, I will definitely miss the extra cargo room and the hatch opening. I’ll also miss that wonderful dash display. And, while I’ll need to pay for Supercharging, I’ll at least I’ll still be able to use them on my road trips.

Is the Model 3 a better car than my Model S? Time will tell, but it sure has a LOT of things that I’d like to have that my Model S does not.

Also, I expect the Model 3 to cost about $60,000. My Model S was $100,000. This is amazing progress for Tesla in less than 4 years.