The Tesla Model 3 is finally available to buy in Australia but there's still a wait

Look out BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. You could throw Nissan, Honda and Mazda into that mix, too.

That's effectively the message from Tesla as it (finally) releases the most important new car the brand has created – a car considered a game changer from Europe to America.

The Model 3 was originally planned to be the Model E, so Tesla could have the S, E and X (Ford objected so it was changed to the 3).

You've got the look

The Model 3 is 290mm shorter and 114mm narrower than the Model S that set the Tesla template.

But it shares the same electric DNA, with batteries lining the floor and a small "frunk" (front trunk) in to complement the traditional boot out back.

The only components claimed to be shared between S and 3 are the indicator repeater units on each side of the car.

Waiting time

The Model 3 has taken its time making its way to Australia. Production delays meant Australians first get behind the wheel three years after it was revealed.

If you order one today it'll take a month or so to be delivered. Pricing starts at $66,000 plus on-road costs, another $4500-odd.

That Standard Range car is claimed to travel 460km between charges and dash to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds, making it quicker than the BMW 330i and Mercedes-Benz C300 that are a similar price.

Advertisement

The equation gets better once you add a second motor with the Dual Motor models, starting with the unimaginatively named Long Range from $85,000.

Zero-100km/h drops to 4.6 seconds and a bigger battery pack allows up to 620km of driving. Then there's the Performance; 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds and 560km of range.

Missing out

The Model 3 is about wow factor but it also misses out on plenty.

There's no key, for example. Instead you leave it to the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity on your phone, or you can use a near-field communication chip that looks like a credit card; ours refused to work a few times.

There's also no instrument cluster, eyes instead diverted to the top right corner of the central screen for speed info.

That screen is enormous and dominates the dash, at 15 inches across its diagonal.

There are a few tricks, such as the car icon in the bottom right corner, which opens various sub-menus relating to everything from the steering wheel and mirror positions to navigation and driving modes.

Australian connection

There's a local connection with the Model 3: the entire product development program was managed by an Australian, who says he has been a car enthusiast for decades.

But we can't tell you his name; Tesla makes journalists agree to referring to him simply as a "representative".

He grew up in Melbourne and formerly worked at Ford Australia and led development of the Model 3 since its inception in 2015.

This "representative" says potential Model 3 buyers are not necessarily wedded to buying an electric vehicle, instead simply looking for a car that performs well, is safe, is loaded with tech, looks good and is functional.

He also says the Model 3 has been dragging people from more affordable vehicles, suggesting it has the potential to do the same here. Look out Toyota…

Live your life

Perhaps the best feature of the Model 3 is its ability to get up and boogie – all without raising much attention.

It means you can be a bit of a hoon without coming across as a hoon.

The lack of engine noise means Porsche-like acceleration without the head-turning noise, at least in the Performance model we sampled. It comes with two electric motors (there's also a Standard Range with only a rear motor).

Exactly how much power it produces isn't quoted. Some media outlets claim there's 335kW in the Performance model, although the government homologation papers submitted to get the car approved for sale in Australia list it as 360kW.

Either way, there's plenty. Besides, it's the instant hit of torque that's intoxicating, the resultant acceleration like a giant hand is whisking the car forward.

Going the distance

The Model 3 is claimed to travel between 460km and 620km on a charge.

Like all EVs, it'll depend how you drive it, with more aggressive driving and higher speeds reducing that distance.

And looking at the claimed electricity consumption figures on the government's Greenvehicleguide website suggests shorter distances; the Performance, for example, is claimed to use 20.9Kwh per 100km.

As with the power, Tesla doesn't quote battery capacities, although Wikipedia says the original Model 3 had a 50kWh battery for the Standard Range car and 75kWh for the dual motor models.

If the 75kWh battery capacity is correct, that would suggest a driving range closer to 360km. Expect the reality to be somewhere between 360km and 620km.

Charging from a regular powerpoint in the larger battery will take about 31 hours. Utilising a Tesla Supercharger will give a claimed 270km of range in half an hour.

Quibbles

The Model 3 is far from perfect.

There's so much punch in the Performance that the brakes can't cope once you drive it hard, overheating to the point where you get that train station smell and reduced retardation.

The rear seats, while open and airy with a fabulous view, don't have great headroom for adults.

And fit and finish is sub-standard, some of the panels and trim misaligned in a way you wouldn't get on a $15K hatchback.

Fanatical attention

It's difficult to see that dissuading the faithful who are wedded to the clean performance and class-leading technology.

While Tesla doesn't quote sales figures, it's easy to see the Model 3 making a decent impact, not just on the electric car market but also the broader prestige segment.