This is not going to be a boozy lovesong about Tesla changing the world.
As you have probably seen from the deluge of media coverage, the Tesla Model 3 arrived just after dark in SoCal last night, to much fanfare and fanboy eagerness.
Initial reaction: horror.
Horror and revulsion.
Why, oh why, Tesla, if you can change the world and make the best EVs of all time... can you not realize how ugly the new Tesla models have become? It is in the details like the formless faces, the bloated rooflines and the generic detailing of the Model X, the very-tired-looking Model S and now this funky, bizarre Model 3.
Perhaps it is Tesla's hate for their original designer, Henrik Fisker, that keeps them so clueless on how to make a beautiful vehicle. Tesla took Fisker to court ruthlessly after he started his own venture, and since then Tesla has taken over the giant Palo Alto flagship Fisker showroom for itself.
Now a decade -- seriously -- since the Model S and X were designed, we see that the Model 3 looks basically the same.
Beauty in the car business is not about details as much as fundamentals. Proportions, stance, scale. Did Tesla want to make a pregnant Ford Focus fastback for their big Model 3?
I can't understand why this car isn't beautiful.
Tesla Model 3 - Launch flyaround video (fb embed beta)
Posted by Car Revs Daily on Friday, April 1, 2016
The surely-inflated 133k total reservations for the Model 3 were mostly secured BEFORE the car was shown. Like the Model X before it, the falloff once people get a look at this strange bird will be immense. And redemption rates among the hipsters who've plunked down their CC numbers online, sight unseen? Let's be kind and say that they will be "low." Less than 10-percent, which is off from the 70% est purchase rate for Model S depositers, and 22% est 'buy' rate among Model X preorders.
A deeply fugly mess of melted plastic can ruin even the most unicorn-like tech launch....
So, the Model 3 looks strange. It is tall with an arcing glass roof with no intrusions like windshield headers or pillars across the roof area. Just two super-strong roof rails. This may be why the roof is plooped out so much taller than it need be for driver headroom.
This leads to a very tall rear quarter panel and hatchback look from all sides. There is some new detail scultping in the panels (great job Tesla Design, you designed something! ;) in profile and from the tail angles. A semi-soft surface treatment is defined by rigid form lines below, a bit like a silk cloth over steel. We see this in a mid-beltline and around the newly-sharp fenders. It is promising and Porsche-esque in its feel.
The nose continues to recall various Porsches to these eyes. But much more strange issues arise around the nose. First things first: the nose is TINY! There is virtually no overhang and a plunging hoodline that no front-engine car can match. It is certainly unique in that regard. But the tiny, drop nose has the effect of visually inflating the already-jumbo roof and tail. Gorgeous, it is NOT.
Around the pure nose angle, we're glad to see some new headlights versus the X and S. These integrate a bit of internal Ferrari-style swirl of the optic pieces, rounding off the corner of the face and drawing your eye elsewhere. Full LEDs for the low and highbeams are in the lower-edge and inner-edge of the Porsche 996-like shapes of these fried-egg light blobs. More Ferrari similarity in that high-mounted LED DRLs at the top of the main lamps.
Lower LED fogs appear in a solid bar of light in each lower bumper corner, with LED spot lamps in their outer edges -- a bit like the SRT Grand Cherokee.
Then, we come to the elephant in the room.
While some argue that grilles are superfluous and hurt aero performance, making the Model 3 a bottom-breather -- a la Chrysler Sebring Coupe (!) -- is a huge misfire.
Are they blind?
The pure nose angle of the Model 3 has to be the single ugliest face on a car in history. What. The. What. Perhaps this is someone's idea of the future.
But again, we're back to the initial head-scratching. With all the resources and talent Tesla has at its disposal....
And with all the freedom of not packaging a giant engine block...
You'd think they could come up with a car that will never, ever be compared to the looks of a Toyota Prius. Or a beached whale calf.
Outback-style crossover will be a piece of cake based on these fun-house-mirror proportions. Body cladding, raised ride height, fender flares. Boom. Done. K.I.S.S., TESLA!
The cabin looks much more upscale than the Model S, with a wide new center console and giant central touchscreen for all controls and displays. No speedometer up top, just the central instrument screen. You could hear a pin drop in here right now.
The hype around this Model 3 is unjustified. We can already think of 10 immediate changes and variants Tesla should make to the Model S and Model X versus expending so much time and treasure on the Model 3. Which, by the way, does claim a base sticker price of $35k before incentives. But as shown, plan to spend double that amount.
This Model 3 almost makes us wonder: what would a truly mass-market Tesla be like on these bones? Sans the glass moonroof, AWD, leather cabin wraps... and maybe a full reskin. Could be good.
For more vague Tesla claims/promises
and digital renderings of the car from odd angles, check out the Tesla link below.
2018 TESLA Model 3