Tesla is in town. The excitement is getting more and more, until it behooves me to pop over to the showroom at One Assembly at Raffles City. Now, I have heard horror stories of sales staff discriminating against customers whose attire do not match up to expectations. However, we went down in our usual casual weekend attire. I was dressed in a t-shirt, berms and slippers. The only branded gear I was flashing were my Zara belt which is hidden from view, as well as my $50 Casio watch.
We arrived on a Saturday at 4pm and gingerly strolled to the showroom, tucked away in one corner of the department store (next to the Tempur mattress section). However, the showroom was undergoing disinfection and it would re-open at 5pm. We went window shopping. At 4:55 pm we went back and there was already a queue forming.
At 5pm, we were allowed in to the showroom. There were two Model 3 display vehicles, the rear-wheel drive Standard Range Plus model and the all-wheel drive Dual Motor Performance model. The base model starts from $113,245 excl COE while the performance model starts from $155,283 excl COE. The Performance model is a bit faster and for the extra $42K or so, you get to accelerate from 0-100 km/hr in 3.3s instead of 5.6s and you also get performance brakes, 20in wheels, lowered suspension, a carbon fibre spoiler, a better sound system and two aluminium alloy pedals. The higher top speed and the track mode is probably not applicable for clients in the local market as we do not have a race track and I don’t think one would dare to drive the vehicle to Sepang track in Malaysia even when travel resumes, as this is an Electric Vehicle (EV).
There were two sales executives, none bat an eyelid at our casual dressing, in fact most of the other showroom visitors were not very well dressed I think. One sales executive managed the queue to ensure that the showroom was not overcrowded while another sales executive took questions inside the showroom. There was a QR code for customers to scan and be redirected to the Tesla Singapore website which displays the specifications and prices.
Each car is allowed a maximum of two guests inside at any one time, while other guests are allowed to caress other parts of the car. We first examined the front trunk of the car, which would be able to fit a briefcase for the executive heading to work or a packet of chicken rice for the homemaker (male or female) who takes the car to the nearest hawker centre to pack lunch.
Then we checked out the rear trunk (sorry forgot to take pictures). Press a button at the trunk lid and it pops open. There is a button inside which you can press and the lid closes on its own, quite atas. However, due to the design, the opening of the boot is rather restricted and you have to insert your items horizontally in rather than just dump them from above. Hence, this could be a little challenging if you are packing five big portions of wanton noodles for instance.
In to the driver seat, it’s quite comparable in terms of space to a usual entry level saloon like the Mercedes C-Class or something. The thing that stands out is that the seat is especially soft. Tesla claims that the material is “custom-engineered material that is fully vegan”. I still don’t understand what it means, but I don’t really like the soft texture where you kinda sink in. Perhaps it’s just a matter of personal preference, where I prefer the seat, backrest and side cushions to be firmer.
The steering wheel is very plain and has a scoll wheel on the left and right side, presumably for controlling any functions. It feels quite weird to be honest. The rest of the steering wheel is devoid of any buttons that you might be used to in other cars (like cruise control, etc). The steering wheel does have two lever stalks, the right one is the gear selector stalk (R,D,N) while the left one is the indicator stalk with wiper function too. The centre compartment is clean due to the absence of the gear level and other usual controls, there are two cupholders, a deep storage box and two pads to charge your phones. You don’t even see the usual aircon vents in front, I understand the vents are discreetly installed at the front panel.
There is no instrument panel, this is disturbing as it means you have to look at the large tablet in the centre console for all driving information. Practically all controls are relegated to the tablet. While I don’t think it will be hard to find the controls, the interface layout seems quite organised, it sure takes quite a lot of getting used to if one were to switch from cars that resemble an aircraft cockpit to a spartan interior. In fact, you cannot even find a switch to open the glove box, but there is a function in the tablet to unlock it. This means if you are working on something in the car, and you need to get something from the glove box, it can be a little inconvenient to have to fiddle around with the tablet controls first.
The back seats are fine though it seemed slightly narrower than other compact sedans. Again, the softness of the material stood out. The floor at the rear is completely flat and so three small to average sized adults can probably sit at the back quite comfortably.
Now, let’s discuss the exterior looks. It looks better in person I would say. The front portion does resemble a supercar and has curvy lines like Ferrari, McLaren but perhaps not as sleek. Maybe Tesla is going for the understated supercar look. The side is ok and I thot all the lights, front, side, rear are well designed. The rear is nice to look at. I have been behind some on the roads, of course, I won’t be foolish enough to rev my engine. The only design issue, in my openion is the rear corner, where it looks a bit like a hatch. The way the rear windscreen slopes down is quite abrupt. If you keep looking at it, you could try to dismiss that peculiar design away. In fact, the Ferrari GTC4Lusso looks like a hatchback too. If Ferrari can get away with that, well…
All in all, I think it’s an interesting option for a car. One issue is that test drives are not available, according to my friends. I didn’t actually ask. I suspect they might make test drives available when their proper Toa Payoh showroom is available in the future. Without a test drive, you can’t get a sense of the driving comfort as well as the handling capability.
Even without a test drive, one can imagine that the straight-line performance would be quite impressive, and the Model 3, especially the Performance Model, will leave most other cars in the dust off the traffic lights. Having said that, there are other extremely high-end cars with faster century sprint times such as the Porsche 911 Turbo S PDK 3.8 (2.7s, $932K excl COE), Lamborghini Aventador SVJ 6.5 V12 (2.8s, $2.0mn excl COE), Ferrari 812 Superfast (2.9s, $1.4mn excl COE) and McLaren 720S 4.0 V8 Coupe ($1.0mn excl COE). Actually if you prefer a petrol-consuming fast car, I will recommend the Porsche, it has the lowest century sprint, is the cheapest and it’s interior is quite stunning too. Anyway in Singapore, century sprints are pointless since speed limits range from 20km/hr to 90km/hr. Note that I do no condone racing on public roads.
What do you think? Are you ready to take the plunge for an Electric Vehicle? After seeing it in the flesh, I think I am ok with the exterior looks, but I need to get my head and emotions round the spartan interior and the fact that everything has to be done via the tablet. Guess I am an impatient person.