The 2021 Model 3, what is it really like for a previous owner?

What really makes them different? Is it the new battery pack? New interior? Is it any better.

Tesla is known for a lot of things, among them is innovating and doing upgrades to such a degree that traditional model years never made much sense. 

When the company themselves start to market this car as 2021 Model 3, either they have had a change of marketing or made some changes worth considering. This is distinctly a Tesla move where they add certain features in the middle of a model year and that is the end of the story.

I have been driving a Model 3 Long Range for almost two years now, so this is a like-for-like test. I have heard different things and imagined mostly the same experience with small alterations. But so often, those small alterations tend to become something bigger than the sum of their parts, as we will see.

My car has a build in the 225,000NOK range, this one is in the 800,000 range, what a difference 600,000 makes (around $60,000).

This one is white, and with the new satin black accent colours it looks smart, and the white seats completes the picture.

From the outside, you would be forgiven that this is just a tesla with its chrome bits covered up, and a new bulb in its headlight, and you would be partly right. They have ditched the chrome (good for the environment) and new matrix LED headlights, even though the matrix bit isn’t working right now, they are also more powerful, and you never get enough light in the dark parts of the world.

Et bilde som inneholder lys

Automatisk generert beskrivelse
Photo: Mats-André Buraas

With Tesla’s rather dark color palate the black contrast color suits the cars very well, it will give some third-party companies a headache, but they will find something else to do.

The interior is mostly the same, except the new centre console, with a sliding lid, so no more arguing with the magnetic flap they have used until now, under the screen there are two Alcantara clad holders for your phone, they charge your phones wireless, so if that’s not a possibility you still have the possibility to cable it, but then it can’t sit there, so plus and minuses. It does look very good though, even though the new lid looks a bit designed by Kia, not in Freemont. The cupholders are not rubberized on the inside, so they stopped rattling, and all the awful gloss black is now satin black instead, much better.

Tesla has gone over the entire car with a fine-tooth comb, like the front doors feeling lighter, and have a much more solid thud when being shut. That’s partly down to the double glazing in the side windows, but possibly also changes to the insulation, the door release buttons now also have clear markings on what they actually do, unlike before.

Et bilde som inneholder tastatur, innendørs, datamaskin, mus

Automatisk generert beskrivelse
Et bilde som inneholder bakke, utendørs, bil

Automatisk generert beskrivelse
Photo: Mats-André Buraas

For all those third-party companies wondering what to do, they can start making new trays for the storage under the armrest, Tesla simply just removed it, and you are left with a deep void of space, but I guess you can 3d print one, or just find one in the scrapyard.

Apart from that the interior is much like it have been, the seats feel a bit more plush and softer, but that might just be mine being used more. There is a slight increase in the padding in the upper part around the shoulders, still fabulously comfy though.

As a saloon car, one seldom feels the need of a motorised liftgate the same way as on bigger cars, but nonetheless Tesla now have included an electric motor lifting and closing the lid, that means you now can have covid free delivery or pick-ups of goods and control it all from the screen.

Et bilde som inneholder bil, innendørs, lukk, kontrollpanel

Automatisk generert beskrivelse
Et bilde som inneholder utendørs, bil, himmel, transport

Automatisk generert beskrivelse
Photo: Mats-André Buraas

But out on the road, the car really surprises, it almost feels like a completely different car than mine, and that’s not just wear and tear, it’s 100 little improvements coming together to make a much better product.

This is done on broken more or less rough Norwegian asphalt, and that means a lot of tire noise. The cabin still transmits some of it (I think that might be through the aluminum parts of the construction), but the experience is a quieter cabin even at higher speeds.

That’s down to the double glazing keeping the wind noise down in the front, you can still hear it in the back, and they have also reduced the wind noise from the panoramic roof, it makes a lot less noise than previously. I know many have tested the noise levels with a microphone, and it makes little difference, but the experienced noise is lower, more German, and less Asian if that makes sense.

Tesla has generally made sporty cars when it comes to how they ride, but I have complained about the harsh low-speed ride of the long-range Model 3 (the SR+ rides much better). It handles sharp indentations, speed bumps and broken roads by bottoming out and sending shudders through the cabin, running on softer more pliant 18” winter tyres help a bit but doesn’t eliminate the problem.

But this new car has removed the entire issue, it now rides like it should have done from the off, and feels much more like a German car, the level of refinement is much higher.

All of this makes the car feel much more modern, the driving is now without all the little annoyances taken out of the experience.

The car also has more go, not a lot, but it feels more effortless in its performance making it feel even more premium, combined with a quieter cabin it’s now even easier to lose the license than it already was.  The heat-pump draws a lot less energy on a cold spring day than my old PTC heater ever could dream of, so it will make driving in a colder climate a lot less of a compromise than it used to be. The car now scavenges surplus heat from the battery now, but this has led to some unforeseen consequences they now seem to have gotten on top of. The problem was that the batteries got scavenged too low, and as such, it cut power to dangerous levels in some cases. Now spring is here, but if they can retain a bit more temperature in the batteries the problem seems to go away, we shall see.

Does this make the older cars entirely worthless, should we all just sell them and buy new ones?

That is an individual choice, and if nothing else it makes the pre-updated cars a very good used car. The range is good, and it offers a driving experience not easily matched by its competitors. And with an unmatched level of software optimization makes life as an EV owner very easy. With pre-heat and the supercharger network, it can go almost anywhere and charges fast even in the cold of winter.

This clearly shows how quickly Tesla is learning, this car is built in Freemont but feels a generation upon the older cars, this makes me wonder how good the cars actually being built in Germany will be.

LivingEVs Take:

Like Mats, I have also got a chance to drive the new updated Model 3, and overall it is definitely a better car, but in certain places such as the center console and the armrest, they seem to have cheaped out on. In my opinion, the new center console is dumbed down and really doesn’t represent the car is the best light which is very annoying. The other center console looks like a piece of art, this one looks like something slap in by an automaker who doesn’t seem to care. Other than that the new cathode material gives the 3 an extra range of our 13 miles which is cool. (also worth mentioning that they recommend you charge to 100%).

So would I upgrade? No, not worth it.

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