TEST DRIVE: Tesla Model 3 – Exciting, Exhilarating and Electrifying

Automologist ATHERTON is back with another test drive review, and this time it’s electric-fying. 

The craze now is to “go green” and the electric car is the “future of mobility”. Driving an electric car is like being in a different realm. Of course, you know where the doors are and you have a steering wheel and seats, but everything else is different.

I recently test drove a 2021 Tesla Model 3 Standard Range from G-Mart Corporation’s Moscorp division, which sells reconditioned vehicles, in Sg. Ramal, Kajang.

For the new EV driver – especially of Teslas – everything you know about driving should be cast aside. Firstly, to get in, you have to tap a keyless NFC keycard on the B-pillar. Inside, you place the keycard in the middle console so the system detects the presence of a driver (this function can also be done from a smartphone app) and you then depress the brake to immediately start the car.

But I did not realise it was ready to go. After so many years of driving cars with internal combustion engines, I was not accustomed to a quiet cabin after the car had started. But this is the norm with EVs.


There is a glass panoramic roof that stretches from the front to the back. You might think this is a bad idea in our Malaysian weather but it deflects the rays of the sun quite well as it has ultraviolet protection, and the really cool air-conditioning helped.

Seats are comfortable and plush, and you get 12-way power-adjustable heated front seats. All Tesla seats are now leather-free, replaced by a “Tesla Synthetic Material”. The interior is spartan-esque, with only a huge 15” touchscreen that greets you as soon as enter. On the steering wheel are two buttons on either side: the left lets you adjust the audio system’s volume, side mirrors and steering wheel; and the right is for cruise control.

Teslas are essentially computers on wheels. Almost everything is controlled from the the 15” touchscreen, your gateway to maximising the user experience. Even to open the glove compartment, there is no latch! You need to use the touchscreen. The reason, they say, is security. You can leave your valuable belongings and rest assured that it will not be stolen. You, the owner, and only those enabled via your smartphone are the only persons who can access it. To open the charge port, boot, bonnet (it’s called a ‘frunk’ as there is no engine) requires the use of the touchscreen.

The wheels are Aero 18” in diameter with a plastic cover. According to Tesla, this is essential to cool the battery while driving as the air vents are in the front bumpers. But if you ask me, it looks way more cool without those covers.

After the brief, I took it on a drive to Cyberjaya. Now, the drive, that’s a different story altogether. As soon as you put your foot to the pedal, it just takes off. You feel the surge instantaneously and it holds until you ease off the pedal or place your foot on the brake. The G-forces are insane. You might mistake for riding in a supercar.

Around the bends, the car held well, but my only gripe was that passengers did not have anywhere to hold on to as there were no roof handles. This Model 3 Standard Range comes with a single motor that sends power to the rear wheels, and with that single motor, it produces a mind-boggling 279bhp and 450Nm! 0-100kmh in 5.8 seconds, easily.

There is no service maintenance schedule like an ICE engine but of course you need to check it periodically to get the optimal driving experience. Here’s what I found on Tesla’s website :

  • Brake fluid health check every 2 years (replace if necessary).
  • A/C desiccant bag replacement every 6 years.
  • Cabin air filter replacement every 2 years.
  • Clean and lubricate brake calipers every year or 12,500 miles (20,000 km) if in an area where roads are salted during winter (even though we don’t get snowfall here in Malaysia, ensure your brakes are checked).
  • Rotate tires every 6,250 miles (10,000 km) or if tread depth difference is 2/32 in (1.5 mm) or greater, whichever comes first


Our sponsor, X1R, has a Brake Disc Cleaner, so get a can and use it to get the stopping power that you’ll definitely need.

Its Autopilot system has Adaptive Cruise Control, autosteer, lane-changing, lane-keeping and active safety autonomy. As it is semi-autopilot, it means that you need to keep your hands on the steering wheel. Once you remove your hands and after a few seconds, the touchscreen illuminates with a blue indicator signalling for you to place your hands back on the steering wheel.

The CPU uses an Intel Atom chipset. The battery capacity range on this Model 3 Standard Range is said to be at 438km for one full charge. The unit left the showroom fully charged and by the time I returned late in the evening, it still had about 50% of juice left. But of course, if you’re constantly revving the car, the juice will drop quicker.

The charge port is cleverly hidden beneath the rear lights. You get a four-year warranty or 80,000km. In terms of safety, you get airbags including front driver/passenger, knee airbag driver/passenger, torso for front passengers, and curtain airbags front/rear. The Tesla has been given a 5 Star Euro NCAP.

So, if you’re looking to get yourself into the EV world, this entry-level Tesla would be a good bet. Of course, there are still uncertainties that prospective buyers should consider, such as the cost of ownership, public chargers, range anxiety and so on. And I asked the salespeople of their target market here, they replied, “It would be for upper tier of society or someone who has spare cash lying around. It would also be for those who would like to make a statement among their friends. And definitely someone who is earning at least RM20,000 per month.”

Right now, for the average working Malaysian, the dream of owning a Tesla is still very much unattainable. The ICE-engine will still be around until we get the charging infrastructure in place, the charging time reduced and of course the cost of ownership dropped drastically. But if you’re from the demographic above, why not?

There are stations and places that have charging points (yes, there are horror stories of long queues and poorly maintained charging stations). But if you drive within Klang Valley with the occasional outstation run, my advice is: Plan your trip well.

As I said, everything about a Tesla elevates your driving experience, including its sheer speed, the quietness of the cabin, its technological prowess – everything is different. This Model 3 Standard Range goes for RM342,800.00. Any takers?

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