First experience with a loaner thoughts compared to the 3

First experience with a loaner thoughts compared to the 3

So I brought my car in to fix a small paint blemish from delivery and I received a Model S loaner for the time it’s in the shop. First time ever driving the S and coming from my 3 I gotta say I was quite surprised. It’s a Dec 2018 build, base 75D, black/black textile seats, 2,500 miles, no autopilot.

First what I like over the 3:

-of course the power hatch is really nice, makes loading things much easier.
-the suspension/ride is much smoother and less harsh
-at freeway speeds it’s quieter with noticeably less tire/road noise
-the textile (fabric) seats are actually really nice, wish they’d offer that on the 3/Y

...and that’s about it!

What I don’t like (compared to the 3):

-It’s MUCH bigger (barely fits in my garage) but nearly has the same interior space & frunk is smaller
-MUCH less visibility, both front and rear
-The steering wheel feels too big & thin (love the 3’s smaller, thicker “sportier” wheel)
-Even set to “sport” the steering feels too light - lighter than the 3’s standard setting
-The standard (highest) setting for regenerative braking is a lot weaker than the 3, it doesn’t slow nearly as much, requiring the use of the brakes more often.
-The stereo sucks, or at least compared to the 3’s amazing sound
-There is a noticeable electric “whine” sound at low speeds when accelerating that’s not really present in the 3
-To each his own, but I much prefer the minimalist interior of the 3, the S now seems dated and much more like a regular ICE car (don’t care/need for the extra dash screen, manual climate vents, extra steering column stalks etc)
-The seats aren’t as comfortable, with the side bolsters being way too aggressive
-The center armrest is set way too far back. I can barely rest my arm there, and I can’t do it at all if holding the steering wheel with my right hand set low at 4/5 o’clock (one of my preferred positions on the freeway and/or with autopilot)
-Same goes for the cup holders, kind of an awkward position being too high up/far back
-No easy place to rest my phone, especially if I want to have Waze going in the background to glance at from time to time
-No door pocket storage
-Opening & closing the doors from the inside a bit awkward with the small grab area being separate from the open handle and it being in the center. With the 3 it’s so easy with the handle in a more natural position to grab when closing and to push the button with your thumb while already having the grab handle in hand when opening
-While I like the larger screen, the nature of it being in portrait mode places the control functions (stereo, climate control, etc) much lower on the dash, requiring you to look further away while driving
-No rear center armrest
-Higher energy usage (wh/mi)

Don’t get me wrong, the S is a fantastic car, but it’s almost like Tesla just did too good of a job on the 3, totally outshining it’s big brother. When you compare them side by side, it’s amazing how well designed the 3 is, especially when considering cost. My 8-year-old son kept asking why the S is so much more expensive...ahhh, cause it’s bigger?? I really didn’t have an answer. I seriously have no idea why anyone would consider spending $30-40k MORE to get an S. The 3 is simply that good.

So if anyone out there is on the fence whether to get a used S or a new 3 (as I once considered long ago), unless you absolutely need the small amount of extra cargo space and/or utility of a hatch, the answer is a resounding go with the 3! IMHO ;-)

wb808 | July 18, 2019

TL;DR - I want my 3 back! :-)

lilbean | July 18, 2019

I agree.

lilbean | July 18, 2019

I agree with the OP, not the TLDR thing.

vmulla | July 18, 2019

My first post on this forum was after I took a test drive on yue yue Xue's car - and the first thing I did is that the S needs a interior refresh or it's screwed.

Almost 2 years now, I'm actually amazed that S' sales are strong - I expected S to suffer much more because of the 3.

I fell in love with the exterior of the S, the 3 is equally good - but first love holds a special place. Can't say the same about the interior of the S anymore.

vmulla | July 18, 2019

I did = I said*

gballant4570 | July 18, 2019

My wife & I sat in the two cars in the DC showroom....deciding whether or not to keep out Model 3 reservation, or go for an S. We did not drive them. Due to a number of the points above, we kept our Model 3 reservation.... and have not regretted it.

lilbean | July 18, 2019

The non-adjustable seatbelt cuts into my neck in the S and car seats don’t fit well.

tri_t_to | July 18, 2019

I too had a Model S for a loaner for a couple of days. For me

Model S Pros
- Sound System sounds better (my loaner had the premium sound system)
- Less road noise
- Softer Ride
- Higher quality interior
- Power trunk lift
- More control buttons on the steering wheel
- Pop out handles

Model S Cons
- More body roll in turns
- Highly inefficient HVAC, had to keep it blowing full blast at LO temp just to keep cool
- Inefficient motor, was averaging 300, on my Model 3 I am getting 230
- The car felt too normal, I prefer the Model 3 futuristic interior design

M3phan | July 18, 2019

@wb808, agree

vmulla | July 18, 2019

My 3 was one of the first 5 non-employee cars in DC.
I invited forum enthusiasts to meet me and check out the car. About 60 folks showed up and many were previous owners with reservations. The top concerns were spedometer location, panel gaps, and non-alcantara look. Everyone who compared the car to their S said they were convinced enough to click the buy button, except one person who was really tall - the 3 just looked small to him.

Furthermore, I asked for volunteers and asked them to find defects in the car. All the 6 folks who helped me were avid forum participants who knew all the issues that were discussed back then. They found things I'd missed - all were so minor that every S owner who stopped by said they'd still purchase the vehicle (I was in the same camp) - and the build of 3 improved a good bit since then. So, now when everything is much better the 3 makes that much more sense.

Resist | July 18, 2019

The Frunk is smaller in the S?

eplaskett | July 18, 2019


I am interested to hear that you can rest your right arm on the armrest of your 3 and still hold the steering wheel at 4 or 5 o'clock with your right hand. That's one of my favorite driving positions as well, or at least it was in my old car. No matter how I position my seat or the steering wheel of my 3, I am unable to rest my arm on the armrest AND hold the wheel with my right hand. It's one of the few things I find even mildly frustrating about this car.

I am 5'11 and my dress shirts have a sleeve length of 33", so nothing out of the ordinary, I do feel like I have to have the seat back farther than I would expect necessary in order for my feet to feel comfortable with the pedals. (I think part of that is due to Autopilot - if my feet were much closer they'd run the risk of accidentally pressing the pedals while EAP is engaged.) I have the steering wheel telescoped all the way towards me and also in a fairly low position. Yet I still can't quite reach the wheel with my arm on the armrest. I do like my seat cushion pretty high, mainly for support and better visibility, and I wonder if that has something to do with it; maybe my torsos's being high also makes my arm too high to rest on the armrest AND reach the wheel.

Anyways, I was wondering if you were of roughly similar proportions given that you are indeed able to hold the wheel with your arm on the armrest. Would love to be able to do that again, especially on longer drives.

By the way, completely agree with your assessment on the Model S. My first Tesla loaner was a P100D with Ludicrous, and I couldn't wait to turn it back in. The S is just too big and is not nimble enough for my tastes.


wb808 | July 18, 2019

@Resist - “The Frunk is smaller in the S?”

Early pre-facelift RWD model S had HUGE frunks (the AWD was much smaller due to the front motor taking up space). Post-facelift cars (both RWD and AWD) is relatively small but on second thought maybe it is about the same as the 3. It just appeared smaller I guess at first because of what little area it takes up in relation to the hood size, plus it’s more oddly shaped than the 3.

wb808 | July 18, 2019

@eplaskett - Hmm interesting that you’re unable to rest your arm on the armrest as described. I’m pretty much the same size as you so not sure what’s going on there, it’s gotta be how you have everything adjusted. When I get my car back I’ll have to try and sit and study how I have things set up, will let you know.

eplaskett | July 18, 2019

@wb808 Thanks so much! I will fiddle around with my seat here as well. I am loathe to change anything because I am otherwise super comfortable in it, but maybe I can find another sweet spot. I also have the seat back pretty close to full vertical; I wonder if leaning it back slightly would help by lowering my torso and thus my arm closer to the armrest. Who knows!?

Thanks again for any feedback, and I hope for your sake that you get your car back soon!

FISHEV | July 20, 2019

Running around right now in a rented X. It fills so bulky and I get cautious in parking garages. Definitely like the small and nimble Model 3.

Blind side indicators work much better in the X (and the S) and it is easy to see why not so well in the Model 3. S and X have the second digitize screen in one of sight of the driver which does has the cars positional visualization in it. Not as good as in mirror or on heads up but better than the Model 3 where it is down and to the left on the screen requiring eyes off the road and a long refocus process to it and back to check mirror and the over the shoulder look which the Model 3 requires. Tesla grafted the display on the S an X to the Model 3 where it doesn’t work for BSI. It is one of the things Tesla should fix in Model 3 going forward. Most inexpensive way is put some lights in the front pillars getting the same signal as the visualization,

As you mention the noise of the 3 so some insulation for road noise might add $1k but should not hurt range. Quiet is a plus of EV’s and Tesla should emphasize that more in the Model 3.

sbeggs | July 20, 2019

Interesting comparisons.

RES IPSA | July 20, 2019

The Model S felt like a cave inside compared to the 3. I prefer the 3 over the S, but I do slightly like the exterior style of S better than the 3

jebinc | July 20, 2019

OP, I had a similar experience. The S loaner for me was a beater, gen 1 S 85. As you point out, there are things in the S that I liked, but more so, I couldn't wait to get my M3 back. That's the punchline for me.

jebinc | July 20, 2019

^^^ Edit: The "beater" had nearly 50,000 miles and several of the door handled didn't work/extend. I would have to let my wife in by opening the damn door from the inside.

Jbuccola | July 20, 2019

On ride quality difference: what size wheels do you have on your 3? What size were on the loaner S?

tung1900 | July 20, 2019

100% agreed.

wb808 | July 20, 2019

@Jbuccola - "On ride quality difference: what size wheels do you have on your 3? What size were on the loaner S?"

I have the 19" sport wheels on my 3 and the loaner S has the 19" base wheels, so wheel-wise they should be relatively similar (although there's probably less sidewall rubber on the 3 which doesn't help). The biggest difference in how the S is smoother and more forgiving with bumps is probably the suspension (air vs spring).

Jbuccola | July 20, 2019

Good to hear.

Agree with your assessment on smoother/quieter, but comparing the 3 with 18" rubber vs. 19" rubber is truly night and day. The 18" Aeros are 3 db quieter and absorb much more road imperfections than the 19" Sports.

So not sure it's all suspension related.

EVRider | July 20, 2019

We own both an S and 3 and love them both. They're both 2018 cars, but I had a 2016 AP1 Model S before. I like the front console on the 3 better than the S, especially the cupholders. In the S, I like having the instrument panel display and the physical AP and wiper controls. Of course the rides are very different. I don't find regen to be that different, but that depends on the battery SOC.

@wb808: Regarding your comments about the armrest in the S, it sounds like you didn't realize the top of the armrest moves forward to cover the cupholders. With the cushions forward you can easily rest your arm on the armrest, but if you use the cupholder it's too far back. I use the cupholder in the front console instead for exactly that reason.

Bighorn | July 20, 2019

I've been driving both of mine lately and an analogy came to mind.

It's kind of like two old friends getting together to discuss their only children. One has a four year old and the other a fourteen year old. The parent of the the 14 yo can't imagine going back to that stage of picture books, finger painting and "buy why?" "conversations," and the parent of the four year old can't imagine the trial and tribulations of having a moody teenager, their head constantly buried in their smartphone.

Enter the friend who has both a four year old and a fourteen year old. Both of the kids are deeply loved and both seen for their positives, free of lament. There is no favorite. That's how having both an S and a 3 feels to me.

vmulla | July 20, 2019

Excellent analogy! Or should I say @bighorn is always right? :)

lilbean | July 20, 2019

Great analogy, @big, but @SamO doesn’t like those. :)

Bighorn | July 21, 2019

I couldn’t think of a first principle:(

thranx | August 10, 2019

2016 75D. I had the sliding center console cover removed and positioned two of the available curved dividers to create a cupholder. Holds much larger containers than the two center console cupholders, plus I can reach it far more easily.

wb808 | August 10, 2019

EVRider - "Regarding your comments about the armrest in the S, it sounds like you didn't realize the top of the armrest moves forward to cover the cupholders. With the cushions forward you can easily rest your arm on the armrest, but if you use the cupholder it's too far back. I use the cupholder in the front console instead for exactly that reason.

You're right I didn't know that, I suppose that could've helped!

wb808 | August 10, 2019

@eplaskett - Did you figure out your seating position to allow for using the armrest while holding the wheel? After getting my car back I honestly can't understand how you said you're not able to do so - I have lots of armrest "room" left with my seating position.

vmulla | August 10, 2019

I think the cupholder location and armrest placement in the 3 is much better. It just is.
Same with Autopilot control on the steering assembly..