It appears that Elon Musk was right to bet the future of Tesla on the Model 3. Since the electric car started getting delivered to its long list of reservation holders, the vehicle has won the hearts of EV enthusiasts and old-school gearheads alike. A member of the latter group is Henry Payne of The Detroit News, who previously noted in an appearance at Autoline TV that he purchased a Long Range RWD Model 3 simply because there is no other vehicle like it on the road.
Payne is a true-blooded car enthusiast. Apart from being a 30-year veteran of the news industry, Payne is also an avid racecar driver and a professional automotive critic. He is also the farthest from being a stereotypical EV buyer, openly admitting that he’s not a “greenie” and that he is not a global warming believer. That said, if there is one thing that Payne knows, it is cars — how they work, and how good they are.
As it turns out, Tesla’s midsize sedan ended up impressing the automotive veteran. So impressed was Payne with his Tesla Model 3 that in a recent column, he actually selected the electric sedan as The Detroit News‘ 2018 Car of the Year. That’s right. An electric car — a rather tame version of the vehicle at that — convinced a lifelong gearhead that it was arguably the best vehicle available in the United States this year.
Payne noted that Tesla made history in 2018, becoming the first viable startup automaker he encountered in his lifetime. Elaborating on the Model 3, Payne noted that the vehicle has remained competitive in the auto industry despite being a sedan in a market that loves larger vehicles like SUVs. The automotive veteran further pointed out that Tesla was able to achieve all of this despite the constant barrage of skepticism from the company’s critics, Elon Musk’s Twitter missteps, and the company’s manufacturing errors such as over-automating the Model 3 line.
Ultimately, though, Payne stated that the Model 3 is exceptional simply because it reimagines what a car could be like. And it was able to do so without compromising on performance.
“The $55,000 Model 3 succeeds because it is Apple on wheels. Musk re-imagined the car like Steve Jobs re-thought the phone — as a study in design minimalism that is both gorgeous and more efficient than established platforms. Privately, other automaker execs tell me they admire Tesla for innovations that are pushing the industry forward: over-the-air updates, better connectivity, better user interfaces.”
“As different as the Tesla’s operating system is, it sacrifices little in performance to segment athletes like BMW and Alfa. Despite its inherent weight disadvantage, the porky 80.5-kWh battery is integrated to the chassis low in the car, making for good vehicle dynamics.”
What’s particularly noteworthy is that Payne dubbed the Model 3 as the 2018 Car of the Year despite having what appears to be outdated information about the vehicle. For one, he referenced a track test from Motor Trend‘s Randy Pobst, stating that the Model 3 Performance was just a second slower than the Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio. That particular test mentioned by The Detroit News veteran involved the pre-release version of the Model 3 Performance’s Track Mode. Tesla actually collaborated with Pobst to fine-tune the “release version” of Track Mode after the vehicle’s loss to the Alfa in the initial test. With the release version of Track Mode, the Model 3 Performance soundly beat the Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio’s time.
Ultimately, though, the auto veteran noted that the Model 3’s combination of driving dynamics and software integration makes the electric car a remarkable vehicle overall.
“A showcase for autonomous features like summon and automatic lane-change, the high-tech Model 3 reaffirms the joy of driving,” Payne concluded.