My Verge colleague Sean O’Kane put it well when he wrote that the Tesla Model 3 interior doesn’t look like any car you’ve ever seen. It’s stunningly austere, with a smooth strip of wood across the dashboard that looks like it was carved straight out of a bamboo stalk; zero instrumentation behind the steering wheel; no vents; and none of the usual interior handles. The glovebox is opened via virtual button on the display, and you exit the car by pushing on a small button on the door. Like the Model S, there isn’t any place to insert a key.
But a big part of that interior is the display, and a lot of people will want to know: How does the display in the $35,000 Model 3 compare to the display in the Model S or the Model X? After riding in a Model 3 for a mere five minutes, I’m hardly an expert on it. But I did get to briefly swipe through it, and a few things (aside from the very, very spare interior) jumped out at me.
The first and most obvious is that the display is a horizontally-oriented screen, while the display in the Models S and X is placed vertically. The Model 3’s screen is also smaller (15 inches compared to 17 inches), and juts out from the dashboard, rather than being nestled in it.
I asked the Tesla employee who gave me a ride if the software was running on an updated Linux kernel, and he didn’t know (or said he didn’t). But the user interface on the Model 3’s screen was definitely different from the UI on the Model S — not surprising, given its orientation. During my ride, maps took up the larger portion of the screen, which is what I usually defaulted to when test-driving the Model S. That instrumentation that doesn’t exist behind the steering wheel? It’s on the left-hand side of the screen now, showing your speed and a digital representation of your car and the other cars around it.
But unlike the Model S/X display interface, the menu bar is on the bottom, not at the top of the screen. And unlike the Model S/X, which splits neatly into a dual-view mode, the Model 3 interface appears to be split up into three: the main view, the instrumentation on the left, and another app bar below for, say, music selection. When I swiped on the music options, I was able to drag that app up to fill a larger portion of the screen, then swipe it back down to shrink it and only show controls, favorites, and recents.
In the very brief time I was in the Model 3, it actually felt less intuitive than the first time I drove a Model S and swiped through the display, but it really is too early to say. I also wasn’t driving myself, so I can’t say how easy it was to navigate the interface while driving. (This also means I didn’t get to try any of the tactile buttons on the steering wheel, or pull the right-hand control stalk for Autopilot mode — which has been relocated from the left side of the wheel.) But Elon Musk has said that the Model 3’s interior was built for autonomy, so, if that future becomes a reality, you wouldn’t necessarily need easy access to all of the information you do now.
And you probably knew this already, but, no: the Model 3 doesn’t have a Ludicrous option in its driving settings.
Hopefully, we’ll get to test drive the Model 3 in a more meaningful way in the near future. But that’s likely dependent on when the Model 3 ships to non-employees, which is anyone’s guess at the moment.