It’s been months and months since I posted anything about my car shopping process. With Oppo surviving a scare and the whole thing having wrapped up, I figure I might as well combine my last 3 ventures and the results into this one post.

Pictured: nothing I purchased
Pictured: nothing I purchased

To recap, I was looking for a replacement for my 2009 BMW 335i and had already looked at the 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 and Audi S5 Sportback.

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The car to be replaced
The car to be replaced
Photo: CompactLuxuryFan

Here are two other cars I looked at and what I thought of them:

1. BMW X3

I drove both this 30i and the M40i next to it, both strippers
I drove both this 30i and the M40i next to it, both strippers
Photo: CompactLuxuryFan

Coming in, the X3 was already my front-runner because of both my history of BMW ownership and online reviews. So what did I think?

  • Drives better than GLC and S5. The GLC drives like a big, heavy truck and the S5 was just kinda boring. The X3, on the other hand, was just about perfect in 30i guise, feeling small, sporty, and very comfortable. The M40i trim gives you power to match the 43 and S5, but gives up noticeable comfort over the 30i. Whereas the 30i feels fun and simple, the M40i takes on an air of seriousness like the GLC 43.
  • The interior was okay. More up-to-date than either the Audi or the Merc but nothing really stood out as far as materials or feel. It carries forward BMW’s rather spartan interior theme, with thoughtful touches but little flash.
  • The 30i is shockingly pleasing. I already kinda mentioned this but wow, I was really impressed with the lower trim X3. It’s a nice driving car!
  • M40i did not feel that quick. Much like the S5, I wasn’t really blown away when I put my foot down. I wasn’t really sure if maybe it just didn’t feel that fast but I was actually hauling ass, so I drove the exact same route in my 335i right after and I found I could hit just about the same speeds in the same space, albeit in a rather more exciting manner. Still, plenty of power to get the groceries home.
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I had sat inside this one over Memorial Day weekend
I had sat inside this one over Memorial Day weekend

2. Tesla Model 3 Performance

I guess I didn’t even take pictures of this one? Tesla has like 1/10th as many combos available as the Germans so just picture a black Model 3 Performance (20" wheels + red calipers) and the standard black interior.

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Thoughts:

  • It’s a whole different paradigm so it is very difficult to compare ownership experience. I guess by the time the Model 3 was being developed Tesla had already decided they weren’t going to make anything like an ICE car just because it’s always been that way, and I applaud them for that.
  • The interior is spartan and the quality is okay. Definitely a cut below the other 3 but certainly livable. I didn’t feel like the quality of the interior was going to give me constant grief if I owned the car.
  • The seats are extremely plushy. It’s actually pretty strange. This is one area where Tesla definitely went their own way. You really feel the give when you’re sitting down. It’s like they have a mattress pad on top or something. I found them pretty comfortable, so not a bad thing at all. The standard material is noticeably less nice than the leather on the Germans.
  • One pedal driving was strange, especially coming from a manual. I definitely didn’t get used to it during the test drive. I’m off the gas a lot when driving around the city, but in the Tesla you have to stay on it just to “coast”. I do believe you would quickly adjust and find it better than using two pedals
  • Feels quick and is probably even quicker than it feels. The acceleration just can’t be denied. For mid-50s this thing is in a league of its own. I actually thought this is way too much acceleration to unleash on the common population. Especially in a city like SF, I could see myself getting a massive ticket for 70 in a 25 trying to beat a light or something.
  • I longed for more buttons. Tesla should absolutely at least include some programmable shortcut buttons. Things I want to operate with dedicated controls: wipers, auto hold (toggle between car holding itself at a stop or crawling forward), sport/normal acceleration (normal was better for modulating around town, maybe even a bit too slow)
  • I would probably never use Autopilot, especially with regular adaptive cruise being available. I find the steering too brusque.
  • A couple of actually useful unique features on the Tesla: built-in dash cam and sentinel modes make full use of all the cameras that are mounted, frunk
  • Another unexpected advantage: better city range than the ICEs. Thanks to regen braking, the Model 3 can allegedly beat its 310 mile range when doing all city driving. Meanwhile, range for ICEs tanks in the city. Getting 300 out of a tank on the 335i is nearly impossible.
  • This thing still wouldn’t work as only car. Pretty much right after test driving, I headed up to lake Tahoe for part of the 4th of July weekend and it would have been a nightmare trying to do all the charging coordination, especially since I live in an apartment so I would have to rely only on the supercharger network. Speaking of which...
  • Superchargers seemed like they were going to solve for apartment dwellers, but they never materialized. There’s like 3 “planned” locations in San Francisco, but apparently Tesla will just add planned locations to their map and blow estimates by years. Right now I would have to go down to the Daly City location to charge probably at least once a month.
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In the next installment: the Mazda CX-5 Signature and a wrap-up!

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