With major production hurdles looking more like they’re in the rearview mirror, Tesla is starting to roll out small updates for the now tens of thousands of Model 3 owners in North America.
One of the stranger decisions Tesla made with the lower-cost Model 3 sedan was to give owners just two ways to unlock the car’s doors: with a credit card-sized key or with their smartphones. But the company has changed course and, Friday, started selling a $150 Model 3-shaped key fob on its website. (The key fob quickly sold out. We’ve asked Tesla when they’ll be back in stock, and will update when we hear back.)
The Model 3 key fob is different from the ones for the Model S and X in more than just its specific shape. It also doesn’t allow for “passive entry,” which is a setting that unlocks the cars (and pops open the driver’s side door) when the key fob is within a certain range, offering the illusion that the car sees you coming.
That can become trouble if, say, a dedicated team of thieves spend an hour or so walking around your driveway in the middle of the night trying to intercept the key fob’s signal so they can gain entry to your Tesla. And if you don’t have Tesla’s “PIN to drive” feature enabled, which requires the driver to punch in a two-factor code before the car can be driven, it’s possible someone could make off with the vehicle. (Otherwise, it’s a convenient feature.)
With passive entry absent from the new fob, buyers will instead only be able to use the Model 3 key’s physical buttons to unlock or lock the doors, open the trunk and “frunk” (front trunk), or pop the car’s charging port open. Passive entry will still work with a paired smartphone, though some users (Android smartphone owners, in particular) have reported intermittent issues with that feature.
The other update that landed Friday was the “track mode” Tesla started promoting earlier this summer. Available on all “performance” versions of the Model 3 via a software update, track mode more actively manages the car’s stability to improve performance on racetracks or in autocross settings. Power will shift in real time between the front and rear motors to make sure that the car has the best chance to make it through a corner without any trouble, while other features like proactive cooling make sure the battery pack suffers the least amount of abuse possible.
Both additions are examples of how Tesla is trying to improve its newest — and cheapest — model, which started hitting the road in earnest this year. That said, the Model 3 still sells for a price tag that’s well above the originally advertised $35,000. That version of the Model 3 is still loosely scheduled for the first half of 2019.