Flash Drive: We pilot Tesla's latest and greatest across the Malaysian peninsula

Muhammad Mu'tasim bin Kassim

The CarBuyer team explores Malaysia’s ever-growing Supercharger network in a pair of Teslas, driving all the way up to the Northern-most tip.

Photos by Muhammad Mu’tasim, Clifford Chow


Slivers of morning light peeked through the dark blue skies above us as the CarBuyer team cleared silently past the Second Link border and into Malaysian soil in two of Tesla’s latest vehicles – the Model 3 Long Range and the Model Y Performance. With lots of adrenaline (and Gardenia bread in tow), we jumped onto the vast expressway and gunned it.

Our objective was simple: drive up to Penang and be the first Singaporeans to use the carmaker’s newly-opened Supercharger stations there. Along the way, we’d also be checking out the existing network that is currently peppered all across the peninsula, and explore nearby local family-friendly attractions.

Yet, despite entering Malaysia at an hour when many Singaporeans are still sleeping soundly, the sense of excitement shared within our four-man team was palpable. As luck would have it, Tesla had also promised us that we’d be one of the very first in Southeast Asia to view the controversial Cybertruck in the flesh at their Cyberjaya HQ (story here), which proved to be a big motivational factor.

First Base

Our first stop was Sunway Big Box, located within Johor’s Iskandar Puteri city. At its core, this massive 24-acre retail park houses several big-name retail brands in a warehouse concept, a cinema, a hotel, and much more. Not to forget, the sprawling complex is home to a Tesla Supercharger network, with four Superchargers (i.e. DC fast-charging) and a handful of Destination Chargers (slower AC chargers) that are still being set up.

Understandably, the facilities were still closed when we arrived as it was still early in the morning. We used that time to plug our cars in to get the state of charge to 100% before making the long journey up North.

Topping up the battery was a relatively quick affair thanks to the Tesla’s high-speed charging architecture, and that we did not have to rely on an app or card to pay. Soon, we were back on the road again with 514km of available WLTP range on the Model Y and 629km on the Model 3. More than enough to reach the capital city and beyond, then!

Having downed lots of delicious bread and Cherry coke, my trusty co-driver Clifford jumped into the Model Y and floored it, quickly reaching “local-friendly” speeds along the North-South Highway, juxtaposing against the calming tunes of Karel Gott playing from the car’s premium audio system.

It was at this point when I realised that the Model Y, in Performance trim specifically, was not exactly the most favourable variant for a long-haul trip such as this – even with all the useful storage spaces available on-board.

Numb, disconnected steering aside, the Model Y Performance displayed a lack of grace along rougher bits of tarmac, crashing over road undulations as though the suspension was made of bricks. We were also not big fans of its side mirrors, which were a tad too small for the SUV’s size.

Under the Wing of a 747

Knowing what we knew about Melaka, the CarBuyer team made a slight detour towards the coastal state for a quick stop to rest, recharge, and engage in some proper retail therapy. We set the navigation for Freeport A’Famosa Outlet, where we were greeted by something truly spectacular.

In the parking lot was a Boeing 747 – the Queen of the Skies – immediately recognisable by its pronounced hump. However, this 747-230B will not be taking off anytime soon. The former Lufthansa-liveried jetliner has been converted into a retail space for fashion brand Coach, where customers can walk in via a sky bridge. The cabin/showroom itself has been decked out in a 1960s theme, coinciding with the golden age of air travel.

The CarBuyer team soon realised, after some intense browsing through Coach’s finest leather accessories, that our cars could probably use some topping up, and so we disembarked from the plane and plugged our Teslas at the nearby Supercharger station.

Shoppers looking for a good deal will love Freeport A’Famosa Outlet, as it carries several major fashion brands and eateries, all housed within a Dutch-themed architecture that nods to its colonial past. In the heart of the mall is also a quaint little windmill, which you can enter and climb up!

Feeling refreshed after our little Melaka reverie, we unplugged the cables and set off once more, this time towards Selangor.

High-Speed Wonder

Usually at this point on a road trip, I’d want to play passenger prince and snooze as the sceneries outside pass by me in a flash. But upon seeing an opportunity to pilot the revised Model 3, I jumped right in and gunned for the state border.

Not only is Tesla’s sleek compact saloon quick on the draw when it comes to century sprints (4.4 seconds), it’s also quite refined when cruising at triple-digit speeds. Response to steering input is fast, if a bit numb, for the driver. Suspension on the Model 3 is also a lot more pliant than the Model Y Performance, which translates to more comfortable riding experience regardless of which row you’re sitting in.

Noise insulation is rather decent, and I did not have to max out the sound system’s volume as I listened to some of Seiko Matsuda’s 1980s greatest hits. Tyre roar and wind noise were kept at very manageable levels, and even the loudest (and largest) of lorries I’d passed by barely made an impression in the cabin.

You’ll still have to deal with pointless reinventions of the wheel such as the roofliner-positioned gear selector and steering wheel-mounted signal indicator buttons, but with some practice, you’ll eventually get used to such Musk-isms.

Chasing Numbers

Turning off the highway and into Selangor, we eventually arrived at Gamuda Cove, which offered plenty of peace and tranquility despite being only a stone’s throw away from the toll plaza.

Officially recognised as the largest Supercharger station in Southeast Asia, it is home to six Superchargers and 18 Destination Chargers. This means entire families can make their way up here and have a ball of a time together as their Tesla cars are being juiced up.

Motorsports junkies will especially love getting their adrenaline fix at the nearby go-karting circuit, which is conveniently located within walking distance. RUD Karting Gamuda Cove offers an indoor/outdoor hybrid track with 20 corners across 480 meters of dedicated track.

And unlike most other more traditional karting sites, you’ll can even slug it out with other racers in fully-electric karts (good ol’ petrol ones are available too), all while the skies above transition from blue to a myriad of colours as you zoom through the indoor sections.

Keen as we were to clock in a few laps, we realised time was not on our side, and so we kept our charging brief while we struck a friendly chat with a friendly local Model 3 owner.

Excitement was in the air as we finally arrived at the heart of Kuala Lumpur sometime around noon, where we finally had some time to properly shop and relax – though that was not without its own set of problems. For one, Tesla’s navigation system is still not optimised for KL’s maze-like road network.

Unclear directions were given as the sat-nav got confused by the highways and minor roads that overlapped each other. Couple that faded road markers, and it became a true test of grit (and patience) as we figured our way around the city without causing trouble to local road users. As I quickly found out, you really have to rely on gut instinct when in Malaysia’s capital!

Making the Final Cut

Satisfied with our retail therapy at Pavilion Bukit Jalil, we hit the road once more, and traded the monochromatic views of steel and glass skyscrapers for dazzling natural landscapes.

Going down (or up?) the North-South Highway after Selangor has always fascinated me, as the winding valleys and rock formations provide an awe-spiring peek into Malaysia’s beauty. We even spotted a lone traveller enjoying the ride on his Swiss-registered Royal Enfield bike, kitted out with saddle bags and all.

On this final leg, we left the city centre with about 75% battery, which meant that we’d have about 15% remaining upon reaching Penang. Keen to maximise our chances without dipping under that estimate, both Clifford and I hypermiled (learned from our 2022 Audi efficiency challenge!) and saved power wherever possible.

Unsurprisingly, our strategy – involving setting the onboard AC temp to 23ºC and keeping a featherlight throttle – paid off, and we saw the range estimate climb steadily all the way towards the Northern border. It also helped that with the many lorries that were alongside us, we managed to draft behind a handful of them!

Pulling up at Penang’s Sunway Carnival Mall just off the main highway, we rejoiced as the battery read 21% and the Tesla Supercharger was in sight. Four chargers were ready to be used, having officially been launched just the day before.

Face-melting heat did not spoil our joyous mood as Tesla Singapore informed us that we were indeed the first from Singapore to try out their Penang station, almost the equivalent of being the first motoring journalists to drive to the North Pole (just without a Hilux-mounted porta-potty in tow).

Other Tesla cars also appeared as we plugged our Model 3 in (like the Model Y pictured above) and enjoyed the mall’s ice-cold AC, where Clifford once again found some Cherry Coke to celebrate. And as for me, I’d rewarded myself with a brand-spanking-new set of Asadi slippers. And no, that was not a typo.

Reflecting on this Tesla drive, I can fully vouch for Tesla’s Supercharger network in Malaysia, and how range anxiety should no longer be a concern for cross-country road-trippers now that the system is growing at a lightning fast pace. The Penang-based station further reinforces confidence in drivers who’ll inevitably use Malaysia’s West Coast to slice across the peninsula, ensuring fast-charging amenities till the border towards Thailand.

Fellow owners of non-Tesla cars, too, can be assured of the EV charging infrastructure along Malaysia’s major driving routes. With over 2,200 active chargers (503 of which are DC fast chargers as of today) and a national target set at 10,000 to be achieved by next year, EV owners will have more support than ever before.

Kudos to Tesla for leading the charge (pun intended) in creating a competitive and exciting EV, and many thanks to the CarBuyer team for enduring this 700km trip!


electric EV KL malaysia Malaysia Road Trip model 3 model y Penang road trip saloon sedan supercharger SUV tesla

About the Author

Muhammad Mu'tasim bin Kassim

The latest member of the CarBuyer team is a certified car nut, effectively living and breathing automobiles ever since he could remember. Some say he even owns several hundred (miniature) cars, but who's counting?

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