What is it?
This is proof that the more traditional parts of the motor industry still have some serious catching up to do if they want their new EVs to be able to match Tesla.
The Performance is the ultimate version of the Model 3, for now at least, based on the existing Dual Motor model and sharing the same 310-mile battery pack. The significant difference is a punchier rear motor, which increases the total system output to 444bhp. Tesla claims that is good enough for a 3.3sec 0-60mph time, making it very nearly as quick as the fastest version of the bigger Model S.
My test car, driven in the US, was also fitted with the $5000 Performance Upgrade pack, which brought 20in wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, lowered suspension and a higher top speed – 155mph against 145mph for the regular Performance.
Since my drive, Tesla has announced that it will include the Upgrade pack as standard in the US without charging any extra for them, meaning the Model 3 Performance now costs $65,200 - £50,000 at current exchange rates.
What's it like?
In a word, startling. I drove the Model 3 Performance just after experiencing the Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye for the first time and can honestly report that the acceleration of the Tesla is only fractionally less impressive than that of a supercharged 800-horsepower muscle car. But while the Dodge does its thing to a furious soundtrack, the 3 delivers its organ sloshing longitudinal G-forces without drama or apparent effort. The chassis can digest even stamped throttle starts without squeaking or slithering, and with no more noise than the whine of the electric motors.
Full bore starts are huge fun – it is impossible to experience one for the first time without muttering expletives – but they are far from the Model 3 Performance’s only trick. As we discovered when we drove the regular car for the first time earlier this year, the quality of engineering in the 3’s powertrain and chassis runs much deeper than the brand’s detractors would have you believe. The Performance is as impressive being driven gently as it is giving it all.
The speed of response is outstanding, illustrating the biggest difference between a brawny EV and an internal combustion performance car. The Model 3’s throttle response is effectively instantaneous and the lack of a gearbox means there’s no delay in the drivetrain: every throttle input is translated into immediate effect, acceleration arriving as quickly as your toe can move. Even a conventional car capable of matching the Performance’s 0-60mph time would never keep up on real-world acceleration.