Entry-level Tesla gets a performance-oriented overhaul, with predictably potent results
5 November 2018

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.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Find an Autocar review

Back to top

On Michigan backroads, the Model 3 stayed impressively flat under hard cornering, although tighter sequences do make its considerable mass feel obvious: 1850kg on Tesla’s US numbers. Yet it always feels a measure more agile than the staid Model S when asked to change direction quickly, with some active torque management helping it to turn and hold a line effectively, if with little sense of driver involvement. The only thing that seemed to unsettle it was the combination of a big bump and a loaded-up bend, with a brief moment of indiscipline as the wheels unloaded. It was certainly the first time I’ve encountered power-on oversteer in a Tesla.

The rest of the Model 3 remains true to the brand's established values. Arrive in the cabin straight from a similarly sized upmarket model and the interior will feel minimalistic to the point of being empty. It certainly takes a while to get used to the delegation of almost all functions to the vast central touchscreen, even the glovebox needs to be opened via it. The more traditionally minded would probably appreciate a few more conventional buttons, not least of all for the heating and ventilation functions. But this is Tesla's way and – in the manner of the deliberate distinction that used to be made between Apple and Window operating systems – customers seem to like it.

Should I buy one?

It's hard to write about any Tesla without falling into the seemingly unbridgeable chasm that separates the company's lovers from its haters, and which expects all reviews to share the same binary separation.

Back to top

The Model 3 has yet to deliver on Elon Musk's promise of genuine affordability and the promise of $35,000 lead-in pricing; as the most expensive variant of what was meant to be the brand's cheapest car, the Performance might seem to be heading in the wrong direction.

But it is also a timely reminder that, as long-established OEMs ready pure electric models, the world currently contains only one upmarket EV maker with a proven track record of selling a significant number of cars.

Any rival wanting to beat the Model 3 is going to have to be very good indeed.

Tesla Model 3 Performance specification

Where Michigan, USA Price $62,500 On sale Now Engine Dual DC electric motors Power 450bhp (total system) Torque 471lb ft Gearbox Single speed, direct drive Kerb weight 1850kg Top speed 155mph (limited) 0-62mph 3.3sec Fuel economy 116mpge (US) CO2 0g/km Rivals BMW M3, Jaguar I-Pace

Join the debate

Comments
36
Add a comment…
Ruaraidh 7 November 2018

Fuel economy?

What's this all about? 

Fuel economy 116mpge (US) CO2 0g/km

Please can you add typical energy consumption in Wh/mile or mile/kWh please?

This is what actually matters and all your electric car tests should feature this.

inkpen 6 November 2018

What Tesla has that others don't

1} A car in an elliptical orbit around the Sun, about to approach Mars 

2} The biggest battery factory in the world (soon to be 3 factories worldwide), their own facility, with their own battery designs & the ability to change the design & ramp up production at will, rather than having to give LGchem 2 years notice.

3} Complete absence of dealerships - all cars ordered online. Boutique showrooms only.

4} Complete absence of advertising. Word of mouth & YouTube v-loggers only.

5} 50,000 wealthy enthusiast volunteers who will turn up to help train new "users" & speed up handovers when needed - and bring food!

6} a CEO with 23m Twitter followers, most of whom would like to buy a Tesla car, if affordable & available

7} The world's largest international ultra-rapid charger network.

8} The Model Y, soon to be announced, which will outsell the Model 3 by at least 2:1

9} Tesla are progressively buying their supply chain. German car companies now have to buy their machinery from Tesla.

10} All cars now manufactured (3, S & X) are each the safest cars in their class

 

Torque Stear 6 November 2018

inkpen wrote:

inkpen wrote:

1} A car in an elliptical orbit around the Sun, about to approach Mars 

2} The biggest battery factory in the world (soon to be 3 factories worldwide), their own facility, with their own battery designs & the ability to change the design & ramp up production at will, rather than having to give LGchem 2 years notice.

3} Complete absence of dealerships - all cars ordered online. Boutique showrooms only.

4} Complete absence of advertising. Word of mouth & YouTube v-loggers only.

5} 50,000 wealthy enthusiast volunteers who will turn up to help train new "users" & speed up handovers when needed - and bring food!

6} a CEO with 23m Twitter followers, most of whom would like to buy a Tesla car, if affordable & available

7} The world's largest international ultra-rapid charger network.

8} The Model Y, soon to be announced, which will outsell the Model 3 by at least 2:1

9} Tesla are progressively buying their supply chain. German car companies now have to buy their machinery from Tesla.

10} All cars now manufactured (3, S & X) are each the safest cars in their class

Mic drop.......

Also add the Tractor Unit, the blade runner Pick-up, the Roadster, the solar roof and home/commercial storage.

Tesla is now more like a social movement than a car company.

With the Model 3 what is quite noticable is that the average buyer was trading in a much lower value car, they were prepared to pay a significant premium to be on the leading edge of the electrication of transport.

Looking at the volumes that the legacy manufacturers are planning to build the Bolt, I-Pace, Taycan and similar in indicates that at least some of these are true:

1: They can't get enough batteries/components to support greater production.

2: They can't produce these cars at a decent profit margin yet so the volumes are being kept low to limit the financial impact.

3: They don't know how these cars will age so they are keeping the numbers down to limit the financial impact.

The Model 3 now sells in such volumes that an existing manufacturer can't target it with a loss leader car without putting themselves in financial difficulty.

 

jason_recliner 7 November 2018

inkpen wrote:

inkpen wrote:

1} A car in an elliptical orbit around the Sun, about to approach Mars 

2} The biggest battery factory in the world (soon to be 3 factories worldwide), their own facility, with their own battery designs & the ability to change the design & ramp up production at will, rather than having to give LGchem 2 years notice.

3} Complete absence of dealerships - all cars ordered online. Boutique showrooms only.

4} Complete absence of advertising. Word of mouth & YouTube v-loggers only.

5} 50,000 wealthy enthusiast volunteers who will turn up to help train new "users" & speed up handovers when needed - and bring food!

6} a CEO with 23m Twitter followers, most of whom would like to buy a Tesla car, if affordable & available

7} The world's largest international ultra-rapid charger network.

8} The Model Y, soon to be announced, which will outsell the Model 3 by at least 2:1

9} Tesla are progressively buying their supply chain. German car companies now have to buy their machinery from Tesla.

10} All cars now manufactured (3, S & X) are each the safest cars in their class

 

https://youtu.be/xctuMyJ3BJ0

 

inkpen 6 November 2018

What Tesla has that others don't

1} A car in an elliptical orbit around the Sun, about to approach Mars 

2} The biggest battery factory in the world (soon to be 3 factories worldwide), their own facility, with their own battery designs & the ability to change the design & ramp up production at will, rather than having to give LGchem 2 years notice.

3} Complete absence of dealerships - all cars ordered online. Boutique showrooms only.

4} Complete absence of advertising. Word of mouth & YouTube v-loggers only.

5} 50,000 wealthy enthusiast volunteers who will turn up to help train new "users" & speed up handovers when needed - and bring food!

6} a CEO with 23m Twitter followers, most of whom would like to buy a Tesla car, if affordable & available

7} The world's largest international ultra-rapid charger network.

8} The Model Y, soon to be announced, which will outsell the Model 3 by at least 2:1

9} Tesla are progressively buying their supply chain. German car companies now have to buy their machinery from Tesla.

10} All cars now manufactured (3, S & X) are each the safest cars in their class

 

Find an Autocar car review