What is it?
We're driving one of the very first examples of the Tesla Model 3 to hit European roads. Some said it would never make it here, others that it would never live up to the hype if it did. Experience teaches that you’re either with or against the ever-controversial Elon Musk and his world-leading electric car manufacturer.
And if you’re with him, you may very well be angrily shouting things at your keyboard right now, as I imagine fully paid-up members of the Teslarati habitually do when defending the company’s honour on social media. You may be shouting things about how Musk really does keep his promises and that we should know better than to question him. Hmm. About how despite early difficulties with the production volumes associated with the Model 3, Tesla has already smashed its 5000-cars-per-week factory target and is now aiming for 10,000. About how, having promised a $35,000 version of the car back at launch, Tesla has just delivered North American customers exactly that.
Let’s give the man some well-earned credit, then. Musk is, slowly but surely, realising a project considered by many so ambitious as to be way beyond his company’s abilities when it was first mooted. If the Model 3 succeeds, it will undoubtedly be the car that transforms Tesla from bit-part player to global player – although the recently announced downsizing of its global dealer network might suggest that outcome is still not guaranteed.
At any rate, the haters can clearly suck tailpipe on one score; while the Model 3 is still several months from becoming available in the UK and in right-hand drive form, deliveres have now commenced in Europe – albeit only in its richer and more expensive forms. And it’s the first Tesla to come here with a CCS charging port, so it’s compatible not only with Tesla’s own proprietary Supercharger network but also the majority of other public rapid chargers: another significant score on everyday usability.
Both versions that Europeans can now order have two electric motors and the biggest-available 75kWh battery pack. The Dual Motor Long Range is rated for a WLTP-accredited 338 miles of range, makes a combined 346bhp and will hit 62mph from rest in 4.7sec. The Performance we’re testing gives up a smidgeon of that range but counters with a combined 444bhp and a claimed 0-62mph time of 3.4sec.
The Performance, however, is likely to come to the UK pricelist with a five-figure price tag beginning in a six. But if you bought into the big sell about the everyman Tesla, don’t fear: there will be several lesser versions, the cheapest of which, the Standard Range, should be sold (50kWh battery, one motor, circa-220-mile range, sub-6.0sec 0-62mph time) in the UK at around £35,000.
But we’ll have to wait for another day to report on that. For now, it’s the range-topping Performance we’re getting acquainted with.