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Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

The pure-electric powertrain feels like it’s finally delivering on its full potential in the Model 3. In terms of measurable performance, in the lower-middle specification form in which we tested it, this car operates on a level beyond most compact saloons you might compare it with, even in their quicker guises. It’s also considerably swifter than any other electric passenger car we’ve tested at a comparable price.

On a warm dry day, and with around 90% of charge in its drive battery, our test car took 5.8sec to hit 60mph from rest. Given that’s 0.5sec slower than Tesla’s own claim, it might just disappoint one or two ‘Teslarati’ diehards; but given it’s also 0.6sec faster than the BMW 330e we tested in 2017, it really shouldn’t.

There’s a real sense of agility – you might call it nervousness until you get used to it – and body roll is controlled well, so the Model 3 exhibits an alert keeness to its handling

The car launches from standing on a wide open throttle in surprisingly smooth and contained fashion, without ever threatening to break traction but also with plenty of gathering urgency. Once rolling, it accrues speed towards the national limit very strongly and it feels much more potent at times than even its generous power and torque-to-weight figures would promise, since it responds so crisply and stoutly the instant you dig into the accelerator.

On our most useful benchmark of real-world performance – 30mph to 70mph – the Model 3 proved quicker even than the last 330d we tested back in 2012 and it was within 0.5sec of the current Volkswagen Golf R.

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Real-world pace, in its richest supply from everyday speeds, plainly isn’t something that most Model 3 owners are going to want for. If this powertrain isn’t to be found supremely appealing for keen drivers, then, it’ll probably be because it’s so quiet, eerily smooth and inevitably a bit characterless; and, given the athleticism that the car can command, it does seem odd that Tesla didn’t add a choice of switchable ‘engine noises’ among all the other novelty digital features.

Brake pedal progression is good by EV standards, so it’s not at all hard to slow the car precisely and smoothly. A sophisticated method of cycling the car’s regenerative braking calibrations is the only thing really conspicuous by its absence in the driving experience. When other EVs offer one – and by doing so make it possible both to better engage with the car when driving quickly and to eke out better energy efficiency when driving gently – the Model 3 plainly should as well.