It’s an interesting sign of what’s to come in this section to observe that the Model 3 steers, in some ways, like a mid-engined supercar. You can argue that it probably shouldn’t; that such directional sensitivity makes the car more demanding to drive than Tesla’s self-proclaimed “world’s first truly mass-market electric vehicle” ought to be. And we’ll come to that. But whatever you think about it, with just under two full turns between extremes of steering lock and a usefully tight turning circle as well, the Model 3 really does feel as rampantly agile, up to certain speeds, as something built very expensively in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna.
But the Model 3 doesn’t weigh what a Ferrari, a Pagani or a Lamborghini weighs, and wherever it hides away the majority of that mass, you can feel its influence in almost every move that the car makes. So although the front axle bites into a bend almost the instant you move the wheel off dead centre and the firmly set suspension resists body roll very effectively, it takes an instant or two for the car to settle into a cornering stance and feel stable enough to allow you to begin driving it out.
The numb-feeling steering is too often obtrusively heavy yet it also fails entirely to telegraph the moment that you’re beginning to load lateral forces into the front sidewalls. Both of these aspects are also clear contributory factors to the sense of darting nervousness you’ll feel while you’re getting used to the sheer keenness of the Tesla’s handling.
The good news is you do get used to it, and once you have, you can enjoy the Model 3 in faster-paced driving – on the motorway, on A-roads and on cross-country lanes – in a way not unlike you might any sport saloon. Vertical body control is firm, slightly fidgeting and animated almost everywhere, but there’s decent sophistication to the car’s damping so that ride composure doesn’t deteriorate as much as you expect it might on really testing B-roads.
ASSISTED DRIVING NOTES
The Model 3’s Autopilot and Autosteer functions extend beyond motorway lane keeping and traffic jam assist functionality to drive the car around town and to negotiate junctions autonomously – in theory. However, they’re troubling systems to use.
Autopilot will centre the car within its lane, maintain a chosen speed, regulate distance to the car in front and perform lane changes automatically. The system asks you to keep a hand on the wheel at all times, but oddly it requires no input of physical effort from the driver at all and is prone to deactivation if you do attempt to steer the car slightly.