2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance first drive review: The future, quicker
The first thing you notice about the Tesla Model 3 Performance is how, most of the time, it just feels like any other version of the electric sedan. At low speeds, the dual-motor Performance model is almost indistinguishable from the single-motor Model 3. But the moment you mash the accelerator a whole new sensation hits, and it's immediately apparent what you're getting for the (considerable) added price.
Tesla estimates the Model 3 Performance will run to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds -- a hellaciously quick sprint by any standard. That's a full second quicker than a standard, dual-motor Model 3, and 1.6 seconds quicker than the rear-wheel-drive, Long Range car we tested previously. And because it hits you immediately with all that sweet, sweet electric torque, it's a really thrilling 3.5-second joyride.
Because this specific Model 3 Performance is a fresh-out-of-the-tent car that'll be used for prospective customer test drives, our time behind the wheel was admittedly brief. Tesla has already promised a longer loan of a Performance model once a few more are built, so stay tuned for more thorough impressions.
For now, we can tell you that the extra grip afforded by the low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires is noticeable during quick maneuvers on lower-speed winding roads. So is the added heft -- the Dual Motor sedan is some 267 pounds heavier than a rear-wheel-drive Long Range Model 3 -- though Tesla notes the quicker, all-wheel-drive car retains a 50/50 weight balance. The Performance's ride quality feels remarkably similar to other 3s, even on the optional 20-inch wheels, with only a touch more harshness felt over pavement imperfections.
The standard Model 3's brakes are perfectly adequate under normal driving conditions, but do tend to fade somewhat quickly during spirited drives. The Performance model ought to remedy that, thanks to a larger set of rotors (with red-painted calipers, natch). Pedal feel is generally fine with good initial bite, but again we'll want to test the upgraded brakes' power during a longer drive to be sure.
Visually, only a few changes differentiate the Performance from lesser Model 3s. The biggest giveaways are the aforementioned 20-inch wheels and bigger brakes, as well as a carbon fiber trunk lid spoiler, all of which are part of a $5,000 Performance Upgrade package (so yes, you can spec Performance acceleration without the other add-ons). Keen-eyed Teslaphiles will note the red stripe under the "Dual Motor" badge on the trunk, too. When Tesla starts delivering the non-Performance dual-motor cars, that badge will remain but the stripe will go.
Less noticeable changes include a slightly lowered suspension and aluminum pedals. Inside, the Performance is the only Model 3 you can option a white interior for $1,500, something only previously offered on the Model S and Model X .
Otherwise, the cabin is the same as any other Model 3, with its super clean, button-and-knob-free design, and everything controlled via the 15-inch central touchscreen. The three options for steering weight are the same, though Performance models add a "Sport" acceleration mode. Roadshow Editor-in-Chief Tim Stevens criticized the Model 3's touchscreen for having so many features buried within menus and submenus, but thankfully functions like Autopilot following distance and cruise control speed can now be adjusted with the right scroll knob on the steering wheel.
Performance shoppers will have to make very little in the way of sacrifices compared to other Model 3s. The frunk is the same size as it is on the rear-drive car -- big enough to accommodate a carry-on suitcase, with convenient grocery bag hooks -- for 15 cubic feet of total cargo space between the front and rear compartments. Overall range is also estimated to be the same 310 miles you get in the single-motor Long Range car.
Really, what you're paying for is that intoxicating acceleration. The Model 3 Performance starts at $64,000, and the one you see here is a lofty $81,000, including the $5,000 Performance Upgrade pack, $5,000 enhanced Autopilot semi-autonomous system and more.
The Performance trim is a $11,000 upcharge over the $53,000 all-wheel-drive Dual Motor Long Range model, which itself is a $4,000 increase over the $49,000 rear-wheel-drive Long Range sedan. As of this writing, Tesla estimates a one- to three-month wait time for Model 3 Performance orders, compared to two to four months for the Long Range Dual Motor option. And remember, you can't get into a Model 3 for less than $49,000 right now -- the "Standard Battery" car is still said to be some six to nine months out, and cannot be configured on Tesla's website.
When Tesla drops off a Model 3 Performance for an extended test, we'll be able to give more thorough notes about how it feels on winding canyon roads, or perhaps on a track. But based on these early impressions, the Performance seems to be exactly what we expected all along: an experience not dissimilar from the standard Model 3, just a heck of a lot quicker.