Tesla Model 3 Performance lives up to its name, but still falls short of perfect
It's been about nine months since we did our first review of a Tesla Model 3, and a little over a year since the company put its fabled $35,000 EV into production For the low, low cost of $49,000.
SInce then the car's seen a numbe of tweeks and upgrades.
And so it's time to go back to the well and review the new version of the Tesla Model 3. Which configured as you see it here costs $78,000.
For that money, you can get yourself a well-equipped BMW M3 or an Audi RS5 or any number of absolutely delightful sports cars.
Which begs the question, is this thing really that good?
There's only one way to find out.
You can get into a Model 3 Performance for as little as $64,000, which puts it pretty much nose to nose against BMW's iconic sedan.
But once you add on the bigger brakes and the other options you see here, plus a $1,000 destination charge, it's pretty easy to be knocking on that $80,000 door.
For $78,500 to be exact.
Since our last review, Model Three production has ramped up in a big way.
In fact, I'm starting to the things everywhere, even way out here in the country.
To the point where they're almost, dare I say it, common place.
Thankfully, it is a good looking car.
Okay, it's maybe not lovely, but it cuts a clean line and manages to be distinctive, and yet, not at all dissimilar to the other cars in the Tesla family.
And it's far more shapeley than the Model X, which somehow seems to get more frumpy every time I see one.
To differentiate the performance trim, you get a little carbon lip spoiler on the rear, and That's about it, unless you pay $5000 dollars for the bigger wheels, tyres and performance brakes; an option that is fitted to our car here and a box you'll definitely want to tick if you're considering one of these cars for yourself.
So it's very similar looking to the base odel 3 but there has been one other and somewhat unfortunate visual change.
It says dual motor, where on a model S, it might say P 100 D or whatever.
And so, maybe it shoudn't bother me.
But it kinda does, because on that sign, where you might except a model designation to say model 3 or something like that, Tesla left it blank in keeping with the minimalist design ethos of this car.
So to then throw a vanity badge on the other side, just seems a little garish.>> But to see the greatest representation of the car's minimalist bend you have to step inside where there's one more performance addition differentiator to be found, shiny aluminum pedals that come as part of the bigger break package.
Otherwise it's all the same in here as on the regular Premium Model 3, which means there isn't really that much to talk about.
But if you're a fan of simple design, there is a lot to admire.
And I definitely am a fan of the look, but if you watched my last Model 3 video, you know that I had some concerns about how All of this works.
Thankfully, Tesla was watching too, and so they've addressed a lot of those concerns.
For example, before when I had to change the cruise control, I had to reach up here and touch the touch screen.
Now, I can just roll my thumb up to adjust the speed.
If I wanted to change the follow distance before, I had to dig into submenues.
Now, I can just rock my thumb right or left.
It does it for me.
Not so much.
You'll still need to reach over to that touch screen an awful, awful lot.
Swiping and tapping, tapping and swiping for everything from enabling or disabling various safety features to adjusting the windshield wiper speed.
Although the car does have automatic wipers, in the one rain storm I was able to drive through they stubbornly refused to turn themselves on, leaving me fumbling yet again for the touch screen.
The interface is generally intuitive and easy to use for those of us of the smartphone generation.
But I still fear that anyone who prefers things with buttons is gonna find all this just a little bit too confusing, and frankly, way too distracting.
And I feel compelled to mention, there's still no Android Auto, nor Apple CarPlay here.
Come on Tesla, even Toyota's jumping on the bandwagon, just make it happen already.
But enough about all that nonsense.
It's finally time to talk about what sets this car apart from the early year Model 3, and that is performance.
This car has 450 horsepower, which is way up from before, dropping the 0 to 60 time down from 5.1 seconds to 3.5.
But the numbers really don't matter.
It's more about what happens when you put your foot to the floor.
[LAUGH] It is pretty remarkable.
I've been lucky to drive a lot of cars that will put you back in the seat with a lot of aggression, but there aren't many cars that will absolutely throw you back in the seat with that much vigor.
It's really, really impressive.
The fact that you can do it without waking up the neighbors is pretty nice.
And then there's the handling we got the upgraded wheel and tire package which means I get a little bit better turn in from the lower profile tires, which makes the car feel more agressive.
And there's a lot mroe grip here as well which really makes the car a lot of fun to drive.
But it has impacted the ride quality a little bit, and if there's on problem with the handling of the car it's that it does tend to get a little bit unsettled if you're cornering and hit a bump or some other road imperfection.
It's not quite perfect there, but really this car is very engaging to drive, both with the power and the responsive handling.
If you want even more preformance from your Model 3 performance, you'll want to try out the track mode that Tesla's working on which promises to make the car even more lively.
A mode the company unfortunately wouldn't let me try because they said it wasn't ready yet.
A confusing move given the company was willing to enable its beta autopilot safety features for just about anybody who had the cash.
Anyway, Antoine was able to try it out on a closed circuit, and here's what he thought.
[LAUGH] I'm having way too much fun here.
Yeah, I think he liked it.
And what about Tesla's fabled autopilot system?
Well, on a backroad like this, it's still pretty well useless.
But I spend a lot of time on a highway in this car, and there I actually like having it.
It's not perfect, but when the lane markings are clear and especially when you're stuck in traffic It makes the whole process a lot easier and frankly I do think it makes it safer, but the system does still get confused when lanes are merging and had a couple of times when it just turned itself off.
And even once when it just stomped on the brakes for no reason whatsoever.
So definitely make sure you're paying attention and always keep those hands on the wheel people.
In terms of practicality, the model 3 performance gives up basically nothing compared to the base car.
You still have surprisingly roomy rear seats, a trunk opening that's a bit narrow, but reveals a generously sized compartment, and a decent sized [UNKNOWN] to boot.
The white interior on this car, a $1500 option, is maybe a little loud for my taste, But the premium sound system remains more than competent, and overall, this is a nice place to cover some miles.
How many miles?
Well, the Model 3 performance is still rated for 310 just like the single motor long range car, meaning you won't necessarily lose anything there in exchange for that extra performance.
That said, too many hard launches will send you running to the nearest super charger and quickly.
Thankfully you won't have to stay there long, an 80% charge on the 75 kilowatt hour pack takes a little over half an hour.
And in New York at least, a full charge costs about 18 bucks.
To put that in context, if you were to drive 300 miles, In a car making thirty miles per gallon and then purchase gas at $3 per gallon, you'd spend about $30 to cover the same distance.
A $12 saving.
So let's rewind back to the ultimate question of this review.
At $78,000 is this car better than comparably equipped BMW M3 or an Audi RS5?
The answer is actually a lot more complicated than I thought it would be.
The performance of this car is really, really good.
The acceleration is incredible and the handling is actually quite engaging.
But what's really remarkable is just how immediate and accessible that performance is.
At any speed, at any time, just dip your foot on the throttle and it leaps forward with the kind of aggression that would make a supercar jealous.
But it still lacks that ultimate refinement that the other cars have developed over the decades.
And even though the Interface has made some major leaps and bounds since the last time I drove this car, it still lacking enough features to make me shake my head at times.
So the perfect $70,000 car, not quite, but still pretty remarkable.