The Model 3 is Tesla’s most significant car to date, mainly because it’s the company’s most affordable product. It’s all-electric with the potential for industry-leading EV driving range and it’s the company’s first 4-door design.
This is where Tesla starts getting serious. From its establishment back in 2003 the company’s goal was always to make cars that would provide a credible alternative to mass-market combustion engine Models.
The company’s initial contenders, the Model S, and the Model X showed what was possible in the pricy luxury segment. But, it’s the Model 3 that brings the Elon Musk global vision within reach of the man in the street.
Cars with full battery power tend to be based either, on compact family hatches or big luxury SUV’s. But that’s because in the past a customer of a volume segment executive Model couldn’t have tolerated the kind of relatively feeble real-world operating range that, until now, has characterized most all-electric Models.
Tesla has addressed that with the dual-motor variants at least, and gives owners as much greater access as they’d have with other brands to the super-powerful public charging points needed for quick battery replenishment.
But the Model 3 is much more than just a showcase for electrified technology. In creating it this American maker has battled with bankruptcy, struggled with quality control issues, and fought against production bottlenecks at a Californian plant in Fremont that until the Tesla era was resolutely low-tech.
Any one of those issues could have killed the company, instead, it’s delivered on its vision of affordable executive every motoring and it’s produced a US market bestseller that something is the most important vehicle of the last decade. Going forward, it’ll be the car that either makes or breaks Tesla.
Model 3 Acceleration
It’s a new experience being at the wheel of a full EV that can handle other zero-emission battery Models, including larger Tesla’s. It goes very fast when you stamp down your right foot and they managed not to lurch about too much through the bends because of their low down centrally mounted battery placements.
Model 3 Handling
But as the cornering finesse, well, forget about it. There’s a reason why all volume EV’s are designed to date have either been compact hatches or SUVs, those are market segments full of buyers with little enthusiasm for throwing their cars around.
None of the brands involved have yet dared to make an EV sports saloon, a contender like this Model 3. Trust Tesla to be the first.
You can see the reasons for reticence, after all, there are there’s so much for an automotive engineer to overcome in pursuit of a car that might appeal to someone who’s used to sharp driving dynamics in a conventional fast four-door, particularly in this case.
Model 3 Driving Range
Segment leading driving range is a necessity for any new Tesla. It is a prodigiously sized and therefore a prodigiously heavy battery, and that’s what we have here as part of a pack that is sure enough placed low and centrally on the skateboard style chassis.
But that still means that the driver has to sit on top of the thing, and therefore be positioned around 50 millimeters higher than in a combustion engine rival. And that emphasizes the early onset of body roll, in a way that you simply wouldn’t normally notice.
|Model||EVDB Real Range||WLTP Ratings|
|Standard Range Plus||340 km||448 km|
|Standard Range Plus LFP||340 km||448 km|
|Long-Range Dual Motor||490 km||614 km|
|Performance||470 km||567 km|
Vehicle = calculated battery energy consumption used by the vehicle for propulsion and onboard systems. Range Correct as of August 2021 from EV Database https://ev-database.org/
Model 3 Power Delivery
And then there’s the issue of throttle linearity and power delivery. The neck-snapping switch light throttle responses that typify some EV’s become tiresome very quickly.
And torque steer, that’s an affliction that we haven’t seen on performance cars since their overblown under tired turbo hot hatches of the 80s, has in recent times made an unwelcome return in various zero-emission segments Models.
They struggle with the fact that every ounce of motor torque is delivered from the millisecond you touch the throttle, in some cases, throwing the front end of the car about like a bucking bronco as a result. Other EV’s merely spin their speed uselessly away from rest on anything but a bone-dry surface.
Model 3 Autonomous Driving Technology
As if all that wasn’t enough, Tesla is being run by visionaries who seem to prefer a future in which their owners weren’t imposed on to drive their cars at all as the company continues its relentless pursuit of autonomous driving technology.
Yet, Elon Musk and his team like a challenge, especially one that’s been so clearly shirked by the established brands who can no longer ignore the threat that this Californian automaker poses.
So heads were hunted, test tracks were pounded, and budgets were broken to create the kind of Model 3 that would make competitors and their buyers sit up and take notice.
Previously we’ve reviewed Tesla’s products as EV’s, it’s a measure of the importance of the one that we have here that we have to judge it by more conventional standards, as you would if you were considering it as an alternative to the BMW 3-series, the Mercedes C-class and the Audi a4 mid-sized executive saloons that it wants to target.
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Will a keen driver miss the sound of a classic engine throbbing away upfront? well, of course, they would, but the simple truth is that the vast majority of cars sold in this segment don’t use such a thing.
Too often, what buyers in this class end up with is a rumbly diesel mated to an anodyne automatic. Would you miss that if you traded it up for a Model 3’s electrified silence? Well, quite possibly not.
In this car, there’s a whole new driving dynamic in play, if you can be bothered to adjust yourself to it. The sensitivity of your right foot, for example, becomes of vital importance it replaces clutch pedal or paddle-shift technique and coordination.
For sure, it is strange not to have an engine note guiding you through your various driving tasks. But after a while in a Model 3, you might begin to find the absence of that soundtrack to be equally enriching, helping to focus your mind on things like steering feel, cornering angles, and the way that the cars responding beneath you.
Model 3 Handling
At which point will you feel here? Well, superb accurate steering for start. It’s in a different league to anything that the brands produced before, or indeed anything that we’ve previously experienced in an. But it still lacks the final feel-some element that’s integral to a good European rack.
Then there are the brakes. Those are less grabby, they’re more natural feeling in this case than in any other electric vehicle we’ve tested, and refinement that when you come to listen more closely, isn’t as all-encompassing quiet as he first thought.
Model 3 Cabin Wind Noise
Tire roar and wind noise around the frameless doors are both of a slightly higher order than we’d expected to find in a current-generation executive saloon.
We accept that senses are heightened because of the lack of a rumbling engine upfront, but that should surely make rolling refinement an even greater priority for Tesla’s engineers.
Model 3 Cornering
What about that weight issue though? The sort of thing that usually sees electric vehicles lurching over speed humps, crashing through potholes, and shifting bulk uncertainly about through tighter corners at speed.
Well, here there’s little of that. In fact, if you somehow didn’t know that this was an electric vehicle you’d be unlikely to guess the fact from the way that it rides the bumps or takes the turns.
When you’re cornering quickly you’re certainly aware of this car’s extra weight, your senses are heightened by the slightly higher seating position, but outside of a racetrack, it isn’t much of an issue.
And that’s thanks to the low center of gravity and the near-perfect 48-52 front to rear weight distribution.
Model 3 Suspension
You aren’t more likely to notice that the wishbone front multi-link rear suspension is set rather on the firm side, but that’s also true with plenty of segments rivals.
Unfortunately though, here it can’t be embellished with the kind of adaptive damping system that Tesla just doesn’t want to offer at this price point.
More positives are accrued by the impressively well-modulated throttle, although it is still prone to lurch the car forward like a startled rabbit if you use it without due care.
If you were to mash it against the bulkhead of the top performance spec variant you’d reach 60 miles an hour in just 3.2 seconds, that is Ferrari fast.
Model 3 Software Updates
That’s the stat today anyway, tomorrow this car might be even quicker, and that is courtesy of the over-the-air drivetrain software updates, that without fanfare Tesla simply adds to its customer’s cars as it goes along.
Like the one that recently increased the top speed of the performance Model from 155 to 162 miles per hour.
there is something rather wonderful about the thought that the Model 3 that you left powering up in the garage last night, might not be the same one that you’ll drive tomorrow.
Model 3 Wheels
The performance derivative is further embellished by larger 20-inch wheels, shod with bespoke Michelin P44 S tires, and Brymbo competition star brakes of the famous ludicrous driving setting that releases all electrical restraints on Top Model S, or Model X variants, and simply hurls them on the horizon.
There’s no sign here that is all rather yesterday in Tesla’s terms, instead, for this car the tech team engineered in something much better, a selectable track mode.
Model 3 Torque Vectoring System
This activates the kind of torque vectoring system that shuttles talk between the front and rear axles to offer, either more or less cornering rotation as needed. Plus there’s a dramatic increase in regenerative braking to capture extra energy more efficiently.
Model 3 Dynamics Controller
And the addition of the brand caused a vehicle dynamics controller. That eases back the normally quite intrusive traction and stability control systems so that they allow more slip, so much so in fact that pro driver circuit corner drifting is even possible.
This kind of driving can be rough on the car’s cooling system so track mode recalibrates that to call the car more aggressively and proactively.
With this kind of speed and performance potential, you’d want a car with all-wheel-drive, true to form Tesla provides it courtesy of the dual-motor power train which is also shared by the other top version of this Model 3.
The less focused, but more energy conscious long-range variant for which the speed stats are from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds en route to a hundred and forty-five miles per hour.
Model 3 Driving Range
Tesla no longer wants to talk about the battery capacity of its cars, but most in the industry pitched that of the dual-motor Model 3 package to be somewhere between 75 and 88 kilowatt-hours.
The kind of thing that would be needed to support the sort of industry-leading WLTP rated range figures that Tesla’s claiming. 329 miles for this performance version and 348 miles for the long-range variant.
Combining that with the kind of speed potential that we’ve just referenced is easier to comprehend once you understand a little bit more about how this car’s fuel motor power train works.
Model 3 Drive Train
Its two drive units which together produce 335 kilowatts or 449 BHP of power are programmed to constantly shift power from front to rear to keep each motor in its power and efficiency sweet spot.
One motor is geared for quick acceleration, and the other is tuned for efficient high-speed cruising.
So effective is this whole setup that the normal penalty for extra weight is the potential reduction that you’d expect in operating range, has been easily overcome.
We do have to point out at this juncture that arguably the most important Model 3 variant, the far more affordable entry-level standard range plus version that most customers will choose, uses are quite different rear-driven format.
Its power train is made up of a single 180-kilowatt motor mated to a battery pack that, depending on who you believe, is somewhere between 55 and 60 kilowatt-hours in size.
A smaller battery does, of course, deliver a smaller driving range, in this case, it’s WLTP rated at 254 miles. Although, that’s still better than Audi or BMW can manage with any of their EV’s.
Model 3 Performance Stats
The performance stats are still satisfyingly rapid though, the 0-60 sprint occupies 5.3 seconds on route to 140 miles an hour top speed.
Model 3 Driving Modes
There’s no driving mode system of the kinda combustion engine competitor in this segment would offer. There are just three steering settings, comfort, standard or sport, and acceleration modes. Sport and the rather cringe early named chill.
You can activate a slip start setting that eases the car away if you happen to be stuck on snow, mud, or sand. And as usual with a Tesla, you can select a creep function if you want the kind of creep forward feel that you get from a conventional mechanical gearbox when you push this car’s single-speed electronic gear selector stalk into drive.
Model 3 Regenerative Braking
You can’t control regenerative braking with steering wheel pedals in the way that you can with rival EV’s. There are simply two-screen selectable options. Low which minimizes retardation when you lift off the throttle, and standard which increases it.
Select the latter setting and you’ll find that you only really need to use the brake pedal for hard stops or when you’re bringing the car to a complete halt. Model 3 also dispenses with other driving control features that you might be familiar with, a handbrake, an ignition key, and a starter button for example.
Model 3 Auto Pilot
Since this is a Tesla we should not only talk about how you can drive it but also how it can potentially drive itself. Courtesy of the eight cameras twelve ultrasonic sensors and the forward-facing radar that activate its autopilot system with integrated auto-steer function.
The autopilot will position the car centrally within its lane, keep the chosen speed, regulate the distance to the vehicle in front and even perform lane changes automatically.
For that latter function, you just flick the indicator stalk in the direction that you want to go, and once the camera system has given you the all-clear you’re automatically steered over into the next Lane.
All you have to do for autopilot functionality to be operative is to keep your hands on the wheel at all times. If you’re using that system do make sure that that’s all you do, even fractional unintended steering inputs will disable the system.
That’s the setup that can occasionally overreact to cars around you, but the cameras have only just detected.
Future Proof Your Tesla
Room for improvement then, but then that’s just what Tesla has in mind. Pay the extra to future-proof your Model 3 with the brand’s full self-driving capability software package, and your car will receive ongoing over-the-air updates that will add in fresh new elements of the autonomous driving kit as legislation allows it.
Tesla Summons System
As the brand knows, to its irritation, these laws can vary quite from country to country. For example, the summons system in the S compact will give you which allows you to stand outside the car and park it remotely using a smartphone, well that’s much more sophisticated in the U.S.
There, if you are returned from shopping unsure of your car’s location after you’ve left the Model 3 in a busy car park, then a click on the summon option to see the car drive out and find you, provided you are only parked a few parking rows away.
But much more than that is in store for those of the Tesla groupies who don’t mind surrendering their full driving duties to the car.
Ultimately the plan is that all you’ll ever have to do is to get in and get out of your Tesla, whichever Tesla you’ve bought. It’ll even know where you want to go if you’ve programmed your movements into its online calendar.
When other brands are thinking of this kind of technology, Tesla is going out and delivering it, or at least where it’s allowed to anyway.
The way that this Californian company tells it buying into a Model 3 is a starting point for a whole new kind of automotive life. Maybe it is, maybe you’re not quite ready for it, it’s coming though, and Carr reassures us that there’s at least something in that future to look forward to.
It’s a mark of Tesla’s brand identity that even someone unacquainted with EV’s would probably recognize this car maker. They might perhaps be less likely to recognize it as a Model 3, although, on closer inspection, the cues are quite distinct. However, they’re still very much EV orientated.
Model 3 Exterior Design
Starting at the front where this more affordable Tesla design sees no need for the decorative front grille that aims to ease that Tesla transition for Model S and Model X customers graduating over from something more conventional.
This, in contrast, is Tesla’s first saloon and it’s likely to be its only one, at least for the conceivable future. Now that’s intended to help position it against the strong sellers in the mid-sized executive market that Tesla wants to target.
Cars like the BMW 3-series which is slightly longer and narrower than this Model 3, although, not by much.
From the side you notice the short bonnet, that’s facilitated by the skateboard style chassis which locates the drivetrain and batteries as low as possible in the car, enhancing interior space and lowering the center of gravity.
Tesla royalty will notice a lower waistline than that of the larger Model S, but an almost equally large glass area with even more glass overhead.
This is courtesy of a standard two-piece panoramic roof that embellishes a high arching roofline which means you’re very unlikely to lose this car in a crowded parking lot.
A mid-level crease flows below the flush-fitting silver door handles, with a shorter higher one emphasizing the rear haunches.
Plus a lower crease separates arches that house 18-inch wheels on the standard and the long-range versions with larger 20-inch rims fitted to the performance Model.
From almost any angle this car looks more like a hatch than a saloon, including from the rear. It’s certainly very Model S like.
Model 3 Charging Points
Tesla has mounted the charging flap neatly into the offside rear light cluster, and this time they’ve made the socket inside CCS compatible, so a wider number of public charging stations can be used.
Tesla has seen the pressing need to keep weight down to manageable levels, and it’s done so with a dual-motor all-wheel-drive Model weighing in at eighteen hundred and forty-seven kilos.
With a single motor standard range plus bass version, quite impressively tipping the scales at only one thousand six hundred and forty-five kilos. Only one hundred and twenty kilos more than an equivalent diesel BMW 320d.
That’s primarily down to the use of aluminum for several panels. The boot, the bonnet, the doors, and the roof are all of them particularly sleek, hence, the impressively slippy drag coefficient of just 0.23 CD.
There’s no keyless entry of the kind that you get in Tesla’s larger Models, which does seem like a backward step. Nor do the door handles spring open as you approach as they would do on a rival Jaguar iPace.
Instead, you have either to use the easily mislaid RFID card which has to be wafted across a sensor to gain entry, or you have to program in your phone. Then you press on the larger part of the silver door release.
Once inside you find yourself seated in a cabin that’s more minimalist than a Scandinavian loft. There’s absolutely nothing minimalist about the enormous 15-inch central touchscreen onto which virtually all the driving comfort and entertainment features that you’ll need have been located.
Operating control provision has been kept to the absolute minimum, don’t even bother looking for a gear stick, a starter button, a handbrake switch, or physical ventilation controls. Even the vents are pretty well hidden. You don’t get any kind of instrument cluster either.
Legislation requires that Tesla provides a proper hazard warning button, that’s located near the frameless rear-view mirror with an SOS switch. Otherwise, you’re limited to a couple of unmarked scroll wheels on the steering wheel spokes, and also two wheel-mounted stalks, the left one for the wipers and the indicators, the right for gear change functions.
Minimality is all well and good, but a potential premium segment European bar of this car is ideally going to want all that to be accompanied by the kind of cabin quality, and richness of interior design that the posh German brands along with Jaguar, Volvo, and Lexus now provide in this segment.
Tesla has made great strides forward in this regard in recent years, but we still can’t pretend that to be what you get here. To be frank, the stripped outfield doesn’t help in that regard and neither does the shiny finish of the vegan leather upholstery impractically bleached white if you get the white interior.
Instrument Menu Display Panel
As for Tesla’s curious insistence on displaying the usual driving instruments on the near 1/3 of the central touchscreen. In our view, that would be fine if this layout was supplemented by a head-up display, but you can’t have that so you have constantly to be flicking your eyes away from the road and looking at the monitor.
Adapting to this isn’t difficult and the way that the driving graphics show surrounding traffic is very clever, but the whole setup isn’t optimum in the way that such a clean sheet design really could have been.
Compensated technology is dripping from every menu, and pinch and swipe action is accessible through the enormously capable central screen. It’s the first in a Tesla to be a landscape rather than portrait orientated.
Your main access point for features is along the bottom of the screen with rather small icons, for things like ventilation, seat, navigation, and music functions. While the right-hand corner car option clicks you through to the main driving menu screen.
That not only connects you through to your various acceleration, steering mode, and regenerative braking options, but it’s also the screen that you’re going to need to operate basic things like, the mirrors, the steering column adjustment, and even to open up the glove box.
There are lots here that we like. The clever camera setup, the music system that’s designed to function with a Spotify-style online music library that can locate any track or artist you care to name.
And the way that the optional Wi-Fi package with its easy web access can allow you to easily stream from Netflix and YouTube.
Once full self-driving is approved by the regulators, Tesla says it’ll activate this screen so that both front-seat passengers will be able to settle back and view films from these and other sources on the move when the autopilot autonomous camera-driven capability is selected.
Plus there’s still no better navigation system than the one you get in a Tesla. Thanks to a 4G Google Maps connection it can show you traffic build-up points and Google Earth images, plus of course it’s the point from which you’ll be planning your journeys.
With displays predicting the percentage of battery charge, which will remain at your required destination, and also the amount that you’ll be left with on returning home.
There’s an arcade option that allows you to play away to your heart’s content in the car stationary, chess, asteroids, lunar lander, and beach buggy racing are just a few of these screen games on offer.
In the toy box section, it gets sillier, now with rival brands and merely being able to draw pictures on the screen with your fingertip might be considered enough of a nod to entertainment if you’re stuck in a traffic jam, but, here as well as that option, there’s much more.
Depending on your mood you can direct the screen to show a crackling fireplace, you can use it to explore the surface of Mars, or to activate a Santa mode with a chirpy tune and jingling sound effects to get you in the festive spirit.
There’s even a whoopee cushion screen, yes really, with different styles of fart delivery. Any of those that you like can be activated to replace the usual indicator clicks if you want to prank the next person who’s likely to be driving your Model 3.
The driving position, well, if you like the kind of hunkered down stance that you get in a 3 series BMW the Model 3 can’t provide that. That’s because you’re perched on top of a bank of batteries beneath the floor and the seat is positioned about fifty millimeters higher than the segment norm.
The driving seat includes lumbar adjustment, but some of our testers did still feel it managed to be a little short on lower back support.
Now, this isn’t quite enough for the car to feel SUV-like, but along with the panoramic windscreen and the low waistline, it certainly helps with all-around visibility. This is very welcome since otherwise, that might be a fraction problematic, thanks to these chunky A-pillars and the slightly restricted over-the-shoulder view that you get rearwards.
Cabin storage is aided by the lack of the kind of enormous central transmission tunnel, that on any ordinary car would stretch up between the seats into the center console.
Tesla has used that freed-up space to create a huge double-lidded central box, pull up the two surface flaps, and an interim middle one to access that.
A couple of USB ports sit almost invisibly within, the flaps incidentally have to be closed gently onto their magnetic catches, try to slam them shut and they’ll spring up again. That is accompanied by a pedantic center screen message admonishing you for your ham-fisted.
Further back sit two cupholders, which ought to be covered, but which aren’t. And behind them is a further deep illuminated storage box with a lift-out tray and a twelve-volt port.
Also illuminated rather curiously are the door pockets, they’re not very big, but they will each hold a decent-sized bottle of water and at least you get them unlike in the Model S.
You’ll also find that the glove box is not especially large, once you figure out how to open it that is. And here’s one of our favorite touches, the lovely two-piece magnetic strips that fit over the Sun Visor mirrors. The vanity light activates as you pull away from the bottom part.
At first glance, the rear seating area seems good, especially compared to the cramped rear quarters you get in a rival BMW 3-series, or Mercedes C-class.
Take a seat though, and you find that raised floor we mentioned matched with low set seats, and the result being you sit with your knees slightly higher than they would normally be. Once you adjust to that though, you’ll find that the legroom isn’t bad. One six-footer can just about sit behind another, thanks in part, to these scalloped seatbacks.
Although, the fact that you can’t slide your feet under the seat in front is something of a limiting factor. Strangely the center-seated passenger, who would normally have drawn the short straw in a car of this kind, is arguably, rather better-placed thanks to the lack of a central transmission tunnel, and the way that it’s possible to slide your feet beneath the center console.
Rear Seat Headroom
The headroom is good, even with the standard two-part glass roof fitted, which helps by these little rear quarter light windows that fill the cabin with light. Although it doesn’t come with a sliding blind for the times when you want the interior to feel, well, just a bit cozier.
A stitched door handles and more illuminated door pockets add extra classy touches. There’s a central armrest with twin cupholders, and overhead there are pop-out coat hooks together with ceiling-mounted reading lights.
Model 3 Trunk Space
Because there’s no need for an engine up front, a front compartment sits in the nose. We’re going to get to that once we’ve looked at what’s on offer at the back of the car.
We have what looks like a tailgate design, but isn’t. In some ways, this setup is preferable to that. Thanks to an ingenious hinged arrangement that sees the boot lid opening particularly widely and leaving an admirably low access lip.
The capacity on offer is 425 liters of space, which is 55 liters less than you get from a BMW 3-series, or an Audi A4, but only fractionally less than a Mercedes C-class.
It’s a good square usable space with a recessed area on the left and a deep well under the cargo base for the charging leads that could also take other small items that you might not want sliding around on the boot floor.
On that subject, tie-down points are rather curiously missing nor do you get bag hooks or a 12-volt port. If you need more room the rear seatback can be folded 60/40, although unfortunately, no boot levers are provided for the process.
So you have to go around to the passenger compartment and release the seat shoulder catches. With everything flat there you get a reasonably flat loading bed.
The storage space at the front of the car can’t quite swallow suitcases like the one of the Model S, but its 117-litre capacity is probably good for a couple of small squashy bags.
Model 3 Specification
If having concluded that there’s nothing quite like a Model 3, and you want to consider buying or leasing one, then you’re going to need to know exactly how generous Tesla has been with the specifications.
Base Standard Range Specification
The key feature is the 15-inch center touchscreen, which seamlessly integrates media navigation, communications, cabin control, and vehicle data into one intuitive interface.
And throughout your ownership period, over-the-air updates into it will add functionality, will also enhance performance, and will improve the driving experience of your car.
As you would expect the screen is your access point to things like navigation, a DAB tuna, and Bluetooth, plus lots more. There’s no Apple car play or android auto option, but Tesla has its smartphone mirroring system which works almost as well.
You get a tinted panoramic glass roof in two parts with ultraviolet and infrared protection. 18 inch Aero alloy wheels and power-folding mirrors. Inside there’s black premium vegan leather upholstery, 12-way power-adjustable front seats, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and 4 USB ports.
Scroll down the center screen menu options, and you’ll find a host of little touches. The arcade and toy box games, which will entertain you if you’re stuck in a traffic jam, or you’re waiting for a pickup. And the clever sentry mode that you can activate as a guard to record any damage to your car.
So when you’ve left it parked, should that happen, the Model threes camera system will record the incident so you have evidence to help apprehend the perpetrator. Other cameras can be used to record dashcam footage for the same kind of purpose.
It also includes an autopilot system that enables your Model 3 to steer, accelerate and brake automatically around other vehicles and pedestrians in its lane. And you get what Tesla calls full self-driving capability as part of this, with four key features.
Firstly your Model-free will navigate using the autopilot system, which will give you automatic driving from motorway on-ramp to off-ramp, including interchanges and including overtaking slower cars.
Secondly, there’s an auto lane change feature, which gives you automatic motorway lane changes. All you have to do is flick the indicator stalk in the direction that you want to go, and once the camera system has given you the all-clear, then you are automatically steered over into the next Lane.
Thirdly there’s an auto park system, which will help you to identify a parallel or perpendicular space, and then steer your Tesla into it.
And fourthly there’s a summon feature which will allow you to park your car using your smartphone while you’re standing outside it, as you might want to do if, say you’re trying to get it into a very narrow space.
Now for the future, Tesla is promising further functionality that will give your Model 3 a degree of automatic driving capability on city streets.
It will allow it to recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs, and it will, via an enhanced summon feature, allow it to come to find you in a car park if you’re a few rows away and you can’t find it.
Long-Range FWD Specification
With the long-range derivative, you’ll get an upgraded premium audio system with 14 speakers, one subwoofer, two amps, and a more immersive sound.
Plus further kit additions including LED front fog lamps, heated front, and rear seats, and the years use of what Tesla calls a premium connectivity pack.
This will give you satellite maps with live traffic visualization, in-car internet streaming for music and media, more frequent over-the-air updates, and an internet browser.
We’ll finish our perusal of the standard kit with a look at what’s included on the top performance mount which of course has all of the long-range derivatives features, plus a package of others.
Performance Model 3 Specification
A performance spec Model 3 is recognizable by its carbon-fiber rear spoiler, its lowered suspension, and the larger 20-inch performance wheels shod with Michelin MP44 s tires. Through the spokes of which you can glimpse the red calipers of the operated braking system.
Inside there are aluminum alloy pedals and a selectable track mode. Now, this special setting does quite a lot of the press of a single screen button, it shuffles talk between the front and rear axles for extra cornering traction.
It will increase regenerative braking to capture extra energy more efficiently, thirdly it recalibrates the cooling system to make it more effective, and it also uses a vehicle dynamics controller to dial back the traction and the stability control systems so that they allow more slip. So much so, that pro driver circuit corner drifting is even possible.
There aren’t many extra options you can add to your Model 3 but you can pay extra to specify a black and white-colored interior, unusually for an EV you can pay more for a tow hitch. Bear in mind that you’ll be paying Tesla extra for your choice of paint color.
The pearl white multi-coat finish is the only one that you get is standard. The others at extra cost are solid black, midnight silver metallic, deep blue metallic or if you’re prepared to pay $2,600 more you can get the rather lovely red multi-coat finish.
How Safe Is The Model 3?
We normally finish this section of the reviews by talking about safety, in this case, we’ve already touched on that when briefing you on all the high-tech features of the autopilot system. Which uses eight cameras, twelve ultrasonic sensors, and a forward-facing radar. These all combine to deliver an impressive roster of features.
Let’s brief yours on those we’ve not yet mentioned. There is autonomous braking, of course, that’s courtesy of what Tesla calls its forward collision warning and its automatic emergency brake systems.
And, as you would expect, on a car of this price, there is a blind spot collision feature to stop you from pulling out when there’s a vehicle in your blind spot.
But Tesla has gone further than that. The thing we all love about electric cars is the instant acceleration they give, but that can get you into a lot of trouble if you hit the accelerator too hard when you’re in a traffic jam, or when you’re parking. There is also an obstacle-aware acceleration feature that aims to take care of that for you too.
If your Tesla senses that there’s something like a car or a building in front of you, it will limit your acceleration if you accidentally tap on the accelerator too hard, or you confuse the brake pedal with the accelerator so enabling you to avoid an expensive collision.
Emergency lane departure avoidance will automatically steer the car back into your lane if the software thinks you’re going to crash or veer off the road.
Then there’s lane departure avoidance, that’s a system that was first introduced in the US. to combat situations where Tesla drivers were engaging the cars traffic-aware cruise control, and then moving lanes on the highway without turn signals and their hands on the steering wheel.
Lane departure avoidance will admonish you for that sort of thing, and if you keep on doing it, then the system will eventually turn on your hazard lights and it will automatically slow the car down to 15 miles below, either the speed limit or your current set speed. This feature can be turned on or off at will, and it works between speeds of 25 and 90 miles an hour.
Beyond all the camera stuff it’s worth pointing out that the Model 3 is also an intrinsically safe car and the recipient of a 5-star rating from Euro Encap.
To get that it had to have all the usual passive safety features, pedestrian-friendly panel work, plus the usual stability, and autonomous braking features, and of course a full complement of airbags
On a dual-motor Model, the second motor sits within the front subframe attached by two mounts, it’s designed to pivot back into a vacant space during a collision better protecting the passenger compartment. It’s clever, and so much about this car is.
Model 3 Driving Range
Once upon a time as an EV buyer, you bought a Tesla because of its vast advantage in operating range over any other battery-powered car on the market.
Today things are a little different, the 254-mile WLTP rated range of the volume single motor standard range plus version, is about 25 miles less than you get from smaller family hatch-sized EV’s, like the Kona electric and Kia’s E-Niro.
And only fractionally more than the uprated E+ version of the Nissan Leaf. So yes, as was inevitable the opposition has caught up.
Switch your attention to a pricier dual-motor all-wheel-drive Model, and something of Tesla’s original advantage remains. The performance variant manages 329-mile WLTP rated reading. Figure that the alternative long-range Model increases to 348 miles.
To give you some perspective on that, the best of the current crop of battery-powered luxury SUV’s is Jaguars iPace, that’s WLTP rated at 290 miles, Mercedes EQC manages 259 miles, BMW ix3 249 miles, and an Audi E-Tron Quattro 55 just 241 miles.
What you’ll get from any of those cars if you drive normally is slightly different of course. If you want a rule of thumb, then think in terms of around 200 miles from a standard motor single range plus version, and maybe, 275 from a dual-motor although we are perfectly prepared to believe that you could improve on those figures by up to 20% with a little driving care.
Bottom line, if you’re buying a dual-motor Model 3 expecting it to go around 35 to 50 miles further than any other EV on the market between charges, that’s quite reasonable. Even if you stick with the single motor standard Plus version, there’s still a compelling reason to choose a Model 3 over an EV from another brand.
Tesla Supercharger Network
And that’ll be obvious when the time comes to pull back the neatly disguised panel around the offside rear light cluster and replenish your battery power.
Tesla is the only manufacturer that has had the guts to put itself on the line by going out and creating its exclusive high-power charging Network.
Each of these will allow you to charge the battery up to 80% capacity in as little as 30 minutes, and each is only accessible to Tesla drivers. On top of that, there are superchargers fitted to the brand’s dealer network.
And also the company has installed a further 550 less powerful, but still very useful so-called destination chargers in clubs, hotels, and other public locations around the country.
Those are also exclusive to Tesla drivers, and they’re there to charge your car over a few hours.
In other words, if you drive a Model 3, or indeed any other Tesla, you’re far more likely to be able to undertake a longer trip with mid-journey charging at a convenient point, than you would be if you bought a different EV from another mainstream or premium brand.
That is a crucial advantage, particularly with the current patchy state of the European public EV charging infrastructure.
Especially as the Tesla can also be recharged at nearly all the other places that other makers of electric vehicles can plug in, or absolutely all of them if you purchase the optional Chademo adapter that your Tesla Center will sell you. Earlier Tesla Models which lacked the necessary CCS adapter couldn’t do this.
In terms of other charging locations, your best bet is to find one of the 150 kilowatts Ionate charging points if you live in Europe. You’re more likely though to come across one of the longest existing 50-kilowatt public charging points which will charge up to 80 percent in around 75 minutes.
To help you find your nearest public charger, or you can use your Model 3’s infotainment screen to organize your journey between charge stations.
Fortunately, most of your charging will be done at home, once you’ve had fitted their seven-kilowatt wall box that you really couldn’t own this car without.
Once installed a wall box works out at an hourly charge rate of 11 kilowatts enough to replenish a dual-motor Model 3 bank from empty and just over eight hours. Although the process will be quicker with a smaller battery of the single motor standard range plus version.
With this dual-motor Model that means that the usual EV manufacturer claim of full overnight charging is only just about justified, and it won’t add up at all if you happen to have a late-night and an early start.
For reference, if you connected the Model three up to an ordinary household three-pin plug, then it will take the best part two days to charge itself from empty.
As usual, with electric cars, there is an app to allow you to set charging times using your smartphone, and the same app can also allow you to preset the climate in your car before you reach it.
So you don’t have to strain the battery with a big initial need for cabin heating or cooling when you get in. And that same app can also quickly tell you where you can find a nearby Tesla supercharging and destination charging location.
There is a scheduled charging part of the center screens charging section that helps you to do that, it would be even better of course if you were able to charge up using solar energy that’s generated from the panels on the roof of your house.
Now if your home does have solar charging panels that work with a photovoltaic system, then the car can be set up to charge preferentially using sunlight source electricity, and it can even be set up to charge in line with forecast phases of sunshine.
EV’s provide almost endless driver tools for maximizing driving range, things like efficiency modes, ECO settings, and primarily a proliferation of brake regeneration options that are aimed at allowing you to either, reduce or increase the amount of energy harvested as you slow the car.
On a Model 3, there are only two regenerative braking options, standard or low, and that’s it. In one way that’s quite refreshing, in another, it is rather surprising that Tesla doesn’t feel the need to involve the driver more in the energy harvesting process.
If you can cope with having the regenerative braking set on the higher standard mode, in which case the reduction in speed when you come off the throttle is quite sudden. It can make quite a significant difference to the distance that you’ll be able to travel between charges.
It allows the power train to more effectively reclaim spent energy as you cruise, as you slow or, when you stop. In fact on a hilly road with regeneration set to standard, it’s possible to gain most of the energy back that used going uphill through regenerative braking on the way down.
As you’d expect the car’s central screen offers lots of data to help to plan your electric driving life, we’ve already mentioned how both this monitor and the Associated app can brief you on your plug-in program, and on charging locations.
And of course, there are the usual real-time battery status readouts, but your Model 3 can certainly be a lot more proactive than that.
Put a destination into the navigation system and it will helpfully tell you what proportion of your battery charge you’ll still have when you reach where you’re going, and also the proportion that you’ll have when you arrive back home.
If the destination that you’ve chosen can’t be reached with the driving range that you have available, then some charging points along the route will be selected for you.
Once you set off the calculations continue based on your driving style, so you’ll be advised if, for example, you’re cruising at to faster speed to reach the destination on the charge available.
The detailed graphical readout in the screens energy section can show your success, or otherwise, in driving frugality over the last five, fifteen, or thirty miles along with both instant and average energy consumption figures.
The Tesla warranty is four years and 50,000 miles has pluses and minuses compared to the usual three years 60,000-mile packages offered by obvious rivals.
The battery and drive unit are covered by their own 8-year 120 thousand mile warranty, not only does this cover you against faults but it also guarantees a minimum seventy percent retention of battery capacity throughout the duration of the plan.
Maintenance is more straightforward than it would be for a combustion engine Model. An electric vehicle does, after all, have 20% fewer moving parts. There’s no fuel tank, there’s no exhaust system and there’s no internal combustion engine.
You wouldn’t think that though to look at the service intervals needed by so this car’s direct rivals. Jaguar Ipace, for example, needs a garage visit every twenty-one thousand miles, with the Model three no annual service is required. Owners only need to bring their cars in to check certain components at specific intervals.
Over-The-Air Software Updates
Over-the-air updates and remote diagnostics will help to make some smaller maintenance jobs easier to carry out, and Tesla’s mobile service technicians make your ownership life more convenient.
Independent experts are saying that a standard range plus Model will retain around 66% of its original value after three years, and 36,000 miles. For the performance version, the figure will rise to around seventy-two point eight percent.
Unlike Tesla, we don’t think that fully electrified technology is the only answer to the future of individual transportation, but it’s the best answer we have right now. And at present, Tesla is delivering it in a way that makes the SUV-based EV efforts of other manufacturers look dull.
The Model 3 has a much tougher job on its hands than the company’s earlier Models had, especially now that well-funded far East makers are entering the EV market. But the American brand has the advantage of a head start, and the pioneering mindset, both of which it will need in the years ahead.
We think that the company’s willingness to embark upon that enormous undertaking is just as admirable as the way that with no previous experience, it’s created a range of cars worthy of credible comparison with the world’s best.
This currently is the finest of them. It is a work in progress. certainly. But it’s a contender that advances its art another small but significant step forward.