So I had a few hours yesterday with the new Tesla Model 3 Performance. To be honest, the conditions weren’t great. The weather was amazing per usual in Southern California but I was basically stuck in the middle of West LA during rush hour for this review. I tried to make a dash for Malibu and the mountains but alas, there wasn’t enough time, and they were already full of commuters heading home for the weekend.
I also wasn’t allowed to record video or stills beyond the livestream we posted earlier and some parked footage (below). But that was enough time to know that, for many people, this could easily be —– the best car on the road, at any price.
There’s a lot to unpack in that statement, so let’s start unpacking. One thing to note: I’ve owned the RWD Model 3 for most of the year so I’ll try to emphasize the differences in the performance model.
Is it the best Model 3?
Initially, you would say duh, yeah it has all of the options offered and some exclusives like white interior which is simply stunning. STUN-NING. It is also the fastest version of the Model 3 lineup with the 3.5 (or less) second 0-60 mph Performance package and all-wheel-drive for bad weather.
But there are two factors that might sway you toward a less expensive model: Range and highly subjective wheel options:
- I personally don’t like the ride you get from 20″ tires vs. the standard 18s which offer more cushioning, especially in the potholes that litter my New York City area village. I’m still trying to love those aero hubcaps as much as the wind does.
- Also, while the Model 3 Performance has the same EPA-rated 310 mile range, it isn’t as efficient as the RWD model according to the EPA (yes, still trying to get head around this) and with the same battery won’t go as far. It will also cost negligibly more to charge.
Neither of those things is probably swaying many people so we’ll go onto…
Is it the best Tesla?
This is going to be highly subjective but let’s break down why you might like the Model 3 over the more expensive and longer to charge Model S and X. First the upsides to the bigger Teslas:
- If you have a lot of kids and haul around a lot of stuff, the Model S or X is going to be the way to go. Our 7-seat (5+2 kids) Model S was the kid schlepping mobile that had all the minivan dads jealous.
- If you need that extra ludicrous speed to get you to 60mph a second faster, you’ll still need to fork out six figures and get the huge footprint S/X.
- All the SUV things of the Model X like easier to get in and out and towing capacity
- Need to impress the opposite sex with Falcon Wing Doors?
But the downsides to the bigger Teslas include:
- The Model S and X are huge vehicles. They will overflow even the biggest garages.
- They are much flashier which is especially true with the Model X. Sometimes you just want the kids to get in the back of the car without making a scene.
- They don’t handle like a small nimble sports car, especially with their huge batteries.
- Sometimes it is hard to find parking, drive down narrow streets
Those are big tradeoffs. As a driver first, I’m in the Model 3 camp. It is the best Tesla in my book. But…
Is it the best Electric Car?
This isn’t a hard question. The only other candidates would be the Jaguar I-PACE or Chevy Bolt EV…or any of the Niro EV, Kona EV, e-Tron, Taycan, etc… coming down the road. But, let’s stick with what’s on the road today.
If the lack of a Supercharging network doesn’t dismiss these, then the first ride with the Model 3 Performance will. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the ride of both the Chevy Bolt EV and the Jaguar I-PACE but neither is a sports sedan and a few minutes into your first test drive will prove that the Model 3 is in a class by itself.
Is it the best car…period?
For my money, electric is the way to go so that’s an easy question. Since I started driving electric 6 years ago, every one of my experiences in Cadillacs, BMWs, Mercedes, and everything else pales in comparison.
When we first bought our Tesla Model S in 2012, my wife and I justified it by saying, for this brief moment in time, we can afford the best car on earth. We might not ever get the chance again to have that option.
Well, I think a lot more people again have that option.
Some questions answered from Youtube:
Rails? Sports suspension here was an obvious improvement over the RWD. I didn’t get to do any drifting on the city streets of Los Angeles but it was very nice around the corners. The one I had didn’t have the Track Mode option that we learned about yesterday.
The 20-inch tires are certainly grippier both for cornering and acceleration. With less air between the rims and the road, you also felt the road and the bumps a little more.
The steering also felt tighter but I can’t tell if this was because of the above or there is a more tuned sports steering.
It definitely felt stronger than my Model 3 RWD but Tesla said that regenerative braking was the same. It’s possible they were referring to the same as the regular Dual Motor AWD. I’ll seek more clarification.
Whining motor sound?
None on my test drive. I’ve seen other people say that there is a whining sound from the front AC engine but I didn’t hear it on this one. I also used to get the whining sound on my Model S which I actually kind of liked. Perhaps being the father of two kids I’ve learned to tune out whining. (Dad joke)
I love, love, love the white interior. It is just such a shocking level of white in the seats. It would be next level if Tesla could make the seat belts, armrest and other bits white but I think the current look works really well. As for the white plastic or veneer on the dash, I’m not totally sold. It reminds me of the polycarbonate MacBooks of yore which were, of course, substandard to the aluminum.
I believe the White is the same material as the Model X so if you wonder how it will wear, you can look at 3-year-old Model X’s. I think as long as you take care of it, it will stay a stunning white.
I didn’t see the Track Mode option (maybe it is buried somewhere or is a beta option that MKBHD got to try?). I also didn’t try chill mode because why would I ever do that unless you are really trying to get more range?
I think this is why a lot of people are going to pony up the extra $10K for this model and I get it. I will say it isn’t anything like the Model S in insane mode. That is violent rear-end collision type of acceleration where the Model 3 Performance is just a push you to the back of your seat type of acceleration. I didn’t ever get up to 60 mph, but I got really close in a matter of a few seconds. Acceleration from 30-50 mph was instant. I imagine 60-80 mph will be similar.
Again, we didn’t get the MKBHD test drive, we got the “we’ll get you in at the same time as the first regular customers who already posted their reviews on reddit but won’t let you take pictures/video test drive.”
Don’t worry however, Fred should be one of the first to take delivery of his Model 3 Performance (Fred note: I am not as optimistic being in Canada) and we’ll have a series of fun stories from that. This is where you subscribe to our Youtube channel because that’s how you get real test drives.
Any other questions I will try to answer below in the comments.
I think this is a monumental car on a lot of levels. Half a million people deposited $1000 for Tesla’s Model 3 almost sight unseen, let alone test driven. Now that the test drive reviews are coming out almost entirely and overwhelmingly positive and neighbors/relatives/friends getting deliveries, a chain reaction is going to occur. Reservation numbers are going to skyrocket to the point where I don’t even know when Tesla is going to be able to meet demand. 2022? Model 3 is clearly a disruption for the masses. A revolution.
And the best Model 3? Clearly this is it, even if my old man bones appreciate a smoother tire ride over bumps compared to a 1-second faster 0-60 time, I believe this is going to be the best car on earth for many people, at any price.