So here it is, the Tesla Model 3. As one of the most talked about cars on the market today, the Model 3 stands as the first electric vehicle to successfully bridge the once unassailable boundary between the battery pack and the gas tank. That magic combination of a sub €50k price tag, slick design, high performance and industry leading range have resulted in the Tesla Model 3 becoming the world’s best selling EV throughout 2019, sparking a trend which looks to continue in 2020. Model 3 comes in 3 variants – Standard Range (€48k), Long Range (€59k) & Performance (€67k). So with all of this to consider, let’s get our hands into the best of what Tesla has to offer with a review of a top of the range, €75,000 2020 Model 3 Performance.
Exterior: The first thing you’ll notice about the Model 3 is its minimalist design aesthetic. The slick lined front facia elegantly upstages the influx of ginormous front facing grills that currently dominates the internal combustion engine market, whilst maintaining a sporty and aggressive stance. As your attention flows towards the headlights, you’ll note a certain Porsche-esque likeness with a sleek and fluid transition between the bonnet and front fenders. As we move to the side, your eyes are immediately captivated by the largely engrossing 20” grey performance alloys and stunning red brake calipers that are the defining feature of this performance variant Model 3.
In classic Tesla style, the door handles sit flush with the bodywork to produce a design that epitomises aerodynamic perfection. As we follow the carefully crafted lines towards the rear of the car, you’ll note the carbon fibre spoiler that gently adorns the boot lid, in another nod towards the high performance aesthetic, although any functional advantages are sure to be called into question. Other than that, the rear of the Model 3 is nothing special and aside from the Tesla logo and obvious lack of any visible tailpipes, you’d be hard pressed to tell its an EV, which of course, is exactly what they want you to think. This being a white Model 3, you’ll also be quick to notice the high contrast glass roof which extends with the appearance of a singular unified piece, from the front to the rear windscreen.
Interior: The interior of the Model 3 is perhaps its most striking feature as it’s such a dramatic departure from the overly complex & fussy interiors we’ve become accustomed to with many luxury vehicles throughout the years. If you’re looking for buttons, knobs or handles, you’ll struggle to find any in here. Once again, the quest for a design that embodies efficiency through simplicity has resulted in the removal of components like the door handles, gear stick, clutch, handbrake, air vents, instrument cluster and even the handle for the glovebox! All you get is a futuristic looking 15 inch glass slate that serves as your single point of interface for almost every possible function you can expect to do in the car.
Bringing us back down to earth, the seats are 12 way electronically adjustable and yes, they do have buttons to do this. The seats themselves can be configured in two colours, black or white, and they are extremely comfortable. All the seats are individually heated, including all three rear seats. In terms of foot space, the footwells are very roomy and since there is no engine bay, they extend out a little further into the body to give you that little bit of extra space. In the back, the lack of a transmission tunnel means that middle seat passengers get a lot more leg room, in addition to getting their own climate system.
Headroom is also good, with the thinness of the glass roof design providing an extra few centimetres of space for taller passengers. However, one downside is that the thickness of the battery pack means that the floor sits slightly higher than on an ICE car, meaning that your legs sit at a higher angle than they would in a standard ICE vehicle.
In terms of storage space, you get quite a lot – 542 litres to be precise, which is broken up into the boot, side storage compartment, sub-trunk and also, since there’s no engine, the frunk! To put this into context, the latest BMW 3 series has 480 litres of storage space, while the Kia e-Niro crossover has even less at 451 litres. The rear seats have a 60/40 split and although they don’t fold completely flat, you can still easily slide in large cargo without any hassle. Strangely however for a car of its price, the boot lid is manually operated with no option for a factory installed power lift-gate.
The centre console also features a large amount of deep storage space, which is again aided by the lack of a transmission tunnel, but the glovebox (which you have to open via the touchscreen) is rather shallow. Unfortunately, Tesla opted to use a glossy black surface on the centre console which, by its very nature, is highly susceptible to visible scratches, dust, dirt and fingerprints.
If you’ve read any Tesla reviews in the past, then you’ll know they’re not exactly renowned for producing consistent, high quality vehicles. Naturally of course, this was to be expected for a company that’s only been producing cars for just over a decade but with the Model 3, Tesla set out to start afresh with a design geared towards high quality, mass manufacture. Looking at our 2020 Model 3, this evolution is clearly evident.
While there are still some minor build quality issues, including poorly attached rear door seals and a few slightly misaligned trim pieces, the contrast between the Model 3 and the go-to benchmark of the German competition has become less and less significant. In terms of warranty, the bodywork and other components are guaranteed for 4 years or 80,000 km – whichever comes first, while the battery and drive unit are covered for 8 years or 192,000 km – again, whichever comes first.
This is Tesla’s trump card. Irrespective of whether you’re a petrolhead or EV enthusiast, there’s no denying that Tesla is the tech king of the automotive world – and as a Silicon Valley native, you’d expect nothing less. The comparison has often been made that Tesla is the Apple of the automotive market and it’s easy to see why. Aside from the fact that the two companies are in a perpetual state of poaching one another’s employees, the design minimalism and clean aesthetic that is the centerpiece of Apple design philosophy is clearly echoed in Tesla’s hardware & software design.
The centerpiece of the Model 3’s interior is a 15 inch touchscreen. On the right of the screen, you have your information display – a sort of “virtual instrument cluster”. Everything you’d traditionally expect to find behind the steering wheel can be found here – speed, battery level, warning lights and, most prominently, a real time virtual rendition of current vehicle status. The base of the screen is occupied by a quick access “dock” which features a list of common vehicle functions such as the window defrosters, climate control, media & vehicle settings. In terms of the climate controls, directional airflow is handled literally with the swipe of a finger, to which the screen responds with a real time visualisation of where the updated airflow path will be. The media system features Spotify and internet radio services facilitated through the built-in internet connectivity system, in addition to standard FM and digital radio services. Navigation is also top notch as it’s handled through a native Google Maps interface, meaning you have support for Eircodes, in addition to an overview of Tesla Surcharging and ESB public charging stations.
Of course, a defining attribute of Tesla technology is Autopilot. Autopilot is Tesla’s proprietary driver assist system which currently supports fully automated driving in a variety of motorway and city based scenarios, provided the driver maintains full attention of the road ahead. Our review Model 3 is also equipped with Tesla’s Full Self Driving upgrade which, in addition to providing fully automatic parking and remote driving functions through the companion smartphone application, also enables the car to receive regular software updates that continually add to and improve the autonomous driving functions until which point that the car will be able to completely drive itself in almost every scenario.
Based on our testing, this fully autonomous future still seems about a year or two away, but the existing Autopilot features are definitely very impressive and leave the competition far behind both in terms of usability and robustness, especially with Irish roads and weather conditions.
Well we couldn’t review a Performance Model 3 without talking about its key selling point right? Firstly, the stats: 500hp, 650nm of torque, all wheel drive, 0-100km/h in 3.4 seconds, top speed: 261km/h. Those are supercar numbers…literally. But who cares about numbers, what’s it actually like to drive? Well all I can say is, when you put your foot down for the first time, be sure to have a spare pair of pants in the backseat because Christ, this thing goes like a rocket!
The dual motor system, coupled with the instant torque of the electric motors, means that the car can instantly adjust torque to each of the 4 wheels with a degree of response that just cannot be matched by an internal combustion engine vehicle. The result is a car that glues itself to the road with an uncanny amount of grip and more importantly, means that a total amateur driver like me can screech around in a 500hp monster without so much as breaking a sweat.
Another thing you’ll note about the performance is just how instantly available all this power is. It doesn’t matter what speed you’re going, every time you put your foot on the accelerator, your head gets slammed back into the seat. There is no waiting around for the transmission to shift down a gear, no waiting for turbos to spool up, it’s just instant, no lag. Zip, zilch, zero. Just pure fun. But the fun doesn’t stop there.
A special mode called “Track Mode” enables you to take full control of the driving dynamics, letting you switch from a 50-50 power distribution, to a 100% rear wheel or 100% front wheel drive setup – a first for any production vehicle. Tesla even has pre-made modes like drift mode, which turns off the stability assist and traction control systems, while diverting 100% of the power to the real wheels to give you one hell of a driving experience. And what’s more, it’s pure fun with zero emissions. So smiles all round.
Since the Model 3 was released, it has received several free software updates that have increased its overall power output by 10%. For many early adopters, this meant that their car got significantly faster over time!
Range, Battery & Charging
When it comes to range, the Model 3 performance has a WLTP rated range of 530km. Unfortunately, the reality is quite a bit different – 30% different in fact. The truth is, that if you drive this car the way you want, sport mode on, the odd burst of mad acceleration and the climate control set just so, then you’re going to get closer to 350km rather than 530. And while this may seem like quite a significant dip in range, the fact is that even with 350km, you can still comfortably drive from one side of the country to the other on a single charge and even then, how often are you gonna be doing that? Most of us just drive to and from work every day, so a circumstance where you’re ever going to be pushing the limits of the range will be few and far between.
The next part of the equation is charging. Unlike every other electric car on the market, Teslas have one big advantage – Superchargers. Superchargers are a global network of chargers built and operated by Tesla specifically for use by Tesla vehicles. They’re also some of the fastest chargers in the world, with the latest Supercharging stations rolling out in Ireland this year, offering power outputs of up to 250kW. To put this into perspective, the fast chargers currently provided by the ESB have a maximum power output of 50kW, so yes, we’re talking 5 times the power. What does all that extra power get you? 0%-80% in 15 minutes, that’s what. The only other electric car that can charge that fast is the Porsche Taycan and you could have 4 Performance Model 3s for the price of one of those.
As tested, our €75,000 review model is certainly not going to be for everyone, but for those who can afford it, it practically sells itself. Great styling, cheap running costs, amazing technology & mind boggling performance all in a spacious, 5 seater package with more storage space than most modern crossovers. Is it the car for you? If you can spare the cash and don’t mind the minimalist interior, you’d be hard pushed to find anything better.
Thanks to Richard Taylor from M3PRT for this review.