The Model 3’s range, charging capability and performance mean this groundbreaking electric vehicle can still compete with competitors such as the BMW i4 and Polestar 2
The Tesla Model 3 features a function that allows you to emit a loud cushion noise on any seat inside the car – or outside via the car’s external speaker.
It also lets you transform your onscreen car into a model of Santa’s sleigh and play the bell sounds when you signal it.
And when you’re parked and charging, it lets you play a variety of old-school arcade games on its 15.4-inch touchscreen.
It’s all very entertaining, and my kids thought being able to blow wind noise at pedestrians was funny, but it’s also not one of the things a car succeeds or fails at.
Performance and Range of Tesla Model 3
Besides in-car tricks and Pie-in-the-sky tech promises, Tesla’s main strengths have always been power, speed, range and battery setup, and the Model 3 is no exception.
The entry-level two-wheel drive vehicles offer 242 horsepower and a range of 305 miles. Our long-range test car bumped it big to an all-wheel-drive setup with 346 horsepower, a 0-60 mph time of 4.2 seconds and an official range of 374 miles.
Deep in the cold, the car suggested a more realistic 270 miles and even with the fans blowing out and the seats heated up all the time, I was about to make it happen. The 3.5 mph/kWh average plus a large 82kWh battery is great news for longer distance use, especially when you have access to a 250kWh supercharger that can carry an additional 200 miles of range in 15 minutes. Just.
The vehicle’s confidence is further enhanced by excellent range prediction and energy tracking that integrate seamlessly with the navigation system.
The drive also mostly delivers on the Model 3. Acceleration is simple but easy to overtake, the ability to make smooth, silent progression with instant power and the intuitive one-pedal driving function that explains why most electric vehicle drivers swear they’ll never get back on the ice.
Handling is also a step ahead of its flagship predecessors, with quick steering and good grip but not much in the way of feedback, and the BMW i4 has the Model 3 for driving pleasure.
The biggest problem is riding the Model 3, which is acceptable at higher speeds but deals with the shaky tension of an old Supermini around town.
Design-wise, the Model 3 also struggles. The minimalist approach to the design means that from some angles it looks elegant, slippery and futuristic, and from other angles it looks like a mashed frog.
The interior carries the design philosophy, less is more, with virtually no controls. Only the steering wheel, pedals and indicator stem remain, with everything else controlled – from seat adjustment to windshield wipers via the central touchscreen.
On the upside, that means the cabin is a bright, uncluttered environment with a low-hanging dashboard and simple center console interrupted only by a wireless phone charging pocket.
On the downside, it means you rely on the center display for everything, including the speedometer – mounted in a small corner – and control functions like lights (which, by the way, are the worst in any new car I drive). The screen is clear and responsive but fiddling with the menus isn’t simply as intuitive or safe as having physical keys and having to look through the car to check your speed is distracting. The Ford Mustang Mach-e, with its slim digital instrument panel and head-up display, is a much better solution.
Technology aside, the Model 3’s cabin is a step forward from the S and X, with better materials and a more solid build. However, it still feels far from the i4 or Polestar 2’s premium levels. Space is good for four, though the sloping glass roof steals some rear headroom, and front and rear boots offer plenty of room for luggage.
There’s no room here for a full exploration of the Model 3’s autopilot. Suffice to say, it works like any other highway assistance system. Which means it’s often a good idea to keep a distance or follow lane signs but panic at the first sign of complications and deactivate without warning. Like all of them, he can’t be trusted, especially considering the number of “blocked or blinded cameras” warnings I’ve encountered over the course of five days.
So, like the noisy cushion seats and Missile Command on the touchscreen, it’s a gimmick that distracts from the Model 3’s qualities as much as it does to improve them. Because under the stale trinkets, the Model 3 is Tesla’s best car to date and one of the best mid-size electric cars for sale.
It’s fast and powerful with an almost unparalleled range and a powerful and exclusive network of ultra-fast chargers. If you can count on the touchscreen, some sub-par materials and an uninterrupted driving experience, there’s a lot to recommend it.
price: £49,990 (£55,490 depending on testing); engine: Dual synchronous motors battery: 82 kWh Energy: 346 hp torque: 376 lb-ft; Transmission: single speed, four-wheel drive; maximum speed: 145 mph 0 to 62 mph: 4.2 seconds WLTP domain: 374 miles consumption: 3.88 miles/kWh; Shipping: Up to 250 kW
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