Tesla Model 3 Long Range saloon review
We've driven the Tesla Model 3 Long Range model to see if it's worthy of the hype
The Tesla Model 3 Long Range is currently the smallest and second most affordable car from the American electric car manufacturer. Only the Standard Range Plus version of the Model 3 is cheaper (starting from £38,500), with the Long Range model sitting in the middle of the lineup thanks to a price of £47,000.
That’s still a sizable amount of money, putting the Model 3 Long Range up against desirable European models like the BMW M340i xDrive and Audi S5 Sportback. The range-topping Performance version of the Model 3 will appeal to keen drivers and starts at £52,000.
Along with acceleration times, electric range differs for all three - as suggested by their names - with the entry version managing up to 254 miles on a single charge. The Long Range we're testing here is capable of an impressive 348 miles, while the Performance trades a small amount of range for speed, and can travel for up to 329 miles. Despite its billing, the Long Range trim is hardly slow, either, with dual motors and four-wheel drive traction getting it from 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds.
It certainly looks like a Tesla, sharing design cues with the larger Model S, but gaining its own specific proportions. Thanks to its skateboard platform - Tesla's battery packs and powertrain form a low foundation that the body sits on - designers have been playful with its packaging. The bonnet and boot are both very short, maximising interior space without making the Model 3 a long car, and giving it comparable legroom to a model in the next class up. There's decent kneeroom in the back and plentiful headroom, but oddly room for your feet is somewhat tight.
The interior has plenty of wow factor, too, especially if you make the brave choice to go for the white seats and interior accents of our test car. It's also exceptionally minimalist, with no buttons, vents or secondary screens. Instead, there's just a pin-sharp 15-inch central display and a steering wheel with a couple of buttons and stalks sitting behind it. Ventilation comes through a small slot running the length of the dashboard, and even phone storage is hidden behind piano black panels on the centre console. Virtually everything is controlled via the touchscreen and voice controls. Your smartphone becomes the key (along with a credit card-style backup like a hotel key card) and the right column stalk selects drive and reverse.
Once engaged, you won't be able to resist squeezing the accelerator pedal to feel the intoxicating acceleration on offer. Conversely, it can take a while to get used to reversing smoothly, but putting the Model 3 in its 'Chill' driving mode makes things smoother. With 362bhp on tap instantly, acceleration from a standing start leaves more expensive machinery trailing, and isn't any less impressive at A road speeds.
All this performance is also served up in near silence, with just a faint whine from the electric motors at the front and rear of the car. It's more noticeable than in the more expensive (and presumably better insulated) Model S, and our car also had some wind noise coming from around the door mirrors. Aside from this, and some tyre noise at higher speeds, the Model 3 is a very quiet car, making the 14-speaker sound system all the more enjoyable.
We were concerned the Model 3's ride comfort could be an issue in the UK, but while firm, it's no deal-breaker. So long as you don't mind a sporty setup, the Model 3's suspension does just enough to take the edge off bumps. The extra weight of the 75kWh battery pack means the Model 3 doesn't dive into corners quite as keenly as a BMW 3 Series but a low centre of gravity means there's little body lean and grip is plentiful.
The boot opening is a bit tight, because despite appearances the Model 3 is a saloon rather than a hatchback. However, it's a deep and fairly spacious cargo area, which combines with under-bonnet 'frunk' space to offer up to 425 litres of space.
On the move, the central screen works well, but it's a bit odd Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't available; Tesla clearly feels its own software covers all bases. Every Model 3 comes with 'Autopilot', engaged by clicking the right stalk down twice. In reality this is simply an advanced form of adaptive cruise control and active lane-keeping control, using sensors to monitor the car's surroundings in real-time. Indicate left or right on the motorway and it will change lanes when a gap is detected.
It's more intuitive than rival systems, and regular (free) over-the-air updates mean every car is kept current with the latest software improvements. Model 3 owners can also access the Tesla Supercharger network, recently voted the best charging infrastructure in the UK, but they'll need to pay for top-ups. A 30 minute top-up to around an 80% charge costs around £14. The Model 3 is also compatible with other CCS charging posts, so you aren't restricted to just one network.
There have been concerns over Tesla build quality in the past but improvements appear to have been made, and our test car felt upmarket, with no squeaks or rattles. The interior's minimal design and the relative simplicity of the electric powertrain should work in Tesla's favour when it comes to future reliability.
The Tesla Model 3 might have the playing field broadly to itself at the moment, but that shouldn't take away from Tesla's success. Its first 'affordable' model might still be pricey for most buyers, but it drives extremely well, looks stylish inside and out, and is full of exciting technology. This, along with its eco-credentials, make it one of the most desirable cars on sale.