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In-depth reviews

Tesla Model 3 review - Electric motor, drive & performance

The Tesla Model 3 is capable of outrunning most other cars, but lacks feedback

Carbuyer Rating

4.4 out of 5

Owners Rating

1.0 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Electric motor, drive & performance Rating

5.0 out of 5

We’ve now tested the facelifted Model 3 Standard Range and Performance on British roads. Faster versions continue to offer Teslas’ now-legendary ability to push you back into your seat with a flex of your right foot. This isn't just the Model 3's party piece, it also makes for relaxed progress with the knowledge you can easily overtake slower traffic when necessary.

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With large 18-inch (or optional 19- and 20-inch) wheels fitted, the Model 3's ride is definitely on the firm side, but it's also not ruinously uncomfortable on either motorways or back roads, with a more forgiving ride than the Polestar 2.

There’s plentiful grip, so the Model 3 is certainly a car you can trust in corners, but sadly, there’s little steering feedback to savour, even in Sport mode which adds some weight to the steering. If you spend a lot of time on A and B roads, the BMW i4 offers a bit more sensation from behind the wheel.

Pre-facelift Performance cars were plenty quick enough, but this time Tesla has put more emphasis on driving feel and chassis setup, adding adaptive dampers, thicker anti-roll bars and larger brakes. We prefer the steering feel on the Model 3 Performance compared to lesser versions because it’s a little weightier and more consistent. There’s a new ‘Track’ mode on the Model 3 Performance, which drastically changes how the car puts power down – for example you can now adjust how much power goes to the rear wheels, how much stability control there is and the level of regenerative braking. That last parameter is hardly a first for an EV, but it is for a Tesla. 

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Thanks to these additions, Tesla has managed to make the Model 3 Performance more engaging and exciting than ever before, but unfortunately it still doesn’t quite match the BMW M3 in this area. The Model 3 doesn’t inspire as much confidence as the BMW, and the braking force is hard to modulate – we found the switch between regenerative and mechanical braking hard to predict, while many other EV manufacturers have managed to make this transition much smoother.

0-62mph and top speed

Thanks to their instant torque and a single forward gear, every Tesla Model 3 is fast off the mark. Even the entry-level base Model 3 with rear-wheel drive can sprint from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds, making it as quick off the line as a BMW 330e. In real-world driving, the entry-level model offers substantial amounts of acceleration on demand, making easy work of overtaking and getting up to speed on motorways. Because it's around 200kg lighter than dual motor versions, the entry-level Model 3 also feels quite agile, making the most of its low centre of gravity. 

However, the real fun begins with the dual-motor Long Range model because it has an electric motor over both axles for truly gobsmacking acceleration. It spears from 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds and its ability to tear away from the line makes it feel even faster.

The facelifted Model 3 Performance can get from zero to 60mph in 2.9 seconds – though that’s with a rollout time subtracted, so in reality from a standstill we’d expect 0-62mph to take around three-and-a-bit seconds. That’s humbling not just everything in the executive class, but most sports cars, too.

Of course, you don't necessarily have to do all of the driving. In the UK, the Model 3 comes with Autopilot as standard, with adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping. You still have to rest a hand on the steering wheel, but the Model 3 will accelerate, brake and steer while monitoring the vehicles around you so long as the road is clearly marked. Indicate left or right and Autopilot will also judge if it's safe to change lanes and complete the manoeuvre for you. It's regularly improved thanks to wireless internet updates.

Model 

Power

0-62mph

Top speed

Standard Range

242bhp

5.8s

125mph

Long Range

346bhp

4.2s

125mph

Performance453bhp2.9s (with rollout)163mph
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Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

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