Why The Tesla Model 3 Performance May Be The Best Car In The World
Aug 13,2022 | Chloe Lacour
Do you know many of them, family cars for less than €60,000 capable of leaving a BMW M3 in place while remaining extraordinarily comfortable the rest of the time? Don't let its horribly anonymous style fool you, the Tesla Model 3 Performance (2021) is an exceptional automobile.
For eight years, Elon Musk has had fun selling big electric sedans capable of nailing the best supercars on the planet. Back when many people were still betting on the imminent death of this new automaker defying all market conventions, a heavy and clumsy 2014 Model S P85D was accelerating harder than a Ferrari 458 Italiaof 570 horsepower.
In these times when Tesla was constantly battling bankruptcy and the bosses of the German giants were just beginning to feel an electric tremor (which the infamous Diesel Gate scandal precipitated a few months later), no one – including us – really took notice. seriously this funny American manufacturer with a nebulous strategy. It was enough to negotiate three turns in Model S P85D (later renamed P90D then “Model S Performance”) to find that this heavy queen of the straight line was not worth much in sporty driving.
Today, no one laughs when talking about Tesla. While the first German premium electric models ( Audi e-Tron, Mercedes EQ C, BMW iX3 ) slowly pursue their discreet commercial career, the compact Model 3 sedan launched in 2019 (which impressed us so much on the circuit in its Performance version ) dominates very largely the world electricity market.
Since the beginning of the year, it only costs €43,800 in France to adjust to the ecological bonus - currently at €6,000 - applicable only for vehicles under €45,000. Or €37,800 for a spacious sedan with an engine of nearly 300 horsepower, capable of cutting down the 0 to 100 km / h in 5.6 seconds and provided with plethoric equipment on board as standard. For comparison, the brand new BMW i4 eDrive40, which certainly has larger batteries (WLTP autonomy of 590 km against 448 at Tesla), comes in at € 59,700 in the base price.
The German, therefore, costs only €290 less than the high-end version of the Tesla Model 3 (always called "Performance"), which looks like two drops of water to the Model 3 "Standard Range" first price. Apart from a few details like the 20-inch rims or the mini carbon fiber rear spoiler, there is nothing to distinguish it next to the “nice” basic version. Both remain terribly boring and uninteresting to contemplate from the outside. Especially since we come across them on every street corner.
On the left, the Model 3 Performance at €59,990. On the right, the Model 3 Standard Range at €43,800. Good luck trying to tell them apart.
An unlikely usurper
Have you seen the movie Rushin Ron Howard's cinema, with the scene where Niki Lauda peacefully drives his future wife down a small road in Italy in a Lancia sedan, revealing nothing of his driving skills to her? Well, Tesla's Model 3 Performance behaves a bit the same.
On board, there is no difference compared to the Model 3 Standard Range. We find this minimalist dashboard with a single and gigantic touch screen in the center, as well as a small steering wheel with a thick rim and a gigantic windshield that gives a bird's eye view of the front bonnet.
The 2021 vintage of the Model 3 benefits from small adjustments in terms of finish and overall, there is nothing particularly to criticize even if the German premium retains the advantage in this area. Unlike these, Tesla limits customization and options to a minimum to reduce production costs.
Whatever the version, you only have the choice between five exterior colors, two interior colors, and the advanced functionalities of the basic Autopilot (provided as standard). Note that the selection of these options skips the ecological bonus -2000€ in the case of the Model 3 Performance- by increasing the price of the car above the maximum ceiling provided.
More spacious than a BMW 3 Series or an Audi A4, the Tesla manages to be strangely comfortable despite the total absence of controlled damping even as an option. With such a quiet, smooth, and powerful powertrain, you drive with your right foot.
Autopilot Activated, his favorite music on Spotify, guided by Google navigation, in a universe of breathtaking tranquility. We only notice the autonomy which drops below 400 kilometers once stalled at 130 km / h on the highway (fortunately, there are a lot of Superchargers). But in terms of pure driving comfort, there really isn't much to envy about the best premium German cars. Powertrain amenity far outclasses their best gasoline and diesel blocks in everyday life.
Inside, no difference from the basic Model 3. But the ambient minimalism has its charm, the standard equipment is plethoric and the comfort is surprising.
To understand the full extent of the powers of this Model 3 Performance (and what really differentiates it from the entry-level Model 3), it is not enough to activate the “Sport” mode which improves the capabilities of acceleration to an already generous level. No, you have to stop, put the parking mode then select the "Track" mode after a warning message whose content gives you the impression of removing the safety catch of a weapon.
Aware that these very powerful electric sedans give access to unprecedented performance for customers not necessarily accustomed to such a degree of efficiency, Tesla strongly advises reserving this mode for the circuit. However, since the 2021 evolution of the Tesla software, there is everything to assist the most clumsy drivers: by default, Track mode retains ESP and a power distribution close to 50/50 between the two axles (as a reminder, the car has a 215 horsepower engine on the front axle and another 298 horsepower on the rear axle).
On the road, the Tesla Model 3 Performance remains almost as smooth as the normal model
Once this Track mode is activated, the large screen changes its menus, and loud ventilation noises are heard in the passenger compartment: the Tesla is putting itself in the best possible conditions to deliver maximum performance, in particular by preparing its batteries for the total attack. The 0 to 100 km/h is then dispatched in 3.3 seconds, the time of an AMG GT 63 S of 639 horsepower. Like every supercharged Tesla for nearly a decade, passengers start screaming as soon as you hit the accelerator hard.
But as we had already seen two years ago on the circuit, this Model 3 Performance benefits from a very different dynamic behavior from that of the previous advanced Model S. It drives very hard in a straight line, yes, but above all, it displays demonic dynamism as soon as you turn the steering wheel. When entering a bend, the transmission with an electronic “torque vectoring” function engages the rear axle to position the car as well as possible. Mid-turn, a simple little foot lift allows it to pivot more and when exiting a curve, impeccable traction allows you to slam on the accelerator as soon as possible.
You're not dreaming, it's a sliding Tesla that you see there (we'll tell you about it a little further down)
That's not all: since the last technical update, the Track mode allows manual modification of the degree of intervention of the ESP and the distribution of power via ten positions (a bit like on certain racing machines). Want to transform your Tesla into wild propulsion? ESP at zero and rear axle at 100% power, the electronics "emulate" the behavior of a real two-wheel drive. The rear axle then becomes much more mobile when cornering (via more aggressive programming of the "torque vectoring" effect) and, provided you have the necessary skill at the steering wheel and the accelerator, you can then smoke the rear tires to the next straight line with a gangster BMW M3 (see below).
Conversely, the passage of power to 100% on the front axle - not very interesting - limits the mobility of the car as much as possible and strongly penalizes its agility. The perfect balance between mobility, stability, and traction seems to be around 20-80 front-to-rear, with a machine that you never tire of whipping along a beautiful backcountry road.
This "false" distribution of power - it seems technically impossible to send 100% of the total maximum power to the front or to the rear - will confuse the accustomed to ultra-sporty German sedans equipped with a good old transmission with classic differentials. In extreme driving, you also constantly hear the small applications of the brakes decided by the electronics (including once but after six round trips of one of my favorite roads, I still don't feel like quitting.
There is really everything to have fun with: enough acceleration to beat a BMW M3 or a Mercedes-AMG C63, agility that can tend towards total fun on demand, and behavior that is very easy to read, whatever the setting is chosen in Track mode. The movements of the body, quite generous, also make it possible to precisely gauge the limits of grip and to feel what is happening in the four corners of the car. The front axle bites solidly and thanks to the balance of the chassis and the work of the transmission, it fights effectively against understeer. Enough to make you want to ride again and again until you look at the battery gauge: a few hundred kilometers swallowed at full speed in Track mode are enough to empty it.
Fortunately, just under seven hours on an 11 kW terminal is enough to fully recharge the batteries (charged here for just under €10 in Marseille)
In terms of pure performance, efficiency, and dynamic rigor, the Audi RS e-Tron GT and the extreme versions of the Porsche Taycan retain a head start among electrics. But we are talking about machines that are almost triple this family with such peaceful tunes!
Take an ultra-sporty sedan with similar performance: the latest 510 horsepower BMW M3 Competition. €101,999 without options and €30,000 ecological penalty. A 450-horsepower Audi RS 4 Avant ? €98,410 minimum, not counting the €30,000 penalty. A 510 horsepower Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio ? €89,700 and a €30,000 penalty.
Whatever your degree of fanaticism towards these talented oil-powered sportswomen, the balance sheet really hurts next to a well-equipped Tesla that costs €57,990 once its bonus has been deducted. By judging the Model 3 Performance just on its extraordinary versatility and its appetite for sporty driving, this car already has enough to make the most fundamentalist owners of big cars doubt.
Adding the price into the equation, one wonders if it is not simply the best car on the current market with such a ratio between new value, performance, and the rest of the benefits. Totally disoriented by this strange experience, we scratch our heads thinking about what the future Model S Plaid could give, it 1020 horsepower, and its 0 to 100 km / h shipped faster.