TESLA MODEL 3 PERFORMANCE
There’s more to Elon Musk’s model for the masses than meets the eye
SLIDING INTO the driver’s seat of Tesla’s Model 3 is initially a little startling. It’s like coming home to find your sleek Scandinavianinspired apartment has been burgled, and all that’s been left by the thieving bastards is your ipad.
So my first question is: do you still call an instrument panel by that name if there are no instruments involved? ‘Minimalist’ doesn’t even begin to describe it. Anyway, get familiar with that 15.0-inch tablet, because everything – from adjusting the height and reach of the wheel, even opening the boot and frunk – are controlled from here. There’s no head-up display, so you’ll need to glance sideways at the tablet to monitor your speed. Ergonomically optimised? I’m not so sure.
Good thing it drives well. We sampled the top-spec Performance model, with a 188kw motor on the rear axle, a 147kw unit up front, and a 75kw/h battery providing a real-world range in excess of 430km. At $92,000, it undercuts the likes of the Mercedes-amg C43 ($108K) and Audi’s tasty S4 ($99K), but smokes both of them with claimed 0-100km/h acceleration of 3.4 seconds, along with an ample 260km/h top speed. All of which it manages with just one gear.
Throttle tip-in at low speed is perfectly judged, but give it a proper squirt and the instantaneous wallop of torque has the 20-inch Michelins clawing at the tarmac and brings the scenery rushing through the screen, with little more than the sound of disturbed air
around the mirrors and faint thrum of rubber on bitumen.
Dynamics? It carries the bulk of its 1900kg mass low, but the chassis still has more roll than you’d ideally like in hard driving – there are no adaptive dampers offered – and given the speed at which you arrive at corners, the brakes cop a huge test. In normal driving, though, with regen operating, the brake pedal will actually see bugger all use.
Steering is super quick at 2.0 turns lock-to-lock, but provides little road feel. Drive the 3 precisely, however, and it rewards with plenty of lateral grip, and loads of traction that just slingshots the car from apex to exit.
Luggage space is generous. The boot is big, the seats split-fold 60/40, and the front trunk will swallow a slab or big duffel bag. But it’s the rear seat that’s something of a concern. The seat base is low, but the floor is high to accommodate the batteries, so adult passengers will find their knees bent at an acute angle.
But all this really only scratches the surface of the Model 3. There’s so much more to this car, including its safety story and self-driving capability. Elon’s next chapter is only just beginning.
Model Tesla Model 3 Performance Motors Asynchronous (f); permanent magnet (r) Battery 75kw/h Max power 335kw Max torque 640Nm @ 0rpm Transmission single-speed reduction gear Weight 1900kg (estimated) 0-100km/h 3.4sec (claimed) Economy 18kw/h/100km (estimated) Price $91,200 On sale Now