New Tesla Model 3 Long Range 2021 review
Updates for 2021 make the all-electric Tesla Model 3 better than ever
Our former Car of the Year is still a winner with small improvements making it all the more impressive. The minor cosmetic tweaks have given it a sportier look outside and a more premium feel inside, while the continual software upgrades keep edging Tesla further ahead of its rivals on the tech front. With more pricey EVs turning up, it’s looking like decent value, too.
Tesla is the master of the update. Owners will frequently find that their car has a handy new functionality thanks to free over-the-air software updates, but for the 2021 model year Model 3, the company has gone a bit further with some cosmetic tweaks, too.
It’s nearly two years since the Model 3 was named Auto Express Car of the Year, and all the good stuff that still makes it one of our favourite electric cars still stands. But for 2021, it’s out with shiny chrome on the outside, and in with cool satin black trim.
The brightwork that used to surround the windows and mirrors is now satin black, as are the door handles and side repeaters – little things that, to our eyes, give the model 3 a sportier look.
Inside the minimalist look and spacious interior remain, but piano black surfaces have been replaced by matte black trim, the centre console now gets a big storage box with a sliding lid, the steering wheel buttons are now metallic and there are two microsuede-trimmed wireless charging bays for your smartphone and someone else’s.
If you want to charge the old-fashioned way with a wire, there are a couple of additional high-power USB-C ports, plus a USB-C socket in the glove compartment to plug a memory stick into so you can record footage from the car’s many cameras.
Car group tests
- BMW i4 vs Polestar 2 vs Tesla Model 3: 2022 group test review
- Ford Mustang Mach-E vs Tesla Model 3
- Polestar 2 vs Tesla Model 3
- Tesla Model 3 vs BMW 3 Series: electric vs diesel showdown
Equally important at this time of year is the addition of a heat pump – as has been installed in the Model Y to rave reviews from owners - that improves cabin heat up times and is more efficient. Finally, the electric boot door can now be opened from a button on the outside to reveal the big 542-litre boot.
Of course, existing owners need not be too downhearted as recent software updates will have tweaked the driving display on the 15-inch touchscreen so the driver can see more of the environment around the car. It proves that the Tesla is all seeing: it not only spots other vehicles around the car (including the size and type) but will also spot and display road signs and traffic lights – and even show you the colour. It’ll spot and show traffic cones, too.
The Tesla experience has always been about much more than just the drive, but that remains pretty special. The updated Long Range car that we’re driving, with its 75kWh battery pack, will get from 0-60mph in ‘just’ 4.2 seconds – 1.1 seconds slower than the Performance version. However, the pay off is range – hence the name. Our car will go for a claimed 360 miles on one charge – a claim that we didn’t feel was too unreasonable.
That performance, of course, is available at pretty much any legal speed with just a twitch of your right foot. It’s addictive, not least for the reaction you’ll get from unsuspecting passengers when they’re pinned back into their seats.
You can use standard or select chill mode if you want to go further with slightly less fun, but like the other modes you can play with (steering, for example), it’s best left in the standard setting.
That steering has plenty of heft if not much feel, while the Dual Motor four-wheel drive system ensures plenty of grip and stability so you can make the most of all the torque. It also lets you carry a fair amount of speed through corners, then slingshot out the other side.
You do feel as though the weight of the batteries is helping to pull you down into the road, which isn’t a bad thing – it’s just a slightly different sensation to driving an internal combustion engine car with similar performance.
Although this isn’t the Performance model, the ride is still firm – especially on the bigger (and a £1,450 option) 19-inch wheels. It’s not quite as unforgiving as Tesla’s new rival, the Polestar 2, but there’s no denying you’ll be jiggled about more than you would do in a BMW 3 Series – although that’s only available as a plug-in hybrid, not a full EV.
And being a full EV brings all sorts of running cost advantages to Model 3 ownership – both in terms of charging versus fuel costs, and in terms of various car-related taxes. Then there’s the advantage of Tesla’s bespoke Supercharger network – still a real boon, especially for anyone who’s ever had to battle with the UK’s public charging network.
|Model:||Tesla Model 3 Long Range|
|Engine:||Two electric motors, 75kWh battery|
|Transmission:||Single-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|