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In-depth reviews

Tesla Model 3 - Electric motor, drive and performance

The Tesla Model 3 is spectacularly fast and now even more refined. It’s just not particularly fun to drive

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Electric motor, drive and performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£39,990 to £59,990
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Tesla has built a reputation for making cars that accelerate quicker than just about anything else on the road, and the Model 3 does exactly that, with even the entry-level, rear-drive version taking less than six seconds to hit 60mph.

Ride and handling for the standard rear-wheel drive and Long Range models aren’t quite up to the same awe-inspiring standards as the straight-line acceleration, but are still very impressive. The Model 3’s steering is quick and somewhat hyperactive compared to rivals, and doesn’t give any feedback. There’s plenty of grip, though, and body control is tight, so the Model 3 can maintain a great cross-country pace. The suspension feels firm with a little bit of patter at low speeds, but it still provides better damping than the BYD SealHyundai Ioniq 6, and Polestar 2, and the Model 3 manages to deal well with larger lumps and bumps.

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Tesla has worked hard to improve refinement in the Model 3 as part of the car’s mid-life facelift, adding 360-degree acoustic glass, improved suspension bushes, seals and various other sound-dampening materials. The brand claims it’s achieved a 30 per cent reduction in wind noise compared with the previous version, and it’s certainly helped to make the Model 3 one of the quietest cars in its class, with only the bassy rumble of tyre noise at motorway speeds holding it back against the likes of the highly refined BMW i4

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Elsewhere, the Model 3’s brakes are powerful, but the pedal is short on feedback. When we tested it against five of its main company car rivals, our testers would have liked more adjustability in the level of brake energy regeneration, as you’ll find on the Ioniq 6, because you only get one setting, and it’s very strong. The Model 3 does have a very precise accelerator pedal, which enables you to drive with chauffeur-like smoothness at low speeds. 

Overall, the Model 3 is a very competent steer – it just doesn't match the BMW 3 Series or fully-electric i4 for ride and handling. The only version that gets close to offering similar driving fun as those rivals is the Performance model. With all its tweaks underneath and the opportunity to alter various parameters in its Track mode, from the power split between the front and rear axles, and the ability to pick from one of three levels for the stability control system, you have the confidence to exploit the car’s talents in the bends, rather than as just utilise it as a straight-line speed machine. It still needs more powerful brakes, and a bit more steering feedback wouldn’t go amiss, but it’s a massive improvement on what has gone before.

0-62mph acceleration and top speed 

The entry-level Rear-Wheel Drive Model 3 manages 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds and will go on to a top speed of 140mph thanks to a single electric motor that produces 242bhp. The Model 3 Long Range adds a second electric motor on the front axle for all-wheel drive and a combined power output of 346bhp. 0-60mph in the Model 3 Long Range takes 4.2 seconds, while the top speed stands at 145mph.

We’re yet to try the upcoming Model 3 Performance, but we’ll update this section as soon as we have. It’ll have a dual-motor set-up, with Tesla claiming that the new drive unit will provide over 460bhp to give it a blistering 0-62mph time of 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 163mph.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    RWD 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £39,990

Most Economical

  • Name
    RWD 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £39,990

Fastest

  • Name
    Performance AWD 4dr Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Auto
  • Price
    £59,990
News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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