by Adam Lynton
Tesla's Model 3 is a testament to hard work, innovation, and perseverance. Despite a rocky start and some production issues, Elon Musk's take on an attainable electric mid-size sedan has become the best-selling luxury car of 2018. For the 2019 model year, the winning recipe has remained virtually unchanged with a few updates to the model lineup and more standard features. With regular software updates, the Model 3 can continually evolve, making it less of a competitor for other electric cars like the Chevrolet Bolt EV and more of a luxury lifestyle statement like a BMW 3 Series or Audi A4. The cheapest option is a rear-wheel-drive Standard Range Plus model with a base price of $39,490 and an output of 258 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. The two more expensive dual-electric-motor all-wheel-drive options add more to the asking price and top out at $56,990 for the 450 hp and 472 lb-ft Performance variant.
For 2019, the model structure is defined by three available trims: Standard Range Plus, Dual Motor AWD Long Range and Performance. Autopilot, an advanced suite of safety and semi-autonomous tech features, is now standard on all Model 3s, with the Performance model getting last year's performance package upgrades as standard too - better brakes, lower suspension, bigger wheels, Track mode and a carbon fiber rear spoiler. Aluminum pedals are also included. Thanks to the upgrades, and the discontinuation of a promised-but-never-seen base model, the price has risen slightly on all models, although by less than the optional equipment would have previously added to the bill.
The Model 3's sleek shape and glass roof have become easily recognizable traits of the revolutionary brand, as has the omission of a redundant front grille. LED lighting appears at the front and rear of the car, with aerodynamic 18-inch wheels as standard. Sportier 19s are optional, with Performance models getting 20-inch rims only, as well as a carbon fiber trunk spoiler.
As with all cars weighed down with battery packs, the electric Model 3 has a hefty curb weight, starting at 3,627 lbs for the Standard Range Plus variant, while the all-wheel-drive Long Range and Performance trims weigh 4,072 lbs each, but both have more power too. The sedan's dimensions are not out of the ordinary, as length measures 184.8 inches while the width is 72.8 inches. Height is 56.8 inches and the wheelbase is 113.2 inches.
The standard color choice has changed from a black in the 2018 model, to Pearl White for 2019, with all others costing more. The available options are Solid Black, Midnight Silver Metallic, and Deep Blue, at $1,000 each. A vibrant and rich Red Multi-Coat is also available for $2,000, but we quite like the futuristic look of the white.
The base Standard Range Plus model three features a single three-phase induction electric motor at the front of the car and sends 258 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels. The Long Range model, no longer available with rear-wheel-drive, sends power to all four corners and develops 346 hp and 376 lb-ft through the addition of a rear-mounted three-phase internal permanent-magnetic motor. The top-tier Performance variant uses the same basic setup, but squeezes out a neck-breaking 450 hp and 472 lb-ft. The base variant does the sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.3 seconds and tops out at 140mph, while the mid-range model does 0-60 in 4.4 seconds and maxes out 5mph later than the base. Performance Model 3's improve substantially, dispensing with the benchmark sprint in just 3.2 seconds and hitting a claimed top speed of 162 mph. With such astonishing figures, the Model 3 can comfortably take on sports and supercars that are double, or even three times the price while still maintaining a level of comfort and composure usually reserved for more sedate vehicles.
The Model 3 is available in three configurations, the cheapest of which is rear-wheel-drive, which is powered by a three-phase induction electric motor that develops 258 hp and 317 lb-ft. Despite having less power than its other trim counterparts, the Standard Range Plus still manages to accelerate with vigor. Moving a trim up to the all-wheel-drive Long Range model adds a second electric motor - a rear-mounted three-phase internal permanent-magnetic motor. Altogether, this model produces 346 hp and 376 lb-ft, providing even more rapid acceleration. The fastest model keeps the same motor and drivetrain configuration as the long-range model, but with a much higher output of 450 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. This allows the Model 3 Performance to achieve supercar-rivaling performance - insane figures for a car weighing over 4,000 lbs. All options feature a single-speed direct-drive transmission, negating the need to pause even for a second when accelerating. You don't need to be in the fastest model to get a sense of why electrification makes sense for going fast though. All models accelerate with instantaneous power delivery and no drama, regardless of what speed you're at. The lack of engine noise somehow adds to the occasion, making it feel even less believable that the thing you're in can move so swiftly.
The Model 3 comes standard with aerodynamic 18-inch wheels, which do limit the grip around corners, but optional 19s with better tires remedy this for the rear-wheel-drive base model. Without them, the car still remains well-balanced until you really push the limits, at which point the stability control kicks in. Steering is pleasantly weighted and progressive, although feedback is lacking. Thanks to three variable modes, the responses can be quickened depending on the type of driving required, but all feel natural and connected. In the two higher trims, four-wheel-drive offers even more traction and with instant acceleration, the Model 3 will pull you out of the slowest corners with ease. Thanks to more abundant grip, all-weather capability improves here too, offering a more reassuring drive regardless of the conditions. When it comes to slowing down, the thought of regenerative braking may scare some first-time users, but it is integrated seamlessly and feels like a more prominent type of engine braking that one would experience in a regular car. It works well enough to be used as city braking almost all the time and helps slow the considerable heft of the car at higher speeds too, while the easy-to-modulate and powerful brakes pick up the slack. Despite the impressive handling, the ride is pleasantly supple and comfortable,only ever feeling less than compliant over the most pronounced ripples and cracks.
The all-electric Tesla models use zero gallons of gas per mile, but thanks to complex calculations involving science and stuff, the EPA has figured out what the equivalent gas mileage would be based on heat units. The base model is the most economical, returning 140/124/133 MPGe on the city/highway/combined cycles, thanks to its lower weight. However, this trim is also equipped with a smaller 62 kWh lithium-ion battery and therefore has a lower range of 250 miles. The Long Range and Performance models share a bigger 75 kWh battery and despite their less efficient ratings of 120/112/116MPGe on the EPA cycles, both manage a range of 310 miles per full charge. Tesla's network of 120 kW Superchargers can take a long-range battery from 10-80% in 30 minutes, while the base model will be even quicker. Regular motorway chargers will take a little over an hour, while a 7 kW home charger can fully restore battery capacity in 13 hours.
Minimalism - you ever heard of it? Well, step into the cockpit of the Model 3 and you'll fully understand the term. A tinted glass roof bathes the interior in light, maximizing the roomy feel while the streamlined dash is completely uncluttered with nothing but a horizontally-mounted 15-inch touch display adding to the feeling of zen. No gauges or displays are found behind the two-button steering wheel, with all vehicle functions and information being controlled and displayed on the central screen. Black synthetic leather-clad seats are standard and boast high levels of comfort; contrasting white elements in the cockpit are your only other interior option to more black upholstery. Rear headroom is slightly compromised by the roofline, but it's still spacious even for taller adults. Overall, the simplistic design makes the Model 3's interior feel like that of a futuristic sci-fi spaceship, which we're pretty sure is exactly what they intended.
Thanks to no transmission tunnel, the Tesla Model 3 does not suffer from reduced rear legroom. However, beauty is pain, as evidenced by the gorgeous sloping roofline that unfortunately eats slightly into the rear headroom. That said, it's not uncomfortably excessive. Getting in and out of both the front and rear is simple, and once seated, the soft but supportive seats keep you where you need to be. For the driver, all-round visibility is outstanding, and thanks to 12-way power seating adjustment for both front occupants, finding the perfect driving position is easy, too. That said, some reviewers have noted that the lack of a space between the brake and the dead pedal can be slightly annoying for taller drivers on longer journeys.
The Model 3's base version comes with a "Partial Premium" interior, that features black cloth seating and door trims with soft-touch plastics across the dash. 100% vegan leatherette upholstery and open-pore wood trim across the dash-accented by brushed aluminum-is added to the other two trim variants in the Model 3 lineup. This is designated as Premium, and updates infotainment and other features simultaneously. Black is standard on all models, with a white and black contrasting configuration being the only option on all models at $1,000.
The Model 3 is unique in the segment in terms of storage ability. Thanks to great packaging of the low-mounted motors and batteries, this Tesla features a 2.7 cubic-foot front trunk, or frunk, in addition to the regular rear trunk. The commodious rear trunk opening is surprisingly easy to load items through, and with the seats up, this area will hold 12.3 cubic feet of storage. Fold the rears down and this expands to 40.3 cubes, giving a total storage volume, front and back combined, of 43 cubic feet. With the rear trunk in its maximum stowage configuration, the Model 3 can easily swallow up a 65-inch TV or a full-size mountain bike.
In the cabin, the center console armrest houses a decent storage bin, two more sleekly packaged compartments ahead of the front two cup holders, complementing the door bins that can also hold bottles. In the rear, another pair of cup holders is included.
The Model 3 does without a sunroof and instead utilizes a tinted glass roof for a more roomy feel. A rearview camera is also included, along with keyless entry and start. Thanks to the Autopilot suite of advanced driver assists, the Model 3 can steer, accelerate, and brake for other vehicles and pedestrians while in its own lane. In addition, it will drive automatically when on the freeway, steering for you and even overtaking. Autopark takes care of parallel and perpendicular maneuvers, while Summon can bring the car to you from wherever you parked it. Self-driving tech in the city that can identify traffic lights and stop signs is expected to be available soon too, and a payment of $6,000 will allow your car to be remotely updated when the feature is released. In more normal features, the front seats and steering wheel are heated, with rear heating added to Premium interior packages.
The infotainment system in the Model 3 is not what most people are used to, with a 15-inch horizontal tablet-style touchscreen controlling all the car's functions, not just media and dual-zone climate control. It's available with a Google-derived navigation system and features Bluetooth connectivity, FM and HD Radio. Unfortunately, satellite radio and the usual smartphone integration services fitted to most new cars are not available yet, with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto glaringly omitted. Instead, internet radio is offered along with a browser. Premium interiors also get an upgraded 14-speaker sound system, which can be voice-controlled.
Tesla haters will have been looking fervently for this section of the review, but they will be disappointed by the 2019 Model 3's recall-free run so far this year. There have, however, been numerous manufacturer communications, which buyers may want to research before pulling the trigger. J.D. Power has not yet rated the Model 3 for reliability, but Tesla covers the vehicle with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and an eight-year/100,000-mile battery and powertrain warranty. Long Range models are covered for an additional 20,000 miles.
The NHTSA awarded both the rear-wheel and all-wheel-drive variations of the Model 3 with the maximum five stars, while the IIHS also gave their best possible recommendation of Good for their overall evaluation of the Tesla. Notably, this is one of the few cars on sale that has scored a rating of Good for its headlights and their light dispersion. It is also awarded the title of Top Safety Pick + for 2019 by the IIHS.
Tesla's key safety features are encompassed by its groundbreaking and class-leading Autopilot package, which is now standard on the Model 3. Automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are included with lane-departure warning as well, but the Tesla sets itself apart with its ability to be almost fully-autonomous on the highway. Blind-spot monitoring is also included, but the alert comes via the large touchscreen display rather than an icon in the wing mirror. It's good enough to get your attention easily, but it still makes you look in a counter-intuitive direction. We'd prefer a more traditional approach here. Eight airbags are dotted around the car, including knee, frontal, side and rollover protection.
The Tesla Model 3 is a compelling offering, even if you're not particularly offended by internal combustion engines. Storage and practicality are impressive, offering more space than the BMW 3 Series while still providing performance that would put an M3 to shame. The interior is minimalistic and simple, which looks great in our opinion, but those searching for a bit more flamboyance and fanfare will have to look elsewhere. With an ever-expanding network of chargers and regular updates, the Model 3 is more than just a car. It's a lifestyle change - but a good one, beckoning owners into a way of life where their car does more than just the mundane chore of daily driving. Sure, it could do with more luxury for some, more dramatic styling for others, or perhaps even a bigger choice of customization options when it comes to materials and colors, but this is a car that manages to be revolutionary and different without expecting you to sacrifice the regular conveniences that a "normal" car offers. We like it, a lot.
The Model 3 starts at $39,490 before Tesla's $1,200 destination charge or the state's various rebates and tax break incentives. This nets you a Standard Range Plus 258 hp Model 3, featuring a single motor and rear-wheel-drive. One rung up the ladder is the all-wheel-drive dual-motor Long Range model, with 346 hp and a starting price of $47,990. The Performance model is the top trim level and features even more power with 450 hp and 472 lb-ft at $56,990. Fully equipped with all available options, this trim will cost $65,990 before rebates, taxes, fees and a $100 non-refundable order charge.
The 2019 Model 3 is available in three different variations: Standard Range Plus, Long Range, and Performance. The Standard Range Plus is the only model with rear-wheel-drive and a single motor. This variant features a Partial Premium interior, which comprises of basic cloth upholstery, 12-way heated front seats, four USB ports, auto-dimming heated wing mirrors, and Bluetooth, as well as a 15-inch touchscreen infotainment system and control center. This model has a 62 kWh battery and a range of 250 miles and comes with 258 hp. Moving up to the Long Range model nets you two electric motors, making the Model 3 all-wheel-drive and upping power to 346 hp, while increasing the range to 310 miles. This model benefits from the Premium interior, which features a vegan-friendly leatherette over the seats and various panels, but also adds heating to the rear seats and upgrades the infotainment to a 14-speaker system with navigation, internet streaming, more regular remote updates, and on the exterior, LED fogs. The Performance model uses the same powertrain and has the same range, but makes 450 hp. It also adds performance brakes, a carbon fiber trunk spoiler, lowered suspension, a Track Mode, exclusive 20-inch performance wheels and aluminum pedals.
The options available to the Tesla Model 3 are packaged as part of the available trims and are not available as standalone items. The exceptions are the interior color choice, which can be changed from full black, to black and white for $1,000, and there are various exterior paint colors and wheels. The Standard Range Plus and the Long Range models are fitted as standard with aerodynamic 18-inch wheels but can be upgraded to sportier 19-inch wheels for $1,500. Besides that, one can pre-order the self-driving computer for $6,000, which will integrate traffic and stop sign recognition and response into the Autopilot system along with automatic driving on city streets. This is expected to roll out later this year, but it is worth noting that the nomenclature is slightly misleading, as the system will still require active driver supervision and is therefore not a fully autonomous system yet.
With only three options, it's relatively easy to decide which model to go for, depending on individual needs. For city-dwellers who will rarely take their cars out of state, a long-range model would be overkill. For those that wish to travel more often, the Long Range model makes sense, and perhaps also for those in colder climates, as rear-seat heating is added. For those who intend making use of a track membership or who simply want ultimate power and acceleration, the Performance model is the one to go for. More broadly, the mid-spec Long Range model will appeal to most, offering the greatest charge security and all of the features that one could expect to use on a daily basis. We'd take this, spend the extra money on the self-driving computer, and wait for our Model 3 to continue to evolve into one of the greatest cars of our time.
When a small company offers two vehicles of the same body style, buyers are rightly intrigued as to what the differences are. The Model S is the longest-running offering from Tesla, having been first introduced in 2012. A much more expensive car, the price with options can exceed $100,000. However, it brings with it a much more upmarket interior and supercar-demolishing performance to boot. The Model S also looks better in our opinion, with seemingly more flair added to the design. Range is similar to that of the Model 3, but many of the Model S-only features from earlier models have now trickled down to the cheaper offering we're reviewing here. For outright performance and a more premium look and feel, we'd take the Model S. For everything else, the Model 3 is a more sensible buy.
Thanks to electric motors and all-wheel-drive, the Model 3 is capable of ridiculous acceleration, which naturally places it in contention against the BMW M3 for top compact/midsize performance honors, despite the M3 being discontinued in 2018. However, that is more a by-product of the inherently instantaneous torque provided by electrification than the main event. The Model 3 is not intended to be a performance car, while BMW's M3 is. However, they both share four doors, accelerate hard, and are viewed as premium offerings. The M3 is certainly the less cushy option, and with its rear-wheel propulsion and relatively light weight, the one you can have more fun in at lower speeds. With that being said, the M3 is marketed for a completely different type of buyer, one used to leather interiors and big wheels with strikingly aggressive bodywork. The Model 3 is a different kettle of fish altogether, and appeals to new-age early embracers of contemporary technology. If regular racing and absolute driver involvement are your passion, get the M3. For much less money and a more unique approach to commuting with more advanced driver aids to reduce traffic-induced stress, the Model 3 is a better buy.