Driven: 2019 Tesla Model 3 Performance Is Charged With Appeal

When I was a kid, the thought of a mass-market, all-electric performance car was nigh impossible to comprehend. Growing up, I was surrounded by internal combustion-engined vehicles, with or without forced induction. Car companies worked tirelessly to create performance engines with character and intoxicating exhaust notes.

However, a new age is upon us and it comes in the form of the Tesla Model 3.

Elon Musk famously unveiled the Model 3 back in early 2016 and, before long, the automaker had secured hundreds of thousands of orders for its first affordable EV. In traditional Tesla fashion, deliveries were delayed, and while a couple thousand examples reached the hands of customers in late 2017, it didn’t start hitting U.S. streets en masse until 2018.

Over in Australia, the wait was even longer, as Model 3 deliveries only started in August 2019, a full three-and-a-half years since the car was first presented. Has it been worth the wait?

Competitive pricing and specs

Local pricing starts at $66,000 AUD ($45,388 USD) excluding on-road costs, but we suspect most buyers will hand over more than that. The example we tested was the range-topping Performance that starts at $91,200 AUD ($62,719 USD) and included the available $2,800 ($1,925 USD) Red Multi-Color Paint as well as performance brakes, a carbon fiber spoiler, performance pedals, 20-inch performance wheels, an all-black premium vegan leather interior and the (in)famous Autopilot.

As expected of a premium product, it comes loaded with nice creature comforts. There are 12-way power-adjustable front seats, heated front and rear seats, LED fog lamps, a tinted glass roof with ultraviolet and infrared protection, auto-dimming and heated side mirrors, four USB ports and docking for two smartphones. The available Premium audio system that rocks 14-speakers, a subwoofer and two amplifiers, is also on board. Our test car included the $8,500 ($5845) Full Self-Driving Capability and, thus, had a drive away price of $117,370 AUD ($80,716 USD).

That is by no means cheap, but it does make the Model 3 Performance cheaper than German ICE rivals like the Mercedes-AMG C63 and BMW M3.

Simple but striking

On first impressions, the Model 3 Performance is quite appealing to the eye. Tesla describes it as having a more “friendly” face than the Model S, and that’s certainly the case. In a world where high-performance sedans are often trying to outdo each other with sharp spoilers, angled edge, and massive air intakes, the Model 3 has a far more subdued look.

As for the interior, well, that’s worth discussing in a little more detail. Much has been said about the cabin of the entry-level Tesla, and it certainly splits opinions. Dominating the cockpit experience is a 15-inch touchscreen positioned vertically, in a manner unlike any other car currently on the market. Approximately one-third of the screen is dedicated to showing important driver functions, while the rest operates the satellite navigation, music controls and virtually every other vehicle setting.

Beyond that display, the cabin is free of other screens and virtually any physical buttons. On the steering wheel are two scroll wheels and the only other physical switches are the ones for the electric windows. The result is an interior that feels even larger than it really is and, sitting behind the wheel, it’s hard not to notice the sense of relaxation that washes over you thanks to the simple design. This feeling of space and airiness is aided by the two glass roof panels.

Our test car featured the vegan leather seats which, despite not having the scent of real leather, were remarkably soft to the touch and extremely comfortable. The near-infinite levels of seat and steering wheel adjustment also make it a breeze to find the perfect driving position no matter your size.

There are some issues, though. My first criticism relates to the gloss black plastic center console that houses a host of storage cubbies and a pair of drink holders. Not only is the plastic a fingerprint magnet, it also feels cheap and not befitting a premium saloon. In addition, the wooden veneer on the dashboard feels like another cost-cutting measure on Tesla’s part, as, once again, it doesn’t feel as premium as some of its rivals. Systems including a head-up display, Blind Spot Monitoring, ventilated/cooled seats, and standard Qi wireless charging, which one might have expected given the price tag, are also absent.

Also Read: Tesla Model 3 Performance Devours The Nurburgring, Takes Over Car After Car

In any case, it’s the aforementioned touchscreen dominates the experience. It is easily the best system I’ve ever experienced so far and works seamlessly with your phone over Bluetooth despite not featuring Android Auto or Apple CarPlay and the navigation system, which uses Google Maps, is very easy to use. Again, way ahead of the competition and their generally-useless proprietary navigation software. Operating the HVAC through the touchscreen is also a nice party trick.

Then comes the Premium audio system. Tesla has always been rather secretive about it but it is claimed it was created by former Bang & Olufsen employees. The results are phenomenal: no matter how loud you have the speakers, there is absolutely no distortion and the sound delivered really has to be heard to be believed. However, there was a 30-minute period when I was driving the Model 3 Performance that the speakers started to make random popping noises and, for a split second, certain speakers cut out entirely. Everything worked seamlessly again when I charged the car overnight and drove it the next day.

Trick tech to satisfy your inner geek

The Model 3 Performance uses a 75 kWh battery pack paired to two electric motors (one at the front axle, one at the rear) to deliver 450 HP and 640 Nm (472 lb-ft) of torque. This results in immense acceleration. Tesla quotes a 0-100 km/h (62 mph) time of about 3.4 seconds and the car feels every bit as quick as that figure suggests. It’s like a rollercoaster taking off and drops the jaws of anyone riding as a passenger.

Don’t, for one second, think that it’s merely a straight-line warrior, though, as it’s also very capable through corners. Thanks to the car’s use of all-wheel drive and dual electric motors, it is able to shuffle power between the wheels accordingly. Go around a right-hand corner, for example, and you can feel the outside wheels pulling you into the apex. The car usually feels settled, thanks in part to the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires measuring 235/35 at all four corners, but if you push it too hard, it can get unsettled, just like any other performance car – but you really have to try. Wet roads? Not a worry as the Tesla seems to stick to the pavement just as well in the rain as it does on a nice sunny day.

One may expect a car like this to be devoid of any steering or braking feel. That’s not the case, as you get a good sense of where the wheels are through the steering wheel, and braking is also smooth and consistent.

Should you be in the mood for some fast-paced driving, you can switch on the Model 3 Performance’s ‘Track Mode.’ The system adjusts how it sends torque to the wheels depending on cornering, shuts off the traction control system and also uses the brakes to mimic a limited-slip differential. The car’s brake regeneration feature is also amped up, meaning you rarely have to use the mechanical brakes to actually slow the car down for a corner. In regular driving, there are ‘Standard’ and ‘Low’ modes for the regenerative braking, with the former allowing for one-pedal driving in most scenarios. I preferred ‘Low’, however, as it better replicated the feeling of traditional engine braking.

Speaking of modes, the powertrain can be driven in ‘Chill’ and ‘Standard’ modes. If you want to go fast, select ‘Standard’. If you want a less responsive throttle, ‘Chill’. Go figure. The steering also offers ‘Comfort’, ‘Standard’ and ‘Sport’ modes. Standard is a nice middle-ground and ideal for everyday driving.

Good semi-autonomous technology, but is it worth the hype?

Then we come to Autopilot. We all know what that is, is so I’ll skip over the basics. How does it work in the real world? Quite well, but it did display erroneous behavior. On most well-marked highways, it does the job as advertised and feels on par with similar radar cruise control systems and steering-assist technologies from other carmakers. However, on one 40-minute highway stint, I had it bizarrely cut out on me roughly seven times. If I was driving alongside another vehicle, for example, the system would sometimes abruptly cut out and I’d be forced to take over control.

Where Autopilot really shines is on marked suburban roads where other systems wouldn’t have a hope. One tap down on the right stalk to enable cruise control and a further two taps down and it is enabled. The various cameras and radars monitor everything going on around the car and it doesn’t take long to get comfortable with the system. On long drives, it would certainly minimize driving stress.

Also Watch: Tesla Model 3 Performance Sets Blistering 11.72 Second Quarter Mile

In terms of charging, it largely comes down to where you live. In Melbourne, there is only a single Supercharging station with four outlets in the entire city. We tested it out and saw charging speeds of over 700 km of range per hour with it taking roughly 30 minutes to charge from 25 per cent to 80 per cent for $18 AUD ($12.38 USD). Should owners be unable to get to a Supercharger, they can check out Tesla’s multitude of Destination charges that top up the battery at roughly one-sixth the speed of a Supercharger.

All Teslas come with a home Wall Connector that has a maximum power output of 22 kW and in the Model 3 charges at about 75 km/h. However, actually achieving such speeds is rare unless your house has a three-phase power supply. Owners with single-phase power can expect roughly 30-40 km/h.

Tesla quotes an official range of 560 km (347 miles) on the NEDC cycle, but we suspect such a figure could only be achieved in absolutely perfect conditions. Drive conservatively and somewhere in the mid-400 km (250 miles) is achievable. Drive with a led foot and you can get through a full charge in 250 km (155 miles).

So, this is what the future looks like

It’s hard not to be impressed by the Tesla Model 3 Performance. We didn’t encounter any of the fit and finish issues some early Model 3 owners experienced and believe it is a seriously compelling package. Improvements can certainly be made on the software front and the car lacks some creature comforts it should have.

Should you go with the Performance over lesser variants? Maybe, maybe not. Rapid acceleration is thrilling but gets old without any sound and cheaper versions offer most of the same features. We recommending visiting a local Tesla store and deciding for yourself. What is undebatable is the fact that the Model 3 has helped change the industry and established itself as the leader in the world of electric vehicles. Well, done Tesla.

 

more photos...

Photo credit: Brad Anderson/Carscoops

  • blunt-o

    best car in the world

    • S3XY

      Yep

  • Giannis Antypas

    The experts have concluded that a car with no exhausts can’t be any good.

    • S3XY

      “experts”

      • Giannis Antypas

        that’s what I mean,
        the 20th century “experts”

  • S3XY

    Great review guys. All it takes is a test drive. I think you can know understand why I’m so obsessed with Tesla. The cars are out of this world, yet they are on our planet. Ground based spaceships to navigate the roads of Earth.

    • Matt

      You’re obsessed with Tesla? No way…

    • Mr. EP9

      And here I was thinking you had been replaced on this site.

    • Andrewthecarguy

      I hope Elon Musk is reading you comments, because that is the only reason why anyone would utter those words /;

    • Thetruthísntalwayspopular

      I love the spontaneous combustion feature! We haven’t had that luxury since the Ford Pinto days!

      • Stephen G

        (Except for BMW)

      • willhaven

        Don’t tell Mclaren or Ferrari!

  • I DON’T THINK IT HAS VENTILATED SEATS. I ALWAYS WONDERED WHY THE CENTER CONSOLE ISN’T THE SAME MATERIAL AS THE DASH TRIM. IT SEEMS THAT IS THE FIRST THING PEOPLE CHANGE.

    • BlackPegasus

      Yeah, most new Model 3 owners get the center console wrapped with carbon fiber or natural wood. It’s an easy and cheap mod.

      • YOU’D THINK TESLA WOULD DO THAT AT THE FACTORY.

        • WHY ARE WE YELLING!!!

          but yeah, that costs money, money they can’t afford to upgrade things on the car not related to it’s self driving bits.

  • SteersUright

    Definitly appealing performance but, I just cant get over the looks for such an expensive car. I find the interior too bland and featureless, not a fan of the overly simple/austere. I also think that the exterior, while unique and immediately identifiable, isn’t very pretty at all. Its like a super fast red refrigerator in my eyes. If they combined beautiful design with their already amazing performance, they’d have something truly special.

    • TheBelltower

      The interior is very stark. Maybe too much at first. The elimination of the air vents and a driver facing display, which are all massive visual elements in most cars, takes awhile to get used to. I still think a driver facing display or HUD would make it better. However once you have spent some time in any Tesla, sitting in a luxury car like a Mercedes is like sensory overload. Simplicity is more difficult to achieve than clutter is. The exterior is clean. I remember when people questioned the “generic” design of the e39 5 series, saying that it was too basic for the cost. The Model 3 exterior is more German than most German cars today.

    • benT

      It IS what electric cars require. No gauges, fiddly bits, everything is digitally controlled.
      What you do not like is the look of electric cars of the highest standard and specification.

  • benT

    The downside to this reviewer is that it does not have the features of an ICE car (presumably) including the exhaust gases, smell and intricacy of the pollution device that is being replaced.

    • Smith

      wah, wah, wah

      • benT

        get back to me when you have grown out of nappies, little fella…..

  • db

    Watching that “review” wasn’t quite as boring as watching paint dry but it was close
    and quit chewing on those fingernails…

  • Smith

    $100,000 plus for a $35,000 company saving Model 3, you must be joking. And people wonder why Tesla only has a couple of years left in business and looses $750 million each quarter, here’s your answer … they don’t make a cheap $35,000 car but they do make a $35,000 car for $100,000 plus. So long Tesla.

    • TrevP

      Wtf are you talking about.

      • europeon

        Read the article. No, really. Go ahead and read it.

        Our test car included the $8,500 ($5845) Full Self-Driving Capability and, thus, had a drive away price of $117,370 ($80,716).

        • Perhaps it’s not clear. The $117,370 is AUD and the $80,716 is the equivalent in USD.

          • europeon

            It was clear from the start @TrevP said a fully loaded one is $65k.

          • TrevP

            You seem to not get it. 35k is USD pricing. Fully loaded with extra paint cost and white interior will not cost more than 65k USD. AUD pricing will never be as low as 35k. Your stretch from 35k-100k is blown way out of proportion. You are mixing currency

          • europeon

            Americans… You realize the world is much bigger than the “land of the free”, right?

          • benT

            Neanderthals died out in Europe and it seems with recent finds, a live one has emerged…….

          • TrevP

            The translation of currency is correct. What I am saying is that in the US you cannot build a model 3 for more than 65k.

        • benT

          PLEASE GET SENSIBLE.
          The $35,000 price is in America in American dollars.

          The higher numbers are in Australia in Australian dollars which at the moment mean the $35,000 price hits AUS$68,000 as a base price and with Australian taxes (luxury tax for example) and other local costs may be added pushing the price even higher – in Australian dollars.
          This test was conducted in Australia – the number plates are (State of) Victoria Australia.
          The base Tesla 3 Performance here in Australian dollars is Performance AUS$92,900
          Long Range AUS$85,900
          Then you add Tesla options.

          So forget your arguing.
          Current exchange rate is AUS$1 worth US$0.67. This means that AT LEAST 32% is added when in Australian dollars, plus government charges on SOME imports.

          • europeon

            Please get a brain.

        • TrevP

          I have read the article. US model wont cost more than 65k. Go build it on their website. I know what I am talking about. I am purchasing a Model 3 Performance and have done extensive research. I also know how much they cost.

  • BlackPegasus

    What? No blind spot monitoring on the top of the line Model 3? 👎🏼

    • YEAH IT HAS IT. I THINK IT WAS A RECENT OVER THE AIR UPDATE.

    • TrevP

      Its been in there with autopilot. The whole time.

  • Thetruthísntalwayspopular

    That interior is one of the most low rent, basic looking interiors I’ve ever seen in a modern car.

    • how far back we going for modern? cause we had an 80s caprice that puts this to shame…

  • Stephen G

    “Dominating the cockpit experience is a 15-inch touchscreen positioned vertically, in a manner unlike any other car currently on the market”. Should I continue reading a review by a writer that doesn’t know the difference between horizontal and vertical? Also $80K for a car with vinyl seats? I think not.

  • europeon

    AUD $ =/= US $

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