Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
In our tests, even the entry-level Standard Range Plus managed 0-60mph in 6.1sec. That's much faster than the Kia e-Niro or, indeed, a similarly priced petrol or diesel rival, such as the BMW 3 Series.
However, the Long Range and Performance models have not one but two electric motors, and four-wheel drive, so they're even quicker. Indeed, the range-topping Performance managed 0-60mph in just 3.7sec in seriously wet conditions; it'll comfortably see off a Porsche 911 Carrera S in a drag race.
As for how far you'll get between charges, the Standard Range Plus managed a respectable 181 miles in our Real Range tests. The Long Range and Performance models both have bigger batteries, and the latter achieved 239 miles – one of the longest ranges of any electric car we've ever tested.
The Long Range should theoretically manage even more miles between charges. Sadly, Tesla was unwilling to supply us with a car for testing, forcing us to source one from elsewhere, and it achieved a relatively disappointing 211 miles. However, it's important to note that our test day was blighted by heavy rain, in which extra battery power would have been required to push the tyres through the standing water. We plan to retest the Model 3 either when Tesla is willing to supply us with a car directly, or when we're able to source another one from elsewhere.
Suspension and ride comfort
Ride comfort isn't a strength of the Tesla Model 3, but it's not a deal breaker, either. At low speeds, the entry-level Standard Range Plus and the Long Range jostle you around a bit and you'll notice a jolt if you hit any obstacle with a sharp edge.
The BMW 3 Series is a more comfortable alternative – as long as you avoid M Sport trim – although that car too is far from perfect. Indeed, if you want a really smooth ride from your executive car, we'd point you in the direction of smaller-wheeled versions of the Audi A4, although you can't get an electric version of one of those.
The range-topping Performance version of the Model 3 has sports suspension and massive 20in wheels as standard. Despite this, though, it’s no less forgiving than M Sport versions of the 3 Series. In fact, and perhaps surprisingly, this version of the Model 3 is actually the most comfortable on the motorway, staying remarkably calm and flat at high speeds.
Compared with rival electric cars – even the pricier Jaguar I-Pace – the Model 3 handles really quite well, particularly in Performance guise. This range-topping version gets lowered suspension and larger 20in alloy wheels, so there isn't much body lean and the amount of speed you can carry through corners is seriously impressive.
True, it’s still a heavy car because of all the batteries it carries around and doesn’t feel quite as light on its toes as, say, an Alfa Giulia Quadrifoglio, but it grips with real tenacity once settled into a bend. The steering is precise and you can change its weighting to suit your tastes (comfort mode is best for anything other than really hard driving), although you don't get a great deal of feedback streaming to your fingertips.
The Long Range version handles tidily, too, just with a bit more body lean and a little less grip. However, the Standard Range Plus feels altogether less balanced and confidence-inspiring than the pricier versions of the Model 3 – despite being lighter. It's the only model in the range without four-wheel drive (it's driven by its rear wheels).
One of the biggest draws of the Model 3 is how much tech it comes with. Its optional ‘Autopilot’ self-steering and adaptive cruise control system works really well on the motorway, by automatically keeping you a set distance from the car in front as well as maintaining position in the centre of your lane. The Model 3 can even perform lane changes: just flick the indicator stalk and an array of cameras gives the all clear before you’re robotically steered across.
Noise and vibration
Being a pure electric car the Model 3 is, unsurprisingly, whisper quiet at town speeds. However, there’s quite a lot of road noise on faster roads and you can also hear the wind whistling around the frameless doors. On the motorway, conventional executive car rivals, such as the 3 Series and A4, are more peaceful cruising companions.
The brakes deserve a special mention for being far less grabby than those of the majority of electric cars. This makes it easy to slow down smoothly without your passengers thinking you’ve only just passed your driving test.