2021 Tesla Model 3 Performance Review


Performance: 9.4

The 2021 Tesla Model 3 is a blast to drive. Acceleration comes instantly, and its responsive steering and low center of gravity help it whip around turns. It also has a healthy driving range, which is important for an electric car.

  • “Generous range and reasonable prices on standard and mid-range models mean they’re more accessible to the average consumer. Pricier Performance and Long Range variants, on the other hand, turn the already sporty Model 3 into a legit performance machine that gleefully devours corners and pushes you back in your seat with instant acceleration.” -- Motor Trend
  • “Beyond its blistering speed, the Model 3 handles quite well for an electric car.” -- Autotrader (2020)
  • “The Model 3 feels sporty and engaging thanks to strong off-the-line performance, intuitive and responsive steering, and coordinated and nimble handling.” -- Edmunds (2019)

Powertrain Options, Range, and Acceleration

  • Base powertrain: 263 miles of range, top speed of 140 mph, and a zero-to-60 time of 5.3 seconds (Standard Range Plus)
  • Available powertrains:
    • 353 miles of range, top speed of 145 mph, and a zero-to-60 time of 4.2 seconds (Long Range)
    • 315 miles of range, top speed of 162 mph, and a zero-to-60 time of 3.1 seconds (Performance)
  • Drivetrain: standard rear-wheel drive; available all-wheel drive
  • Transmission: single-speed automatic

Instead of measuring its motors by kilowatt-hours, Tesla uses range. Each powertrain is strong, with instant torque that delivers swift acceleration that rivals sports cars in some trims.

  • "As with most EVs, the Model 3 gains speed smoothly and almost silently, with the electric motor providing strong power from a stop. And it's fast—extremely so in some trims." -- Car and Driver
  • "Get the Model 3 Performance, and exotic supercars costing three times its price need to be wary of your relatively innocuous electric car." -- Kelley Blue Book (2020)
  • "Power delivery is impeccably smooth and accurate, and the accelerator pedal is responsive without being jumpy. Direct drive means no shifting, so there's no way that gear changes can ever be out of step with the driver's wishes. The transition from acceleration to regenerative braking is easy to manage." -- Edmunds (2019)

MPGe Estimates

This Tesla is incredibly fuel-efficient, with MPG-equivalent ratings that are fantastic for the luxury hybrid and electric car class. Note that the Standard Range Plus’ estimates come from the 2020 model, while the Long Range and Performance are 2021s.

  • Standard Range Plus, RWD: 148/132 MPGe city/highway
  • Long Range, AWD: 141/127 MPGe
  • Performance, AWD: 118/107 MPGe

Alternative Fuels and Charging

You can recharge this Tesla using a 120- or 240-volt household-style power oulet. The latter is recommended, as that greatly reduces charging time to something that can be done overnight. Tesla also offers a wall connector that recharges between 30 and 44 miles an hour. On the road, you can use one of Tesla’s Supercharger stations to regenerate up to 175 miles in as little as 15 minutes.

According to the EPA, the all-electric driving range is 315 miles for the Model 3 Performance trim, and it rises to 353 miles for the Long Range. There are no estimates for the base model, but Tesla says it will go up to 263 miles.

Handling and Braking

The Model 3’s sharp steering, firm suspension, and low center of gravity help it tackle twists and turns with a playful confidence. The ride isn’t harsh, but it is a bit firm.

  • "Like all Teslas, the Model 3 carries its battery under the floor, resulting in a low center of gravity. This helps it change direction crisply and feel planted and stable in corners. The steering is accurate and well weighted, with three different settings that adjust the level of steering effort. The ride is firm without being harsh; without the noise of a gas-powered engine, however, you do hear plenty of noise inside the cabin as the tires thwack and thrum over pavement imperfections." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Standard Range Plus version I drove was as before – one of the best-handling EVs on the market." -- Forbes
  • "Going back to zero was a relatively mild experience also. The Model 3's regenerative braking produced an apparent but gentle drag on the vehicle as I released the accelerator, and I had to put the brake pedal down to slow the vehicle sufficiently to take turns." -- Jalopnik (2018)

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