The Tesla Model 3 Performance isn’t out till later this month, when the first Australian customers will receive their cars. I was lucky enough to get the chance to get behind the wheel around a private race track and put the car to the test.
Now it’s time to share my thoughts on that experience ahead of video from a couple of GoPros mounted inside.
We know Tesla’s are fast but how fast it feels depends on your basis for comparison. I’ve previously reviewed the Model S P90D, the Model X and the Jaguar I-Pace. I’ve also driven the Nissan GTR Nismo around The Bend.
With the Model 3 Performance listing 0-100km/hr times of just 3.4 seconds, on paper its fast, really fast and the real world experience is bloody hell that’s fast. The acceleration is just nuts, it throws your head back into the headrest and pours geforces through your internal organs and makes you question, how is this legal.
Musk said he wanted to make cars that are fun and this thing delivers in the best kind of way. After smashing the Model 3 around a track, I can attest that the thing handles like it’s on rails and the ability to just stand on the right pedal and have the wheels connect and deliver all of its power feels effortless.
This traction and ability to both push and pull through the corners speaks volumes about Tesla’s traction control system that makes a ridiculously fast car, one of the easiest to drive. There’s never any threat of spinning out, the computer systems keep that power delivery in check and just makes squirting the throttle an instant smile delivery method.
In terms of top speed, the car is rated for 261km/hr and while we had access to a 5km track, we didn’t trouble that. Down the straight we were regularly hitting 190km/hr and the car showed no sign of slowing down.
The acceleration just feels effortless and relentless and while I’m now used to it, the absence of noise from a combustion engine delivers a futuristic feeling to the whole thing.
Naturally when you have performance like this, you need to be able to pull it up when you get to the corners. The Model 3 Performance has big red brake callipers to remind you this one means business. The stopping power is certainly not GTR level, but it is seriously impressive, aided by those regenerative motors.
One of the most awkward times for a driver is during a hard braking event, vehicles can get squirmy and nervous, with the Model 3, under moderate braking there was no sign of that. Only when pushed to extremes did I find the car get a little excited at the rear, but I always felt in control.
When in track mode, the cooling vents in the front bar open up and allow more airflow to keep things cool. Something that got pretty hot during my 5 laps were the brakes. More than once I received a brake temperature warning and the pedal definitely got longer the more laps I did.
While some will track their Model 3, the reality is most won’t.
We know the Model 3 Performance comes with harder suspension and big 20″ rims to house even better rubber than the Performance-, LR and SR+ models. The downside of this firmer suspension is a harsher ride, but there’s a massive upside.
That stiffer suspension shows its value around the track, supporting that heavy battery pack in the floor and allowing the car to hold on at speeds that are hard to get your head around. A quick glance off to the left and that speedo was often showing numbers 30-40km higher than I thought was possible.
When pushed to the limit, it is possible to find the limit of adhesion, and the tyres began complaining. When the car started sliding, it was all very controlled, easy to catch and a quick pause in throttle application allowed the car to steady and by ready for more.
The track was smooth, so obviously not the best platform to compare our pretty average Aussie roads, but coming from a Lancer with aftermarket suspension (have had coilovers in it), the M3P was dramatically more comfortable. If your comparing it to a regular mid-sized sedan like a Mazda 3, then yes, it’ll feel harder, but if you like powering through the turns, then I’d say its a perfectly acceptable tradeoff.
This option should only ever be enabled when at a track, as it lowers the traction control levels and enables and if you try, to slide out the rear end.
While I wish we could have tried this out, we were at a track after all, but understandably, Tesla asked us to leave off Track Mode today. The track we were at is much more like a private road (without oncoming traffic) so this made sense as there were no tyre barriers etc.
Most of the range figures you see (like 560km for the Performance model), are based on combined highway and city driving. But what about if you take it to the track, how does the battery go?
Naturally this is worst case scenario of you absolutely planting your foot and asking the most from the battery time, after time, after time.
After some seriously spirited driving and 5 hot laps of the track, the battery had reduced to 63%, others were in the 70% range.
A concern of many people who haven’t driven a Model 3 is that offset center screen. Is it annoying or difficult to monitor your speed and do you miss it being directly ahead of you?
I’ve got to say, that it is amazing how quickly humans adapt to changes. It took not days, but just minutes to get used to this, similar to driving a car with the indicator stalk on the opposite side, you adapt and your brain just adjusts.
If you’ve been staring at photos of the Model 3 interior and thinking a lot about it, my big takeaway is that this is a complete non-issue, it’s still glanceable information if Musk’s plan for FSD is realised, you won’t need to monitor your speed for long, the car will do it for you.
My biggest takeaway from today is that the Model 3 Performance is an absolute monster, dressed in casual clothes. There’s no supercharger sticking out of the bonnet or intercooler on display in the front bar. Pull up at a set of lights and most people would have no idea what’s capable in the car next to them. They will learn, quickly, the Tesla badge means business.
As we do move towards full self driving, taking your car to the track for an actual drive is likely to be an activity that increases and if you have the top model, you’re in for an absolute treat.
Update: Track Video
Now you’ve read about the track experience, it’s time to see it in action, below is a video, it’s pretty raw, but I think captures the feeling of being behind the wheel of the Tesla Model 3 Performance on an amazing and challenging track.
Disclaimer: I have raced on this track before at the Mustang launch, all was done under controlled conditions. Enjoy!