First Tesla Model 3 Performance Test Drives

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The buzz from Tesla this week — other than the welter of stories about how one quarter of Model 3 reservations have been cancelled — is all about how test drives of the Model 3 Dual Motor Performance are now available at many Tesla stores. As this YouTube walk around video by PerfEV makes clear, the car is drop dead gorgeous in red.

Reddit user blueflash17 was one of the first to test drive a Model 3 Performance and shared his impressions with the Reddit community. His input is pertinent, as his regular car is a 2015 BMW 435i Gran Coupe, a car with a certain amount of sporting credentials of its own. After he finished his M3P test, he retraced the same route in his BMW to make back to back comparisons between both cars. Here’s what he had to say.

Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution! Other areas where the Tesla shines over the BMW? Better audio and faster CPU response. There is no doubt the Model 3 is intended to beat BMW at their own game. Based on the comments by blueflash17, they have exceeded that goal. There are going to be some auto executives in Bavaria who will be shocked to learn how high Tesla has raised the bar for compact sports sedans. The 3 Series is the mainstay of BMW’s product lineup and essential to its profitability. The Model 3 is going to give future BMW buyers a lot to think about.

  • Acceleration: Not quite as quick as the Model S p85D but still impressive. The actual numbers show the M3P needs about  0.2 sec longer to hit 60 mph — a difference that only the most discerning drivers will notice in daily driving. What really impressed him, though, was how fast the car accelerated from 50 to 75 mph. With the abundant torque available at higher speeds, “50-75 on the highway feels instantaneous.”
  • Steering: “Steering response is unbelievable. With the P3D in Sport, it reminded me of my old E90 335i, which had the best steering of all time of any car I’ve driven. The Model 3’s steering ratio is quick and there is virtually no on-center dead spot. It’s telepathically responsive. By comparison, the 435i, even in Sport, is too light and lacks any sort of meaningful feedback.”
  • Regenerative Braking: “Regen feels stronger than in our Model X. It’s so strong that it was difficult to test the actual brakes, since regen did most of the work, but when I did manage to test them, I found a nice firm brake pedal, with no wasted travel.” There is some speculation that the stronger regen is due to the rear motor being a permanent magnet unit. The regen won’t bring the car to a complete stop, but will get it to below 5 mph.
  • Road Feel: High praise for the M3P here. “Ride quality is surprisingly comfortable, even with the 20s, but I feel this comes at the expense of wheel control. There were times when the back end felt under-damped and I could detect a tiny bit of float. On the same sections of road, the BMW had noticeably better wheel control, with no perceptible float. Credit the adaptive dampers on the BMW. Tesla needs these.”
  • Comfort: “The seats are surprisingly cushy and very supportive during spirited driving. The BMW has more seat adjustments (thigh support, side bolster support, and headrest tilt), but the seats are far less comfortable and not as supportive as they look. The Tesla’s seats don’t look that special from a performance standpoint, but they are very effective in practice. I was pleasantly surprised.”

Several media outlets and influencers were given early access to the exclusive Performance Edition of the Tesla Model 3 in order to take it out onto the track including YouTube video producer MKBHD aka Marques Brownlee. Marques took the M3P out onto an autocross track and put together a brief video of the experience. Very cool stuff!

There is little doubt that the Model 3 is critical to the long term success of Tesla. A recent article by Forbes suggests that Tesla will account for 60% of all EV sales in the US this year. If Tesla were to stumble, the entire electric car revolution in America could be set back years if not decades. As the Trump maladministration prepares to roll back fuel economy rules, that revolution could fizzle, at least in North  America. Up north, the assault on EV and renewable energy policies continues in Ontario where oil from tar sands is a source of national pride.

Does anyone really need a Model 3 Performance? Not really, but the auto industry has always used high performance models to drive sales of mainstream models. The M3P is Tesla’s shot across the bow of the automotive industry. It is intended to serve notice that the tiny Silicon Valley start up is ramping up to steal a lot of sales from mainstream companies.

The bets have been placed. Now we will see who is holding what cards. JP Morgan warned on Friday that Tesla stock could decline by 40% before the end of 2018, putting the company at risk of collapse. No matter what you may think of Elon Musk and his penchant for getting into flame wars on Twitter, anyone who wants to see a lower emissions future has to be rooting for him to pull this off.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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