The Tesla Model 3 has been shipping for just over a year now in a single powertrain configuration — the Long Range version with the Premium Upgrade Package. Tesla shared that the focus on versions of the car with higher profit margins was key to ramping up production in a financially wise way — leading to what it hopes to be the start of sustainable profitability in Q3 of this year.
To supplement the gravy train that is the Long Range + Premium Upgrade Package Model 3, Tesla has now added a Dual Motor configuration with the option to upgrade it to an even more ridiculous Performance Edition that Tesla claims will enable the vehicle to rocket from 0–60 mph in a lightning fast 3.5 seconds. CEO Elon Musk even went so far as to guesstimate that the vehicle could possibly achieve the feat in as low as 3.3 seconds with the right tires. From the factory, the Model 3 comes equipped with 235/35ZR20 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires that maximize the range of the vehicle but leave it in want of more grip, especially when the power from the Performance Edition so abruptly begs for more traction than they can supply.
Having spent a a few days and a few hundred miles behind the wheel of our new Model 3, I was eager to get some time in the cockpit of the Model 3 Performance Edition to compare the two.
Walking up to the car, it’s surprisingly unremarkable on the outside. The beautiful red pops out and flags it as having the potential to be a Performance Edition, but even that isn’t a giveaway, as the color could be applied to any Model 3. Walking around the back reveals a diminutive underlined Dual Motor badge that our Tesla rep tells us was custom made by SpaceX for the cars just to show what the final badging will look like.
Anyone taking delivery of the Performance Edition will do so without the badging, he continued, with the final badging and carbon fiber spoiler to be applied after delivery. It’s more evidence that Tesla continues to race along at a breakneck pace to lock in orders for its higher margin cars as it spools up its factory operations in support of the incoming flood of orders. Our Tesla rep also mentioned that standard Dual Motor badging — without the line under it that marks the car as a high performance beast — might be in the future for All-Wheel Drive builds as well, but that hasn’t been made official to date.
The white interior calls out from the inside of the car, making it look like the marshmallow man from Ghostbusters came in and made himself at home in the car. It’s beautifully clean but makes me fear for what my two boys would do to it in an afternoon. Nevertheless, it beckons and I oblige, noticing as I slide into the seat that the white fabric feels a bit softer than the Premium Black interior in my Rear-Wheel Drive build.
Glancing up, I’m greeted with a bold white dash stripe that has taken the place of the real wood dash that’s adorned every Model 3 I’ve seen. Because I can’t keep my hands off new things, I ran a hand across it and noticed that it’s a nice smooth finish that feels elegant without feeling cheap. I’m surprised that Tesla replaced traditionally luxe wood with a faux material like this but I have to admit — it looks clean, and not just because it’s white. I find myself wanting a darker version of this, but maybe that will have to wait for some aftermarket company to have their way with the 3 for me to have my wish granted.
Enough teasing — let’s unleash the beast and see what this thing can do. After some real-world Jenga to get the car out of Tesla’s overfilled, undersized lot, we’re off to the races, only to be slotted into some of the valley’s finest stop-and-go traffic. Obviously accustomed to the traffic, my co-pilot graciously guides me to a series of straightaways that allow me to finally put the pedal to the metal and let this thing loose.
From a stop, I kicked the pedal in, as my first Tesla co-pilot instructed me to do way back in the Tesla Model S P90D I drove so many years ago. I am instantly rewarded with a powerful pull that just keeps begging for more. The Rear-Wheel Drive build has a nice torquey acceleration, don’t get me wrong, but this is an entirely different beast.
Instead of a peppy acceleration that makes it easy to get around traffic, the Model 3 Performance Edition threatens to take away my control of the vehicle entirely as it carelessly throws my head back, forcing me to consciously steer my eyes back down to the road as the car continues to accelerate.
There is seemingly no end to the torque, as it just keeps pulling harder and faster as we easily pass 60 miles per hour on the way to 100. We didn’t have room to get there, but I have no doubt that the car would easily blow by that mark in the sand on the way to it’s top speed of 155 miles per hour, another exclusive Performance Edition spec.
Underpinning the brute force applied by the car is a measure of control that lends a sense of calm to the storm as the car constantly balances the power it’s laying out with the traction it so tenuously maintains. The Dual Motor configuration in the Performance Edition gives the car full control over power being applied or taken away from all four of the vehicle’s wheels, which our Tesla rep shared results in more power being applied through corners and when running the canyons that connect California’s Highway 101 to the coast in this stretch of the state.
We did not have time to run any canyons this time around, but considering what we were able to do back in January up in the mountains above Redwood City in our first day with the Rear-Wheel Drive Model 3, it’s easy to imagine how extra grip and power would help any autocross enthusiast realize their dreams with this car.
The spritely handling of the Model 3, the open dash concept, and the lighter frame — coming in at ~1,000 pounds lighter than the Model S — make the Model 3 Performance Edition a serious car that calls into question what it really means to be a gear head, a speed freak, or a racer. When it comes to speed, the Model 3 Performance Edition doesn’t pull any punches and it’s surely enough to scare any legacy automaker who isn’t yet convinced that electric cars are the future.
The beauty and the terror of Tesla is that its cars keep getting better. Some of those improvements — like Enhanced Autopilot and Full Self Driving — can be upgraded over the air, delivered to all owners, all at once, like we saw with the Model 3 braking distance fix after Consumer Reports notified Tesla of the problem. Other fixes require better hardware, like the upgraded seats Tesla has already outfitted newer Model 3s with, which leave early adopters out of luck — unless they adopt again.
The thinking is that the car being sold today is always the best car Tesla can make, which is admirable, but the inevitable tension is that buyers are constantly wondering if they’ll get in just before a big update — like we saw happen with Autopilot hardware on the Model S.
The build we enjoyed comes at a full $20,000 premium on top of the Long Range, RWD, Premium Upgrade Package Model 3. It first requires buyers to fork out $4,000 for the All-Wheel Drive upgrade plus another $11,000 for the Performance Edition. Our test vehicle also came with the Performance Exterior Upgrade, which sets buyers back another $5,000 and brings some sanity to the party with a big brake upgrade kit that provides more stopping power, a set of 20 inch rims that are required to provide sufficient clearance for the larger brakes, a carbon fiber spoiler, and the underlined Dual Motor badging.
The $69,000 price tag puts the car up in Model S territory, blurring the line between Tesla’s vehicles … or perhaps just building a bridge between them as buyers run up against analysis paralysis as they attempt to choose between the two.
Check out more Tesla Model 3 reviews from CleanTechnica:
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