Say what you want about Tesla and its leader Elon Musk—and there’s an awful lot to unpack there—but the Model 3 electric car changed the rules of the EV game. Its relatively affordable price tag, impressive driving range, and strong performance have made it a big seller and keep it competitive still against the rising tide of newer electric offerings such as the Hyundai Ioniq 6 and the Polestar 2. Scrutiny of our own long-term Model 3 as well as multiple test cars has shown that build quality is so-so. In the land of the SUV, some drivers would surely prefer the Model Y SUV instead but the Model 3 is easy to live with and fun to drive. The Long Range model offers an estimated 485 km of range, so in our mind, it’s the one to buy, even if we’re enticed by the Performance trim’s extra power and racier look.
As with most EVs, the Model 3 gains speed quickly, smoothly and almost silently, with the electric motor providing strong punch from a stop. And it’s fast—extremely so in some trims. The rear-wheel-drive Long Range model we tested sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. The Model 3 Performance rockets to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds—0.5-second faster than the long-term Model 3 Long Range. 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.