Menu

Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

You are here

Tesla Model 3 2020 review: Performance

Tesla's Model 3 is one of the most anticipated cars in recent history. Does it live up to the hype?
EXPERT RATING
7.9
The Tesla Model 3 is one of the most anticipated new car releases in Australia in 2019. It's a high-tech, new-age electric car that helps the brand reach a new group of customers because it starts at a considerably more realistic price tag. But this is not the 'everyman' Tesla Model 3 - this is the Performance model, which is close to $100k on the road.

If the Tesla Model 3 Performance appeals to you, you're probably a different kind of electric car buyer.

Instead of outright range and efficiency, you're probably prioritising performance - I mean it's in the name of this spec of Model 3, after all. And this grade essentially takes the regular Model 3 and makes it a bit mental.

Let's go through how it does that.

Tesla MODEL 3 2019: PERFORMANCE
Safety rating
Engine Type
Fuel TypeElectric
Fuel Efficiency—L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$91,200

Is there anything interesting about its design?   6/10

It might seem harsh for the design score to be so low, but this is more about quality and physical fit and finish than the aesthetic of the car. I actually like the look of the Performance model, even if it is a bit amorphous at the front.

But it was the panel gaps and joins that were of most concern to me. If this particular model had come down the production line of one of the German brands, it would have been sent to the recycling centre. The workmanship for a car of this price is appalling.

  • Finally in Australia, the Model 3 brings the Tesla experience within reach for many more. Finally in Australia, the Model 3 brings the Tesla experience within reach for many more.
  • I actually like the look of the Performance model. (image: Matt Campbell) I actually like the look of the Performance model. (image: Matt Campbell)

One shouldn't be able to fit the tip of their finger in the gap between the front and rear doors. Nor should one be able to see a shadow on the rear door based on poor fitment of the front door. It was so poor on our test car, it made me think of a vehicle that had been crashed and put back together... and not very well.

This type of shoddy workmanship makes you wonder what other corners may have been cut. It has been widely reported that Model 3s were being assembled in a makeshift marquee-style tent in order for the company to hit its ambitious build targets.

Space for adults is good up front, and the seat comfort and adjustment is pretty decent, too. (image: Matt Campbell) Space for adults is good up front, and the seat comfort and adjustment is pretty decent, too. (image: Matt Campbell)

The interior isn't without its fit and finish issues, either. Our car had a squeaky centre console (even though it had less than 700km on the odometer), and some of the plastics inside weren't fitted as well as they should have been.

See the interior images below for a closer look.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

The Model 3 is a bit of a storage marvel.

It has a boot, which measures 425 litres and has 60:40 split fold seats, plus a hidden storage compartment rear of the back axle for cables or other luggage. But there's also the 'frunk' (front trunk) which is large enough to house some backpacks or shopping bags (there are even curry hooks to stop the bags moving around too much) and it increases total storage to 542L.

Then in the cabin you have door pockets with bottle holders all around, a set of cup holders in the rear centre armrest, plus another set of cupholders and what can best be described as a cupboard between the front seats. There is a deep well of storage, between front occupants' legs, and a smaller section up between the seats, too. Plus there's a glovebox which operates using the touchscreen, because of course it does.

The back seat space isn't great - there's limited toe room, the knee room could be better. (image: Matt Campbell) The back seat space isn't great - there's limited toe room, the knee room could be better. (image: Matt Campbell)

Space for adults is good up front, and the seat comfort and adjustment is pretty decent, too. The back seat space isn't great - there's limited toe room, the knee room could be better (anyone my height - 182cm - will feel a little cramped behind someone of a similar size) and you sit in a bit of a knees-up position, too. Headroom, too, isn't terrific - the roof angle is almost coupe-like, meaning you need to watch your noggin on entry and exit, and because it's all glass above, anyone with a bald spot might feel the sun a touch too much.

Now, about that screen...

It's a 15.0-inch unit that is located centrally, and it allows you control of basically everything in the car aside from the gear selection, engaging the cruise control or Autopilot (two quick taps of the gear selector - just don't get confused and tip it back into Neutral at speed...) and also the windscreen washers - oh, and there's a volume scroller on the steering wheel, thank goodness for that.

Everything else can be done using the touchscreen, from setting your side mirrors and the electric steering wheel adjustment (which will save to your profile), and you can Bluetooth stream music or connect via USB. The lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is questionable though.

  • It has a boot, which measures 425 litres and has 60:40 split fold seats. (image: Matt Campbell) It has a boot, which measures 425 litres and has 60:40 split fold seats. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • There's also the 'frunk' (front trunk) which is large enough to house some backpacks or shopping bags. (image: Matt Campbell) There's also the 'frunk' (front trunk) which is large enough to house some backpacks or shopping bags. (image: Matt Campbell)

If you're into games, there's a selection of arcade options to choose when you're parked, and there are other things like Santa Mode, Mars mode for the maps, and even a whoopee cushion app...because farts are funny.

Honestly, I dislike this gimmickry because I know the company could have been spending its time, money and resources making a better-built car, rather than a nerdy amusement park cockpit.

But I can see the point that 'no-one else is doing cars like this', and that it will have appeal to people who are maybe a little more light-hearted about the idea of spending $100,000 on a toy.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

The all-wheel drive Performance variant tops the Model 3 range at $91,200 before on-roads.

That's a comparative performance bargain if you're thinking of it as a competitor to the likes of the outgoing BMW M3 ($141,610), Audi RS4 Avant ($152,529) and Mercedes-AMG C63 ($160,540).

The Performance adds 20-inch wheels, performance brakes. (image: Matt Campbell) The Performance adds 20-inch wheels, performance brakes. (image: Matt Campbell)

This is what it says on the label - the most performance-oriented model in the line-up, with blistering acceleration figures we'll cover off in a sec.

It also adds 20-inch wheels, performance brakes, a carbon-fibre lip spoiler on the boot, lowered sports suspension, aluminium pedals, a higher top speed (up from 233km/h to 261km/h) and Track Mode setting.

It also has the "Premium Interior" with a 14-speaker premium audio system, in-car internet service with music and media streaming and satellite view mapping. That's all controlled by the 15-inch multimedia touchscreen that doubles as the car's dashboard, and it has Bluetooth plus controls for the dual-zone climate control. There are four USB ports (2x front, 2x rear).

The all-wheel drive Performance variant tops the Model 3 range at $91,200 before on-roads. (image: Matt Campbell) The all-wheel drive Performance variant tops the Model 3 range at $91,200 before on-roads. (image: Matt Campbell)

Other standard gear includes LED front lighting, a fixed glass roof, auto-dimming mirrors (with auto folding and heating for the side mirrors), a key card (but no proximity entry), driver profile setups, and smartphone app controllability.

A couple of omissions: there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto phone mirroring, which could be a deal breaker for some. Plus you don't get wireless phone charging, and you can't get a 360-degree surround view camera system, and nor is there a head-up display (which you get standard on a $25k Mazda 3).

The screen is a 15.0-inch unit that is located centrally, and it allows you control of basically everything in the car. (image: Matt Campbell) The screen is a 15.0-inch unit that is located centrally, and it allows you control of basically everything in the car. (image: Matt Campbell)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   9/10

How backwards is it that Tesla is one of the most high-tech companies on the planet, yet still offers outputs in horsepower and pound feet? This grade of Model 3 has a combined output from its front and rear motors of 450 horsepower (335kW) and 471 lb-ft of torque (638Nm).

That's from 0rpm, which is important - and because it's all-wheel drive, the Model 3 Performance has a 0-100km/h claim of just 3.4 seconds.

The maximum speed for this variant is 261km/h.

How much fuel does it consume?   8/10

Battery range. We all know fun is only fun if it isn't over too quickly...

The claimed range based on NEDC standard testing for this spec of Model 3 is 560 kilometres - that's 100km more than the entry-grade car because this model has a bigger battery pack. According to the Green Vehicle Guide, it will use an average of 20.7kWh/100km.

So what sort of range have we seen on test? Well based on my driving - which included some, ahem, rigorous testing of the acceleration and a few jaunts up and down a hilly, twisty section (and more than 150km of highway driving), I calculated a real-world range of 387 kilometres based on covering 309km and using 56kWh to do so.

You can use the brand's Supercharger network, at a cost of $0.42 per kWh. (image: Matt Campbell) You can use the brand's Supercharger network, at a cost of $0.42 per kWh. (image: Matt Campbell)

Charging is dependent on your circumstance. Most people will get a home charger installed, and you can choose between different outputs (single phase, three phase) which will change the rate of charge. If you're going to buy a Tesla, be sure to speak to the company about your options to recharge it at home.

You can use the brand's Supercharger network, at a cost of $0.42 per kWh (about $25 and a bit over an hour from empty to full - or about a quarter of tank of 98RON premium unleaded in a similarly sized luxury performance car).

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Sit-ups. Crunches. Squats. 

Do some of those before you go getting into the Model 3, because you'll need your core strength if you plan to launch the car from 0-100km/h regularly.

In Sport mode, the acceleration is frightful. It's truly gobsmacking, so much so that it might make passengers feel ill if they're not expecting it. That it happens in near-silence is a compounding factor, as the only noise is a whirr from the electric motors and the whoosh of the wind as you cut through it.

It's a great party trick (like all those silly screen games!) but you won't be able to use it all the time, as it does eat battery range every time you do.

There are practical benefits of this level of immense acceleration - if you find yourself needing to get out of the way of an oncoming car, for instance, or if you just need to overtake a slow moving vehicle over a short opportunity. It's immensely helpful.

But what's more, the fact you can select Chill mode and have a considerably more sedate driving experience - presumably with the benefit of added range - is an advantage. It dulls things dramatically, but not too much.

There are other modes. The steering has Comfort, Standard and Sport variations, all of which have different weight and response to suit. I think Comfort is the best and most natural of the three - the Model 3 has quick a fast steering rack, and a lighter action makes for better involvement. Standard is just a touch too heavy, and Sport is numb.

If the Tesla Model 3 Performance appeals to you, you're probably a different kind of electric car buyer. (image: Matt Campbell) If the Tesla Model 3 Performance appeals to you, you're probably a different kind of electric car buyer. (image: Matt Campbell)

Part of that, of course, comes down to the fact the AWD system means the front tyres have to steer and put power down at the same time, and like any AWD model, there's a compromise to the feeling of the way the car corners. I prefer the entry-grade RWD model from a purist perspective.

And in urban driving, you will note that the turning circle is bigger than you might think of a car of this size. At 11.8m, it takes more turning room than any of the equivalent luxury cars.

While we know its main wow factor is straight-line speed, it goes through corners well. The Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S rubber is superbly sticky in the twisty stuff, and the mechanical grip is great too, though you can feel the weight of the car (1847kg) in tighter bends. There's some road noise to contend with a higher speeds on coarser road surfaces, too.

We didn't sample Track mode, but based on my drive in Sport mode through a twisty mountain pass, I'd suggest I'd want more than just a mode to choose - I'd want more braking power (these were okay, but not as good as I'd hoped), more supportive seats (these are okay, but they don't hold you in place like you might want), and I'd want better steering.

The ride comfort of the Model 3 Performance was surprisingly just a touch better than the standard base model car, and that's despite it having 20-inch wheels and lowered sports suspension. It could have something to do with extra weight helping tie it down a little more, but I will say this - it's still not a terrific ride, as it tends to bobble over repetitive bumps, and can clunk down on sharp edges.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

4 years / 80,000 km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   9/10

Tesla scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating for the Model 3 range, and of particular note was the car's 94 pert cent score for Safety Assist tech, which is the highest ever. It also got 96 per cent for adult occupant protection.

All Model 3s come with six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain), plus an advanced safety suite consisting of autonomous emergency braking (AEB) that works at city and highway pace and has pedestrian and cyclist detection. There's also blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and that's all wrapped up in the 'A' word... Autopilot.

There's also the brand's "Full Self-Driving Capability" option ($8500) available apparently later in 2019, which includes auto lane change, auto parking, the ability to recognise and act upon red lights and stop signs, automated driving on city streets, the company's Summon system (where your parked car will come and find you autonomously) and navigation-linked Autopilot. You can option this after the fact, but it could cost more.

There are dual ISOFIX child seat anchor points and three top-tether restraints, but parents take note: because the rear seat has integrated headrests, your baby seat may not be able to be fitted as tightly as you'd like in the outboard rear seats. This is a common complaint when the headrests aren't removable.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

Tesla backs the Model 3 with a less-than-excellent four year/80,000km warranty for the car itself, which doesn't really instill confidence - especially considering it was quietly rolled back from eight years/160,000km.

You get a longer warranty on the powertrain, though - for the RWD model it's eight years/160,000km, while AWD versions have eight years/192,000km cover.

There are wheel balance/alignment/tyre rotations to consider. (image: Matt Campbell) There are wheel balance/alignment/tyre rotations to consider. (image: Matt Campbell)

Tesla doesn't offer maintenance plans anymore - it used to have a selection of three- or four-year cover plans, but the brand says its maintenance requirements are so minimal it doesn't need to have that level of cover anymore.

But there is an inspection checklist that customers should abide by. Every two years the cabin air filter and brake fluid should be seen to, while the High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter requires checking every three years, and the air conditioner needs service every six years, too.

There are wheel balance/alignment/tyre rotations to consider, too.

Verdict

It is fun. It is fast (actually, it's incredibly quick). It is functional. But it's also flawed.

The interior ergonomic quirks may be something you get used to, or you might actually appreciate. But the quality of workmanship - or lack thereof - is something that is harder to overlook, especially for a car at this price point.

Pricing Guides

$78,600
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$66,000
Highest Price
$91,200

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
LONG RANGE AWD —, EV, 1 SP AUTO $85,000 2019 Tesla Model 3 2019 LONG RANGE AWD Pricing and Specs
PERFORMANCE —, EV, 1 SP AUTO $91,200 2019 Tesla Model 3 2019 PERFORMANCE Pricing and Specs
STANDARD RANGE RWD —, EV, 1 SP AUTO $66,000 2019 Tesla Model 3 2019 STANDARD RANGE RWD Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Design6
Practicality8
Price and features8
Engine & trans9
Fuel consumption8
Driving8
Safety9
Ownership7
Matt Campbell
Senior Editor

Share