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2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance First Review

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2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Spending the better part of a day with Tesla nuts is quite an experience. I had no choice in the matter as if I wanted some coveted wheel time in a brand new Tesla Model 3, I had to adorn my Tesla-nut hat. To be quite honest, it was a very good day.

My good friend Ian had picked up his Model 3 Performance only 18 hours before we were about to do some tests. You see, Ian is a humble genius and borderline geek that thrives on data and information. Having spent the better part of the last three years on Tesla Forums, he was determined to do one thing within 24 hours of owning the car and that’s figure out how fast it is. On the Interwebs, someone had managed a 3.14-second sprint to 60mph in their Performance. Ian had a plan: new wheels and tires – he does work for Fast Wheels after all.

You might have figured out that this is not a typical First Review but I thought enquiring minds would like to know more than the usual driving and techno-bits in this story.

2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Very Fast

First, we performed sprints on the stock 20-inch wheels and tires. The 2018 Model 3 was dead-steady at 3.2 seconds. Tesla’s 0-60 for the 450-horsepower dual-motor Performance Model 3 is 3.5 seconds. Once the tires warmed up, however the time dropped to 3.17. This my friends, is fast.

Before Ian went ahead with his plan, he handed me the key-card to the car with a nervous yet solemn smirk. I wasted no time and headed to a nearby section of country roads. What captured my attention within seconds of leaving with the Model 3 was how familiar it already felt.

I’d driven to Fast Wheels in a 2018 Volkswagen Golf R so its driving characteristics were fresh in my mind. By the first tug on the Model 3’s steering wheel, I immediately thought: Golf R. Like Volkswagen’s highest performance car, the Model 3 is equal parts torqued down and compliant.

2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Drives brilliantly

While on steering, the amount of assistance (everything set in Normal) is perfectly judged, with only a light amount of effort required on the wheel followed by steady linear assistance. It’s just quick enough too, which makes me wonder how good it’ll be on the track. On that topic, the “Track Mode” upgrade will shortly be available on Ian’s car…

The 2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance rides exactly as I had hoped. For a 4,000+ lbs car, the 3 is agile and responsive. The dampers deliver a mite of compliance at the top of their travel levelling all but the worst offending dips and bumps. This Model 3 is stuck to the road, firmly planted and feels extra grippy. The car remains flat even after sharp steering inputs. The ride is never harsh but is never plush either. It’s for this reason that I compare the Model 3 to the Golf R. For many, the Golf R is a reference point for handling and comfort. It’s impressive to think that Tesla got it right the first time.

As I was privy to acceleration tests, I did not feel the need to do any of my own. Also, not my car and it’s less than a day old. I did drop the throttle half of the way to floor and I was met with instantaneous and sublime power. I also poked it repeatedly to try and notice any lag in response while building up speed. No lag or drop in forward thrust to report.

2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

My sole deception

I will admit that I’m still learning every day when it comes to EVs. The latest bit of info I picked up on, thanks to Ian, was the difference between a permanent magnet motor and a synchronous motor. Without going into the science behind it, the Tesla Model 3’s rear permanent magnet motor does not allow the car to come to a full stop. In other words, the driver cannot one-pedal drive the Model 3. I was and am disappointed.

New tires and wheels for more fast

When I got back, Ian did his thing and installed some 18-inch Fast FC04 wheels (from the stock 20s) shod with 255/40 Yokohama Advan V105 tires (from 235 section Michelins). Two reasons for the move are: 1- 18s weigh 9.2 lbs less than the 20s. And 2- lower inertia, aka it should go faster.

The result is conclusive. With less than 3km on the tires, the Tesla Model 3 hit 60mph in 3.12 seconds on the second run. I’d though a sub 3-second run was possible but not on this day.

2018 Tesla Model 3 Performance | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Nearly perfect

Yes, the Tesla Model 3 Performance is insanely fast. I do have concerns about the cabin and the centrally located 15-inch screen. I outline facts in my “Should You Buy” story. The occupant quarters are comfortable, as are the seats. The driving position seemed slightly off but I suspect more time with the car would quickly solve this issue.

As a reminder, the 2018 Model 3 currently starts at $64,100. The true base price is $45,600, and I touch on that in my preview on the car. When asked why the $100k version, Ian stated that this Model 3 was his dream car. Why not go all out? It is difficult not to agree. Do know that Ian intends to track and rally his Model 3 – no STI, RS, R, S or any of these are safe anymore.

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