The Tesla Model 3 needs no introduction. It was the world's best-selling electric car from 2018 (the year it went on sale) to 2021, when it passed on the sceptre to the Model Y, with which it shares 70% of its components.
It has literally transformed the concept of the electric car from an exotic and somewhat naïve choice to a concrete and viable alternative, even for those who were not so green-minded. But what's the secret behind this success? How did the Tesla Model 3 become the second best-selling electric car in history, behind the Model Y? Let's find out by taking an in-depth look at the newly redesigned car.
Electricity made easy
The Tesla Model 3 has broken record after record, mainly because it has made electric cars accessible to everyone. Or, at least, because it gave the impression that an EV could be used by everyone without too many sacrifices. And it has achieved this without any clever marketing ploys.
The new Tesla Model 3 has more pronounced rear lights
From Autopilot to OTA
Usually, when we describe a car, we start with the platform and the mechanics. But to understand the essence of the Model 3, we need to start by talking about the technology. That's where the real soul of the car lies.
One of the things that has made Tesla famous the world over, for example, is Autopilot, the sophisticated Level 2 driver assistance system. It's able to brake automatically, stay in a lane, help with bends and overtaking, and maintain speed. These are all things that are standard today, but which were reserved for Tesla cars just a few years ago and were almost science fiction.
Tesla controls autonomous driving on motorways
This software supremacy is reinforced by the possibility of receiving OTA updates, i.e. downloading them remotely, without having to go to a service centre, as is the case for smartphones and computers.
This is something that Tesla has been doing since it was founded, and it's still something of a revolution in the automotive sector. For proof, just look at the mixed results with which many manufacturers are trying to adapt. OTA updates are revolutionary because they enable upgrades not only for infotainment, but also for the entire electronic management of the powertrain, improving the performance, efficiency and operation of the various on-board devices.
In short, this technology allows cars already on the road to stay up to date and improve over time, rather than becoming obsolete.
The rear seats of the Tesla Model 3
Autonomy and recharging
The Tesla Model 3 has also made a name for itself thanks to its charging infrastructure. The ability to access Superchargers, the most widespread high-power charging stations on the planet, has always inspired confidence in drivers. If the battery charge falls below a certain percentage, they simply set the navigator to the nearest Supercharger. Drivers of a Tesla Model 3, like any other Tesla, can be sure of finding a free, operational charging station capable of recharging the car in a relatively short time.
This, combined with a long range, has made the Model 3 a car capable of inspiring peace of mind on both daily commutes and longer journeys. The current range, which includes RWD and Long Range versions, boasts WLTP ranges of 319 and 391 miles (513 and 629 km) respectively.
The new V4 Superchargers could reach 600 kW in the future.
A rocket for five adults
The Tesla Model 3 is a three-box saloon with clean lines and a tapered tail, measuring 4.72 metres in length. It's comfortable for five people, with good interior space and a 600-litre boot. It's versatile and comfortable, but conceals first-rate performance.
- Length : 4.72 metres
- Width : 1.85 metres
- Height : 1.45 metres
- Wheelbase : 2.88 metres
- Boot capacity : 600 litres
- Weight : 1,765 kg (1,828 kg for the Long Range version)
The RWD version, equipped with a single motor, accelerates from 0 to 62 mph in just 6.1 seconds; the Long Range version, which has two electric motors and benefits from improved traction thanks to four-wheel drive, needs just 4.4 seconds despite weighing in at 1,828 kg.
The new Tesla Model 3 also features rear-seat infotainment
Both versions score the same for top speed: 125 mph (201 km/h), a respectable figure for a battery-powered car. But that doesn't do justice to the car's surprising dynamic qualities. The car boasts refined torque management, enabling it to transfer the driving force to the various wheels with surgical precision and a speed that is difficult to reproduce with mechanical devices.
What's more, thanks to the underfloor battery, it has a low centre of gravity and an almost ideal weight distribution (47-53). The result is fast, neutral cornering, excellent downforce and millimetre changes of direction, supported by steering that's as sincere as it is finely tuned.
A battery for everyone
When it comes to technology, Tesla has always been reluctant to communicate detailed information, convinced that the solutions adopted are secondary to the performance and driving sensation.
We do know, however, that the current Tesla Model 3 adopts two different types of battery depending on the version. The Model 3 RWD uses a lithium-iron-phosphate battery produced by CATL. Specifically, this is an M3P battery with a capacity of 60 kWh and a DC charging capacity of up to 170 kW. The Model 3 Long Range, meanwhile, adopts a lithium-ion battery with traditional nickel-manganese-cobalt chemistry: it has a capacity of 75 kWh and recharges at 250 kW.
|Model 3 RWD
|Model 3 Long Range
|LFP 60 kWh
|NMC 75 kWh
|319 miles (WLTP)
|391 miles (WLTP)
|0 to 62 mph
Unlike some Model Ys and the new Cybertruck, this NMC battery is still made from 2170 cells produced with Panasonic at the Gigafactory in Nevada. In the future, the Model 3 may adopt the 4680 for new versions at the top end of the range, and it may also switch to the Giga Press. For the moment, none of this is happening. Its strength lies in its simplicity and in a tried and tested layout.
Aesthetically, the new Model 3 is recognisable by its more horizontally developed front end.
Produced in Fremont and in the Shanghai Gigafactory, the Tesla Model 3 ushered in a new era of mobility. Re-launched in September, with the Performance (or perhaps even Plaid) version arriving early next year, it will continue to play a key role in the American manufacturer's offering for some time to come, but is being replaced by the Model Y, which is setting new sales records around the world.
With a starting price of £39,990 (£49,990 for the Long Range version), it is currently the brand's entry-level model, at least until the arrival of the Model 2, scheduled for 2025. Until then, and probably even after that, we'll be hearing a lot more about it.