If you’re in the market for a used car that could cut your fuel costs, the 2021 Tesla Model 3 is worth a look. It’s a performance powerhouse, with the speed and driving dynamics of a true sports car and fuel economy to rival any electric vehicle.
It’s no secret that Tesla is the reigning leader of the electric car industry, and the Model 3 is the make’s most accessible model. With its unique glass roof design, it stands out from the crowd—and it can leave that crowd behind, thanks to an impressive lineup of electric powertrains and top-of-the-line engineering.
2021 Tesla Model 3 performance review
How good is the Tesla Model 3’s performance? Well, one of its three variants is actually called Performance—which might give you a little hint as to how well this car can drive.
The 2021 Model 3’s entry-level trim, starting at $46,440, is called the Standard Range Plus. Above that, at a starting MSRP of $52,440, is the Long Range, followed by the truly luxurious Performance model, a gleaming $60,000 hunk of high-powered electric fun.
What makes the Model 3 so popular? It’s not the only decent electric car on the market—the Volkswagen ID.4, Kia Niro, and Hyundai Kona would like a word—and it’s not the first Tesla car to make it big (that honor goes to the 2008 Roadster). It’s the Model 3’s combination of high-grade performance and real-world affordability that makes it a superstar.
Powertrain options and handling
The Model 3 has three powertrain options, depending on which trim you select. The Standard Range Plus starts things off with a single 271-hp electric motor and rear-wheel drive, but the Long Range AWD and the Performance model both sport a dual-motor setup and all-wheel drive. Every Model 3 comes with a single-speed automatic transmission.
The result: true power and speed on tap and dynamic handling to match the best sports cars. You can use the Model 3 as a daily driver, thanks to comparatively low ownership costs, but it drives like a much more exciting car.
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Acceleration, 0 to 60, and top speed
Speaking of excitement: the Model 3 is fast. No, really—it’s one of the fastest electric vehicles on the market.
Acceleration is prompt and easy in any Model 3, but every powertrain upgrade comes with an extra burst of speed. Here’s how the zero-to-60 times for all three 2021 models compare:
- Standard Range Plus: 5.3 seconds
- Long Range: 4.2 seconds
- Performance: 3.1 seconds
The top speed for each model ranges from 140 or 145 mph for the bottom two trims to a thrilling 162 mph for the Performance model—just enough to make highway driving a true delight.
By comparison, here are the speed stats for three of the fastest gas-powered luxury cars on the market:
While the Model 3 can’t quite catch the Corvette’s speed record, it does it all for a starting price almost $20,000 behind the ‘Vette.
Fuel economy and range
The available AWD drivetrain combined with the Long Range dual motor configuration delivers
the longest possible driving range: 353 miles, compared to the Performance’s 315 miles and the 263 miles possible in the Standard Range Plus.
Every Model 3 is compatible with Tesla’s Supercharger network, but they’ll also come with an onboard charger to keep your car going on the go. Charging speeds improve as you move up the trim levels, so it’s worth considering your charging needs if you’re eyeing a purchase.
The result is stellar efficiency. The Standard Range has an EPA rating of 142 MPGe, which drops to 134 and 113 MPGe for the Long Range and Performance models. Compare that to the Corvette’s 19 mpg combined or the Audi S8’s pitiful 16 mpg (despite its hybrid powertrain!), and you’ll probably agree that the slight sacrifice in speed is worth the fuel savings.
Technology is at the heart of any Tesla, and in the Model 3, it’s the tech that balances out the car’s raw power for a truly pleasing luxury car experience.
The Model 3’s interior is starkly (and, perhaps, refreshingly) sparse. Luxury touches like heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and Bluetooth smartphone integration keep a low profile in the Model 3.
A single 15-inch touchscreen in the center of the dashboard is home to most of the car’s powerful tech. That includes built-in navigation and other infotainment options (no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay capability, sadly) along with the impressive suite of driver safety aids that Tesla calls, a touch confusingly, “Autopilot.”
Autopilot tech includes adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, lane departure warnings, and blind spot monitoring. Together, these aids earn the 2021 Model a Top Safety Pick+ designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and a perfect five-star safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
How to save on Tesla Model 3 insurance
The Model 3 has a reputation for being the affordable Tesla option—and with good reason. There’s just one problem: insurance.
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