Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD
The continued success of the Tesla Model 3 is no accident. It remains a turning point in the automotive landscape, much more so than its earlier, pricier brethren in the Model S and Model X. This was an electric lightning bolt straight to the heart of the compact sports saloon sector aimed, directly or not, at the BMW 3 Series. And in the sales charts, despite a global pandemic, the Model 3 continues to outsell the very cars it squared up to.
But as we know, the EV landscape is ever-shifting, and you are only ever as good as your last result. Has the king’s crown slipped a little in the face of newer opposition from Polestar and the threat of BMW with its incoming i4 and Mercedes’ ever-expanding EQ range sure to follow?
For 2021, Tesla has focussed in the areas that some, us included, felt needed addressing. There is now a heat-pump fitted to the cars, and whilst that does shrink the luggage compartment located under the bonnet, it remains a very useful, and practical space. The driving environment receives some small changes too, but thankfully the car’s USP of the centrally-mounted tablet-like display remains unaltered. Instead focus is on the new double-phone wireless charging mat at the front of the centre console, and new sliding covers for the storage compartments. These have also changed from the cheap-looking, finger-print magnet of the previous car’s piano Black to a matt silver finish. On the outside, the low-rent chrome has been banished by some smarter-looking satin black, and the rear boot lid guttering has been redesigned so that a deluge of water doesn’t soak your luggage when opened after a rain shower.
What they haven’t changed is the styling or the car’s mechanical set-up, and this creates a bag of mixed feelings. The good parts of the Tesla remain, which is a 77kWh battery that can accept charge at up to 170kW meaning that from a Tesla Supercharger you can add 172 miles in just 15 minutes. The range is quoted at 360 miles, but in reality, my time with the car saw a range of around 280 miles. Still impressive. As is the performance. The all-wheel drive system of this mid-range car will still throw it to 60mph from standstill in 4.2 seconds.
Unfortunately the car’s biggest failing in my book, namely the styling, has been left unaltered. This is a car whose design was the last box to tick on Elon Musk’s desire to create a mid-level saloon car. Getting the tech boys all flustered and excited was the priority and the aesthetics can play a distant second fiddle.
And whilst the steering and suspension allude to the car’s performance-orientated desire, the chassis is outshone by newer, more talented challengers. As a technology company building a car, you sense that the basics of dynamics have been glossed over by the façade of quirky interior design, apps and YouTube traffic light Grand Prix videos.
Don’t get me wrong, the Tesla Model 3 remains the technological tour de force that we know and love, and for many, that is all that will matter. For the rest of us, though, the ones who care about how a car drives and makes us feel, the Polestar 2 is the better choice.