Codenamed “BlueStar,” the Tesla Model 3 began development in the mid-to-late 2000s. CEO Elon Musk planned to name it “Model E” so that when combined with the Model S and Model X, it spelled “SEX.” However, possibly to troll Musk, Ford trademarked the name “Model E.” That blocked other automakers from using it. So far, Ford hasn’t used it. As a result, the Model 3 is the only vehicle in Tesla’s lineup with a number in its moniker. Musk settled for the numeronym “S3X.”
Here’s a closer look at the latest Tesla Model 3.
The 2021 Tesla Model 3 in a nutshell
The 2021 Tesla Model 3 is an all-electric four-door, five-passenger fastback sedan. Fastbacks feature a coupe body style with a single slope starting from the roof and ending at the rear bumper. Along with the Standard Range Plus and Long Range trims, Tesla added the Performance to the 2021 lineup.
The MSRP for the entry-level Model 3 is $37,990. The Long Range costs $46,990, and the Performance trim starts at $54,990.
The Model 3’s acceleration is already quick with a spirited chassis, but the Performance gets a sportier suspension. There’s also Track Mode 2 to “customize its handling, providing even more control over how their car behaves on track,” Tesla‘s website says.
Because many EV buyers prefer range over speed and handling, they get both with the Long Range or Performance trim. The former boasts an estimated EPA of 315 miles, while the latter gets 353. The Standard Range Plus has an estimated EPA of 263 miles.
The 2021 Tesla Model 3’s noticeable changes
Of the more affordable EVs on the market, the new Tesla Model 3 is the name with the most clout. Despite its questionable reliability, owners still love it. This entry-level model gained several improvements for 2021. The exterior chrome elements have been exchanged for satin black trim.
The Performance model’s changes include three fresh wheel designs. They have 20-inch Überturbine Wheels and Pirelli P Zero tires, lowered suspension for improved handling, and better brakes. With a top speed of 162 mph, this Tesla comes with a carbon fiber spoiler for improved stability.
Taking a few styling cues from the Model S sedan and Model X SUV, the Model 3 differentiates itself with a distinctive interior design and an all-glass roof. It also features a power-operated trunk lid. The sedan’s original metallic door-sill protectors receive the same black satin trim as seen on the exterior. Magnets now hold the driver and passenger sun visors in place. And the redesigned center console now houses two charging pads for smartphones. Finally, the steering-wheel-mounted infotainment scroll wheels and the seat-adjustment controls boast new finishes.
The Model 3 provides great performance
One of the most significant improvements to the Tesla Model 3 is its driving range and overall performance. Similar to many EVs, the 2021 Model 3 accelerates fluidly and quietly. As the name suggests, the Standard Plus is the standard or base model. It offers a single motor, goes from 0 to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, and tops out at 140 mph. Because it has a single electric motor, it’s only a rear-wheel drive. The Long Range all-wheel drive goes 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds, has a top speed of 145 mph, and packs two electric motors.
The Tesla Model 3 Performance is the beast of the three trims. Using two Long Range batteries, it can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in blistering 3.1 seconds and reaches a top speed of 162 mph. As with all Tesla EVs, the Model 3 houses its batteries under the floor. That gives the car a low center of gravity. Combined with racing tires and an excellent suspension, this results in accurate and well-weighted steering in corners. Drivers can also adjust the level of steering effort by choosing from three distinct steering settings.
Test drivers have reported a firm yet soft ride. However, without the noise of a gas-powered engine, the Model 3 sometimes annoys drivers. Some complain they hear its tires roll over imperfections on the pavement. In terms of which EV sedan offers the best value for the price, we feel confident recommending the Model 3 Long Range. It offers the best range. And in terms of performance, it’s also not that far off from the Performance trim.