When someone brings up the subject of electric cars, it is impossible to leave Tesla out of the conversation, but the Tesla Model 3 is not usually mentioned when discussing luxury sedans, until now. In spite of the fact that the Tesla Model 3 seemed to lack standard features in previous years, the all-electric sedan has arrived, adding enough styling, performance, and range to compete with compact luxury sedans while remaining affordable. It appears that Tesla’s focus has shifted to styling, and the carmaker didn’t hold back this year.
The 2021 Tesla Model 3 is a leader in compact luxury
Which cars come to mind when you talk about leaders in luxury? BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Cadillac, and Lexus quickly come to mind. Luxury leaders in the compact class typically include BMW’s 3 Series, the C-Class from Mercedes, the Audi A4, the Cadillac CT5, and the IS from Lexus. No doubt plenty of jaws dropped when MotorTrend published their Best Sedans for 2021 list, giving the nod to the Tesla Model 3 as the Best Compact Luxury Sedan, rather than one of these or even last year’s winner, the Genesis G70.
Established luxury sedan manufacturers are left scratching their heads as outsiders have taken top honors two years running. Are they doing something wrong or are these new competitors doing something right?
What set it apart from the group?
If you are going to rank an electric vehicle (EV) like the Tesla Model 3 over the major players in the compact luxury sedan class, you have to have a pretty compelling argument. The Model 3’s second-place finish on MotorTrend’s Best Luxury Compact Sedans to Buy in 2020 and topping the list in 2021 could indicate a shift to a more eco-friendly attitude among luxury car buyers and critics alike.
Gas-powered and typically German, compact luxury competitors deliver satisfying performance and handling along with their interior and exterior styling. EVs have lagged behind in performance and their range has left most luxury sedan buyers skeptical. The Tesla Model 3 has overcome those objections by featuring engine choices like an AC permanent magnet motor (283 hp, 307 lb-ft); AC front induction motor, AC rear permanent magnet motor (384-456 hp, 375-497 lb-ft total output) while producing 113-141 combined MPGe economy. Its 0-60 mph performance (3.5 seconds) impresses the entire class while 2021 upgrades have overcome reservations related to range.
However, it takes more than performance and handling to top this list. Borrowing from the Model S and Model Y designs, Tesla added styling highlights and an all-glass roof, chrome trim was replaced with more elegant black satin and new wheel design choices. Much needed interior upgrades were also added and the elimination of leather from the Model 3 interior is a major motivation for more conscientious buyers.
Where saving the planet fuzzies combined with improved performance and a bit of novelty may have helped boost the Model 3 to the top of the list, its affordability among the class competitors is an added incentive for topping the MT Best Buy list with a sticker price starting from $2,000 to $6,000 less than the competition.
Luxury in an electric sedan is available in the 2021 Tesla Model 3
Though it is a surprise to see any EV topping the compact luxury sedan list, the 2021 Tesla Model 3’s accomplishment demonstrates Tesla’s commitment to provide an eco-friendly alternative with the styling that satisfies the most discriminating tastes. Those with an eye toward the future cannot help but realize that luxury in electric sedans will be a critical part of where the market is heading. The 2021 Tesla Model 3 has a jump-start on the compact luxury car competition.