Model Showcase: Tesla Model 3
When most people hear any phrase related to electric vehicles, the first car that will most likely come to their mind is a Tesla.
Since it began producing the Roadster in 2008, Tesla has been setting the trend for electric vehicles that all other OEMs have been trying to catch up to. Even back in the early 2010s when companies such as Nissan, Mitsubishi and General Motors were producing small, underwhelming EVs, Tesla was producing groundbreaking vehicles that looked and drove like normal cars -- something that was a novelty at the time. Bob Lutz, who was at the time the vice chairman for GM, even said as much during a 2009 interview with The New Yorker.
“All the geniuses here at General Motors kept saying lithium-ion technology is ten years away, and Toyota agrees with us—and, boom, along comes Tesla," Lutz said in that interview. "So I said, ‘How come some teeny little California start-up run by guys who know nothing about the car business can do this, and we can’t?’ That was the crowbar that helped break up the logjam.”
Fast forward to today, and Tesla still has a stranglehold on the EV market: A report from Statista shows that Tesla sold nearly 1 million EVs globally in 2021—more than twice as many as the next-highest OEM on the list—and had two of the three most popular individual vehicles.
Tesla's most popular vehicle, the Tesla Model 3, was the best-selling EV in the world last year with 501,000 units moved.
Performance and Range
Following the lead of its older cousin, the Roadster, the Model 3 destroys the now-very-outdated notion that electric vehicles are undersized, underpowered and otherwise unappealing.
There are three trim levels offered for the Model 3: A Rear-Wheel Drive trim that acts as an entry-level, a Long-Range trim and a Performance trim. The base model starts just under $49,000, the Long Range serves as the in-between at just under $56,000, and the Performance trim tops out just under $63,500.
In the Long Range and Performance models, the Model 3 comes with dual-motor all-wheel drive that can "digitally control torque to the front and rear wheels," which significantly improves handling and traction. Each of the three trims, as Car and Driver concisely describes, "is fast—extremely so in some trims." The base offering of the Model 3 can jump from zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds, while the Performance trim clocks in at just 3.1 seconds. Tesla lists the Model 3's top speed at 162 mph.
The Long Range, unsurprisingly, boasts the best expected range of the three, topping out at 358 miles on a single charge. The lowest-range model gets a still-respectable 272 miles of range, though Car and Driver says that still "may not be enough to eliminate range-anxiety for some drivers."
Safety and Tech
Of all the major innovations Tesla has made for the automotive industry, the automaker prides itself most on its safety features.
"Tesla vehicles are engineered to be the safest in the world," the company's website says. "Each one combines powerful onboard technology with an all-electric design to help protect every driver, passenger and pedestrian on the road."
Each of Tesla's four models currently on sale are built with an aluminum/steel body "to achieve the best structural rigidity," and a standard floor-mounted battery pack keeps a low center of gravity in the vehicle, which gives each Tesla "a very low rollover risk." The Model 3 achieved a 5-star safety rating in every NHTSA testing category and the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award.
Though perhaps a bit misleadingly named, the Model 3's Autopilot array of advanced driver assist features boast "smooth operation and impressive capabilities" according to Car and Driver, and systems such as automatic lane change, blind-spot detection and adaptive cruise control are all standard.
On top of its safety features, the Model 3 comes standard with Tesla's in-house navigation, bluetooth and USB interfaces.
Image: Tesla via Car and Driver