Car Reviews

2018 Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor Performance Quick Test Review

All the test numbers on the latest Dual Motor Model 3

All the test numbers on the latest Dual Motor Model 3

Every push notification or swipe up seems to bring more brow-furrowing news about Tesla, mostly due to the mystifying moves of its chief executive. So many questions swirl—what’s he doing? Where are they going?—but after 70 hours and 600-some miles (966-some km) behind the wheel of the new 2018 Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor Performance, at least one thing is clear: Tesla still knows how to extract staggering performance out of its electric vehicles.

Quick refresher: The Model 3 is the tidiest Tesla currently in production—an all-electric sedan that comes in rear-wheel drive (via a rear-mounted permanent-magnet motor) or all-wheel drive (with the addition of an induction motor between the front wheels). In base rear-wheel-drive trim, the Model 3 (long-range version) makes 258 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. The Dual Motor Performance (DMP) variant ups the output to 450 horsepower and 471 lb-ft of torque. To what end? Read on.

Mini Me

Very much like a mini Model S, the Model 3 DMP accelerates on par with an early Model S P85D but not even close to the record-holding P100D Ludicrous+. Unlike that car, there’s no launch mode, no preconditions. Simply hold it in place with your left foot on the brake pedal then simultaneously remove that foot while quickly applying full throttle—maybe full “rheostat” is more appropriate—and off you go. Looking closely at the data, from 0 to 10 mph (0 to 16 km/h), the acceleration rapidly increases (in g-load) from 0.00 up to 0.80 g. Then, between 10 and 40 mph (16 and 64 km/h), it simply plateaus there (precisely, as if by design), averaging 0.83 g (see graph). Thereafter, acceleration, still referring to g-load, begins to gradually wane as power starts to decrease and wind resistance begins to increase. Still, 0–60 mph takes just 3.2 seconds. How quick is that? Here’s a partial list of cars with 3.2-second 0–60 times: a pair of Teslas—the 2015 Model S P85D and 2016 Model X P90D Ludicrous; a couple of Audis—the 2014 R8 V10 Plus and RS7; and a trio of Super Sedans—the 2018 BMW M5, 2018 Mercedes-Benz E63S, and 2017 Porsche Panamera Turbo Executive. What do all of these have in common? All-wheel drive, of course.—Chris Walton

The Model 3 Dual Motor Performance’s best quarter-mile run begins at the dotted vertical line (1-foot rollout). Red is miles per hour, and purple is longitudinal g-load over time.

The Tesla Model 3 DMP’s quarter mile flew by in 11.8 seconds at 115.2 mph (185.4 km/h). Here’s a random list of some cars with slower quarter-mile times:

All the Feels

In the realm of quick sport sedans, it’s interesting that the Model 3 DMP feels much, much quicker than an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio, which gets to 60 mph in 3.8 to 3.9 seconds. Like all Teslas, without a raucous revving engine or the occasion of gears shifting abruptly, one is more focused on the silent experience of acceleration, the way your cheeks feel heavier than normal, and a sense of the seat really pushing you down the road. Minus the screaming, running down the dragstrip in the Model 3 DMP is not dissimilar to an electromagnetic amusement park ride: You’re just sitting there and then, suddenly … speed! In the Model 3, the dash and cowl are lower so the sense of speed and acceleration is heightened, even more so than in either an S or X.—Chris Walton

Hitting the Brakes

Besides the variable-rate electricity-regenerative braking that uses the motors to slow the vehicle, the Model 3’s traditional disc brakes haul the car from 60 to 0 mph in 99 feet, on par with some formidable performers. This ties the GT350R and Giulia Quadrifoglio from above, as well as two 2016 Cadillacs: the ATS-V and CTS-V. It’s also shorter than a couple of 2016 BMWs: the M4 GTS and M3 Competition. Here are a few contemporaneous notes from the test track. “The Model 3 DMB has a very firm brake pedal, without much travel or feel, but the brakes are highly effective and consistent. I did one stop from 100 mph (the second one) and got them rather hot and a saw a puff of smoke when the car stopped. On the next pass, the distance shrank to the shortest stop (99 feet), so the brakes are capable of dissipating heat well. In order: 100, 105, and 99 feet.”

When you chart the data (above), there’s an absolutely straight line showing the car shedding speed in a linear fashion. Also, when looking at g-loads, there are no dips or spikes. It’s pretty much 1.2 g from 60 mph down to a halt.—Chris Walton

Slot Car

Imagine a gigantic slot car, and you’ll get the idea. Of course, the slot you’re following isn’t an actual slot but a virtual one, a sharply defined path the steering angle has mentally scribed on the road ahead of you. If any alterations are needed, you just make small steering adjustments; the Telsa Model 3 DMP’s steering is very quick to respond (you even have to get used to it). That’s a good thing, too, as everything’s happening so fast, and the stability control system isn’t very tolerant of slip angles. Quick steering is exactly the scalpel you need here.

An analogy might be a bobsled (or maybe a luge) plunging down a bob course: You need to keep the path clean and be economical with your inputs. Turning into a corner cues the tail to slip sideways momentarily, followed by a whiff of understeer as the corner’s line is traced. Nearing corner exit, you tramp down the throttle—I mean the loud pedal … no, that’s not right, either … stamp the accelerometer—and the tail snakes a bit and the forward rush starts all over again. The rush is really like a tractor beam—a linear, nonstop seat-back compression from corner exit to the next braking point.

On the first lap I overshot that brake point, completely blew the lap, and instantly thought, “These brakes aren’t up to the kinda speed this car’s making. Or maybe it’s feeling its 4,086-pound (1,853-kg) weight. Maybe it’s both of those things.” But according to Chris over at the dragstrip, the brakes themselves do indeed deliver ballpark stopping distances: 99 feet from 60 mph. So I’m simply underestimating the speed—it builds so linearly and silently that you’re at 80 mph (129 km/h) when you think you’re doing 70.

There’s been some debate as to whether the new Track mode will actually improve performance around the figure-eight course. But after my chance to drive this car, I’m pretty sure it will. The Tesla could benefit from a little more opportunity for driver improvisation. Less restrictive stability control means a wider canvas to paint on—if you’re handy with the brush. On the flip side, it’s also an invite to just scribble all over the road with lurid (but slow) sideways antics; it’ll take discipline to use it for good (a quicker lap time) and not evil (Instagram moments).

After a few hard laps the acceleration edge noticeably wore off; apparently the motor temps were rising. But Track mode promises to keep the quick laps coming via precooling the motors and battery, operating the cooling system at full-tilt howl, and as necessary, opening the fluid connection between the two cooling circuits (thermally destressing the motors at a small cost to the battery temp).

Can we get a 95th percentile lap, under 24 seconds, in the Model 3 DMP in Track mode? It won’t be easy. Although the Model 3 DMP ranks about 72nd place in our all-time 0–60 rankings, on the leader board (including modified cars and race cars) its 0.94 g of cornering grip sinks it to a good but unremarkable 470th place in the skidpad category. Big difference. Most of the figure eight’s lap time is spent cornering, and obviously Tesla isn’t too keen on dialing up cornering pace with higher rolling resistance tires (being that battery range is by far the car’s priciest feature). Still, meet me back here at the figure-eight course with a Track mode Model 3; I’ll pull the bill of my baseball cap down tight, and we’ll find out.—Kim Reynolds

2018 Tesla Model 3 Dual Motor Performance
BASE PRICE $65,000
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front/rear elec motors, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
MOTORS 3-phase internal permanent-magnet electric motors: 197-hp front; 283-hp rear; 450-hp/471 lb-ft combined
TRANSMISSION Front/rear single-ratio transaxles
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,086 lb (51/49%)
WHEELBASE 113.2 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 184.8 x 72.8 x 56.8 in
0-60 MPH 3.2 sec
QUARTER MILE 11.8 sec @ 115.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 99 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 24.3 sec @ 0.84 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 28/30 kW-hrs/100 miles