Within the last week, we wrote that not one major automotive media outlet had independently tested the less-expensive and higher-volume Tesla Model 3.
That changed on Monday, when Motor Trend published the first instrumented test of Tesla’s affordable electric car.
This gives us the first independent look at the performance and specifications of the Model 3 Long Range, the version tested.
The first test took the Model 3 Long Range through a standard battery of tests: acceleration, braking, roadholding on a figure-eight course, and more.
The Motor Trend test staff observed respectable performance, including a 4.8-second time from 0 to 60 mph, and a 13.4-second elapsed quarter-mile time.
For those keeping score, the Chevrolet Bolt EV manages a 6.5-second 0-to-60-mph time and hustles through a quarter mile in 14.9 seconds.
The test writeup doesn’t mention the electric Chevy, but instead compares the Model 3 performance figures to those of a similarly-specified Model S sedan and the BMW 3-Series, a sport-sedan benchmark.
MT likened the Model 3’s handling and precision to that of the Honda Civic Type R and the Porsche Cayman—a pair of high compliments, since both models are known for their roadholding.
Perhaps most importantly, the publication strapped on tools from Emission Analytics (something of a misnomer in this case!) to measure the Model 3’s energy efficiency.
The EPA estimated the Model 3 will return 126 MPGe combined. Miles per gallon equivalent, or MPGe, is the distance a car can travel electrically on the amount of energy contained in 1 gallon of gasoline.
In the magazine’s testing, the electric car returned 103.7 MPGe combined, which falls short of the EPA’s estimations; it returned 89.7 MPGe in the city and 128.2 MPGe on the highway.
But, when measuring the fully loaded Tesla against a similarly loaded BMW 3-Series, it consumed energy at just a fraction of the pace the German car did.
The Model 3 Long Range is just $1,000 more expensive than a comparable 3-Series after applying all local and federal incentives in California.
The purchase price that the buyer must finance, however, includes the $7,500 that the owner may be eligible to deduct on that year’s federal income-tax return (at least through December 31 of this year).
Overall, the car clearly left a favorable opinion on testers, though things may change when the more standard Short Range car is finally available.
That’s the version most average buyers can afford with its widely touted $35,000 price before federal and state incentives.
Short Range versions of the Model 3 aren’t likely to be available until several months into next year, as Tesla builds higher-spec and more expensive models first.
Meanwhile, all Model 3 buyers may have to wait a few months longer, as Tesla works to move the Model 3 out of what CEO Elon Musk has several times called its current “production hell.”