2020 Tesla Model 3

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2020
The Car Connection
2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Anthony Sophinos Anthony Sophinos Contributor
February 20, 2020

Buying tip

The Long Range is our favorite for performance and total range. We’d stay away from the high-end performance model, only because at that price point you can buy other fast electrics with better interiors and more upscale style.

features & specs

Long Range AWD
Performance AWD
Standard Range Plus RWD
MPG
NA
MPG
NA
MPG
NA
MSRP
$48,990
MSRP
$56,990
MSRP
$39,990

It’s not perfect, but the 2020 Tesla Model 3 has a devoted following and growing list of fans.

After fits and starts, the 2020 Tesla Model 3 electric sedan is available in its full range of trims, which are largely differentiated by range and performance. The base $39,990 Standard Range Plus is the base model, while the Dual Motor Long Range Performance model sits at the top with its $56,990 price.

Besides an attractive price, the Model 3’s blistering performance, excellent range, and high feature count earn it a 7.3 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

As an electric car the Tesla Model 3 is clever, but it’s how it performs as an ordinary car that has us impressed. There’s no sacrifice here, and no sense of giving up anything in order to use a Model 3 daily. Just be prepared to use a touchscreen for everything, as physical buttons have been totally purged from the cabin.

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If you like living with screen swipes, the 15-inch touchscreen won’t disappoint. The Apple-like interface controls everything from mirror adjustments to climate control to drive mode settings. 

The Model 3 is typical of any electric car: quiet and fuss-free. It just goes, the only sound comes from the whisper of the tires (or more, depending on the surface). That’s not to say that it’s boring. 

Bury the accelerator, and all jazz about instantaneous torque immediately comes to fruition. Even the weakest setup is still good for a 5.2-second 0-60 mph time, and in its most potent combination the Model 3 will sprint to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. 

Tesla sells its cars differently than other brands. Instead of traditional dealerships, Tesla offers online ordering and boutique retailers at various locations.

6

2020 Tesla Model 3

Styling

The 2020 Model 3 carries on the sleek, windswept design that is now a well-established Tesla motif, but its interior takes the minimalist approach to new heights.

The 2020 Tesla Model 3 has a lot to live up to—the Model S is striking. Is the Model 3 as good-looking? Well, not quite. The sedan shape is a touch frumpier next to the Model S, and the Model 3’s proportions are a little less evocative. Overall, we give the Model 3 a 6 out of 10 on our style scale. 

The unadorned front end makes no attempt at pretending there’s a radiator to cool. The general bubble shape eschews any hard angles, and the tapered roofline is a slippery shape. Door handles sit flush in the body. A lower-than-usual hoodline is made possible by the lack of a gas engine, though it’s countered by the tall-looking rear end. 

Overall, the vibe is futuristic, but it doesn’t hit you over the head with any suddenly-it's-2030 design cues. Tesla is doling out the future to us in small doses (though their new electric truck does otherwise). 

The Model 3’s interior is a bit further along, though. The look is stark; depending on how baroque your tastes run, it is either entirely too plain or clean and conservative. But even minimalists will agree there’s not much here to give it pizzazz. It’s an uncluttered look, but it's also drab. 

A big reason for this lies with Tesla’s choice to incorporate all controls into the central 15-inch touchscreen. By all controls, we mean all controls; it’s a miracle Elon Musk let the signal stalks stick around. Without any physical buttons or knobs in the center stack to liven up things, it’s a plain look—not helped by the choice of materials, which might be appropriate for the cheaper models but doesn’t cut it in top trims. If the Model 3 had plusher materials, perfect seams, and a softer ambience, more might warm up to the simplicity.

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8

2020 Tesla Model 3

Performance

Behind the whispered silence of the 2020 Model 3 lies a genuine sports sedan.

The 2020 Model 3 easily could have been hashed together like an appliance, but Tesla took a different approach: the Model 3 is fun to drive and engaging. The result is an electric car that hustles like our favorite gas-powered sport sedans, and for that the Model 3 earns a 8 out of 10 for performance.

The best performance is provided by the Dual Motor Performance model, where 0-60 mph happens as quickly as 3.2 seconds up to a top speed of 145. For reference, that 0-60 mph time is in line with the likes of the Ferrari Portofino, McLaren 570S, and Aston Martin Vantage. The Model 3 is quicker than some of those, too. 

The reason for its success? Electric motors can make nearly all their torque instantaneously. 

The Dual Motor Performance version takes full advantage of this with an electric motor for each axle, all-wheel drive, and a larger battery. Total output is 450 horsepower and 471 lb-ft of torque. The all-wheel grip provides that gravity-bending off-the-line acceleration.

Slotted under that is the Dual Motor Long Range model, which is also all-wheel drive and makes a still-potent 346 hp and 389 lb-ft. The rear-drive Standard Range Plus model uses a single electric motor to drive the rear axle and makes 283 hp and 307 lb-ft of torque. That base model is still good for a 140 mph top speed and a 5.3-second 0-60 mph time.

That’s all good stuff. But can the chassis keep up with the powertrain’s verve? Yes. Yes it can. Along with a low weight and breathtaking acceleration, the steering is precise, well-weighted, and doesn’t suffer from any artificial heaviness or numbness. The suspension is firm but well-damped, and can smother out bumps as good as the German competition. 

About the only thing that may take some getting used to is the regenerative braking system, which scrubs down speed with the same tenacity as a very low gear in a gasoline vehicle. There’s a choice between two levels of regen—and unlike in most other electric vehicles, Tesla doesn’t “blend” regeneration in with the friction brakes.

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4

2020 Tesla Model 3

Comfort & Quality

The Tesla Model 3’s cabin is comfortable but austere, which we can get used to—but the material quality let us down.

The 2020 Tesla Model 3 sedan was never going to be palatial, but we can’t help but be disappointed by the lapses in material and build quality. Those flaws cancel out the roomy cabin and comfortable seats, bringing our total score to a 4 out of 10. 

Appropriate for a car that sells on efficiency, the Model 3 offers plenty of interior space, thanks to a cab that’s pushed toward the front wheels and a roofline that arches up and over the cabin so its highest point is right in line with the pillars that split the front and rear doors. The design also provides ample trunk space—15 cubic feet before you fold down the seats, and it feels even bigger than the numbers suggest. The only thing hampering space is the narrow trunk opening.

The cabin feels big, especially with the big panoramic glass roof there to let in ample natural light. The seats are supportive and comfortable and offer up to 12-way power adjustment if you opt for the top trims.

The back seat is equally comfortable. It looks like it shouldn’t be, what with its low seat cushion, sloping roofline, and panoramic glass, but none of it eats into the head room. A 6-footer could sit in the back without issues. Three 6-footers could pose an issue, though. In fact, any three people will find it tight, thanks to a roofline that tapers upward and rearward.

There is plenty to like about the comfort of the cabin, but it’s the materials we’re sore about. Compared to luxury cars that cost similarly—both electric and gas offerings, mind you—the Teslas we’ve driven have felt a little cheap. The center console feels insubstantial. There’s too many thin, hard plastics. The complete lack of visual flair only exacerbates the sensation of cheapness. It would look better were it disguised under a veneer of different colors and textures.

The Model 3 has one of the best climate-control systems we’ve found in an electric car so far. Once you figure out how to adjust the Model 3’s climate-control vents—by dragging them on a screen with your fingers—the system adjusts very quickly.

One gripe that surfaced in every Model 3 we’ve tested has been the amount of road noise entering the cabin. Newer models may have that fixed, though, as the latest model we’ve driven has been the quietest yet. Go ahead, blame the fact that our ears are simply accustomed to hearing a gas engine at work, the Model 3 is still louder than we’d like it to be.

As a final point of contention, the Model 3 still lacks build quality. This was easier to overlook a few years ago, when Tesla was still a budding company. Now that they’re selling a few hundred thousand units a year, this isn’t quite so easy to overlook. The Model 3 should be screwed together as well as any other car at this point, so we’re disappointed that this isn’t yet the case.

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8

2020 Tesla Model 3

Safety

The 2020 Tesla Model 3 is chock-full of safety features—a good thing, because you’ll be constantly looking down at the touchscreen for just about everything.

With an impressive array of standard safety equipment, five-star crash-test results from the NHTSA, and Top Safety Pick+ status from the IIHS, the 2020 Model 3 earns us a 9 out of 10 for safety.

The 2020 Model 3 has a host of advanced safety features that are included as standard equipment, including automatic emergency braking and lane-departure warning. Every Tesla Model 3 now comes with Autopilot, which is a sophisticated driver-assistance feature that combines adaptive cruise control that uses cameras, radar, and sensors to let the car steer, accelerate and brake automatically for short periods. Autopilot software also includes blind-spot monitoring and automatic headlight control.

If you shell out $7,000, you’ll get Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” option. Despite its name, it’s an advanced driver-assistance feature that adds on- and off-ramps to the driver-assistance suite as well as passing and changing lanes, automatic parking for both parallel and perpendicular spaces, and a summon feature that can maneuver the car around a parking lot—albeit slowly. 

Tesla’s cars all include the hardware for these features; it’s merely a matter of downloading the software, which Tesla provides via over-the-air updates.

Our only quibble on the safety front is the outward visibility—or rather, the lack of. It can be tough to see out of normally, particularly looking backward. In reverse, it would be wonderful if they made it so that mirrors tilted downward automatically or if there were an easier way to cue up the surround-view camera.

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8

2020 Tesla Model 3

Features

The 2020 Model 3 has enough gizmos and gadgets to satisfy any technology fanboy.

The 2020 Model 3 is an advanced car, so it's no surprise it comes with some advanced features. Luckily, they have been integrated seamlessly into the sedan’s other functions. For its ease of use and high-quality feature count, we give the Tesla Model 3 an 8 out of 10. 

The heart of the interior is the 15-inch touchscreen. It contains every function, even the speedometer and warning lights are displayed on this screen, rather than on a dedicated instrument cluster. 

This system operates like a tablet and it’s just as responsive and quick to work. The navigation is fast to load and there’s no lag when scrolling through the menus or clicking on apps. It also responds to voice commands like a smartphone. Imagine a big iPhone in the center of the dash and you get a sense of how easy this system is to operate.

The touchscreen is also equipped with its own 4G cellular connection for over-the-air updates. The updates handle more than just revised navigation maps and new audio capabilities; they can also upgrade core vehicle performance and safety systems. If Tesla adds some functionality to Autopilot after you purchase one, your car will get the update in the same manner as your phone gets occasional version updates from the carrier. 

Is there any demerit with this system? Yes, one: there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility. Of course, there’s other streaming services built in, such as radio via TuneIn,that allows for music from specific artists or genres or what have you. Tesla has also upgraded the system’s potential for streaming video entertainment, too. But don’t think you can plug in your phone and work it through the screen. 

Another detail about the Model 3 that takes some getting used to is that there’s no keyfob for getting into the vehicle and there’s no ignition or power switch. Owners smartphones can be the key; as you approach the vehicle the driver’s door unlocks, and as you get into the vehicle it turns on. Exiting the vehicle, as you walk a few paces away, the car switches off and signals that it’s locking up (depending on your menu settings).

For security purposes, you do need an RFID keycard to initially turn your phone into your car key. But once the setup procedure is done you don’t need the keycard unless you want to give another device access to starting and unlocking your car.

The Standard Range Plus uses premium seat material and the immersive-sound audio system we’ve experienced in other Model 3 sedans—not especially powerful but good for clarity and frequency response.

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10

2020 Tesla Model 3

Fuel Economy

The Model 3 is one of the most efficient electric cars, and exhibits Tesla’s strengths with battery and power systems.

The Tesla Model 3 is a fully electric car that can go more than 200 miles on a charge. It earns our top score of 10 points out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

In single-motor form, for 2020 you’re limited to the Standard Range Plus and its 250-mile range. 

Moving up to the two dual-motor variants bumps up the total range to 322 miles. Both dual-motor models are rated at 116 MPGe combined, versus an excellent (and best in the entire market) 141 MPGe for the Standard Range Plus). 

In our testing, we found that the Model 3 was able to hit pretty close to these estimated range numbers. But keep in mind hard acceleration runs will drop that mileage quick, as will steep grades and extreme temperatures.

Tesla says that you can charge the battery at a rate of 150 miles of regained range in 30 minutes (or 170 miles for the Long Range model), or via a home-charging rate of about 37 miles per hour.

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$39,990
MSRP based on Standard Range Plus RWD
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7.3
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 4
Safety 8
Features 8
Fuel Economy 10
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