While the 2020 Tesla Model 3 may not be the affordable “everyone car” Tesla promised upon its introduction, it is still an attractive prospect for anyone shopping the midsize luxury car market. Though it got off to a rocky start, Tesla is now filing orders for the Model 3, which starts around $40,000. That price may be reduced a bit by state or local tax credits, although the federal tax credit program will no longer apply to Tesla cars after January 2020. So what do you get for your money? Well, the base rear-drive Model 3 can travel 250 miles on a charge, accelerate to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds and reach a top speed of 145 mph. Roughly the same size as the Audi A5 Sportback, the Model 3 offers room for five, although four is a more comfortable fit. In typical Tesla fashion, the Model 3 is loaded with high-tech innovations such as a single large display screen with internet capability through which all functions are operated. An available semi-autonomous driving mode upgrade includes a summons feature that lets you call your Model 3 from its parking space via a smartphone. On the downside, the Model 3 isn’t big on rear seat space or comfort, the single-screen control panel and enhanced Autopilot features both require too much driver attention to operate, and supply and build quality issues are yet to be fully resolved.
What’s New for 2020?
For 2020, Tesla somewhat improves the functionality and user friendliness of the Model 3’s massive touchscreen display, improves rear seat comfort and squeezes out a few more miles per charge, with the Long Range model now capable of traveling 322 miles. See the 2020 Tesla Model 3 for sale
What We Like
- Up to 322-mile driving range
- Fast acceleration
- Good crash test scores
- Most affordable car in the Tesla lineup (for now)
- Performance model’s Track Mode
What We Don’t
- Everything in one screen can be distracting for the driver
- No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
- Second-row seat comfort
- Doesn’t get Ludicrous Mode
As the Model 3 is powered solely by electricity, the Environmental Protection Agency has a different measurement for its range calculated under the MPGe standard. MPGe stands for Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, or roughly the same amount of energy produced by one gallon of gasoline. The 2020 Model 3 Standard Plus earns a 141 MPGe combined rating, meaning that on a single charge, it can travel 250 miles. The Long Range and Performance models bump the distance up to 322 miles, while the Performance model splits the difference at 310 miles. Charging with a conventional 110-volt outlet isn’t really practical, as it produces only about two miles of range per hour of charging, which would literally take days. Using a 240-volt charger reduces that time to between eight and 12 hours depending on the type of charger, but at a Tesla Supercharging station, that time drops to about an hour and a half for a complete charge from empty. In the real world, most people won’t need a full charge, so getting roughly 180 miles worth of juice at a Tesla Supercharging station should take about 15 to 20 minutes.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Model 3 comes in three trims: Standard Plus, Long Range and Performance. Tesla’s pricing uses some backhanded ways of dropping the price, basically calculating gas savings and possible local tax breaks into the price. We’ve listed the list price without the possible discounts. Because Tesla has now exceeded the government’s 200,000 models sales quota, the $7,500 federal tax credit for the Model 3 no longer applies. The tax credit for cars purchased before January 2020 is $1,875. After that, no more credits will be offered.
The Model 3 Standard Plus ($39,490) comes with rear-wheel drive, Autopilot (automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring), heated 12-way adjustable power front seats, an immersive sound audio system, standard maps and navigation, fog lights, Wi-Fi and LTE connectivity, keyless entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, black paint, 18-in wheels, a 15-in center control screen, power windows, power locks, auto-dimming power folding heated side mirrors, Bluetooth, app-based key for entry and some car functions, a rear camera, a tinted glass panel roof and eight airbags. Options include paint colors other than Pearl White ($1,000, $1,500 or $2,000 depending on color) and the enhanced Autopilot system with full self-driving capabilities for $7,000.
The Model 3 Long Range ($49,490) adds a longer driving range (322 versus 250 miles) and a slightly faster 0-to-60 mph time (4.4 seconds versus 5.3 seconds) and dual-motor all-wheel drive (AWD). Also on board is the Premium interior that adds heated front and rear seats, 14-speaker Premium audio with subwoofer and two amps, satellite-view maps with live traffic visualization, in-car internet music streaming, an internet browser, LED fog lamps, a location-aware garage door opener, four USB ports and docking for two smartphones.
The Model 3 Performance ($56,990) brings an even faster 0-to-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds plus 20-in performance wheels, a lowered suspension, performance brakes, a carbon fiber spoiler, a Track mode and an increased top speed of 162 mph.
The Model 3 warranty covers 8-year/unlimited on the battery and drive unit, while the rest of the car comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile limited warranty.
In addition to its numerous safety features, which include a super-strong frame cage, forward emergency braking, a blind zone alert, lane-departure warning, electronic traction and stability control and eight airbags, the Tesla Model 3 can also tout a 5-star government crash test rating and a Top Safety Pick+ honor from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The fully autonomous driving mode can help reduce fatigue and avoid accidents, but as of now, it still requires you to keep a hand on the wheel and your eyes on the 15-in touch screen.
Behind the Wheel
Given its nearly 4,000-lb weight, the 2020 Tesla Model 3 displays an impressive ability to sprint from 0 to 60 mph in just over five seconds. Opt for the Performance model and that time drops to about three seconds. Beyond its blistering speed, the Model 3 handles quite well for an electric car. There are various settings for steering feedback, but we found the standard setting less sensitive than the Sport setting and more communicative than the Comfort mode. Braking is also quite good, and Tesla will periodically upload software updates to improve anti-lock braking, acceleration and other programmable features, which is a nice perk.
The Model 3’s front seats are comfortable and form-fitting, and there’s good legroom and headroom, too. In the back, two occupants can fit comfortably, providing their legs are not too long. The wide, flat floor helps with foot room, and the glass panel roof gives up a few more inches of headroom. Storage areas are numerous throughout the cabin, with a 15-cu ft. cargo bay with additional storage under the load floor. Up front, there’s a small cargo hold where an engine usually resides, providing even more storage. The rear seats are of the 60/40 split folding variety.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Nissan Leaf — The Nissan Leaf can’t quite go the distance compared to the Model 3, but its 226-mile range isn’t bad, and the Leaf’s base price along with the $7,500 federal tax credit undercuts the Model 3’s bottom line buy a good bit. The Leaf also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
2020 Chevrolet Bolt — The Bolt also costs less than the Model 3, qualifies for the reduced federal tax credit and has a range of 238 miles. However, for the money, the Model 3 offers way more tech and advanced features, available AWD and much faster acceleration. The Bolt also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
2020 Kia Niro EV — The Niro EV isn’t as luxurious, fast or impressive as the Model 3, but it also isn’t nearly as expensive. With 239 miles of range, the Niro comes closest to the Model 3’s range of any electric vehicle (EV). It can’t drive itself, but it does come with an impressive warranty, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Used Tesla Model X — If you can’t swing a loaded Model 3, try looking at an older version of the larger Model X. The Model X first arrived in 2015, and older models had a bit less range and power but many of the same features as the new one. The 2015 Model X 60D was the least expensive version, with only a 200-mile range.
For its added range and upgraded feature set, we’d go with the Long Range model, then toss in the enhanced Autopilot self-driving upgrade just for good measure. The Performance model is nice and you won’t sacrifice any additional range, but can you really tell the difference between 4.4 and 3.2 seconds? Find a Tesla Model 3 for sale