2018 Tesla Model 3

2018 Tesla Model 3 Review

A sleek interior and access to Tesla's Superchargers make the Model 3 stylish and practical.
8.4 / 10
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Calvin Kim
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

2018 is the first full year of production for Tesla's Model 3. While at the time of this review the long-promised standard Model 3 with 220 miles of range has yet to materialize, the initial single-motor drive with a long-range battery has been joined by a new dual-motor (all-wheel-drive) version and an available light-color interior.

But if you just can't wait for the affordable version, or you have an order already filed, you won't be disappointed with the Model 3 that's on the road now. In many ways, it sets new standards for a relatively affordable electric vehicle. The big battery has a rated range of 310 miles, which is more than any non-Tesla rival's range. With rear-wheel drive, the current Model 3 can cover 0-60 mph in 5.1 seconds and will top out at 140 mph. The new all-wheel-drive Performance blasts from 0 to 60 mph in a claimed 3.5 seconds, which is quicker than most high-performance sports cars.

On the inside, you'll likely appreciate the Model 3's minimalist interior design highlighted by a gigantic central touchscreen display. But the touchscreen has some drawbacks. Because Tesla routes almost all of the car's controls through it, you'll often end up having to take your eyes off the road to use them.

Of course, the Model 3 is compatible with Tesla's Supercharger network. Model 3 owners will have to pay for access, unlike owners of the larger Model S and Model X. Still, once you're hooked up, the network greatly enhances the Model 3's long-distance driving ability and is a distinct advantage compared to other similarly priced EVs.

We will note that we've had some trouble with a 2017 Tesla Model 3 that we've bought and are testing for a year. You can read about the maintenance issues we've encountered in our Tesla 3 Long-Term Road Test. It's just a sample size of one, but we also encountered reliability problems with our Tesla Model S and X test cars.

Then again, Tesla has typically improved its cars' reliability over time. If you want the more affordable standard-range model (available late  2018 or early 2019), it may not make sense to get the Model 3 right away. Overall, though, we like the Model 3 and think it's a great choice for an EV.



What's new for 2018

Tesla updates its vehicles on an ongoing basis rather than at discrete model-year intervals. As such, there's no clear-cut "new for 2018" information. Features and trim levels are tweaked sporadically. We do expect the standard battery and the dual-motor all-wheel-drive version to debut sometime in the model year.

We recommend

Tesla isn't offering much choice for the Model 3 currently. The main thing you'll have to decide is whether to get single-motor rear-wheel drive or dual-motor all-wheel drive. The gains in acceleration from the dual-motor setup are significant, so it's likely worth the cost if you consider yourself a bit of a car enthusiast. One option for consideration is the Enhanced Autopilot upgrade, which future-proofs your car for when Tesla makes the Full Self-Driving Capability option available.




Trim levels & features

The 2018 Tesla Model 3 sedan currently comes with a long-range battery pack good for an estimated 310 miles of range. The single-motor (rear-drive) version is rated at 258 horsepower, and the dual-motor (all-wheel-drive) produces about 346 hp. The Performance version of the dual-motor setup cranks the output up to 450 hp.

The standard features for the rear-wheel-drive, 310-mile Model 3 include 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights and high beams, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cloth upholstery, six-way manually adjustable front seats, and 60/40-split folding rear seats.

Standard technology features include a 15-inch touchscreen, a navigation system with real-time traffic, voice activation, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hotspot, remote control of some systems via a smartphone app, a rearview camera, and a seven-speaker audio system with internet streaming radio and two USB ports. Standard safety features include forward collision warning and mitigation, blind-spot monitoring with collision avoidance, and lane departure warning.

The Premium Upgrades package (mandatory for early adopters) adds LED foglights, tinted glass, heated and power-folding auto-dimming exterior mirrors, a panoramic glass roof, heated seats, 12-way power-adjustable front seats, a power-adjustable steering column, simulated-leather upholstery, wood interior trim, a covered center console, driver-seat memory functions and a premium audio system. For the Performance trim, Tesla also offers a Performance Upgrade package that includes 20-inch wheels, performance tires, a lowered suspension, upgraded brakes and a higher speed limiter.

Also available is the Enhanced Autopilot option that adds adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, automatic lane changing and self-parking. Buyers can also choose an option that gives the Model 3 the capability to be fully self-driving in the future. Nineteen-inch wheels are available as a stand-alone option.



Trim tested

The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the Tesla Model 3 Long Range (electric motor | direct drive | RWD).

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall8.4 / 10

Driving

8.5 / 10

Acceleration8.0 / 10
Braking8.0 / 10
Steering9.0 / 10
Handling8.0 / 10
Drivability10.0 / 10

Comfort

9.0 / 10

Seat comfort9.0 / 10
Ride comfort7.5 / 10
Noise & vibration9.0 / 10
Climate control9.0 / 10

Interior

8.0 / 10

Ease of use5.0 / 10
Getting in/getting out8.0 / 10
Driving position9.5 / 10
Roominess8.5 / 10
Visibility9.0 / 10
Quality6.5 / 10

Utility

8.5 / 10

Small-item storage8.0 / 10
Cargo space9.5 / 10

Technology

7.0 / 10

Audio & navigation8.0 / 10
Smartphone integration4.5 / 10
Driver aids9.0 / 10
Voice control5.5 / 10

Driving8.5

The Model 3 feels sporty and engaging thanks to strong off-the-line performance, intuitive steering, and a balanced rear-wheel-drive chassis that feels coordinated and nimble. The standard 18-inch all-season tires are the limiting factor. Buy the optional 19-inch tires if you wish to maximize grip.

Acceleration8.0

There's ample thrust from the 258-horsepower electric motor, and it moves out in a smooth, seamless way with no shifting interruptions. The rear-wheel-drive layout adds poise and confidence when you lay into it. Ours reached 60 mph in 5.3 seconds at our test track, which is properly quick.

Braking8.0

The powerful four-piston fixed-caliper front brakes are easy to modulate, but you'll rarely need to use them because lift-throttle regenerative braking will handle routine braking. Our panic stop from 60 mph took a longish 133 feet due to our car's standard 18-inch all-season tires.

Steering9.0

The Model 3's steering feels nicely weighted and quick off center, which makes it a joy on winding roads even without a ton of feedback. When driving straight, it feels connected, and the effort builds rather naturally as cornering loads mount up. Of the three settings, we liked Normal and Sport.

Handling8.0

It displays admirable coordination and balance when entering a corner, transitioning through a bend, or feeding on the power while exiting. But the standard 18-inch tires hold it back and can lead to early stability control intervention if pushed hard. Optional 19-inch rubber may have higher limits.

Drivability10.0

Power delivery is impeccably smooth and accurate, and the throttle is responsive without being jumpy. Direct drive means no shifting, so there's no way that gear changes can ever be out of step with the driver's wishes. The transition from acceleration to lift-throttle braking is easy to manage.

Comfort9.0

We found the Model 3 to be a pleasant place to sit, and that feeling held up for hours at a time. Its comfortable seats and quiet cabin deserve a great deal of credit. It rides agreeably most of the time, but it can sometimes feel busy and bound up if the road surface is broken or uneven.

Seat comfort9.0

The leather seats that are part of the Premium Upgrades package are broad but not flat. They are supportive but not hard. The adjustments are simple but effective. We liked the fit and feel much more than any Model S and Model X seats we've sampled, and we remained comfortable all day.

Ride comfort7.5

It swallows large and small bumps with equal ease, and it glides along nicely over reasonably smooth asphalt. But the suspension doesn't breathe freely over lumpy surfaces and can feel stiff-legged on cracked concrete roads. The Model 3's tires run at a fairly high pressure, and it can feel like it.

Noise & vibration9.0

Immensely quiet and still. There's very little propulsion noise because the electric motor is under the trunk floor, and we didn't notice much wind noise flowing over the roof and around the mirrors either. The standard 18-inch all-season tires seem good at keeping quiet as well.

Climate control9.0

Electric heat means no waiting, and preconditioning the cabin is easy when plugged in. Front vents are contained within a door-to-door slot that looks like a styling element. Unique yet straightforward touchscreen controls allow driver and passenger to readily alter the air stream. Has rear vents.

Interior8.0

The Model 3's interior is more attractive than we ever expected of such a simple design, and its driving position, roominess and visibility are all fantastic. The touchscreen doesn't block your view, but it does absorb your attention for too many routine tasks that should be doable without looking.

Ease of use5.0

Far too many controls divert the driver's attention away from the road and onto the touchscreen. You must look away to change the wiper speed (never appropriate, even in auto mode) or alter the cruise-control speed. The same goes for the side mirror tweaks and tilt-and-telescoping wheel adjustments.

Getting in/getting out8.0

The doors open wide, but there's a knack to the nifty push-in/pull-out door handles that we're not sure everyone will like. The sills are a bit high and require a wee bit of foot lift, but the roof doesn't present much of a ducking problem. The front and rear are virtually the same on all points.

Driving position9.5

The seat and pedals are in perfect agreement, and the telescoping steering wheel has a ton of range. The feel and grip of the steering wheel rim are excellent, and the view out commanding. Our one gripe: We'd like a gap between the brake and dead pedal to allow the occasional leg stretch.

Roominess8.5

The optional Premium Upgrades glass roof does amazing things for headroom, and front legroom is abundant. This smaller Tesla still feels wide, and the abundance of glass only enhances the feeling of space. Rear legroom is decent behind a 6-footer, but toe room can be snug behind a tall driver.

Visibility9.0

The view out is expansive thanks to a low cowl, low door sides and slender pillars. The over-the-shoulder blind spot isn't very big, and backup camera coverage is broad with a large display. But we'd like slightly larger side mirrors, especially since their positions are hard to tweak when underway.

Quality6.5

The Premium Upgrades package includes nice-looking leather and wood materials. Most of our car's panel fits are true, but one hood seam isn't flush. Our test car was delivered with a broken vanity mirror and a loose seatback cover. Note: Ours is a very early-build car, among the first 1,200 made.

Utility8.5

The Model 3's trunk can hold far more than you'd expect thanks to a very broad pass-through and SUV-like fold-flat rear seats. We were able to fit an extra-large mountain bike in easily. Inside, cabin storage is plentiful, something we can't say about the other Tesla models we've owned.

Small-item storage8.0

Other Tesla models come up short in this area, but not the Model 3. It has a decent-size center console armrest and, because it uses a column shifter, it has two more hidden storage compartments ahead of the central cupholders. There are decent-size door pockets with molded bottle holders, too.

Cargo space9.5

The Model 3 is a sedan with a trunk, but it's nearly as commodious as a hatchback. The trunk is broad, but there's also a deep well under the false floor. The rear seats fold utterly flat, and the aperture between is quite large. In a pinch, you could actually lie down and sleep quite comfortably.

Child safety seat accommodation7.5

The three top anchors are very easy to access under flip covers on the fixed parcel shelf. The lower LATCH anchors are tucked tightly between the seat cushions, so you must take care to avoid scratching the leather as you hook up a seat.

Technology7.0

The Model 3 scores an A for its sound quality, navigation display, and the Autopilot traffic-aware cruise and lane management system. But it earns a D-minus because Tesla's chosen way to bring your smartphone into the audio environment involves Bluetooth audio and fiddling with your phone while driving.

Audio & navigation8.0

The large Google-based navigation display is beautiful and easy to control. The Premium Upgrades package includes an upgraded audio system with fantastic wide-spectrum sound. But it demands undue attention to switch between modes. It has FM, HD and internet radio but no AM or satellite radio.

Smartphone integration4.5

Tesla lags far behind in this area. There's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but we're even more disappointed that an iPhone's music library doesn't come up on the screen when plugged in via the USB port; those are for power only. It's Bluetooth streaming audio or nothing — a huge hassle.

Driver aids9.0

Our Model 3 is equipped with the Autopilot option, and it is the premier adaptive cruise and lane keeping system you can currently buy. The sensitivity of the collision alert and lane departure warning is easily customizable, but the adaptive cruise following distance is buried in the touchscreen.

Voice control5.5

The standard voice button didn't recognize names in our paired phone's contact list very well. We found ourselves using our phone's own voice search instead. It works best when you are looking for music outside your phone environment, such as on the Slacker and TuneIn services the vehicle supports.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.