New details have emerged about one of the most lusted-after features of the Tesla Model 3: a “Track Mode” that makes the car handle less like a very fast sedan, and more like a custom racer from The Fast and the Furious. Track Mode is included in the Performance version of the Model 3, the $64,000-$78,000 top-of-the-line model which also includes dual-motor All Wheel Drive. It started reaching showrooms and buyers last month.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed back in May that the Performance Model 3 would “beat anything in its class on the track”—that is, other entry-level luxury sports sedans like the Audi A5 and BMW 3-Series. Fulfilling that promise is partly down to raw power, and independent tests have tracked the Model 3 Performance going from 0-60 in a fantastic 3.3 seconds.
But mere acceleration doesn’t make a car ready for the racetrack—and in fact, Track Mode doesn’t enable any performance enhancements per se. Instead, as described in a detailed new Road and Track road test, it changes how the car brakes and handles, allowing skilled drivers more flexibility. That includes toning down the reactions of safety systems including anti-lock brakes, which can interfere with high-speed maneuvering.
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It also includes rebalancing the car’s regenerative braking systems to shift weight forward on turns and allow oversteering—sometimes known as “drifting.” It’s a maneuver less about speed than just having fun, and according to Road and Track the Performance Model 3 takes such automotive tomfoolery to new levels: “With no engine noise to out-shout everything,” writes tester Bob Sorokanich, drivers can sense and respond to the car’s traction “at a level you’ve never experience in a bellowing internal-combustion car.”
Of course, burning up a track also burns energy, but Track Mode adds a power-throttling feature that keeps the car’s components cool enough to operate reliably. That also means it gets less punchy after three or four back-to-back laps, but not enough to ruin the fun. As for battery life, Sorokanich reports that “an entire morning” of high-speed track stunts, with cool-downs as the testers swapped between two cars, left about 40 miles of range on the Model 3 batteries.
Tesla is making it clear these features aren’t for your daily commute—when a driver selects Track Mode, a warning screen reminds them it’s “designed to be used exclusively on closed courses.” Track Mode is also still being fine-tuned, possible thanks to Tesla’s over-the-air update systems. But even in its current form, Sorokanich declares it makes the Model 3 Performance “the world’s first electric sport sedan with bona fide race track chops.”