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Tesla Model 3 Performance vs Gasoline Performance Cars: The Ultimate Sub-$40,000 Daily Driver?

Forty thousand dollars is not what it once was. Thanks to both general inflation and a sizable increase in the price of both used and new vehicles, these days it’s hard to find many late model, enthusiast-friendly vehicles below that amount.

White Tesla Model 3 Performance on Nitto NT555 G2 tires and Titan 7 wheels

And if you’re looking for a fun, fast car that also has four-doors, a usable back seat and the practicality that many need for a daily driver, the choices at or below 40 grand are even fewer Current options in this price range (either used or new) include AWD offerings like the Audi S3, the Volkswagen Golf R, the Subaru WRX STI, the Toyota GR Corolla — as well as FWD options like the FK8 Honda Civic Type R, Volkswagen GTI and the Hyundai Elantra N.

FK8 Honda Civic Type R on Nitto NT05

And then there’s the Tesla Model 3 Performance, which despite being an electric car has both the performance and the price tag to play in this group.

Used examples of this high-performance electric sedan have now dropped well below $40,000 and even a brand new one isn’t too far off that mark after tax credits and rebates and considered.

Tesla Model 3 Performance on Nitto NT555 G2

But is the Model 3 a genuine alternative to those aforementioned modern sedans and hatchbacks? That depends.

Electric Life

If you are looking at acceleration figures alone, there’s simply no comparing the Model 3 Performance against any of the gasoline cars.

WRX STI Silver

The Tesla Model 3 Performance will do 0 to 60 in around three seconds and run a quarter mile in the mid 11s. And even without any engine noise or gear shifts, it is still a lot of fun.

Tesla Model 3 Red

But there’s more to a good performance car than acceleration. And this is where some might have an issue with the Tesla.

Tesla Model 3 Driver View

As an EV, it’s simply going to be a different experience than a gasoline car. And as much as I enjoy my own 2020 Model 3 Performance, there’s no denying it can lack some of the emotion of those other cars.

Under the Radar or Above the Radar?

But for me, the thing I dislike most about the Model 3 Performance has nothing to do with how it feels behind the wheel. It’s that the car is so common. Where I live in California, the roads are full of Teslas — there’s no exaggeration when I say it’s like the new Toyota Camry or Honda Civic.

Tesla Model 3 Blue

If you want a car that stands out from the crowd, one that you can take down to Cars & Coffee, or want something to spark up conservations with fellow enthusiasts, a Tesla probably isn’t your best choice.

Audi S3 Red

But on the contrary if you want your daily driver to fly under the radar, there may be no better choice than a Model 3. And add in the fact that it can do physics-defying things while being completely silent, and you have the recipe for some stealthy fun.

Tesla Model 3 Performance on Nitto NT555 G2

The Tesla is a performance car that you don’t really have to think about — and depending on your tastes and situation, that can either be a great thing or terrible thing.

More Than an Appliance?

In my personal experience the Tesla Model 3 really is one of best all around daily drivers an enthusiast can get for the money, with one major caveat.

Tesla Model 3 Performance on Nitto NT555 G2

And that caveat is that if you don’t also own a traditional gasoline car for “fun,” you may find the 3 lacking the emotional connection many enthusiasts needs. As capable and fast as it is, a Model 3 won’t give you the satisfaction of Civic Type R’s manual shifter, the backfires of an Elantra N or the snappy gear changes of a VW DSG.

FK8 Civic Type R Interior

The Model 3 works best when it sits in the garage alongside another less practical, more analog toy — like a Corvette, a Miata, a muscle car, a Jeep — or really any sort of internal combustion project car designed for more than just commuting.

C5 Corvette on Nitto NT05

Is it Right for You?

If I was forced to own just one car and one car alone, I don’t think it could be a Model 3. And in that case I’d almost certainly choose one of the other late model daily drivers mentioned above. Because much as I like the idea of a low maintenance, do-it-all daily driver I’m personally not ready for a life without internal combustion engines.

Volkswagen GTI on Nitto NT05

I’m lucky enough to still have a few gasoline projects in the garage that I can enjoy when I want to. And that makes the electric Tesla a perfect addition to the fleet.

Tesla Model 3 Performance on Nitto NT555 G2

So if you are open to the idea of an EV, and want an affordable, modern sedan that can comfortably swallow up commute miles while still being wickedly fast and track capable, the cheaper-than-ever Model 3 Performance is worthy of serious consideration.

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