Watch How The Tesla Model 3 Handles Hot Laps Around Laguna Seca
The Model 3 isn't a track car—but it looks like it can hold its own.
The Tesla Model 3 is one of the most ambitious attempts at a mass-market electric car to date. That said, it is distinctly not designed to lap a racetrack—but that didn't stop one new owner from bringing his "budget" Tesla to Laguna Seca for a track day over the weekend. The result? In a word, surprising.
Matt Crowley wrote on YouTube that the impromptu track test came about when his Porsche Cayman GT4 was sidelined by a mysterious check engine light the day before an amateur event at at the iconic California track. Not wanting to miss out, he decided to press his newly-acquired Tesla Model 3 into service.
Other than some upgraded Pirelli PZero Nero GT tires and 1.5-inch lowering springs from Unplugged Performance, the car is stock. Crowley did opt for the long-range version with premium upgrades, though you'll see that the advertised 310-mile range is basically meaningless in a performance driving situation.
Still, on a beautiful 55-degree day, the Model 3 showed no signs of any power loss as it put down nine straight laps on the famous track, all recorded on Crowley's GoPro. And with rear-wheel drive and a low center of gravity, it's more than capable of hustling through the twists and turns of Laguna Seca, including the notorious Corkscrew. The only hint of trouble comes on the first lap, when a wet curb causes some noticeable understeer. The endurance is definitely impressive.
The electric car's instant torque also comes in handy as Crowley passes several BMW E36s, a Porsche, and a Lotus Seven during his romp. He also manages to keep pace with a Ferrari 458 Italia for a stretch. Obviously, driver skill plays a role in his success, but the car's competence can't be denied. His best lap was 1:57.5—by comparison, his best lap in his Porsche is 1:41.9.
However, he estimates that he could probably cut it down to 1:50 in the Model 3 were it not for one big weak spot: The brakes. You can hear them grinding near the end of the run, and he reports having to put his foot to the floor to generate any stopping power on the last lap. The pads were completely worn away—although car's regenerative braking system set on "Low," which probably contributed to the excessive wear.
After pulling into the pits, the battery had 94 miles of driving range left. It started with 229, meaning Crowley "used" 135 optimal driving miles in the 20 or so real-world miles he piled up lapping Laguna Seca nine times.
Not bad at all for a non-track-oriented car. And it serves as further validation for our call for a spec electric racing series using salvaged Model 3s in the future.