Tesla Model S vs Model 3: Performance, Price, Safety, and More

Model S vs Model 3: Man driving Tesla

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid 2021 Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus
Starting price $84,490 $45,799
Range 405 miles 353 miles
MPGe 111 city / 115 highway 124 city / 126 highway
0-60 mph 3.2 seconds 4.2 seconds
Cargo room 28 cubic feet 15 cubic feet

Source: Tesla
If you’re in the market for a new Tesla, it can be tricky to choose which model is best for you given the diversity in price and style in their 2021 lineup.

Tesla remains one of the most popular electric cars on the road today, thanks in large part to their unmistakable look and array of high-tech features, among them autopilot capability, large touchscreens, and access to the company’s nationwide network of Superchargers. Its two popular sedans, the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model 3, seem relatively similar when compared side-by-side.

Choosing which new electric vehicle is right for you comes down to personal preference in terms of performance, cargo space, and passenger comfort. If you’re eying a Tesla sedan for your next new car, read on to see a comparison of the 2021 Tesla Model S vs Model 3

Trim Levels

The 2021 Tesla Model S and the 2021 Tesla Model 3 come in a few different trim levels that offer varying range and performance attributes. 

2021 Tesla Model S Trim Levels

Tesla Model S

The 2021 Tesla Model S is an all-electric four-door hatchback that’s capable of seating five passengers. The Model S comes in two different trims: Plaid and Long Range.

The major difference between each trim level is their powertrain, top speed, and traveling range on a fully charged battery.

The Model S Plaid has an EPA-estimated range of 396 miles on a full charge, while the Long Range can travel 405 miles. The major difference between the two trims lies in acceleration power and top speed.

The Model S Plaid is capable of a top speed of 200 mph when properly equipped, while the Model S Long Range tops out at 155 mph. The Model S Plaid can reach 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, while the Long Range is a bit slower. Its 0-60 mph time tops out at 3.1 seconds.

2021 Tesla Model 3 Trim Levels

Tesla Model 3

The latest Tesla Model 3 was made available in three trims for the 2021 model year: Standard Plus, Performance, and Long Range AWD. The biggest differentiator between the 2021 Model 3 trims are range and drive type. The Model 3 Standard Plus trim is the only Model 3 available with a rear-wheel drive powertrain. It offers a range of 263 miles on a full charge.

As its name implies, the Tesla Model 3 Performance is all about track-worthy speed. The car’s dual motor all-wheel drive powertrain supplies the car with 0-to-60 mph capability of 3.1 seconds and a top speed of 162 mph.

The Tesla Model 3 Long Range AWD offers 353 miles of range, the most of any Model 3 trim for the 2021 model year.

Performance

For four-door sedans, both the Tesla Model S and the Tesla Model 3 offer considerably impressive performance, particularly in the more speed-oriented trim levels. 

The Tesla Model S Plaid trim just beats out the Tesla Model 3 Performance model in terms of both top speed and performance.

That said, each vehicle packs an impressive punch when opening up the engine on a desert straightaway or making that key pass on the freeway.

Interior and Cargo Capability

With 5 cubic feet more cargo room than the Tesla Model 3, the Tesla Model S is clearly superior for those looking to bring along a lot of luggage and equipment in their travels. 

That said, since it is a sedan, the Tesla Model S offers only 28 cubic feet of cargo space, a number that pales in comparison to Tesla’s SUV models.

But between these two models, professionals and families looking for as much room as possible should choose the Model S hands down.

Safety

Tesla has received high marks for safety since its inception, and the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model 3 are no exception. 

Both the Tesla Model S and the Tesla Model 3 were awarded the highest 5-star safety rating in every category from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, whose surveys test everything from crash impact durability to rollovers and stopping power.

According to Tesla, the Model S can withstand twice its own mass in roof-crash tests, despite the fact that it has an all-glass roof. This is attributable to the strength of the vehicle’s frame, which is constructed out of a combination of steel and aluminum. 

Both the Model S and the Model 3 also feature Tesla’s award-winning suite of advanced active safety features, including automatic emergency braking.

Technology

No other automaker places such a premium on advanced technology, so it should come as no surprise that both the Tesla Model S and the Tesla Model 3 come chock-full of cool tech features.

Despite the fact that neither Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are offered in Tesla models, both the Model S and the Model 3 offer the company’s robust infotainment and navigation technology, all of which are accessible through one of founder Elon Musk‘s favorite features: a centralized 15-inch touch screen.

The touch screen on both Model S and Model 3 offers a variety of helpful stats, namely battery charge status, location of the nearest Tesla Supercharging station, and navigation coordinates.

Pricing

With a starting price of $84,490, the Tesla Model S is by far the more expensive model if you’re choosing between it and the Tesla Model 3, which starts at a far more affordable $45,799. 

The price of a Tesla Model 3 is quite reasonable considering a June 2021 report that stated the average cost of a new car in the United States at $40,206. 

While the nearly $85K price tag is far from ludicrous, particularly when compared to Tesla’s luxury rivals like Porsche, it certainly places the car out of reach for a lot of people.

Those looking for an affordable, entry-level all-electric vehicle should choose the Tesla Model 3.

Warranty

Regardless of which trim level you choose to purchase, the 2021 Tesla Model 3 and the 2021 Tesla Model S have identical warranty coverage. The Basic Vehicle Warranty is good for four years or 50,000 miles, whichever is reached first. Each of the car’s battery pack and drive units come with an eight-year/120,000 mile warranty.

Tesla Model S vs Tesla Model 3: Making the Choice

Once you examine the Tesla Model S vs Model 3, they actually have more similarities than differences. Those looking for an all-electric sedan with impressive range and a bit more cargo space should consider the Tesla Model S, particularly if you place a priority on driving a long range model Tesla. 

Drivers looking for a more affordable price tag and a little bit more performance out of their new car would be wise to consider the Tesla Model 3, which packs all the style and substance of a luxury car without the high price point.

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