Elon Musk and The Racecar Conundrum

Elon Musk made waves on Saturday after tweeting about the unreleased all-wheel drive performance Model 3.

Elon Musk and The Racecar Conundrum

Elon Musk, arguably the most divisive figure in the automotive space, made waves on Saturday after tweeting about the unreleased all-wheel drive performance Model 3.

Tesla has used 0-60 times as their key performance benchmark since the release of the Roadster back in 2008. The hugely powerful electric motors employed by Musk and Tesla pushed the cars 60 mph faster than just about anything south of $250,000. However, on Saturday Musk took a shot at the BMW M3 and insinuated that the impending performance-oriented Model 3 would beat the performance-oriented BMW around a race track.

Musk tweeted: “Cost of all options, wheels, paint, etc is included (apart from Autopilot). Cost is $78k. About same as BMW M3, but 15% quicker & with better handling. Will beat anything in its class on the track.”

Automotive journalists and commenters came out in droves to comment on Musk’s tweet. Bozi Tatarevic, writer at Road and Track and Jalopnik, questioned both the cost of the Model 3 as well the vehicle’s ability to run for more than a few laps without overheating: “I guess that he is counting the $7,500 credit in his price since the M3 starts at around $67k. Would really be interested to see how they came upon this "better handling" conclusion and how many laps it can complete without heating up.” Various track tests of the of Model S and Model 3 have ended abruptly as batteries have consistently overheated, forcing the cars into limp mode after just a few minutes on track. Furthermore, recent comparisons between the Model 3 and M3 at Laguna Seca, the famed racetrack in Northern California, have returned lap times of 1:43 and 1:57 for the M3 and Tesla, respectively. Even sans overheating issues, the Model 3 still lags behind the pace of the M3.

The Model S does not fare much better with on-track performance. A Model S P85D managed to run the famed German Nürburgring in 8:50. For context, a 1997 BMW M3 ran a lap at the same racetrack in a time of 8:35.

For many enthusiasts, true vehicle performance is determined at the racetrack and in 2018 we will see the inaugural season of the Electric GT – a 10 race series featuring a lightened Tesla Model S. And with the redesigned Tesla Roaster, slated for release in 2020, as well as the performance-oriented Model 3 Musk mentioned this weekend, it’s clear that Musk also has the racetrack on his mind.

No one doubts that Elon Musk and Tesla have done wonders in pushing the entire automotive industry forward. Musk’s desire to continually push technical boundaries and to update cars at a pace never seen before in the space, forces the rest of the industry to play catch up. However, when it comes to performance, specifically at the racetrack, Tesla is the brand that needs to catch up. The next few years will be a fascinating time in the automotive world, and for Tesla, an opportunity to prove that they can build a true performance car.