Automotive

Track Mode Is Out to Turn a Tesla Model 3 Performance Into a Drift Machine

Starting today, if you’ve got a Tesla Model 3 Performance, it’s about to be a hell of a lot more fun on your next track day. Tesla is finally putting out the long-awaited “Release Version” of Track Mode for its smallest and most fun car, and it sounds incredibly clever and looks like an absolute riot.

There’s a video you can watch on Tesla’s blog showing how a Model 3 Performance transforms into a drift machine on a track, and it comes with a handy explanation of how this new over-the-air update to the car works. Basically, this does to handling what Ludicrous Mode has done to straight-line acceleration: tweak both electric motors’ behavior to maximize performance in new ways.

Tesla says that when turned on—and it’s advised to be used at a track only, but knowing how you YouTube-thirsty jokers have treated Autopilot I know it won’t just be used there—up to 100 percent of power can be sent to the rear wheels during cornering to get the back wheels sufficiently out. And if that rotation becomes “excessive,” power is sent to the front wheels to balance it out.

Track mode also drops the battery’s temperature for better cooling during track use, ramps up regenerative braking to send more power back to the battery pack and to initiate rotation better, and simulates the abilities of a limited-slip differential using the brakes.

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Tesla loaned the car to Motor Trend’s Randy Pobst, one of the better hot shoes working today, at the Streets of Willow to see what it can do. It’s actually pretty interesting what they pulled off here, emphasis mine:

Angling into the corner under braking, Track mode seems to illogically instruct the rear motor to briefly overpower the rear, stepping the tail out a few degrees to target what the math model thinks is the maximum available lateral acceleration given the suspension’s compression. Then it tailors that prediction by analyzing the tires’ actual slip rates. Post-apex, the front motor takes the lead role, delivering just enough power to cause a muted understeer, pulling the car out of the corner as the rear motor ladles in what’s needed to maintain that attitude.

This simple ballet is kept carefully balanced from entry to exit by the lightning responsiveness of the electric motors and brake pads that individually and automatically kiss their discs to laterally redirect power across the open differentials. Only a from-scratch, fully integrated solution can keep all these balls in the air. (It makes me really wonder what Porsche is doing to make the Taycan handle around the Nurburgring). According to Tesla’s calculations, Track mode lets the car apex earlier and begin accelerating sooner.

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Indeed on the bolded part, because you know ‘Ring-loving Porsche’s going to try something like that eventually. And it’s yet further proof of the cool things that can be done with electric motors, things that everyday enthusiasts and tuners haven’t even thought of yet.

Anyway, with Track Mode on and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, Pobst ran a lap time of 1:21.49 with the Model 3 Performance. That’s more than two seconds quicker than the car with standard Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires and an earlier, buggier version of Track Mode. That puts it on par with a Porsche Cayman GT4, and is a full second and a half quicker than an Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. Not bad at all.

Head over to Motor Trend to read the full shakedown.

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