The Model S Vs. Model 3 Compared (And Secrets Revealed)

The Model S Vs. Model 3 Compared (And Secrets Revealed)

Tesla is the premier name in electric vehicle technology. However, not all of their cars are created equal. Some of the technology and features available in the top-end models are not available in the base-end models.

The Model S is fancier with:

  • Better comfort
  • Luxury
  • Safety features

While the Model 3 has:

  • Great driving
  • Great price
  • Secret options that make it a favorite for enthusiasts

We have created the following table to provide an at-a-glance comparison of the two models:

FeatureModel SModel 3Verdict
Driving ModesFewer OptionsMore OptionsModel 3
SizeHeavier and LargerLighter and SmallerModel 3
Speed PerformanceFaster with “Plaid”Not as fast off the lineModel S
Resale RatingExcellentGoodModel S
Range412Up to 350Model S
Main Cargo and Storage SpaceUp to 26.6 cubic feet with back seats down15 cubic feetModel S
PriceMore ExpensiveCheaperModel 3

Even if the Model S is more expensive and advanced, there are plenty of reasons to learn about and consider purchasing its younger sibling, the Model 3. Read on to find out more about the comparison and secrets of the Model S and Model 3.

Overview: Model S vs. Model 3

Below is a breakdown of the price points for each of the Model S and Model 3 vehicles.

Model 3 comes in three different types:

  • Standard Range +: About $40,000 with a range of 263 miles, a top speed of 140 mph, and a 0-60 in 5.3 seconds
  • Long Range: Nearly $50,000 with a range of 353 miles and the same top speed and 0 to 60 times as the standard range model
  • Performance: Approximately $57,000 with a 315-mile range but more sporty specs like a top speed of 162 mph, lower suspension, better quality brakes, 20-inch standard wheels, and a 0 to 60 time of 3.1 seconds

On the flip side, the Model S has two versions with additional packages upgrades available for both. The motors in the Long-range and Plaid have over 1,000 horsepower. There are several differences between the two listed below:

  • Long Range: Nearly $80,000, the Model S base has 375 miles range and a top speed of 155 mph. It can do 0 to 60 mph in 3.1 seconds
  • Plaid: Upwards of $130,000, has 350 miles per full battery charge, and a top speed of 200 mph. The Sprinting in the Plaid is a ridiculous 0 to 60 in 1.98 seconds

Verdict: Model 3 is the more sensible option of the two because it has more options for consumers and still allows for excellent battery range and some pretty sweet top speeds and acceleration.

The Model S vs. Model 3

Elon Musk and his team at Tesla have options for seemingly every type of driver to experience top-end luxury car design. The Tesla Model S and Model 3 are both awe-inspiring cars with things like:

  • Driverless modes
  • Self-parking
  • Even height differences that the car remembers

Having said that, the Model S is a more expensive and more luxurious option when compared to the Model 3. And since the Model S has been around for longer, there is no getting around the fact that it is the gold standard to which the Model 3 gets compared.

Even though the Model S has dominated the luxury electric car scene since 2012, the Model 3 is great in many of its own ways and offers a smaller and less expensive entry point for customers interested in getting into a Tesla vehicle.

Model 3 Driving Modes

For those driving fanatics who want metrics of their driving and maybe even want their Tesla on the race track, the Model 3 delivers with Track Mode. Imagine getting your Tesla Model 3 around a track with a timer or being able to customize the handling of your Model 3 for your own city streets. The options are numerous, and all of them make driving your Model 3 an adventure and activity.

There are many great features about track mode, and more are being added with updates seemingly every year. Some of the best features deal with vehicle handling, real-time status monitoring, and performance review.

Vehicle Handling for the Model 3

Usually, tapping into the computer settings in your car takes additional hardware plugged into your vehicle and extensive know-how. However, Tesla and Model 3 make refining your vehicle handling relatively simple for navigation and tuning.

Even though there are several options for your vehicle handling already featured on the Model 3, the top three things that you should fine-tune yourself are balance, stability, and braking. These features give you more excellent handling and control, especially when racing around quickly on a track or even on city streets.

  • Handling Balance: the range of balance for the shift motor bias goes from 100 percent at the front to 100 percent at the rear. The balance between the two motors gets set up for either oversteering or understeering feel based on the two engines’ torque. The steering is also based on rotation initiation and slip angle sustainability.
  • Stability Assistance: The stability control systems are customizable from having 100% stability systems on to 100% driver’s manual control.
  • Regen Braking: Choose how much pressure gets needed on the pedal for braking power and also how much the car’s motors decelerate when you take your foot off the acceleration pedal. This feature also allows for initiating the car’s rotation using the throttle pedal. 

Real-time Stats Available for the Model 3

Some of the more impressive meters and status gauges are available for the Model 3 in track mode. While racing around, you have choices about which kinds of stats you get from your car about the driving experience. Some of the best are listed below.

  • Vehicle Status: With the vehicle status gauges and overview, you’ll get a detailed look at the vehicle and the system running it, such as the temperatures of the vital parts. You get gauges with stats on things like the battery, brake, and motor temperatures and how the tires are getting used throughout your driving session.
  • Optimal Vehicle Cooling: You will drive longer in track sessions with the compressor overlock and post-drive cooling. These systems help compensate for the high temperatures generated by high speed and intensity driving. The compressor overlock and post-drive cooling are available in the Track Mode settings menu.
  • G-Meter: Model 3 is known for hitting almost one G in its accelerations. In track mode, the car will automatically record peaks in lateral and longitudinal accelerations. After driving, take a look at these peaks in g-force in the Cards located on the touchscreen.

Reviewing and Sharing Model 3’s Track Mode

Track mode promotes the team and competitive nature of racing by allowing drivers to record and share their statistics from their Model 3 seamlessly. Some of the best features allow for recording and sharing on platforms like social media straight from the vehicle.

  • Telemetry Data: The “black box” recording of driving statistics is now available for sharing and downloading. The data is stored in a .CSV file format and includes things like lap times, deceleration, acceleration, vehicle thermal readings, tire use, and G-meter peaks. All of this data is available for download to a USB flash drive with a folder named TeslaTrackMode.
  • Video Logging: The video data from your driving experience is also available for download and sharing. The Data is stored and available for download onto a USB flash drive and includes the dashcam for laps and a video of each lap while driving. This feature must be initiated during the Lap Timer option.

Verdict: Model 3’s driving settings with things like Track Mode and the ability to check out vital vehicle stats like the G-meter and vehicle cooling make the driving mode on the Model 3 superior to the Model S.

Size Comparisons Between Tesla’s Model S and Model 3

Another significant difference between the Model S and Model 3 is the size of each car. The Model S is the larger of the two and has more of a luxury sedan feel. On the other hand, the Model 3 is lighter and zippier and great for those looking for a more compact version of a Tesla that is a bit easier for parking and lighter in acceleration and maneuvering.

The general statistics for the weight and size of Model 3 and Model S are pretty similar.

  • The Model S weighs in at 4,561 pounds to  4,941 pounds.
  • The Model 3 is nearly a half-ton lighter weighs in at around 3,648 pounds to 4,250 pounds.

Interestingly, the weight distribution has little difference between the Model 3, and S. Model 3 has a 47% front and 53% rear distribution, while Model S has 48% front and 53% rear. Regardless of the minimal difference, these are both incredibly balanced cars with heavy battery packs at their center that make them nearly impossible to flip.

The Model S is also larger in size than the Model 3.

  • The S’s dimensions are 196 inches in length, 77 inches in width, and 57 inches in tall
  • The Model 3 measures up to 185 inches long, 73 inches wide, and about 56 inches tall

The most significant difference in measurements of the two cars is the length, which is noticeable in the Model S with its ample storage space and handling.  

Verdict: The Model 3 is a smaller, more maneuverable car that weighs less.

Tesla’s Model S Speed Performance Comparison to Other Makers

Model S wins this category simply because it has terrifying put-you-back-in-your-seat acceleration. Known as the “Plaid” package, the speed performance of the Model S rivals some supercars like Lamborghini and Ferrari.

Even though the Model 3 is plenty speedy and has excellent acceleration, it can’t touch the speed performance of the Model S. For example, the Model 3 clocks in 0 to 60 miles per hour straight away in 3.2 seconds. That is very fast, but not even close to the 2.0 seconds that the Model S achieves.

Below is a breakdown of 0 to 60 track times of some of the fastest cars in the world compared to the Model S.

Vehicle0-60 acceleration Time
2021 Tesla Model S Plaid +1.98 seconds
2015 Porsche 918 Spyder2.1 seconds
2021 Porsche 911 Turbo S(tie) 2018 Lamborghini Hurcan Performante2.2 seconds
Bugatti Chiron Sport2.4 seconds

As you can see, the recent track time of the Tesla Model S Plaid + is record-breaking and deemed the fastest acceleration on the planet. The fact that the Model S Plaid + broke the acceleration record is incredibly impressive for an electric car. Historically for race cars, breaking the two-second barrier has been the Holy Grail of production car manufacturers.

Verdict: Model S because of the record-breaking world acceleration of the Plaid + model.

Resale Ratings Between Tesla’s Model 3 and the Model S

Model S gets an excellent rating on Kelly Blue Book and is the second-best resale value for electric cars. The expected resale of a Model S is around 48 percent of the original sticker price. The high resale value is primarily because of the great range of a fully charged battery, the outstanding design of the body, and the strong drivetrain that seems like it lasts for a long time.

Verdict: Model S comes out on top because it has a spectacular resale value, even though the Model 3 has a great resale value, too.

Comparing Tesla’s Model 3 and Model S Range Capacities

Both the Model S and Model 3 have exceptional battery ranges compared to all other electric cars on the market. Having said that, only the Model S has a superb range that gets you further than San Francisco to Los Angeles on one charge.

The Model has a battery range of 412 miles, nearly 100 miles further than that of the Model 3. However, if you upgrade to the gaudy Model S Plaid + version, the range is increased to over 500 miles. The model 3 is only capable of around 315 miles at its best.

Verdict: The Model S has a more fantastic range ability than the Model 3, and the S can travel faster while going further at the same time.

Main Cargo and Storage Space

The Model 3 is notorious for having limited cargo space in the back end. Sure, you will fit a suitcase and some other luggage, and both the Model S and 3 have the front trunk, or “frunk,” that holds a carry-on bag. But, the Model S is superior for cargo space because of the sport-utility hatchback tail-gate design and the ability for the seats to get lowered for full carriage.

Verdict: Model S takes this category because it has a hatchback design with the ability to lower the seats all the way flat.

There Are Broad Price Swings Between Tesla’s Model 3 and S

Tesla sells four models of cars from the Model 3 to the Model S. Each has different packages and costs. However, the Model 3 is the least expensive, and the Model S is the most expensive vehicle that Tesla produces.

The least expensive option is the Model 3 basic package which retails at around $40,000. Alternatively, the newest 2021 Model S Plaid + costs upwards of $170,000.

Verdict: The Model 3 is much less expensive than the Model S.

Secrets of Model 3 and Model S

Tesla founder, Elon Musk, is notorious for pushing his engineers and teams towards more excellent value for everything they create. Tesla cars are incredibly efficient and powerful machines, but they also have a lot of entertainment value, and practical value, with some of the secrets integrated into their design.

This section is all about some of the tips for using the Tesla Model S and Model 3 with better skill and also some of the “Easter eggs” or hidden references, entertaining features, and secrets of these two vehicles.

Engage the Autopilot in Traffic

For both the Model S and Model 3, you can engage the autopilot while sitting in traffic. Engaging autopilot in traffic is one of the most valuable features for commuters because it frees you up to relax your body a little bit and allow the car to drive the start and stop of the daily commute grind.

To engage autopilot while in traffic, simply place your foot on the brake and then engage the ‘hill hold’ feature. The symbols on the screen tell you that autopilot is now available. Simply click the autopilot engagement as usual.

Swiping The Swipescreen

All Tesla cars have an extraordinary swipe screen in the dashboard’s center:

  • Entertainment
  • Information
  • Car controls
  • Navigation

Driving and interacting with the large screen is troublesome, so there are a few swipe controls that every Tesla owner should learn and use for safety and easy use.

Accessing your favorite feature is as swiping once from the bottom of the screen. The Tesla owner’s favorite or most used app will open automatically. Home navigation is also easy to input by simply swiping down from the navigation search bar. The car automatically starts your directions towards home.

The Parking Brake

Tesla has the ability to turn off the ‘creep’ of the car. In ordinary internal combustion engines (ICE), the car also moves the wheels a little while in gear. This is not true for Tesla cars. Tesla Model S and Model 3 have a “Creep” setting that allows users to turn on creep for more comparability to ordinary ICE vehicles.

The parking brake is not needed when creep gets turned off. However, for comfort, Tesla has engineered an electric parking brake.

Putting the car in the park only takes pressing a button. This park button is at the end of the driving wheel stalk. However, holding this button down for a few seconds initiates an electric parking brake. The parking brake feature is a secret not many Tesla owners know about. 

Secrets of The Model S

The Model S has a lot going for it. However, if you have ever wondered about some of the secrets and tricks that this car has, the following has a list of the details of things you may have never known about this luxury electric car.

Plaid Name

As a nod to the classic parody movie, Spaceballs, directed by Mel brooks, Tesla creators (including Musk himself) named the sporty drivetrain on the Model S after the speed classifications of the ship, Spaceball 1, that went so fast its vapor trail turned Plaid.

Earlier classifications in the movie called the second-fastest speed ‘Ridculous’ speed and then Plaid as the fastest.

Fun Fact: Earlier models of the Model S had the drivetrain acceleration named Ridiculous.

James Bond Underwater Car

As a fun little Easter Egg that nods to the Roger Moore Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me, Model S owners can get a graphic of Bond’s underwater car used in the movie. The graphic of the Model S morphs into the Lotus Esprit S1 used in the film that also goes underwater.

The method of making this transformation happen on the screen requires a few codes. Simply hold down the “T” button until the log-in screen appears. Type in James Bond’s secret code name, “007,” to activate the James Bond underwater car on your screen.

Tesla’s Model S Breaks Machine That Tests for Impacts

One notable piece of semi-secret information is that the Model S once broke a National Highway Safety Administration machine that was supposed to test the car’s roof crush resistance.

During the test, the machine used in testing the pressure exerted on the roof actually broke. The NHTSA went out of their way and gave the Model S a 5.4 out of 5 points rating, actually awarding bonus points for the spectacular performance of strength in the roof.

Model S was the First to Pass the 300 Mile Range

Before the Model S did it, no other production electric vehicle had a 300-plus mile range on its battery power. This is just another first that has turned from fact to legend, to a little-known secret about one of the vehicles created at Tesla.

Secrets and Tips of the Tesla Model 3

There are fewer cool Easter Egg secrets associated with the Model 3. However, there are plenty of great tips for this base-level Tesla that makes owning one all the more enjoyable. Read on to find out more about some secrets and suggestions about the Tesla Model 3.

Adjust the Climate Without Needing the Menu

An annoying feature for new Tesla drivers, they have to go through several screens to get to the climate controls. However, there is a trick with the Model 3 where if you hold the temperature gauge for two seconds, a small control panel pops up with a draggable temperature adjustment.

Although it should only take a few seconds, you may need to look away from the road to navigate to the climate controls.

Swipe to Go Home

If you have your home address saved in the navigation system of your Tesla, getting home is as easy as a swipe. When the map navigation is visible, simply swipe down on the screen and your directions home magically appear.

Put Your Model 3 in Neutral

Putting your Model 3 in neutral gear is not as straightforward as it is with ordinary ICE cars or even the Model S. Instead, you need to do a series of things before the vehicle can be placed in neutral gear.

The steps required to put your Model 3 in neutral:

  • Start with placing the car in drive
  • Keep your foot on the brake
  • Simultaneously raise the stalk on the right of the steering wheel only partway up
  • Hold this for two seconds

Now the car should go into neutral gear.

Safer Teen Driving Mode

Teenagers are just learning the art of driving. However, Tesla has designed some controls on the Model 3 that provide teen drivers with a little support.

In the Controls menu of the Model 3, there is a mobile app on which parents or guardians can change some key features of the car, such as limiting the car’s top speed as well as keep tabs on real-time stats such as speed and location.

Open the Charging Port with a Charger

This is a tip that all Tesla owners can take advantage of, and it feels fantastic to do it. Since there are many ways of opening the car charging port, you may overlook this great feature.

Sure, you could use the screen in the car or tap the charging cover yourself. However, if you are at an official Tesla supercharger, you are able to click the button on the plug that inserts into the car’s port when it is next to the cover. Like magic, the charging port cover opens up for the charging cable to get inserted.

In Conclusion

Tesla cars are very modern and luxurious. Even though the Model S is the highest class model available from Tesla, the Model 3 has a lot of great features going for it. Hopefully, this comparison gives you some insight into the significant differences and some fun tips and secrets about the Model S and Model 3 Tesla vehicles.

If you are considering your first Tesla automobile, the Model 3 may be the most economical choice. However, if you are looking for luxury along with all of the bells and whistles that Tesla has to offer, go for the Model S and drive away in style.


The articles here on are created by Greg, a Tesla vehicle and Tesla solar expert with nearly half a decade of hands-on experience. The information on this site is fact-checked and tested in-person to ensure the best possible level of accuracy.

Recent Posts