Teslas can do straight-line speed. They practically specialise in it, with three-second sprints to 60mph no issue for cars with rather a lot more heft than the ones they’re embarrassing within the depths of YouTube.
But what about round corners? Well, a Model 3 ‘Ascension R’ tweaked by Unplugged Performance – effectively the AMG to Tesla, albeit unofficially – has just lapped Tsukuba circuit in 1m04.7s. For context, that slots it neatly between the McLaren F1 (1m04.6s) and Porsche 997 GT3 (1m.04.8s).
Now, there’s no doubt we’d be quicker in a Model 3 than a priceless F1. All the clever stuff going on beneath a modern car – especially one as advanced as a Tesla – makes it a significantly less deathy or bankrupty thing to throw around a twisty circuit against a pressuring stopwatch. Especially with the coilover suspension, carbon ceramic brakes and harnessed race seat deployed in the Ascension R.
Unplugged is keen to state its Model 3 can go quicker, though. And take down that pesky V12-engined hypercar, at the very least. Its car battled temperatures half those on the day of the McLaren’s lap, while Unplugged had significantly less track time, the F1 enjoying a full day of a circuit closed for the mighty Best Motoring channel (the same heroically loopy Best Motoring who raced that F1 against five other cars, in the wet).
“The test day at Tsukuba circuit was done as a proof of concept to illustrate that Unplugged’s Ascension R upgraded Model 3s can perform at the level of world-class supercars of any era, on any track,” says Unplugged boss Ben Schaffer, “and in a near effortless way in which a daily-spec car can drive to the track on autopilot, run with supercars and then drive back home.
“Future Unplugged Performance upgrades will build upon the foundation of vehicle upgrades on this car and will implement greater extremes of downforce and grip.”
So, wilder, quicker Model 3s yet are on their way. Will Unplugged’s wares ever be officially pumped out of Tesla dealers, to properly rival RS4s, M3s and C63s? Well, its Tokyo Auto Salon stand was staffed by Tesla Japan employees, we’re told, so there’s at least some blurring of the lines between the two companies. And if Tesla hopes to start attacking lap records with more success than its infamous trips to the Nürburgring recently, a team with some handling expertise could be just what they’re after…