Product Review Building the Teslarossa - A Max Model 3 for the Street?

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Dfwatt

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Building the Teslarossa – A Max Model 3 for the Street?

This story, like many car stories (car stories are usually only interesting to guys!), starts with a test drive. . . or in this case two of them. The first of them was a test drive of a top-of-the-line Tesla Model S in the Spring of 2013. While its acceleration was impressive, it was simply way too large and too ponderous for me to think about buying one. Its handling was not bad for a car that weighted well over 2 tons, but I just couldn't consider it as a daily driver – the suspension design appeared modern and sophisticated, but the car just felt much too big and heavy – and not any lighter on its feet than its spec sheet would suggest. Disappointed, I thought, oh well, let's see what they come up with next, as the drivetrain was pretty impressive . . . and of course the instant-on acceleration pretty appealing.

Fast forward three years to April 1st, 2016 – sight unseen and test drive undriven, I plunked down a measly thousand dollars on the first day that you put a deposit on the Model 3, along with 200,000+ other brave pioneers. And I promptly just about forgot about it, as the Model 3 I would be buying was at least 1 if not 2 years away. And, as bad luck (in this case, ‘ production hell’) would have it, it turned out to be roughly 2½ years away! By the middle of 2018, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever see a car, but sure enough, in July I got notification that I could now put in an official order for a real (non-vaporware?) car. Hmm . . . still skeptical, I put in an order – online of course as that’s the only way you can buy one of these things – for a Performance Version Model 3 with just about every box ticked (except full self driving), and gulped, yikes! as the final price was like $76,000. Whoa! And then I realized I was thinking about spending $20,000 more than I'd ever considered spending on a car . . . . that I had not even test driven! This did not make a whole lot of sense!

So I trundled down to the Framingham Mass. Tesla store, and asked them for what I called a ‘serious test drive.’ The guy looked at me skeptically, and asked me what I meant by that, and I said “well I don't want to go on a race track, or violate any laws, but I do want to push it a little bit,” explaining that I had just put down $2500 for one in the original pile of first day orders, again, sight unseen and test drive undriven. He agreed.

Well, I had never experienced acceleration quite like that! .9 Gs, no wheelspin, and no drama. Point-and-squirt acceleration. Instant response, and deeply linear – the G Force felt directly proportional to how much you press the “gas” (?) pedal. And on my first serious turn, I was very pleasantly surprised that the car felt a lot lighter than its rated 4000 pounds, and waaaay lighter than the floaty Model S I had experienced, as it turned in with alacrity. Although I didn't want to get too close to its limits, I could tell they were pretty high. That was enough. I was sold. I had been prepared to cancel my deposit if the car failed the test drive, but instead, I put down another deposit on another DMP Model 3 for my wife. We’d be fighting over this thing constantly if there was just one of these and a crappy ICE Mommy van!! That was one of my best moves ever.

Of course, as pleased as I was with the stock handling and performance, I had the approach of most guys with their cars, that things (finances permitting!) can always be improved!!! During those early days in 2018 there was a dire shortage of aftermarket equipment, and of course, unlike ICE, modding the engine was not an option, but I quickly heard about this new Canadian group that was doing amazing things on track with the car, Mountain Pass Performance! But I started with some lighter weight and wider wheels from Advanti, upgraded to Vorsteiner and then VS Forged (an amazing value at only $650 a corner for ultra wide 20s weighing 21/22 lbs), and after checking them out thoroughly, ordered the Sports Coilover kit from Mountain Pass Performance. Mountain Pass has proven to be an absolute gold mine for Tesla tweaking junkies. They are an exceptional outfit in every way – from the standpoint of their technical competencies, their customer service and integrity, and their commitment to supporting the Model 3 (and it looks like they're going to go in a similar direction on the Model Y!).

I got the Sports Coilover kit, and after toying with wrenching it myself, wisely had it installed. I initially set the shocks for the recommended street 10/12, which was actually really comfortable so I decided to ratchet up the stiffness, and set it at 8/10 which is where I've had it ever since. Not sure I’d want to go much firmer on the street . . . . Then it was a question of what other suspension ‘bling’ I might add to this great start.

Long story short . . . .that ended up being almost everything in their parts catalog at this point accepting the Front Upper Control Arms (saving that for later maybe) and the lower suspension bushing part. That includes the rear camber adjustment arm, the toe arms, and the traction and trailing arms. All really fine pieces, with super heavy duty spherical bushings. Highly, highly recommended, esp. the rear camber arms, but hell, just get the whole damn bin of their suspension parts!

How’s it drive? A tighter, more precise version of the stock car, with significantly higher limits. The basic DNA of the Model 3 is immediately recognizable, but everything is more immediate, and the steering is slightly heavier (have it on the standard setting), presumably due to the much wider fronts. Much better turn-in, and more locked down at virtually any lateral acceleration rate. And while the stock Performance Model 3 is somewhat scrambling for traction any place much north of .8 G, this feels VERY securely planted at .9 G and will comfortably show loads on the track mode G meter of 1.1 Gs, and I'm definitely not exploring its limits fully on the street - it's possible the car could peak at about 1.2-1.3 Gs. There is none of the ‘pogoing’ on oscillating surfaces, and absolutely no sense that the rear is becoming a little bit loose at higher speeds or on sudden turn in. Very significantly reduced body roll and brake dive/acceleration squat - I can see why MPP feels that anti-roll bars aren't critical - and I like a little bit of roll anyway. The driver's seat is really a/the limiting factor now in terms of how much lateral accel you can tolerate. Not any grainier in relationship to road surface grain or harshness (still really smooth overall) but it is now firm to a point where I wouldn’t want to drive cross country with things any firmer. Not sure I’d drive to NYC ever in this car, not with the current wheels and tires, even though I am sure they are much more impact-resistant than the stock OEM boat anchor wheels, and the 265/30 fronts probably are more impact resistant too.

One thing I forgot to mention in relationship to the car's handling is a bit surprising - its complete absence of terminal understeer, even with its slightly staggered 265/275 set up. In other words I was somewhat surprised to see that in higher speed corners the car actually feels like it wants to oversteer which can be a little disconcerting. I am wondering if that's a function of alignment (minimal toe all around, 1.5 neg camber rear, 1.2 neg camber front). It does not change posture in so called 'trailing throttle' in other words regen braking, (earlier gen Porsche 911s were famous for their 'snap' trailing throttle oversteer which could bite you) and fortunately there's nothing like that, but it's pretty clear that it's not understeerng.

I know the book from the track guys is a completely square set up but I'm wondering how many of them experience a little bit of undesirable oversteer. I know oversteer is desirable especially in lower speed corners where you can pivot out and then apply full power but in high speed corners oversteer strikes me as pretty undesirable. Curious what track guys might say about that.

Haven’t had it on a track yet (wouldn’t track it with the current Pilot Sport 4S past 1-2 laps, as they would likely get chunked quickly and they are way too expensive a tire to have to replace after 5-10 hot laps somewhere). Also needs more front negative camber for any serious track work, plus harder pads, and a brake fluid swap. Serious track wheels and tires might be the next item to save for – but I promised my wife that her car would get the Comfort Adjustable Coilovers to get lowered and achieve that hunkered-down look with those nice chunky tires (who would have thought she’d care?).

Tesla tuning is an expensive addiction!! 12 step program?

Final result: you just can't tell how chunky and seriously wide those tires are from most angles.
It's kind of stealth car, in that sense, a suspension/wheel/tire version of the stealth performance model 3.

This view does give a little bit more away of how radically changed the wheel tire complement might be:


First things first! Suspension coilovers in front:



and rear, where all the real bling is hiding:



Two serious PS4s: front 265/30 (wheel/tire combo weighs only 45 lbs - pretty light for 20s w/ 265. Offset is 40mm, which would be too much for 9.5 inch width on the front, excepting the extra 5mm afforded by the RB aftermarket rotor. Shout out to Mad Hungarian for confirming offsets - this offset with the aftermarket rotor leaves only about 2-3mm clearance from the front steering knuckle. Wouldn't recommend cutting it any tighter.
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and the rear PS 4S 275/30 on a 10.5 rim both weighing together 50 lbs. Not bad. 50mm offset, due to the (upcoming) RB rear rotors, which are 5mm thicker (see fronts for RB rotor). Wheel weight is ~22 lbs, pretty decent for 20X10.5. Tire is a hefty 28 lbs, also not too bad for 275. Ride is firm but still rather supple, just not super compliant with the shocks set where they are.




Total Kit Summary:
Mountain Pass Performance sports Coilovers lowered 1.25 inches (shocks set at 10/8 (default is 12/10 for the street)
Mountain Pass Rear Camber, Toe, Trailing, and Traction Arms.
VS Forged VS14 wheels, 9.5 front, 10.5 rear
Michelin Pilot Sport 4S 265/30 fronts, 275/30 rears
UP Front Splitter
Racing Brake front and rear rotors

Next: brake fluid swap, trackable pads, front suspension solid spherical bushing install . . . eventually some trackable tires?

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lance.bailey

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wow, love a stealth car. gives one an inner smile knowing that the guy beside you at the light better take a good look because if you want all they would be seeing is the rear bumper .....
 
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chiapet15

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@Dfwatt I was looking into getting a similar setup in terms of wheel/tire sizes and the MPP suspension arms, so I had a couple of questions:
1. Did you notice any difference in energy consumption with the wider tires? I'm wondering if the weight reduction on the wheels helped offset the increased consumption from the wider tires.
2. Did you notice any increase in road noise making it into the cabin after switching to the MPP arms, which use solid bushings?

Thanks!
 

Dfwatt

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@Dfwatt I was looking into getting a similar setup in terms of wheel/tire sizes and the MPP suspension arms, so I had a couple of questions:
1. Did you notice any difference in energy consumption with the wider tires? I'm wondering if the weight reduction on the wheels helped offset the increased consumption from the wider tires.
2. Did you notice any increase in road noise making it into the cabin after switching to the MPP arms, which use solid bushings?

Thanks!
Thanks for reaching out. I did not notice any increased noise and I really didn't notice any increased harshness from swapping out the various arms ( trailing, traction, Towing, and rear camber), but the rear feels a little less like it wants to wander around. I know that's a bit of a weird description but I don't know quite how to describe how the rear behaved sometimes but it was a little bit disconcerting. It seemed to have a little bit of a mind of its own at higher lateral acceleration. So no noise or harshness that I could determine from the various changes, but the ultra wide tires 265/30 and 275/30 front and rear respectively did probably cost me about 5 Watt hours per mile over the stock 235/35. Not much though. And worth it in my book. And I probably gained about 10 to 15 watt hours per mile from lowering the car from an inch and a third and the front air dam so a net gain in terms of consumption, at least on the Highway. Ride is maybe just a touch firmer compared to the stock 235/35 Michelin Pilot Sport 4S but it's not a big difference. I was comfortable going with such radically wide tires on the street only with the Pilot Sports 4S because I know they ride really well for such a high performance Tire. I don't think I'd want to drive the Bridgestone RE71R on the other hand on the street.
 
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Dfwatt

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Latest interesting tweak from @MountainPass Performance – their master cylinder brace. Prevents firewall Flex under hard braking. Although I rarely use friction brakes, when I do, it's nice to know that about 2-3 mm of firewall Flex has been taken out under emergency braking. Pedal does feel subjectively firmer.
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Dfwatt

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I've had a chance to do more range and efficiency testing on the super wide tire compliment. It's a little bit discouraging, as I was expecting better results after the 275/30 addition at the back only really cost me about 5 Watt hours per mile compared to the stock 235/35. But the addition of the 265 / 30s at the front is probably costing me at least 8 watt-hours per mile. I'm a little bit surprised that the narrower tire is costing more than the wider tire at the rear but I suspect some of that is rolling resistance because this is not a Tesla spec Tire, unlike the rear 275 / 30. Some of it may simply be aerodynamic drag as well, as the rear tire is a bit more out of the air stream than the front tire.

In any case the combination costs me ~13-15 watt hours per mile, and this is relative to the stock Michelin Pilot Sport 4S Tire in the 235 / 35 20 inch size which is no efficiency champion. I'm reasonably confident that this is accurate because my wife's car which has the stock suspension, was just about 15 watt hours per mile less efficient, but we picked up five watt hours per mile with a front spoiler being added to hers. This meant that my car was just about 10 or perhaps 8 - 10 Watt hours per mile better than her car, and now with the addition of the much wider fronts, there's no difference at all. Still, even with the 13 - 15 watt hours per mile efficiency penalty for the combination of 265 / 30 front and 275 / 30 rear, I wouldn't go back. The handling is just in a different League.

Next tweak for sure is the @MountainPass front bushing. At least that won't cost me any range!
 
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TrevP

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I need to upgrade the brakes on my P3D. Stainless lines, new front rotors and pads would make a huge difference.
 
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MountainPass

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@Dfwatt do you know if the optional press tool for these bushings is needed if you plan to take the car to a professional shop for installation? Or are the press tools more for folks who are DIY the install?

It is really easy with the press tool, but the first time we did it (before we designed the tools) we used some random press bits we had around. Most shops have a wide assortment of press tools that should be able to do the trick. You can also ask your shop if they've done it before, maybe they have the exact tool!
 

Dfwatt

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@Dfwatt do you know if the optional press tool for these bushings is needed if you plan to take the car to a professional shop for installation? Or are the press tools more for folks who are DIY the install?

My recollection is that it's a 12-ton press that's needed so if you're doing it yourself you'll have to rent that, but a lot of places probably have that that do custom suspension work
 

Dfwatt

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Just reassure anybody that I'm totally not above cheesy badging here's my latest modification.

I figure this is a rally sport version of the model 3 that tesla fortunately never built. Too bad.
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Dfwatt

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Latest mod - 19mm Titanium lug nuts from Acer Racing. Aerospace grade titanium grade 5 6AL4V. About $11/a piece, not too bad.

Pros:
1) will not rust or oxidize, even in our more salty Florida environment.
2) Resist impact gun deformation impressively - most aftermarket lugs nuts (required if you go with many aftermarket wheels due to narrower lug wells on many wheels) will deform, loose any anodized coating from impact socket force, and then also rust . . .progressively to the point where they will have to be replaced - roughly every two years down here anyway, unless you re-coat.
3) bling factor?
4) Weight savings - but realistically that's pretty minimal (1-2 lbs total?)
5) Significantly cheaper than UP lug nuts ($25/lug)
6) 19 mm size is nice to work with - means impact socket doesn't get close to spinning up on lug well paint.

Cons:
1) Cost relative to cheaper steel lug nuts ($11 vs. ~$2 per lug)
2) no locking or anti theft lugs available right now (have those on other car, and are more reassuring if you plan on travelling and parking car overnight in places with modest security)

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Dfwatt

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Damn! Just realized that I failed to review one of my favorite and most cost effective improvements, in terms of the car's handling: Mountain Pass's front lower control arm bushings. .Just before coming down in Florida I was able to get these installed – it's a pretty easy install if you have a press (which I don't have), and I did not want to get under the car so I had our excellent Tesla mechanic at Merrimack Auto (In Nashua New Hampshire on Amherst Street), Ian, install them, and it took him just about an hour a side. Saved me a boatload of grief I'm sure in terms of a cranky back – I hate to admit it, but I'm definitely getting too old to get underneath and wrench stuff myself, particularly without a lift, although I did manage to get the rear traction and trailing arms in, and rear camber arms in without too much hassle. But this is not a job for the Do-it-yourselfer unless you have or can get access to a 12T press. You can see the press tools included with the kit which definitely makes installation and extraction of the stock bushing a boatload easier and I would not recommend trying to do this without getting the Press Sleeves (which are optional – but I don't recommend not getting them unless you have these sleeves already in your shop/toolbox).

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Jesse @MountainPass performance describes the bushing kit as rendering the steering 'almost telepathic'. I would say it makes the steering amazingly linear in terms of cornering force. The car's overall response to transient inputs is now an order of magnitude better than when it was stock. This probably comes from the sum total of all the suspension modifications that I've done over the last year and a half – starting with the MPP Sport coilover kit which helped improve transient behavior quite a bit, the beefier front 265/30 – 20 Pilot Sport 4S tire, which has significantly more traction and tread, and now the spherical front bushing. When you closely examine the bushing it replaces, you can see that that bushing is in fact pretty soft, and therefore it is presumably deflecting a lot under high cornering loads. For folks who are tracking the car, this looks to be a potential point of failure particularly if you are using slicks or tires that significantly enhance lateral acceleration and therefore bushing load. I believe that the mountainpass website even documents how this lower bushing failed while they were tracking their car last year.

In any case, the car's transient response now can only be described as stunning for a car that weighs 4000 pounds. Turn in is immediate, crisp, and cornering weight/lateral acceleration is now nicely proportional to steering effort, in a way that it just wasn't quite before. My big concern about this kit was the potential for introduction of road noise or grain going from a relatively soft rubber bushing to a high quality spherical one but I can honestly say that I have not detected any change at all. Steering feedback and effort and dynamic behavior have all improved, but I cannot detect any change in the ride. I was really expecting some additional road grain and NVH from replacing all these suspension items and their bushings (front lower control arm bushing, rear traction and trailing arms/bushing, rear camber and toe arms and bushings) but it simply hasn't materialized, or if it's there it's so subtle that I just don't notice it. When I go from my car (MPP Sports set at 10/8) to my wife's car which has similar wheels and tires, and the Comfort Adjustable Sports Coilover Kit (set at 12/10), the ride is certainly a bit more liquid in her Model 3, but it really isn't any smoother overall in terms of road grain or noise (her car does not have any of the suspension control arms or the front lower control arm bushing and is stock other than Vorsteiner wheels, upgraded tires, and the MPP Adjustable Comfort Coilover kit). So my conclusion is if you're worried about losing ride quality to enhance handling with these items from mountainpass, be assured that that does not appear to be a trade off. Handling is much better than stock and ride is no worse – Indeed I like the tight ride control that I have now from the Sports Coilover kit and its much better shocks, over the stock suspension behavior, with its premature recruitment of the bump stops (yielding very undesirable nonlinearity at or even close to the limit), pogoing over big undulations, and loosey-goosey rear end.

Conclusion: this is another great and innovative option from mountainpass. It's not super expensive, and steering feel and particularly steering linearity really are improved. When you combine the steering linearity with the amazing linearity of power, this is now the most responsive 'driver-centered' car I've ever driven. That includes Ferraris, late generation Corvettes, an Audi R8, and several newer Porsche Caymans. For sure this FLCA bushing will have greater durability and safety if you're tracking the car.

Highly recommended overall.
 
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Dfwatt

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Here's an unexpected bonus review from an unbiased source on this replacement of the lower front control arm bushings with the MPP LCAB. My wife and I had to swap cars because her car needed some minor service from Tesla mobile service, so she drove my car to work and I kept her car at the house for the service. After driving my car to work and back (25 min. each way) she remarked that my car handled "better, felt tighter, and more precise". This unfortunately falls on the heels of numerous other comments to the effect that if I "pimped out" my vehicle (her term), she expects her vehicle to get equal treatment! Can't argue with that . . .

I guess this means that I'll be ordering another set of those bushings sometime soon! Hah! :cool::cool:
 

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Here's an unexpected bonus review from an unbiased source on this replacement of the lower front control arm bushings with the MPP LCAB. My wife and I had to swap cars because her car needed some minor service from Tesla mobile service, so she drove my car to work and I kept her car at the house for the service. She remarked that my car handled "better, felt tighter, and more precise". This falls on the heels of numerous other comments to the effect that if I "pimped out" my vehicle (her term), she expects her vehicle to get equal treatment! Can't argue with that . . .

I guess this means that I'll be ordering another set of those bushings sometime soon! Hah! :cool::cool:

Your wife is the best. *puts aside a set of FLCAB for her*
 
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