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Rear Wheel vs All Wheel Tesla Model 3

Explore the key differences between the RWD vs. AWD Tesla Model 3 trims. Get insights on performance, range, price, and more.

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Peter Glenn

The Iconic Tesla Model 3

In the world of electric vehicles, the Tesla Model 3 has emerged as one of the best examples of how to combine innovation, performance, and affordability. With its sleek design, cutting-edge technology, and impressive performance, the Model 3 is the perfect car for those seeking an exceptional driving experience while embracing an eco-friendly future.

As prospective Tesla buyers explore their options, one key decision they face is whether to go with a rear-wheel drive (RWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) option. Currently, the base trim is the Model 3 Rear Wheel Drive, followed by the Model 3 Long Range, and the Model 3 Performance, the latter two being dual-motor all-wheel drive vehicles. Each Model 3 trim offers its own unique blend of capabilities suitable for different driving needs and preferences.

Which Model 3 is Right for You?

Do you prioritize maximum efficiency and affordability? Or perhaps an extended range and enhanced traction are at the top of your list? Maybe you are mainly interested in the adrenaline-pumping driving performance Tesla vehicles are known for.

In this article, we’ll examine the pros and cons of RWD and AWD models, plus take a closer look at the differences between each Tesla Model 3 trim. Whether you're a daily commuter, a road-trip enthusiast, or a thrill-seeker at heart, we’ll help you find the right Tesla Model 3 for you—so buckle up and let’s dive in.

Rear-Wheel Drive vs. All-Wheel Drive

When it comes to drivetrains, the battle between rear-wheel drive (RWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) has long been a topic of debate among car folks. The truth is, it's not a debate over which system is superior, but rather which one best meets the needs of the driver.

The rear-wheel drive (RWD) Model 3 is the most affordable Tesla on the market—new or used. It offers a lightweight design, an electric motor that delivers impressive acceleration and agility, and decent range, making it an ideal Tesla model for daily commuters. The Long Range and Performance trims utilize dual-motor all-wheel drive technology, giving drivers improved traction and even quicker acceleration—perfect for difficult terrain or pure driving performance.

Let’s take a look at how the Tesla Model 3 Rear-Wheel Drive, Long Range (AWD), and Performance (AWD) trims compare:


The biggest difference between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive is usually traction and handling. RWD vehicles, which send power solely to the rear wheels, typically offer a more engaging and sporty driving experience. However, many RWD cars can struggle with traction on slippery surfaces in rain or snow, especially without winter tires, as the weight balance shifts toward the rear of the vehicle.

AWD systems have weight distribution to all four wheels, providing superior traction and handling across various terrains and weather conditions. It should be noted, however, that all Tesla models have exceptional built-in traction control.

While RWD vehicles often have better acceleration from a standstill and sportier handling dynamics than their AWD counterparts, the dual motors of Tesla’s Long Range and Performance AWDs deliver improved acceleration as well as heightened high-speed stability and cornering grip.

Tesla Model 3 Breakdown

  • RWD: 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds
  • Long Range: 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds
  • Performance: 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds


Another important consideration for electric vehicle drivers is range—how far the car can travel on a single charge. The drivetrain configuration can play a significant role in determining an EV's range capabilities.

All things even, RWD electric cars tend to have an advantage when it comes to maximum driving range. By powering only the rear wheels, the RWD avoids the loss of energy associated with sending power to all four wheels, resulting in less energy consumption.

However, RWD Model 3s have a 57.5 kWh usable battery, while Performance and Long Range Model 3s boast a 75 kWh usable battery capacity, giving them an additional boost of range.

Tesla Model 3 Breakdown

  • RWD: EPA estimated 272 miles
  • Long Range: EPA estimated 341 miles
  • Performance: EPA estimated 296 miles


Tesla Model 3 Breakdown

  • 2024 RWD: Starts at $40,380 MSRP
  • 2024 Long Range: Starts at $47,380 MSRP
  • 2023 Performance (2024 model has not been released): Starts at $54,630 MSRP

Note: While the Performance trim is the most expensive Tesla Model 3, it is also the only trim that currently qualifies for the federal EV tax credit, which can save eligible drivers up to $7,500 off the MSRP at the point of sale.

Mastering the Elements: Weather and Terrain Capabilities

When it comes to navigating winter driving conditions and difficult terrains, the choice between RWD and AWD becomes even more crucial for Tesla drivers. While both drivetrains offer exceptional performance, their capabilities differ when faced with challenging weather or off-road situations.

Tesla RWD

The RWD Model 3 is tailored for dry and mild weather conditions, excelling in urban and highway driving scenarios. Its rear-wheel drivetrain provides a classic and controlled driving experience, delivering precise handling and responsive acceleration, even in adverse weather. However, if you live in an area with frequent snowfall and heavy winter weather, you may be better off investing in an AWD option.

Tesla AWD

When faced with snowy conditions, slippery surfaces, or off-road terrain, an AWD Model 3 will ensure you're maintaining control. Equipped with Tesla's advanced all-wheel drivetrain technology, these trims provide superior stability and traction compared to the RWD, making them the ideal choice for drivers who frequently encounter challenging driving environments.

The added grip and stability of AWD Teslas not only enhance safety but also unlock new capabilities, allowing you to explore more adventurous routes without compromising control or performance.

So, while the money-saving RWD Model 3 excels in optimal conditions, the AWD variants, including the Long Range and Performance trims, cater to those seeking an uncompromising driving experience, no matter the weather or terrain.

RWD, Long Range, or Performance?

Overall, the RWD trim offers an excellent balance of performance and affordability, making it an ideal choice for daily commuters. Its impressive range and efficient design ensure a smooth and cost-effective driving experience.

For those seeking an extended range and better traction, especially in icy or slick conditions, the Long Range trim is a fantastic option. With its dual-motor all-wheel drive system and advanced Autopilot features, it provides a high level of convenience and peace of mind.

Finally, the Performance trim caters to your inner driving enthusiast, delivering an impressive combination of raw power, precision handling, and pure acceleration. Whether you're embarking on a spirited weekend drive or tackling a closed circuit, the Performance Model 3 is sure to raise your heart rate.

Save Big on Your Model 3 With EV Life

Now that you’ve compared the options, found the Tesla Model 3 that’s right for you, and you’re ready to get behind the wheel, let’s find out how you can get the best deal out there.

There are numerous federal, state, and local incentives to help eligible drivers make the switch to electric, and EV Life is on a mission to save you the most money possible on your new or used Tesla. We help drivers take every tax credit, rebate, and grant available to them to offset the cost of an EV and apply that money to a low-interest EV Climate Loan to finance their purchase.

Here’s how it works:

  • Pre-qualify for more than financing. When you pre-qualify for a loan on your new or used EV, we help you maximize your federal and state tax credits and other incentives you’re eligible for. We then help you apply for all the paperwork with our easy-to-use “Turbo Tax-style” incentive filing tools.
  • Bundle charging. EV Life can also help you get an instant quote for EV charging equipment and installation, bundling it into your auto financing—all with one lower monthly payment.
  • One low payment. Once we’ve determined every available dollar you’re eligible for, EV Life will gather all your savings and apply them directly to your loan, significantly reducing the monthly payment on your Tesla Model 3 from the moment you drive off the dealer lot. It’s that easy.

Get pre-qualified today to find out how much you could save on your Tesla Model 3.

Maximize your savings with hassle-free EV financing

We're on a mission to make buying an EV easier and more affordable than a gas car

Maximize your savings with hassle-free EV financing

We're on a mission to make buying an EV easier and more affordable than a gas car

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