The Unplugged Performance Tesla Model 3 Ascension-R street car runs 1:49.90, beating the lap time of the formidable Porsche 911 GT2 RS at Buttonwillow Raceway Park
When we began our Tesla Model 3 based Ascension-R complete car program we set an audacious lap time benchmark, the legendary Porsche 991 spec 911 GT3 RS. The GT3 RS is one of the world’s greatest driver’s cars on any race track. It’s a no-compromise performance car built specifically to be on the edge of what you can plausibly drive on the street. We challenged ourselves to create a cohesive daily driven Tesla Model 3 upgrade package that can provide all of the benefits of an awesome commuter electric four-door sedan with two trunks and Autopilot, yet one that can transform into a Porsche 911 GT3 RS rival on race track’s like Buttonwillow. People thought we were insane to even reference the revered 911 GT3 RS as a benchmark. Yet we work hard to make it possible and make the whole package sing on the track and soothe on the street. In fact the fastest lap of the even faster 991 911 GT2 RS (!) with a great pro driver a managed only a 1:50.4. Meanwhile, we clocked a 1:49.90 with our friend Craig Coker behind the wheel in one of our spec-built Tesla Model 3 Ascension-R complete cars.
Please keep in mind that the sub-1:50 lap time is done in a completely street-legal, daily driven car. This is not a fully gutted, giant winged, purposes built race car and the only thing needed to achieve these same results is swapping to racing slicks, but otherwise this car can be driven cross-country in comfort once street tires are reinstalled. So, does the 1:49.90 lap time warrant an apples-to-apples comparison with the latest-spec Porsche 911 GT2 RS lap time of 1:50.42? Of course not, it’s not that simple. Valid arguments can be had on both sides and it’s true many would choose the alure of a $300,000+ Porsche if they could be had at the same price. The crazy thing though, our goal was to compare a Tesla Model 3 with our bolt-on upgrades with the ultimate, price is no object, $400,000+ track-focused weapon from Porsche; the GT2 RS. Sure there are probably tracks and circumstances where many Porsche models can go faster than this car, but the fact that we can say a Tesla Model 3 can run with the best pure-bred performance cars on earth is satisfying as heck!
This video now illustrates that if you put both on the track and drive them both flat out you have an improbably close outcome!
This is not comparing pro to amateur drivers, this is comparing lap times of Will Wattanawongkiri who is arguably the top driver in FastestLap rankings at Buttonwillow vs Craig Coker who holds a lot of Tesla lap records and is a close friend of ours. Who is faster, Will vs Craig? We don’t know but Will surely has more seat time at the track and holds a ton of records there. We think both are talented drivers and this makes it an interesting comparison.
Let’s list out some of the key arguments on both sides: Porsche 991 911 GT2 RS, priced at $400,000+
This is the ultimate in production street-legal Porsche track car at any price. They don’t bother with back seats, it comes with custom compound, barely street-legal Michelin Cup 2 R tires at 325 wide rears, formulated to get within the limits of DOT legality for the fastest lap times. The suspension is factory race-tuned and is very firm. The aero is extreme for maximum factory downforce. The car has lightweight mods from the factory. This includes carbon fiber, magnesium, and Lexan body panels. The car comes with large 6 piston carbon-ceramic brakes. Additionally, the car has wider front/rear fenders compared to the standard 911. Overall, this is the ultimate track-oriented Porsche and the resulting performance is top-notch. No wonder these cars hold a lot of the current street-legal track records at numerous tracks worldwide.
Let’s list out some of the key arguments on both sides: Unplugged Performance Tesla Model 3 Ascension-R, priced at base car + approximately $60,000 in parts and labor included, resulting in around $120,000 – $130,000 total price tag, depending on the current Tesla base car prices
The car has four doors, and two trunks. It seats four people. It comes with a full interior and all the creature comforts and runs on pure electricity. For track duty, the street wheel and tire combination is swapped out for 19×11 UP-03 wheels with 310 wide Yokohama slicks. Furthermore, the UP Ascension-R bucket racing seats are swapped in for more lateral support. This particular car has almost no UP weight reduction parts like the lexan glass replacements, UP dry carbon doors, carbon hood, or the carbon fiber trunk.
This particular car has our street aero which is low drag for neutralized range impact. The rear spoiler is low and out of view of the rearview mirror for stock visibility and daily usability. The front splitter is reasonable in height and length for a daily driven car. No race aero here. The car is modified with UP’s quiet brakes which are oversized carbon ceramic six-piston brakes similar to the ones found on the Porsche 911 GT2 RS. The car has all bolt-on upgraded adjustable suspension components. In addition, it has wider front fenders installed only to accommodate the 310 wide rubber.
The industry pundits, getting a taste of the capabilities of the Unplugged Performance Tesla Model 3 Ascension-R
Matt Farah (who is well known to not be a Tesla advocate) drove this same car on the street A052 tires and referenced Porsche Turbo speeds he felt in the canyons.
MotorTrend drove this same car. So is this car a comparable track tool to a 991 GT2 RS? That debate will live on. There are a lot of subjective factors that need to be taken into account when discussing the matter. And generally speaking, people will always favor one over the other. What we love seeing are the track times that are unmistakably close with only 15 minutes of track-side prep; slap on the race wheels and tires, remove the passenger seat and rear cushion, allowing the street-legal, daily driven Unplugged Performance Model 3 Ascension-R to run side by side with one of the greatest track cars from Porsche of all time.
Not a bad way to spend your weekend, that’s for sure.