The finalized Tesla Model 3 hasn’t been officially unveiled, yet it’s already one of the most eagerly anticipated vehicles of all time. The California-based company received nearly 400,000 pre-orders worth upwards of $10 billion simply by showing off a close-to-production prototype. No other automaker has ever pulled off such a feat.
That’s because the all-electric Model 3 is the car motorists all over the globe have been waiting for since the launch of the original Roadster — a Tesla designed and built for the masses. From its range, its features, and its launch date, here’s everything we know about it.
Built atop Tesla’s third-generation platform, the Model 3 is a compact four-door sedan aimed at well-established players in the luxury segment like the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Visually, it takes Tesla’s striking design language in a new direction.
Its front end is characterized by a low hood, a feature made possible because an electric motor is markedly smaller than a gasoline- or diesel-burning engine. A tall, arched roof line clears up a generous amount of space for five passengers inside. The back end borrows styling cues such as horizontal lights connected by a strip of chrome trim from the bigger Model S and Model X, but it’s not a carbon copy of either. Tesla has avoided the Russian doll-type approach to drawing cars that its German competitors are stuck in.
A finalized exterior and interior have yet to be revealed, so stay tuned for more updates on this front.
Full specifications haven’t been announced, so it’s too early to provide juicy details like what kind of electric motor(s) the 3 will come with, and which battery packs will be offered.
We know that it will offer at least 215 miles of range in its most basic configuration. Variants with a bigger battery could go over 300 miles on a single charge, but the 3’s range will be limited by its relatively small footprint. Tesla has confirmed the P100D’s 100-kWh pack will not be available in the 3 because its wheelbase is too short.
The 3 is set to benefit from advances in battery technology that were recently inaugurated by the ultra-quick P100D versions of the Model S and the Model X. The company’s newest battery pack is much denser than its predecessor, and it benefits from a comprehensively updated cooling system. Production is already underway in the Gigafactory, a massive complex located on the outskirts of Reno, Nevada.
Buyers will be able to use Tesla’s network of Supercharger stations, but there’s a catch. All Teslas ordered after January 1, 2017 receive 400 kWh of free Supercharging credits annually (this equates to roughly 1,000 miles), but after that, there will be a small fee that Tesla says will “cost less than the price of filling up a comparable gas car.” As of this writing, we don’t know whether Tesla will charge a one-time fee, sell monthly subscriptions, or adopt a pay-per-use model.
The Model 3 will easily keep up with the BMW 3 Series. The base model will hit 60 mph from a standstill in less than 6.0 seconds, while more powerful variants will perform the same task in under four seconds. Tesla has also confirmed the 3 will be available with the Ludicrous mode that cemented the S’ spot as the quickest series-produced car on the planet.
Technology is an integral part of every Tesla, and the 3 won’t be any different. The production car’s interior hasn’t been revealed yet (the photo above shows a pre-production prototype), but the company assures the car will be brimming with the latest and greatest tech features in the industry.
A large, TV-like touch screen on the dashboard will group all of the car’s key functions into a single unit in order to reduce switchgear to the strict minimum. Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk recently announced the 3 will only have a single screen; that means it won’t come with a digital instrument cluster like the S and the X. It could have a simpler analog instrument cluster, but that’s unlikely for a brand like Tesla that prides itself on being ahead of the curve. Website Electrek speculates the 3 will come with a head-up display instead.
Additionally, the 3 will come with Tesla’s Autopilot suite of electronic driving aids, meaning it will be able to change lanes, read speed limit signs, navigate freeway off-ramps, and brake if it detects a collision is imminent without any input from the driver. However, users will need to remain alert at all times. More features — and a handful of Easter eggs — will be added over the course of the production run thanks to Tesla’s innovative over-the-air updating system.
A solar roof will probably be offered as an option, Musk revealed on Twitter. Whether the panel will top up the battery pack or simply power accessories like the A/C is up in the air.
The Model X’s undeniably cool falcon doors are unique on the market, but they’re to blame for a good chunk of the delays that plagued the crossover. Tesla admits it took a more conservative approach when developing the 3 – for example, the sedan won’t have self-extending door handles.
Still, Model 3 owners will be able to fold the rear seats flat in order to clear up 66 inches of space behind the front seats. Colloquially referred to as Camper Mode, the flat surface will turn the Model 3’s cabin into a tent, though taller passengers will need to sleep sideways. The 3 will be completely silent and vibration-free, like all electric cars, so it will be possible to run the A/C or the heater overnight if the battery pack has enough juice left in it.
In addition, the Model 3 will come with two trunks – one in the back right behind the rear seats, and one in the front called a frunk. It will also boast one of the most spacious cabins in its segment.
Pricing and availability
The entry-level variant of the Model 3 will cost $35,000 before the $7,500 federal tax credit and local incentives are factored in. Of course, buyers will be able to pay extra for additional features such as a bigger battery pack, the aforementioned Ludicrous mode, a large panoramic sunroof, and Autopilot.
Tesla has already started building Model 3 prototypes in its Fremont, California, factory. The company is on track to start regular production in July, and it will gradually ramp up the process in the following months. The 3 is Tesla’s most important model because it will make or break the brand; getting it right the first time is crucial.
Company officials are firmly committed to delivering the first examples before the end of the year, but many reservation holders won’t get their car until 2018 at the earliest. Delivery wait times are getting very long, and Musk warned that buyers who want one before 2019 need to make a reservation as soon as possible.