The entry-level Tesla Model 3 sedan is coming this month, and it’s not just supposed to transform the future of the company, it’s supposed to transform the electric car into a bit player for the sybaritic and the techno-weirdos into a clean vehicle for the masses. Here’s everything we know.
And also some stuff we can only guess at. But first, the important things.
This story originally ran March 4 and is being republished today on the eve of the Model 3's debut with some new information.
The first two real Teslas (sorry, Tesla Roadster, but you were kind of a fat Lotus with batteries), the Model S and the Model X, have ranges between 220 and 300 miles, depending on options, weather, driving conditions, charge, battery condition, and other factors.
But that’s really not a problem at all when you consider that most people don’t drive more than 300 miles every single day, and that Tesla’s Supercharger network, specifically set up for road trips, can re-charge you back up within about a half hour or so. Ignorant shit-talkers out there will howl all day about how bad all of that is, but we put more than 1500 miles on a Model S during a road trip, and believe us, the whole shebang works pretty well.
The Model 3, on the other hand, is supposed to get “at least” 200 miles on a charge. Assuming the low end of that is the maximum range, because we are cruel and inhospitable people, 200 miles still isn’t so bad. And it’s definitely enough to get you from Supercharger to Supercharger.
One thing odd tick we did encounter, however, is what happens to a Tesla battery if you leave it unplugged overnight. Usually, if you actually own a Tesla, you simply pull into your garage when you’re done doing your driving about for the day, plug it in, and next time you want to go, it’s like having a full tank of gasoline in any other car.
Leave it unplugged on a cold night, however, and you can see a drop of up to 40 miles from where you left it, as we did. That’s not a problem, if you’ve got more than 40 miles left on a charge and can get to a Supercharger. And it hasn’t really been a problem for Model S and Model X owners, as those are very expensive cars for very rich people who tend to own their own homes with their own garages.
But the Model 3 is supposed to be cheaper, and could be made to accommodate more people who street-park their cars on a regular basis. Which brings us to...
The Tesla Model 3 is supposed to officially cost $35,000, but could actually go for as little as $25,000 when you throw in tax rebates, which is damn near Toyota Camry territory.
That price would be for your stripped-out base model, however, so expect a fully loaded one to easily top $40,000 when all is said and done.
What You’ll Get
The Model 3 will compete with the likes of the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4, the Mercedes C-Class, and the Lexus IS, so it expect it to be a lot like those. Tesla would probably like you to believe that the Model 3 has no competitors because it’s electric, just like every company would want you to believe its product is a special little snowflake, but if you’re considering a Model 3, it’s likely you’ll be at the very least checking out one of the others.
Update: That same Electrek story claims a 0-60 time of under four seconds, putting whichever version of Model 3 that is on par with high-performance luxury cars like the BMW M3. Again, that information is unconfirmed.
But there is one big mystery about the Model 3, one that no one’s really talking about yet. Though it’s an extremely limited sample size, every Tesla so far has had some form of “killer app,” or that one thing a Tesla has that belongs on no other, similar car.
On the Model S, it has been literally Ludicrous acceleration and Tesla’s wildly good semi-autonomous Autopilot system. On the Model X, we got those two things, as well as those bitchin’ “falcon-wing” doors. On the Model 3, we haven’t heard about anything yet. Just that it’ll be relatively inexpensive, and electric.
For starters, we’ll simply be getting a regular, plain-old sedan, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said that there are “more adventurous” versions down the pipeline:
“We don’t want the delays that affected the Model X to affect the Model 3,” said Musk, describing some of the issues it’s had with the SUV’s Falcon Wing doors.
Instead, Musk said that Tesla plans to focus on getting the 3 to market in 2017, “and then innovate on that platform with future iterations and put aside any schedule or volume [concerns].”
One of those “adventurous” versions, if you can call it that, will be some type of crossover, but we’re hoping for more sporty versions as well. Maybe a coupe, if we’re really lucky.
And we’re betting it’ll have some form of crazy-fast warp-drive acceleration, as has rapidly become Tesla’s trademark.
So we still might be in for some surprises. Or maybe not.
When You’ll Get It
Every question so far has been easy, with pretty reasonable information, guesses, or predictions. And this question should be the easiest one of all. Elon Musk, has even given definite dates:
March 31st we’ll see some sort of pictures of the car, be it a windshield wiper or the full thing. We don’t really know right now.
Still, those sound like pretty firm dates, right? “March 31st” and “about two years from September 2015" sound a lot like “March 31st” and “the third quarter of 2017.”
But! Tesla has a history of missing deadlines. First there was the Model S, and then there was the Model X. We’ve also seen projects that were grandly displayed, like the battery-swapping stations, that went nowhere.
All that being said, March 31st sounds pretty firm for a reveal date, especially as Tesla’s already sent out invitations to the big event, where we might catch a glimpse of it. First pre-orders, with deposits of $1000, are planned to be taken there as well.
As for the actual customer delivery date, Musk was a lot more vague. Assuming it’s the third quarter of 2017, that’s a three-month window the company is aiming for, though that sort of thing isn’t unusual in the car business. What is unusual in the car business, however, is Musk’s caveat:
Fully operational Gigafactory needed.
Most companies have factories already built, or generally assume there won’t be any problems whatsoever with getting a factory built. But building a whole new Gigafactory—or “factory,” as actual humans call it—complicates things beyond just building a whole new car, and complications can mean delays.
I’m not saying there will be delays for sure, and past performance is not an indicator of future deliverables, but just keep everything in mind here.
How Excited You Should Be
VERY EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or not at all. It really depends on how you view the company. Are you some sort of crazed Tesla Stan? Then you’re going to love the hell out of it, even if Elon Musk gets up on stage and reveals a 1997 Chevy Malibu with one mismatched door.
Just excited for a (relatively) inexpensive electric car that actually works, complete with built-in super-fast charging network for road trips? Then yeah, you should still be pretty damn pumped.
Think of it just like any other car, except it has a weird motor? Well, firstly, how very progressive of you, and secondly, that’s cool, I suppose. Nothing wrong with that. I guess you shouldn’t be too excited then. Just another car, right?
We’re probably closer to the second category. Can’t wait to see it.
Photo credit: Getty Images