Two years since its debut, the Tesla Model 3 has successfully brought the luxury electric carmaker's prestige and performance down to a more accessible price.
While it's not quite as inexpensive as the $35,000 mark Elon Musk and company originally shot for, the base model Standard Range Plus trim of the Model 3 begins at $39,900. Long Range and Performance variants cost an extra $10,000 and $20,000, respectively.
While the Model 3 isn’t cheap, as the Tesla’s Model S luxury sedan starts at $69,500 and the Model X SUV $70,300, its price is in line with other electric vehicles. GM's comparably-priced electric Chevy Bolt ($36,620), for example, boasts a similar range to the Model 3 (238 miles versus 240 miles).
Still, amidst all the new electric cars arriving onto the scene, few have generated as much enthusiasm among buyers as Tesla's Model 3 — even despite reports of stagnating demand. Here's everything you should know about the car before ordering yours.
What is the Model 3?
The Model 3 is an all-electric, four-door, five-seat vehicle with a glass roof and trunks in the front and the back. Tesla extended the car's interior room, the company says, taking advantage of the space savings resulting from the absence of a traditional gas combustion engine, to make occupants more comfortable. The car is aimed at the Corolla and Civic crowd.
Tesla Model 3 price
The cheapest Model 3 you can buy is the Standard Range Plus package, which begins at $39,900 before incentives. Tesla vehicles used to benefit from a $7,500 tax credit form the government, though that credit has been halved to $3,750 and will be eliminated before the end of 2019. For the moment, Tesla has slashed $2,000 off all its models to partially cover the difference — meaning new buyers are currently entitled to a $5,750 savings.
The Standard Range Plus Model 3 can run for 240 miles before requiring a recharge. Whereas the other versions feature dual motors driving the front and rear axles, the base one only features the rear motor. It has a top speed of 140 mph, and will get from 0-60 mph in an estimated 5.3 seconds.
If longevity or performance is more important to you, there are two all-wheel drive variants of the Model 3 on offer. The Long Range model runs $49,900 and can go 310 miles on a charge. It tops out at 145 mph, and hits 60 mph from a standstill in 4.4 seconds. Finally, the range-topping, $59,900 Performance Model 3 can go just as far as the Long Range version, but maxes out at 160 mph and gets to 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds.
How soon can I get one?
While getting your hands on a Model 3 may have proved difficult when the car launched about two years ago, delivery times have shortened up considerably in the interim. You'll only have to wait two weeks to receive delivery of your Model 3, according to the latest information on Tesla's website.
Tesla Model 3 interior and options
Excluding the differences in terms of distance and power between the three trim levels of the Model 3, there are a few other discrepancies to be mindful of — particularly relating to the interior.
The Standard Range Plus Model 3 has what Tesla calls a "partial premium interior," which mostly omits infotainment system capabilities, like satellite navigation, live traffic reports and the ability to stream media directly to the car (without the use of a Bluetooth-connected phone). This package also has a less sophisticated stereo system, and only features 12-way power-adjustable, heated leather front seats. (In the pricier models, all seats are heated and power adjustable.)
If you spring for the Long Range or Performance models, you get all of those amenities not included in the base car. There's also a location-aware garage door opener built in. Do bear in mind, however, that the infotainment package only features a subscription for the first year after purchasing the vehicle; after that point, you'll have to shell out $100 per year.
How does the Model 3 compare to other Tesla cars?
The Model 3 is the smallest, least expensive car in Tesla's range. The Model S is a larger, more premium sedan comparable in size with a Honda Accord, BMW 5 Series or similar family sedan, while the Model X is a midsize crossover.
MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Tesla's Model Y Crossover
Tesla is also prepping a smaller crossover called the Model Y, which is expected to launch late next year and start around $39,000 as well. The Model Y is actually a close cousin of the Model 3; it uses the same battery as the compact sedan, though it weighs more — so range will be hampered a bit.
What else should I know about the Model 3?
The Model 3 is a fully electric car, of course, using lithium-ion batteries. All models are compatible with Superchargers dotted around the country. Supercharging allows the car to be powered up to about 80 percent capacity in roughly 30 minutes. Currently, there are 1,533 Supercharger Stations with a total of 13,344 Superchargers in the U.S.
According to Tesla's website, all Model 3 cars on the road and in production have the hardware necessary for partial automation. Right now, that's the company's Autopilot software, which can take over driving duties in limited scenarios, with the ability to accelerate, brake and steer within a lane.
However, Tesla warns that active driver supervision is still required, and Autopilot does not make the vehicle fully autonomous. For example, lane changes are still only suggested by the vehicle, and must be accepted by the driver. Expect software updates that will unlock more Autopliot capabilities in the future.
The Model 3 is sleek, without over-the-top exotic twists that can turn off some drivers. (It does not have gull-wing doors, for example, as the crossover Model X does.) Overall, the Model 3 is a slightly stunted version of the Model S with more aggressive, swept-back headlights; a seamless shark nose and a front hood that's reminiscent of the Porsche Panamera's. And, yes, there's a massive touch screen on the dashboard.
Photo Credit: Tesla