The $35,000 Tesla Model 3 is finally here. Elon Musk revealed the EV meant for the masses Thursday night in Los Angeles — a proper five-seater that is sleek, quick, and, most importantly, starts at $35,000.
The Model 3 is the sedan the California-based automaker is betting will dramatically expand its customer base and help it reach sustainable profitability. As of 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Tesla received almost 150,000 orders in stores for the Model 3, which looks to, in all likelihood, push EVs into the mainstream and revolutionize how we drive.
The battery-powered Model 3 will offer about 215 miles (346 kilometers) range per charge in its most basic form. Even the base version will do 0–60 mph in less than six seconds. Supercharging and Autopilot hardware are standard.
“You will not be able to buy a better car for $35,000, or even close,” said Musk. “It’s a really good car, even with no options. At Tesla, we don’t make slow cars.”
Much of the Model 3's platform, Tesla’s fourth car, is new, including the battery architecture and motor technology. This follows the automaker’s “master plan,” laid out by Musk in August 2006. The Model 3 follows in the footsteps of the Roadster, the Model S, and the Model X. While deliveries for the Model X SUV, first unveiled in February 2012, didn’t come to fruition until September 2015, the billionaire PayPal founder said he felt “fairly confident” deliveries will begin in [year end] 2017 for customers who’ve made the $1,000 reservations.
Overall, Tesla has established a coherent design vocabulary with the Model S and Model X; the Model 3 is a clear melding of that basic design ethos. There’s a bit of Porsche resemblance, with more than a few of the auto press noticing subtle design nods to the Panamera, Karma Fisker, and even Citroën DS.
Thanks to cooling needs unlike that of a gasoline-driven vehicle, the most obvious, and controversial, part of the car that shows evolution of the Tesla design language is the bold absence of a grille. In its place is a clean painted surface, with a sharp character line where we expect to see a mouth.
The Model 3 has a front trunk and a rear hatch, with its engine (and batteries) built into the floor pan. By moving the front seats forward and compressing the instrument panel, the Model 3 will comfortably seat five adults. In terms of the interior display and user interface, all controls are housed in a 15-inch horizontal display as opposed to the 17-inch vertically orientated unit currently seen in other Teslas. Also conspicuously absent are any gauges directly in front of the driver. While the speedometer is prominently featured in the top left-hand corner of screen, let's hope Tesla at least adds a heads-up display so the information is directly in front of the person, and behind the wheel. And, it has a glass roof.
While the Model 3’s base price still makes it pricier than a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry, it’s not significantly more expensive — and certainly nowhere near the financial stretch as the Model S. Musk also used the opportunity to announce that, by the end of 2017, when the first examples of his “sustainable transport” vehicles are just hitting the roads, there will be 7,200 Supercharger stations and 15,000 Destination chargers. The Model 3 has officially entered one of the most cutthroat auto segments. Positioned against the likes of the Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, and BMW 3 series, it — and Musk — appear ready for the battle.