First Tesla Model 3s Won't Be Anywhere Near $35K


CARS.COM — Tesla handed the keys over Friday night to a few dozen employees, the first recipients of its long-anticipated Model 3. As we expected, the California automaker has posted videos and many more details on the car to its website since then.

Related: Tesla Delivers First Model 3s, Confirms Details

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The Model 3, like all other Tesla vehicles, is an electric car. It’s also the most affordable Tesla to date, though no early owners will pay the 3’s starting price — $35,000 before tax incentives. Until November, every Model 3 will have the car’s optional long-range battery, which adds considerable capability, but runs a hefty $9,000.

Most of that early group figures to be Tesla employees, as the automaker confirmed deliveries to outside customers won’t start until late October. Until then, all Model 3s will end up with employees who reserved one — and apparently pay full price, as Tesla says it furnishes no employee discount.

The Model 3 comes standard with a tabletlike horizontal touchscreen that measures 15 inches. That’s slightly smaller than the 17-inch vertical screen embedded in the Model S’ dashboard. While the S has a secondary gauge display ahead of the steering wheel, the 3 puts such information on the horizontal screen.

The Model 3’s standard battery goes into production in November. Tesla says that unit delivers an EPA-estimated 220 miles of range and powers the Model 3 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. That’s on par with many of the turbo four-cylinder engines in the luxury sports sedans recently tested. A Level 2 (240-volt) charger can add 30 miles of range per hour, Tesla says, while the automaker’s network of fast-charging Superchargers can add 130 miles in 30 minutes.

Other standard features include:

  • Navigation, phone and audio streaming, onboard Wi-Fi and a backup camera
  • Keyless entry and remote climate control with Tesla’s smartphone app
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control
  • FM radio with internet streaming
  • “Textile” seating, which Tesla calls a “high-end cloth material”
  • Two USB ports in the center console
  • 60/40-split folding rear seat
  • Full-LED lights
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • 18-inch wheels

Like the Model S and Model X, the Model 3’s sole no-charge paint is black. For another $1,000, you can choose from five metallic colors: blue, red, pearl white and two shades of silver.

Major options include:

  • Long-Range Battery ($9,000): The battery bumps range up some 41 percent to 310 miles. It also adds faster charging capabilities (37 miles of range per hour on a Level 2, or 170 miles per 30 minutes on a Supercharger) and quicker acceleration (5.1 seconds to 60 mph). Those are big gains, but they cost more than a quarter of the Model 3’s base price.
  • Premium Upgrades Package ($5,000): This adds heated seats, upgraded seating and cabin materials including open-pore wood trim, two rear USB ports, a power-adjustable steering column, a premium stereo with more wattage and speakers, a glass roof panel, foglights and center-console docking for two smartphones. Twelve-way power front seats are also included, but it’s unclear whether the standard seats are manually adjustable or just have fewer power adjustments. We asked Tesla but did not get a response.
  • Enhanced Autopilot ($5,000): This adds adaptive cruise control, lane-centering steering, automatic lane changing, automatic parking and more. More features will come with future software updates, Tesla says.
  • Full Self-Driving Capability ($3,000): This requires Enhanced Autopilot first, but Tesla says that with the package, the Model 3 will become “capable of conducting trips with no action required by the person in the driver’s seat.” But that will require “extensive software validation and regulatory approval” and may vary based on where you are, so it remains a future product for now.

Tesla’s website goes to great lengths to dispel the notion that the Model 3 is an upgrade to the Model S — an understandable sentiment given that higher numbers for consumer electronics generally correspond to better next-generation products. Tesla’s site notes the Model 3 “is a smaller, simpler, more affordable electric car. Although it is our newest vehicle, Model 3 is not ‘Version 3’ or the most advanced Tesla.”

Below that is a considerable specs comparison between the Model 3 and Model S that shows that, well, the S gets more. Such language reinforces what Tesla CEO Elon Musk told investors in a quarterly conference call a few months ago. The Model S remains Tesla’s “flagship,” the automaker says.

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