Tesla Model 3 Wows With $35,000 Price Tag

img774621759 1459519353992 jpg Tesla Model 3 | photos by Brian Wong

CARS.COM — It’s not often that you hear an automaker laud a car’s minimum performance, range and price rather than the most a model could offer, but that’s what Tesla CEO Elon Musk did at Thursday night’s unveiling of the Model 3 four-door hatchback at Tesla’s Design Facility in Hawthorne, Calif., which I attended. Tesla claims a base model of the new electric car will deliver at least 215 miles of electric range, go from zero to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds and have a base price of $35,000. The Model 3 is scheduled to begin production by the end of 2017, says Tesla, but I was able to take a ride in a Model 3 prototype at Thursday night’s event.

Related: Tesla Autopilot First Test

That $35,000 price tag doesn’t include any federal or state tax credits that could lower the Model 3’s price for buyers who qualify. Hardware for the Autopilot semi-autonomous driving features will come standard, as will supercharging capability, opening Tesla’s supercharger network to Model 3 owners..

Tesla’s new Gigafactory being built in the Nevada desert will supply the lithium-ion batteries for the Model 3. The Gigafactory is key to allowing Tesla to meet its planned production of 500,000 cars a year out of its Fremont, Calif., assembly plant.

Musk was mum on the Model 3’s horsepower, torque, interior or exterior dimensions, or even what the maximum range would be on higher trim levels at launch. Historically, more expensive versions of Tesla’s vehicles have provided more range and quicker sprints.

Rear-wheel drive will come standard, and Tesla’s dual-motor all-wheel drive with one motor attached to the front axle and the other to the rear will be optional.

Want one now? Get in line.

Thursday morning was the first opportunity for people to put down a refundable $1,000 deposit to reserve a Model 3. By now you might have seen photos of people in long queues outside Tesla stores.

At the San Fernando Valley Tesla store, 100 people lined up more than two hours before the store opened at 10 a.m., and by then the line had grown to roughly 500 people, according to a friend who was in the line. It took my friend four hours of standing in line to put down his deposit.

Tesla had a running counter at Thursday evening’s event displaying the number of pre-orders with deposits, and when I left the event, it already was pushing 140,000 Model 3 reservations.

When will it get here?

Production will begin in late 2017, Tesla says, with the first deliveries happening around that time, starting on the West Coast and then heading east. However, given Tesla’s penchant for tardiness, I would take those estimates with a grain of salt.

Tesla did not announce a hard date for deliveries to begin, but Musk said, “I do feel confident it will be (by the end of) next year.” It’s likely we’ll see delivery of most orders in 2018.

Editor’s note: This post was updated on April 4 after Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that all-wheel drive will be optional on the Model 3. Rear-wheel drive will be standard. It was also updated on April 5 to reflect that Autopilot hardware will be standard on the Model 3.

Photo of Brian Wong
Former L.A. Bureau Chief Brian Wong is a California native with a soft spot for convertibles and free parking. Email Brian Wong

Latest expert reviews