I am the envy of my friends and colleagues, I have driven the Tesla Model 3.
The Model 3 is the new smaller Tesla sedan with an advertised price starting at $35,000. When the Model 3 was announced in 2016, 500,000 customers signed up for it with a $1,000 deposit. However, production delays have plagued the Model 3, and buyers only started to receive their new Teslas last December. A neighbor friend took delivery of his Model 3 two weeks ago, and invited me to take a drive.
The Model 3 bears a strong resemblance to the larger Tesla Model S. In fact, it’s almost like a shrunken Model S. It is sleek looking, with a low hood and a fastback roof. The roof is all glass, and extends all the way to the back of the car. There is no separate rear window. The 3 is very aerodynamic with a low 0.23 coefficient of drag. However, the one thing I found surprising was the absence of a more distinctive Tesla logo on the hood.
Inside, the dash is a tribute to minimalism. A large, 15-inch touch screen is mounted horizontally in the center, and that’s it. There are no knobs or switches, or separate gauges for that matter. There’s a turn signal stalk on the steering column and a conventional gear selector on the center console. Everything else is operated off the touchscreen. I was skeptical of this arrangement, and I think this will be a turn-off for some potential buyers, but I found that the basic controls were well-marked and easy to find.
Sitting in the driver’s seat, I had an outstanding view of the road. The windshield is huge. The front seats are upright and chair-like. With all the glass, the cabin is light and airy. Seats in the rear, are raised slightly so passengers back there have a good view as well. There is not a huge amount of space in the back, but my 6’2” frame fit adequately. Storage space is decent—a total of 15 cubic feet between the conventional trunk in the rear and a smaller compartment under the hood.
An electric motor drives the rear wheels (all-wheel drive will also be available) and delivers 258 horsepower. Buyers can opt for a standard battery pack that delivers 220 miles of range, or the Long Range that will give you 310 miles. Acceleration is brisk with either version. Tesla says the Model 3 will race to 60 in 5.6 seconds with the smaller pack and 5.1 with the larger one. I was impressed by the super quick response of the car I drove when I hit the accelerator.
The Model 3’s battery pack resides in the floor under the seats, which gives the car a low center of gravity. This translates into road-hugging capability, which in turn results in very capable handling. The Tesla displays very little body-lean when you come off a curving freeway ramp. Model 3 buyers may be surprised that they have bought what amounts to be a sports sedan. On freeways, as well as on city streets, the Model 3 also delivers a well-controlled and compliant ride.
The base price for the Model 3 is $36,200 with destination charge. Any color but black is an extra $1,000. A $5,000 Premium Upgrades package adds goodies like heated seats, higher quality interior décor and tint for the glass roof. The Long Range battery is $9000, and the Enhanced Autopilot is $5000. This last feature matches your speed to the car in front of you; keeps you in your lane automatically, and even change lanes for you with a double click of the turn signal stalk. This system requires an act of faith the first time you try it.
A Tesla model 3 for $35,000 is, at best, a myth. Cars coming off the production line in Fremont, California are fully equipped. The price is really $56,200. Yet, the Model 3 has a lot to offer, and many will be willing to pay the price.