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Tesla Model 3: the $35k version finally exists

Published: 13 March 2019

► Over 5000 Model 3s made in one week
► First time Tesla hits target
► 7000 cars made in total 

Hurrah readers in the United States - you can finally buy a Tesla Model 3 EV for $35k, provided you order it in black and without Autopilot.

The news comes amid a storm of mixed communications regarding Tesla store closures and moving to online sales - something which the brand announced a blanket approach on in a statement released on 28 February 2019, only to revert back and announce the closing of 'half' of its stores: 'in other words, we will only close about half as many stores, but the cost savings are therefore only about half.'

Tesla says the basic and cheapest version of the Model 3 will remain at $35,000, but the rest of the Model 3, S and X ranges will face a price increase of 'about 3% on average worldwide.' And that was after a huge price drop had already irritated some recent buyers.

It's all quite confusing, but hopefully the $35,000 price tag for an entry-level 3 will translate into a somewhat competitive price when right-hand drive models go on sale in the UK. For reference, German buyers can choose from a 'long distance' (€52,300) and 'Performance' (€63,000) version but no standard one just yet.

Are they finally building enough Tesla Model 3s?

Yes. Production has steadied to the point that a new report published in July 2018 by Reuters, the company only just missed its goal of producing 5000 of the EVs per week, but it did hit the target a few hours after the midnight deadline. That’s one of the first times Tesla has come remotely close to hitting one of Musk’s self-imposed deadlines, and shares rose by 6% as a result.

Elon Musk followed up the news by tweeting that the company produced 7000 models in total that week: ‘Not only did we factory gate over 5000 Model 3s, but we also achieved the S & X production target for a combined 7000-vehicle week,’ he wrote, in an an email obtained by Bloomberg in July 2018

‘What’s more, with the widespread productivity gains throughout Tesla and the new production lines spooling up, we are on track to reach 6k/week for Model 3 next month.’

The news was obviously good for Tesla, and especially welcomed by those on the ever-growing Model 3 waiting list. However, while the numbers are good, some of the methods Tesla has used to get them – including production ‘tents’ – aren’t exactly conventional, and they don’t seem sustainable, either.

Read our best electric car guide here

While the companies aren’t that comparable, Steven Armstrong, the chairman and CEO of Ford Europe, offered some context for Tesla’s new numbers, tweeting: '7000 cars, circa 4 hours. Ford Team.'

On first glance it’s not the fairest match-up for Musk, and those Fords aren’t EVs either, but we reckon it’s still a relevant comparison. If Tesla truly wants to be a major player in the EV market, and the car industry generally, it’ll be need to eventually step up to something near those numbers.

Where can I buy a Tesla Model 3?

While US sales are ramping up now, right-hand drive UK production isn't due to begin until 2019, and even that date is slipping back to later in the year. That's quite a long delay for Europe's early adopters (the first American cars were delivered in 2017). 

Customers queued in droves to place deposits to secure an order slot for a Model 3 when it was first announced. Before the car had been revealed, in 24 hours alone, a total of 115,000 pre-orders were placed. The deposit amount varied depending on your country; for example, it was $1000 in the US, but £1000 in the UK.

A total of half a million pre-orders were placed at launch, according to Tesla - arguably making it one of the most successful product launches of all time.

Tesla Model 3: specs

Tesla says that the new, smaller Model 3 has a range of more than 220 miles, despite its less costly price and correspondingly lower battery capacity than big brother the Model S. ‘The Model 3 fits five adults comfortably,' said Musk. 'The first and second row have plenty of legroom and the rear roof is one continuous pane of glass, which gives you lots of headroom and a feeling of openness.’

Musk also claims that the new Tesla, which has front luggage compartment and a conventional boot, offers ‘more cargo capacity than any gasoline car of the same external dimensions.’ Tesla Model 3 dimensions stand at:

  • Length 4694mm 
  • Width 1849mm 
  • Bootspace 423 litres 
  • Kerbweight 1610kg 
  • Drag coefficient 0.23

The Model S and Model X, the new electric car will have a flexible time or mileage warranty, giving support until four years pass, or a certain mileage is exceeded. That distance is 100,000 miles for the standard-range battery Model 3, and 120,000 miles for the long-range battery version.

Tesla Model 3: performance

The Tesla Model 3 is the most affordable of Elon Musk’s electric cars to date, and that means it makes some compromises in terms of features, specs and general luxury. However, it looks like Tesla hasn’t cut corners when it comes to speed. Last week, DragTimes ran some tests on a new long-range variant of the Model 3, and found it to be faster than Tesla advertises.

According to a DragTimes’ video, the Tesla Model 3 hits 60mph in just 4.667 seconds. That’s impressive on its own, but also rather surprising as Tesla itself advertises a time of 5.1 seconds. DragTimes beat the 5.1 figure more than once, too, so the Model 3 is clearly faster than stated.

The speed discrepancy could be interesting for two reasons. Firstly, it shows that Tesla would rather under promise and over deliver, but it might also reveal Tesla’s marketing and sales strategy. Going conservative on the Model 3’s 0-60mph time would help reinforce the appeal of the Tesla’s more-premium Model S. The slowest Model S can hit 60mph in just 4.2 seconds, and the slower the significantly cheaper Model 3 is from that time, the better – for Tesla, anyway.

The interior and cabin

Like the larger Model S, the Model 3’s interior features a large touchscreen display in the middle of the car. Unlike its bigger brother, however, the Model 3 doesn’t feature an instrument cluster in front of the driver. Instead, the required readouts are seemingly condensed onto the 15-inch central screen. For example, you can see the speed read-out in the very top left of the display.

The new Model 3 will also come with Tesla’s self-driving Autopilot hardware, as well as a whole host of safety systems.

Dual-motor version

The Tesla Model 3 is finally getting a dual-motor, all-wheel drive version, as predicted by CAR magazine. According to a string of tweets posted by Elon Musk, the EV pioneer is getting ready to release both a standard and performance version of a twin-motored Model 3 - and the latter is aimed directly at the BMW M3.

As you’d expect from Tesla, Elon Musk has revealed all the specs and performance figures for both models ahead of time on Twitter, and they make for interesting reading. According to Musk, the two motors in each all-wheel drive Tesla aren’t identical; one will be optimised for power, and the other for range. What’s more, one motor will also act as a back-up for the other, so if one fails, you’ll still be able to get to your destination.

Read our best electric car guide here

Interestingly, the dual motor will come in two flavours, starting off with the standard all-wheel drive Tesla Model 3. Musk says that the standard AWD Model 3 will cost $5000 more than the single-motored car, and will get to 60mph from a standstill in just 4.5 seconds. Top speed will be 140mph and range will be 310 miles.

However, it’s the performance version of the all-wheel drive Model 3 we’re most interested in, and it’s probably the one Tesla’s competitors are most interested in, too. According to Musk's tweets, the charged-up performance Model 3 AWD will have a 0-60mph time of just 3.5 seconds, a presumably limited 155mph top speed, and the same 310 mile range as the normal AWD model.

M3 rival?

What’s more, Musk says it will beat anything else in its class on track, including a BMW M3. At $78,000, Musk claims it’ll cost about the same as the Munich rocket, ‘but 15% quicker and with better handling.’ That's fighting talk.

A $78,000 M3 rival looks very promising, and will certainly be in demand - but that leads us to the elephant in the room: supply. Tesla may be onto a winner with the AWD Model 3, but as issues with the original car continue, whether or not it can build this electric car in sufficient volumes to sat demand is another matter.

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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