So, has all the hype been worth it? Today we had the chance to have a brief drive in Tesla’s most important car around the company’s factory in Fremont, California.
With over 500,000 pre-orders globally, Tesla announced that pricing will kick off from $35,000 - UK pricing is expected to follow shortly. According to Musk, Tesla won’t add additional costs for exports, meaning the price should convert evenly once Tesla begins manufacturing right-hand drive vehicles from the beginning of 2019.
Launched with a single variant capable of driving 220 miles, a longer-range battery can be ordered to increase range to 310 miles. 0-60mph acceleration is rated at 5.6 and 5.1 seconds respectively for the 220 mile and 310 mile versions.
From the outside, it’s not hard to see the design correlation between the Model 3, Model S and Model X. The curvy body takes advantage of closed cooling holes at the front, which allow it to achieve a coefficient of drag of just .23.
Measuring in at 4,694mm long, the Model 3 is slightly longer than a BMW 3 Series and slightly wider at 1,849mm. Surprisingly, it’s light, tipping the scales at a kerb weight of 1,610kg.
Lost your keys? Nothing to worry about. The Model 3 is one of the only cars in the world that doesn’t need a key for entry, instead using your phone’s Bluetooth function, or an RFID key in the shape of a credit card — an actual credit card, not the massive Renault credit card-sized key.
Inside the cabin, Tesla has run with a minimalist design that employs a 15-inch colour touchscreen in the centre of the cabin. It’s an important screen because it controls everything, and we mean everything.
Mirror, steering tilt and telescopic adjustment, infotainment, climate, charging and cargo controls are all actioned using the touchscreen. Even the open, close and direction changes of the air vents run through the central screen.
It’s an incredibly elegant cabin with rough-grained wood adorning the dashboard. Minimalism is key with two distinct storage areas in the centre console, plus a glove box.
Keeping with the theme of minimalism, door handles have been switched for door-mounted buttons, while the doors are opened from the outside using a push and pull mechanism — like in an Aston Martin V8 Vantage.
Rear leg room is good, but distinctly smaller than the Model S and X. Rear seat passengers get their own air vents, plus an additional two USB ports. If you carry kids, you’ll be thankful for two child seat anchorage points. The 60/40 split-folding second row also folds flat to increase cargo volume.
Total cargo volume is 423 litres, with a large hold available beneath the boot floor, plus a reasonable sized front boot that Tesla aficionados love referring to as a ‘frunk’.
Thankfully the electric car driving experience remains, despite the cut-price price tag. Our drive was only brief, but we had the chance to get immersed in the experience. Hit the throttle at any speed and you’re pinned to the seat. Model 3 launches with rear-wheel drive only, but we didn’t find any traction issues with this level of power.
Steering feel is great and can be adjusted through three levels – comfort, standard and sport. There’s enough feedback in each level to make driving the car easy. The ride is also good, despite the Model 3 not being offered with air suspension.
While it took a little while to get used to, the containment of speedometer and trip functions to the centre screen worked well. In the top left corner of the screen, speed and AutoPilot information is displayed and remains static while driving.
Tesla expects the Model 3 to achieve a high crash rating, with six airbags up front and two curtain airbags to keep occupants safe. The Model 3 will come with a four-year, 50,000-mile warranty for the vehicle and an eight-year 100,000 mile warranty for battery components.
Production of the Tesla Model 3 begins immediately, but whether the company can produce over 500,000 cars per annum remains yet to be seen. So, if you’re thinking about pre-ordering, get in sooner rather than later.
This was only a quick drive of the Tesla Model 3 around Tesla’s chosen Fremont factory roads. Expect to see a proper drive when we get our hands on the car locally.
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