In the event you’ve ever driven Tesla’s flagship automobile—the $140,000 Model S P100D—you’ve experienced an unparalleled variation of driving power. Zero to 60 in 2.3 seconds punches you back in the chair when making the stomach turn somersaults. Some people live for that feeling. I’m not one of them.
Sure, driving a fully loaded electric beast is as thrilling as the fiercest roller coaster—but not everyone wants their everyday commute to function as Kingda Ka. After taking one of the first drives of Tesla’s new Model 3 last week, I came away believing that CEO Elon Musk has finally delivered an electric car for the everyday road tripper like me.
The Model 3 still has a lot of pickup, effortlessly jumping from zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds from the updated version I test drove, which gets a stunning 310 miles on a charge. #x 2019 & it;s has steering that & #x 2019, and comfortable. The chairs embrace you at a gentle hug that feels somewhat more geared for road trip than racetrack. #x 2019 & it;s the Model S on a diet, making up what it loses in extravagance.
And I harbor’t even gotten to the good stuff.
The fact that this car still looks, drives, and feels like a Tesla—at a starting price of $35,000—shows how far the Silicon Valley automaker has arrived. It’s still an expensive automobile for many of Tesla’s biggest fans, and persuasive options packages will drag a good deal of stretch spenders into uncomfortable territory. But at current battery prices, Tesla is setting a new benchmark for value in an electric car—which was Musk’s strategy all along.
The minute you approach the Model 3, you understand you’re in for a new sort of car experience. #x 2019 & the automobile;s elegant, flush door handles swivel in your palm with a thumb’s light press. The scenic swoop of metal feels surprisingly solid.
The car doesn’t have a key, or a key fob. Instead it syncs with your phone through a bluetooth link and will automatically unlock as you approach. The backup in case your phone dies or you need to hand it off to a valet is a thin key card that you can keep in your wallet. Swipe it on the car’s B pillar to unlock it, and put it on the center console to turn the car on.
Stepping in the cabin, I immediately realized that my assumptions had been all wrong. I’ve seen a lot of spy shots of Model 3 prototypes online, as well as the interiors always seemed to be horizontal, spartan, and lifeless. Not so. The shortage of gauges on the narrow dash is refreshing. The solid strip of open-pore wood gives the space heat, and the glass roof makes the the cabin feel like an atrium. The forward area of vision—uninterrupted by knobs, lights, and levers—is grand.
Tesla is becoming better at building cars. Unlike early versions of the Model S and X, the Model 3 is developed to be a daily driver, with plenty of cupholders, door pockets, and console storage. The substances of the arm rests and doorways feel prepared for abuse. And the stitched synthetic substance used seats is different than leather, but not poor.
BMW and Mercedes should be concerned. This automobile is clearly targeting their market. Since Musk handed over keys to the first 30 cars on Friday, I’t heard a lot of people trying to compare the Model 3 to GM’s all-electric Chevy Bolt (called the Opel Ampera-e in Europe). Both run on batteries and although they & #x 2019; re priced, the parallel ends there. The Bolt is a market gasoline car that’ the Model 3 is, well, something.
Tesla aims to sell cars. To be able to succeed, it is going to need to tear down the artificial distinction between a “car buyer” and an “electric-car buyer” and go straight at the core of the $35,000 sedan class: the BMW 3 Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The Model 3 is Musk’s missile aimed at this target.
“We finally have a fantastic, affordable car—that’” Musk said, when I asked how he was feeling about the launch. “I’m really confident hands down. Judge for yourself. ”
Two Battery Versions
The Model 3 comes in two battery types: regular and long selection. In a break from the past, Tesla wouldn’t disclose the size of both battery packs. Rather the vehicles will be recognized from the miles they can push a charge, and the cars will lose their outside badges that indicate premium performance choices and battery size. In this manner, Tesla will get more credit for the efficiency gains it squeezes out of its motors and design, instead of being judged by kilowatt hours alone.
From the exterior, a $35,000 Model 3 will seem no different than a $ loaded version. The business plans to make the transition with its Model S and Model X platforms .
Here’s the two versions break down:
- Price: $35,000 (not including government incentives )
- Range: 220 miles (EPA estimated)
- Supercharging rate: 130 miles in 30 minutes
- Zero to 60 mph time: 5.6 seconds
Long Range Battery:
- Price: $44,000 (not including government incentives)
- Range: 310 miles
- Supercharging rate: 170 miles in 30 minutes (Same as Tesla’s Model S)
- Zero to 60 mph time: 5.1 seconds
The battery is a gamechanger. Only one other electric car in the world has broken the range barrier: the version of Tesla’s Model S, an ultra-luxury car that starts at $97,500. The new Model 3 has won Tesla the decoration for cheapest range for the cost, beating the $37,500 Bolt, which will be outclassed by the Model 3 in virtually every category.
Each year as this chart shows, the battle for range gets a little bit more intense:
Another indicator of Tesla’s efficiency and battery improvements is its weight. #x 2019 & it;s only 150 pounds more than the Mercedes C-Class, #x 2019 & although it;s a smidge larger and has more passenger and trunk space. #x2019;ve been impossible.
The Model 3 has a lot of room for a car its size, and the space is put to great use. With my legs fully extended from the passenger seat, a man had room to sit comfortably behind me.
The car has the ideal storage room in its class—15 cubic feet split between the front and rear trunks. However, for anyone hoping to use the Model 3 the might be the back’s opening. I brought a tape measure with me, and the opening measured 18.5 inches tall and 42 inches at its widest. That’s standard for a small sedan, which is to say, not great. Many Americans have grown accustomed to bigger SUVs and crossovers, and the pragmatic hatchback has been embraced by Europeans for ages.
But let’s get back to the driving. As I struck a gently winding street near Tesla’s factory, where the launch party for employees would later be held, I flipped on Tesla’s Autopilot. The street lanes were poorly marked, however, the car had no problem smoothly tracking its course and slowing when traffic demanded it. This is the ideal Autopilot I’ve experienced because the company split with partner Mobileye last year, though I didn’t have enough time to give it a proper vetting.
Tesla made an interesting choice to add Autopilot into #x 2019 & the car;s shifter. Flick it down twice, and Autopilot engages. It feels more integrated with the flow of driving. Autopilot has come a long way in recent weeks, but still has a ways to go for Tesla to justify the $8,000 it’s been charging since October for Autopilot and a set of yet-unseen attributes known as “Full Self-Driving Capability. ”
Ready for Camper Mode
Last year I wrote about a subculture of Tesla drivers who go camping in the back of their cars. It sounds crazy at first, but the car’s massive battery while only losing about 7 percent of the car & #x 2019; s range can maintain climate that is perfectly controlled all night. With the view of the stars and the glass canopy overhead, it’s a great way to enjoy national parks. I tried it myself and loved it.
Together with the new Model 3, there’s great news for those Tesla campers and others who like to haul long cargo. The chairs of the Model 3 fold completely flat, and with the front seats in their most forward position, the rear bed measures an impressive 6 feet 9 inches long (206 cm). This is a car that’.
Though being able to camp in your car is fun, staying safe is of importance that is greater. Tesla aspires to be the world’s safest automaker, and the Model 3 is no exception. While the final safety scores by ratings agencies aren’t out yet, a few of the tests have already been conducted. The video below compares the side-impact evaluation of the Model 3 against the Volvo S60, which is thought of as one of the safest cars on the street.
“In the Model 3, #x 201D & #x 2019; re fine, & you; Musk said. Meanwhile, “the Volvo is wrapped like a burrito around a coat hanger. #x 2019 & it;s not great. ”
Despite all of these achievements in range, technology, and safety, Musk sounded grave about the road ahead. “The largest challenge that we face here’s ‘S Curve’ manufacturing,” he said, describing a ramp up of production that starts slow, and then increases dramatically before tapering off. “That ‘S’ portion is us going through hell, basically. ”
A Special Hell for Tesla
Musk reiterated his projections of a start in the upcoming few months and then increasing by the end of the year, and 50,000 a month into a rate of 20,000 a month by the end of 2018. It’s an aggressive program that would double Tesla’s production rate in six months, and then quintuple it by the end of next year. Musk alluded to this challenge at the launch event when he joked to a sea of cheering employees, “Welcome. Welcome to production hell. ”
In the past few weeks, Tesla built 50 Model 3s, according to Musk. Waiting behind those customers that are first is a list of over 500,000 deposits, at $1,000 each. Musk says people who put down deposits today won’t get their cars until late 2018.
Here’s his best guess for the rest of 2017 will play out:
The key obstacle, of course, is making all of these cars fast enough and without the issues that plagued the launch of its more complex Model X. Tesla is counting on everything going right at its car plant in Fremont, California, in addition to its gigantic battery factory under construction near Reno, Nevada. Musk previously said that 2 to 4 plant locations will be announced by the end of the year.
The Model 3 variant won’t be available until Fall. The longer-range version is available today, beginning with the thousands of Tesla employees who placed reservations this past year. A premium options bundle includes open-pore wood decor an all-glass roof, premium sound, heated seats, and first class seat substances. A dual-motor, all-wheel drive Model 3 will be available in the Spring.
I inquired Franz von Holzhausen, Tesla’s chief designer responsible for the Models S, X, and 3, what are his design elements of the Model 3. He didn’t mention the angles and curves, the door handles that are tasteful, or the use of space.
He talked about the “ambiance of #x 201D & the car;—#x 201C & theinterior that will let you concentrate on the driving. ”
“The inside is nothing like any other car out there,” von Holzhausen stated. “It’#x 201D & s incredibly advanced; and “will age. ”
For an individual who hasn’t seen the car, #x 2019 & that;s a vague and unsatisfying answer. But after driving it, riding inside as a passenger, and scaling all over the backseat and trunk trying to take its step for a upcoming camping trip, I really couldn’t have said it better myself.
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