Man at His Best

9 Things You Need to Know About The Tesla Model 3

Tesla will unveil its first affordable car today.

BY ROBERT SOROKANICH | Mar 31, 2016 | Automotive

Tesla Motors

On March 31, Tesla will finally take the wraps off its first truly affordable offering, the Model 3. It could very well be the most important vehicle in the electric carmaker's lineup—mostly because, at a promised sticker price of USD35,000, it'll be the only Tesla most regular car buyers can afford. Ahead of the official unveiling (which R&T will cover live), here's everything we think we know about the first affordable Tesla.

1 | It will cost USD35,000 before any electric-car tax incentives.

Price is the most important aspect of the Model 3. Ever since Tesla first confirmed the midsize Model 3 way back in July of 2014, the automaker has been heavily emphasising that $35,000 starting price. Perhaps more importantly, CEO Elon Musk says that's the price before any federal or state tax incentives for zero-emissions vehicles. That's a direct shot at the Chevy Bolt, GM's first mass-market, all-electric vehicle. GM CEO Mary Barra says the Bolt will ring in under $30,000—after about $7,500 in federal rebates. Of course, Tesla is steadily nearing its federal tax incentive sales cap—once the automaker has sold its 200,000th car in the U.S., those incentives disappear.

2 | It will come in sedan and crossover variants . . . eventually.

Last summer, Tesla's Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel remarked that the Model 3 would be a family of new vehicles, eventually spawning both a sedan and a crossover version. With crossovers dominating the U.S. car market, that's a smart move—a $35,000 electric crossover will have much broader appeal than, say, Tesla's be-winged Model X, which starts at double that price and can be further doubled depending on options. According to a swiftly-deleted tweet from Musk, the crossover could be called the Model Y—making Tesla's full lineup (groan) S, 3, X, Y—and it could even have those crazy "falconwing" doors

But we still don't know whether we'll see a crossover variant at the official unveiling on March 31. Regarding the debut event, Musk said last month, "We are not gonna show everything about the Model 3 until a lot closer to production time."

3 | It will have a promised 200-mile range, and maybe lots more.

The EPA rates the highest-range Model S, the all-wheel-drive 90D, at 270 miles of range, but Tesla says the Model 3 will shoot for an even 200 miles. The lower range is most likely a move to keep costs down—bigger batteries cost more to build—though it may also be a factor of the Model 3's smaller platform size. Here again, we see some even-matched competition with the 2017 Chevy Bolt, which also claims a 200-mile battery range

And if you're up for an upgrade, a last-minute report says an optional 80kWh battery will push range past 300 miles. 

4 | Fans think there might be a high-performance version with Ludicrous Mode.

Fair warning, we're getting into the murky mire of Tesla superfans here, but: The folks on the forum Tesla Motors Club have set up a spreadsheet of people who are camping out, reserving their place in line to put in some of the first Model 3 preorders. If you scroll down the list, you'll see a lot of first-in-line-ers have their hopes on a dual-motor all-wheel-drive Model 3 with the high-performance P prefix. Model 3 P80D with Ludicrous Mode? We have no idea if it will actually happen, now or ever. But it would be rad, and it would definitely bolster Tesla's hopes of competing with cars like the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series, both of which have very serious performance versions.

That hunch was seemingly confirmed by a leak from an unnamed Tesla insider, who claims that a version of the Model 3 will do 0-60 in under four seconds. Sure sounds like an all-wheel-drive, dual-motor variant to us.

5 | It definitely won't look like this.

Nope.

6 | This is what it actually looks like, under a sheet.

Wired Germany got a look inside Tesla's design studio and snapped this shot of a Model 3 under wraps. 

7 | Tesla wants to sell a whole wunch of 'em.

If it sounds like Tesla's making a very mainstream-friendly car here, you're not wrong. Tesla wants to sell as many of these things as it can. Musk has said he wants the automaker to sell 500,000 cars annually by the year 2020, and an affordable sedan and crossover are a major part of that plan. Given that Tesla has sold fewer than 200,000 cars since 2008, that's a big potential ramp-up.

8 | If you want one of the first Model 3s, you have to live in California or already own a Tesla.

Tesla stores will begin accepting in-person reservations as soon as they open on March 31; online reservations open up at 8:30 p.m. Pacific Time that day. People are already in line at Tesla stores worldwide. Priority for Model 3 reservations will be given to current Tesla owners, the same way Ferrari does.

9 | Deliveries begin in 2017.

Well, assuming there aren't any delays. Tesla has plenty of experience with delays.

From: Road & Track.