The Model 3 is a five-seater, but it won’t be quite as comfortable a ride for the rear passengers as the Model S or Model X. Few sedans are. Nevertheless, at the unveiling, Tesla promised the small sedan will have the most interior volume in its class. This accomplishment is made possible by car’s lack of an engine, as well as the placement of its battery pack beneath the floor. This allows Tesla to move the front seats closer to the nose of the car and adds leg room in the back.
Added roominess is just another in a long list of features that are unique to Tesla EVs. Another one of those features is the so-called “frunk,” which opens additional cargo storage underneath the hood of the car, where an engine would otherwise be. In the back, Tesla adds a conventional trunk, which despite being relatively spacious for its class, could present difficulties in loading bulkier cargo. The Model 3’s radical rear windshield design means that the trunk must open by sliding up rather than popping open. Early reviews speculated that this could be a source of frustration for some owners.
A 240-volt Tesla home charging station costs $750, not including installation. We expect the Model 3 to use an on-board 10 kW charger, like its sibling vehicles. This means owners can add 30 or more miles of range for every hour of charging at home. With its sizable battery pack providing more than 200 miles of driving range—and the average commuter traveling about 40 miles per day—most drivers will find they have plenty of energy reserves on a daily basis.
In terms of longer distance highway trips, Tesla offers its current vehicle owners free access to around 400 Supercharger sites in the United States. These high-speed fast-chargers are capable of bringing a Model S battery pack to 80 percent of capacity in about 40 minutes. This opens up new possibilities for interstate travel for many EV drivers.
The main charging question for future Model 3 owners is whether access to the network will be standard for the vehicle or a cost option. If the car becomes as popular as Tesla hopes it would likely place an added strain on the existing network and eventually necessitate a further build-out of the network. Some buyers may not see a need for Supercharger access and might be willing to forgo it to save a few thousand dollars off the starting price. Though Musk claimed free supercharger access for Tesla third-generation vehicle in an interview two years ago, it may make sense to go back on that pledge
Independent testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating, not just overall, but in every subcategory without exception. Elon Musk has promised to repeat this feat with the Model 3 and given Tesla’s track record with the S and X, it doesn’t make sense to doubt him on this account. Approximately one percent of all cars tested by the federal government achieve 5 stars across the board.
Most items on the expansive list of safety features for Tesla’s current offerings will likely be available in the Model 3 as well, though it remains to be seen which will be standard. Tesla says that the Model 3 will come outfitted with with all of the sensors and wiring needed for it to operate in a manner similar to a fully autonomous vehicle. That doesn’t mean that the feature will be available in 2017. Most likely, it will be an aftermarket upgrade that will emerge once the technology has improved and regulators and insurers figure out how to handle one of the most important technological leaps in transportation history.
The base-level Tesla Model 3 will come standard with a rear-mounted single motor capable of launching the car from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in about six seconds. A high-performance dual-motor AWD configuration will also be offered, though Tesla has offered little in the way of performance stats for the car. Journalists who were offered the opportunity to ride in the car reported a high-performance feel that would be familiar to anyone who has been in a Tesla.
Only the dual-motor version of the Model 3 was used for the test rides, but it’s unlikely that the base model will disappoint. The car’s smaller size, low center of gravity and the inherent torque advantage (from electric propulsion)—combined with Tesla’s determination to beat the performance numbers of its gas-fueled competitors—all but guarantee that the Model 3 will be one of the fastest, most engaging drives in its class.
Tesla said the pre-production version of the Model 3, revealed in March 2016, will be very similar to the final version due in late 2017. The relatively small sedan is not simply a downsized version of the Model S. If anything, the Model 3’s design language is more aggressive: the curves are more dramatic and the angles are sharper.
These departures are particularly noticeable from the front, where the headlights and wheel wells jut out and a grille-less front fascia abruptly falls off the hood. It’s as if a designer sliced off the front tip of a clay model and no one noticed the error. (Musk has since tweeted that this area of the design is still a work in progress.)
The Model 3 also departs from its older sibling above the cabin, where curved glass extends from the windshield all the way to the trunk, interrupted only by a single roof support pillar. (Tesla first deployed this feature in the Model X SUV.) Inside the cabin, the expansive glass adds a panoramic sense of space that makes the roomy small sedan seem bigger than it is.
Perhaps the most radical design decision for the Model 3 though is its dashboard and console configuration, which takes minimalism to a new level among mass-market consumer vehicles. The pre-production Model 3 has no instrument cluster and no climate control knobs. You won’t even find visible air vents.
All controls and instrument gauges are located on the car’s large touchscreen—and this has led to speculation that Tesla plans to deploy a standard heads-up display that will allow the driver to view speed, range and other crucial information directly on the windshield. In a series of missives, Musk explained that the sparseness of the cabin will make more sense after “part 2” of the unveiling, promising that the final interior will “feel like a spaceship.”
The Tesla Model 3 70D will have between 250 and 315 miles of range based on the projected weight of the vehicle and estimated aerodynamic drag coefficient.