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Tesla Model 3: specs, prices and full details on the all-electric compact exec

Will Beaumont
22 May 2018

Due in the UK in 2019, the Model 3 will be available with two battery options and a performance derivative is set to follow.

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Deliveries of early Tesla Model 3 cars are underway as Tesla tries to ramp up production at its Californian Gigafactory. In a bid to secure extra funding to expedite production of the all-electric 5-door, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, outlined to (potential) investors the battery variants that will underpin the Model 3 range.

The powerpack options offered from launch, referred to as standard (50kWh) and long-range can travel a claimed 220 miles and 310 miles respectively. Neither will be lacking in performance as both dispose of the 0-60mph sprint in under six seconds, the latter almost breaking the five second barrier - perfectly respectable in the context of the compact executive saloon segment.

 

Musk clearly thinks there’s room for improvement in terms of performance, however, hence his confirmation of a hot Model 3 that will further expand the EV producer’s offerings in the performance saloon segment beyond the Model S P100D. Musing about this potential M3 rival, Musk dashed expectations of the 100kWh featuring in the junior saloon due to packaging restrictions. Divulging little else, he said a minimal battery increase is more likely for the flagship derivative which is expected to be four-wheel drive.   

Although finished cars are charging on US customer driveways, the Model 3 isn’t expected in the UK until early 2019 thanks to order books full with over half a million names. Tesla though, is doing its best to meet demand by progressively mobilising spare production capacity. 100 orders are expected to be fulfilled this month, with build numbers increasing twenty-fold by December 2017, when the plant will be running at full capacity. 

 

Tesla Model 3: What is it?

The Model 3 sits underneath the Model S executive car and the Model X SUV as an entry-level model for the electric automaker's range. With a likely starting price of around £35,000 in the UK it’s firmly in compact executive territory, and will therefore compete directly with more conventionally powered rivals like the BMW 3-series or Mercedes C-class.

It takes the form of a five-door fastback - think Audi A5 Sportback or BMW 4-series Gran Coupe - but where the Tesla sets itself apart from the competition is with a fully electric drivetrain. While not quite capable of delivering Tesla Model S-style acceleration it will allow the Model 3 to rival its more conventional alternatives for performance, with Tesla quoting a 0-60mph time of 5.6s seconds for the standard car or 5.1s for the long-range version. In terms of range, your choice between these two launch models will mean either 220 or 310 miles. 

Elon Musk confirmed via Twitter that a Performance version will be released in 2018, likely donning a dual motor set up, although Musk is being cautious about creating too many variants early on in the Model 3's production to avoid the production and quality issues that plagued the Model X SUV.

> Tesla Model S review

The Tesla Model 3 has a big job on its hands, convincing the world that this American upstart is capable of producing a quality, mass-market product that could be considered alongside accomplished rivals. It must also prove that electric power is the way forward – that existing infrastructure can handle an increasingly electrified world.

And lastly, it must stand up to scrutiny on the road. The Model S, brutally fast and supremely smooth though it is, is an ‘evo’ car more for its performance than the manner in which it can tackle a series of corners. Will the smaller, more affordable Model 3 out-point a 3-series or Jaguar XE on the road? For that, we’ll have to wait and see.

Tesla Model 3: Performance and 0-60 time

Tesla has not produced a slow car yet, and the Model 3 looks set to carry on the legacy. With a top speed of 130mph and an official 0-60mph time of 5.6s, the standard car can certainly mix-it with compact executive rivals and is roughly in the same ballpark as a BMW 330i. Go for the long range version and the top speed is 140mph and the sprint increment lowers to 5.1s. 

This won’t trouble the Model S P100D but Musk has put fans at ease on Twitter earlier in 2016 when he confirmed that the Model 3 would have its own version of Tesla’s ‘Ludicrous mode’ – also seen on the Model S and Model X. We’re expecting to see two and four-wheel-drive versions of the Model 3, with four-wheel-drive models benefitting from dual motors to provide increased performance but the first cars are all rear-wheel drive.

Tesla Model S: Performance and 0-60 time

Dimensions and technical specs

At 4,694mm long and 1,849mm wide, Tesla’s Model 3 is wider and longer than a BMW 3 Series - It has a wheelbase of 2,875mm too (the 3 Series’ is 2,810mm). The highlight figure, however is the kerb weight of 1,610kg that isn’t too far in excess of the 1,475kg the conventionally-engined BMW 3 Series tips the scales at.  Not bad given all the batteries the Tesla needs fit onboard.

Weight distribution is split 47%/53% front to rear and a variable, speed sensitive power steering set-up takes care of the steering. The suspension system uses double wishbones at the front and an independent multi-link arrangement at the rear. 

Inside, there’s a 5-seat interior that isn’t as room as that of the larger Model S and X. There’s combined a total of 425 litres of space in the front and rear luggage compartments, a little less than the 480 litres a 3 Series can get in its boot. 

Tesla Model 3: Range and charging

With the Model 3’s advanced lithium ion batteries and efficient powertrain, the Model 3 can deliver a range of 220 miles or 310 miles measured by the EPA standards used in the USA. European figures are likely to be higher on paper, but the EPA numbers offer the most accurate glance into the car's real-world range.

Either way those numbers are less than its Model S sibling, but they're still more than the majority of other more affordable electric cars on sale today. A Nissan Leaf, for comparison is capable of up to 107 miles on a 30kWh battery (by EPA standards), while the EPA range for a BMW i3 with the optional range extender is 180 miles. In Europe, only the updated Renault Zoe is likely to get close - with its 41kWh battery pack, Renault claims a 250-mile range on the NEDC cycle (though Renault estimates closer to 186 miles in real-world, fair-weather use).

> Faraday Future FF-01: 1035bhp electric hypercar revealed

Expect to see greater ranges from models with larger batteries in the future, but the Model 3 won’t worry its bigger brother as the smaller body isn’t large enough to fit Tesla’s 100kWh battery pack. Charging times are impressive however, with a Tesla Supercharger capable of giving the standard car a 130-mile top-up in 30 minutes. With a standard home charger, you’re looking at 30 miles of range added per hour of charging. 

Somewhat worryingly for some potential owners, Elon Musk announced in 2016 that the Model 3 would not benefit from the same free charging as the Model S and Model X. While those cars have unlimited access to Tesla’s range of Supercharger fast charging stations for free, the Model 3 will be required to pay for access – though it’s not been confirmed yet whether it will be a subscription service, a one-time fee or a pay-as-you-charge model. This is presumably to avoid clogging up the network with all the thousands of Model 3s Tesla intends to sell. 

Tesla Model 3: Design

The Model 3 is vital to Tesla’s future. It forms the latest stage of what CEO Elon Musk refers to as the company’s ‘Secret Master Plan’. Step one was the Tesla Roadster, intended to show that electric vehicles didn’t have to be as awful as the few that were available at the time (such as the REVA G-Wiz).

Step two was accomplished with the Model S. It’s this car that’s launched Tesla into the world of car manufacturing as a major player – positioned as it is as a mid-market, luxury executive which shows that electric cars can be practical, useful, and affordable.

And now we're on step three: the Tesla Model 3. An affordable mass-market car, which the company hopes will become as much of a viable choice for normal car buyers as any combustion-engined vehicle.

Positioned as it is under the Model S, the Model 3 is understandably smaller – but it does retain its bigger brother’s styling details. The overall shape is very similar, with a long, low body made up of smooth curves. That’s all thanks to the flexibility of the electric drivetrain, which takes up very little room.

Round the front, the Model 3 does have a curiously unfinished look due to its lack of a grille. Admittedly, the grille details on its sister cars are purely cosmetic, as the electric drivetrains don’t require as much cooling – but it does rather stick out in a world still largely populated by combustion-engined cars.

The Model 3 will be a five-seater car, and like its Model S and Model X siblings it will have two boots, one at the front and one at the rear.  It offers up an incredibly minimalist interior – every function is operated through a single 15.4” screen in the centre of the dashboard. This screen will contains driving instrumentation, with speed and gear selection displayed in the corner nearest the driver. The rest of the screen is given over to maps, media, and climate controls.

The Spartan interior doesn’t have any visible air vents, but it’s been speculated that a slim gap in the dash will provide ventilation for the whole car, aiding the hushed environment within.

Tesla Model 3 performance: a BMW M3 rival

In a series of posts on social media, Musk divulged key figures boasted by the range-topping Model 3, offering them to a BMW M3 for the purpose of comparison. ‘Cost is $78k. About same as BMW M3, but 15 per cent quicker and with better handling,’ he said. He went on to reveal a claimed 0-60mph time of 3.5sec and a 155mph top speed; 0.6sec faster than the M3 but the same top speed.

Musk, though, did confirm, that like the faster Model S and X variants, the performance Model 3 will employ a dual motor set-up – with a motor powering each axle. Both draw power from a collection of batteries, located in the chassis floor, which have a capacity that translates to a 310-mile range, according to the entrepreneur.

Converting the quoted price to pounds sterling sees the Model 3 come in at £58k, a tad less than the entry-level M3. That said, when the Model 3 eventually lands on UK shores it’s likely to cost more based on the difference in price of the Model S in the UK and USA – £123k and $135k respectively. Apply that logic here and it's fair to assume the Model 3 will retail closer to £80k.

Tesla Model 3: Prices, specs and rivals

Tesla is yet to disclose UK pricing for the Model 3, so we only have the US price structure to go by at the moment. $35k for the 50kWh model converts to £25k (based on current exchange rates) with the longer range, better performing 75kWh model costing $44k/£32k. However it’s not expected the pricing will be as keen as the exchange rate suggests – a £35k starting price has been mooted. Production of right-hand drive models is scheduled for 2019 with Tesla struggling to meet current global demand.

All-wheel drive will be available, as it is on the Tesla Model S which the Model 3 shares similar standard equipment with: including the large touch screen, dual climate control and keyless entry. Extra kit and luxury items such as: heated seats and an upgraded stereo feature in the £4700 premium package, while full autonomous driving capabilities add a further £7.5k to the price.  

BMW, Audi and Mercedes dominate the compact executive sector and Alfa Romeo has recently fielded a contender in the Giulia. Easy on the eye, the Alfa is a good steer and a welcome alternative to the established German offerings, priced at £30k. That said, in performance terms the £39k Veloce is closest to the 50kWh Model 3.

The BMW 3-series kicks off at £27k for a 318i SE and tops out at £44k for the 335d xDrive M Sport Shadow edition.While the Alfa may have displaced the BMW as the best driver in the segment, the 3-series remains an all-rounder that’s hard to beat. The range topping 335d xDrive musters sportscar performance, sprinting from 0-62mph in 4.8sec off the back of 309bhp and 467lb ft of torque, to rival the 75kWh Model 3.

Audi’s A4, starting at £28k, forgoes some driver involvement in favour of build quality and refinement. The class-leading interior, featuring Virtual Cockpit – on higher spec models – provides much of the appeal. The S4’s 349bhp and 369lb ft of torque offer similar performance to the Model 3 75kWh, but at £45k, it’s hard to justify as the driving experience doesn't differ a whole lot from lesser A4s.

The C-class range mimics its compatriots in terms of pricing and performance with the entry level C 200 SE bearing a £28k price tag and the junior AMG model, the C 43, at £44k. Like the Audi it lags behind the best as a driver’s car, but more than makes up for it with an extensive suite of driver assistance and safety functions as well S-class-aping ride quality.

 

 

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