The Tesla Model 3 is the entry-level EV that will carry the weight of Elon Musk’s zero emissions campaign on its shoulders.

The Tesla model 3 release date is set for 2017 and the company wants this car to spearhead its mission to ramp up total production to 500,000 cars and beyond. For that to happen, the Model 3 needs to be a smash hit.

It still boasts the novelty factor. Tesla stuck to his lithium-ion guns when the mainstream motoring world wrote him off as a nut. Now, with the help of the Tesla Gigafactory and the growing momentum of EV motoring, Tesla finds itself at the head of the pack. The Model 3 is a massive step for the company and electric cars in general. It’s the first plug-in EV to go to battle in the highly competitive field that includes established masters like the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Mercedes C Class and Jaguar XE.

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It also has to contend with cars like the Mazda 3 and the Hydrogen-powered Toyota Mirai. By the time the Tesla hits the showrooms, BMW, at least, should have a direct electric Model 3 rival.

Can Tesla break down another barrier and bring clean motoring to the masses when the Tesla Model 3 release date finally comes? Let’s find out.

Tesla Model 3 release date

The Tesla Model 3 is set to be released in Q4 2017, assuming Tesla’s ambitious plan to begin and ramp up production won’t run into major setbacks. It’s important to note that only a small number of those who pre-ordered the Model 3 will receive their keys in the first days of availability.

Tesla will probably need months, if not years, to work through its reservations backlog, which is currently estimated to approach 500,000 units.

Tesla Model 3 design

In essence the Tesla Model 3 is a shrunken Model S. That’s a good thing, as the smooth lines of the bigger brother have wowed the buying public.

It’s instantly recognisable as a Tesla, thanks to that curved front end without the front grille that is rendered redundant by the electric powerplant. Then there’s the fastback design that Tesla knows and loves, together with a wheel at each corner that should give the Model 3 a solid stance and handling. It also allowed the design team the freedom to create as much interior space as possible.

The Lithium Ion batteries are packed low down in the floorpan to keep the centre of gravity low and free up more space. The Model 3 might be smaller than the S and X, but the company has concentrated on a comfortable environment. Freed from the constraints of an engine and the auxiliaries, it has worked wonders with the roomy interior.

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Tesla Model 3 interior

Tesla has always scored big with its interiors and the Model 3 looks to have smashed it out the park. Interior space was a big priority and the Tesla Model 3 has space for five adults to sit in comfort.

It’s a typically clean, minimalist Tesla interior. The traditional dashboard and instrument binnacle is notable only by its absence. It is replaced by a 17-inch touchscreen that provides everything from a speedo, climate control and battery charge information through to full web access. Unlike the Model X and S, it’s mounted in a landscape format.

There’s a rumour going round that even the tablet could be optional and an advanced Heads Up Display with gesture control could take its place. That is far from confirmed, however, and could depend on the Tesla Model 3 specs you opt for.

A coated panoramic glass roof will let just the right amount of light shine in, as well as strengthen the structure of the car, and that’s about all you get on the interior of a Model 3. It’s clean, big, light, airy and all the information is at your fingertips. It’s really all you need.

Tesla Model 3 specs

The base model will come first, which will cost $35,000. Tesla is keeping its cards close to its chest regarding later models, but past behavior is the best indicator of future performance.

The Fremont-based firm has a track record of chasing the base model out of the building with a more ferocious follow up, as it did with the Model S and the P85D. We expect to see more of the same with Model 3.

Musk won’t be drawn and the Tesla Model 3 specs are a closely guarded secret right now. As it is the volume seller, it’s possible the company is looking at a wider range, but any real dissection of the Tesla Model 3 specs right now is pure speculation.

Tesla Model 3 performance

Tesla doesn’t make slow cars. Elon Musk simply refuses to sacrifice performance and pleasure in the name of zero emissions. So even the base Tesla Model 3 0-60mph will come in at well below six seconds and leaked documents revealed that the most aggressive variant will hit the benchmark speed in less than four seconds. That is sportscar fast.

We’re expecting a top speed of 140mph for the Model 3 and there aren’t many places where more would be useful.

Leaked documents have already revealed that the later model will breach the 60mph mark in less than four seconds. It will almost certainly feature the ‘Ludicrous mode’ that has allowed the Model S and Model X to show a clean pair of heels to serious sportscars at the drag strip.

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If Tesla follows the form book, then the faster car will come with All-Wheel-Drive and economies of scale suggest it might well get the larger 90kWh battery that has just slotted into the Model S. The same logic dictates that the small 60kWh battery will power the base model, but this is an educated guess right now.

In the lighter, more nimble Model 3, that would provide ballistic performance that Tesla could easily tone done with the software. Alternatively it could make a range of batteries specifically for the Model 3. After all, Musk has a factory for that now.

Tesla Model 3 range

Range anxiety is always an issue with electric cars. But the Tesla Model 3 range will be a minimum of 215 miles on a full charge. The generally accepted number is 250 miles under normal conditions.

Even the base Model 3 is compatible with Tesla’s Supercharger network, which can replenish half the battery in as little as 20 minutes.  Customers can also fit a Dual Charger station in their home that gives you 58 miles of range for every hour the car is plugged in.

Tesla Model 3 price

The Tesla Model 3 price starts at $35,000, before the tax incentives come into play. Musk has already suggested that most models that leave the showroom floor will come equipped with at least $7000 of optional extras.

Every car will come with a Supercharging connection, which was a $2500 upgrade on the base Model S. There is still some confusion as to Supercharging, though, as Tesla has suggested that Supercharger access won’t be free for Model 3 owners and it hasn’t named a price.

Of course the more powerful model will come with a premium price tag. As Tesla hasn’t even revealed the existence of that car, it can hardly confirm the cost just yet. Rest assured, though, that you can have a much higher Tesla Model 3 price if you want to.

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Tesla Model 3 safety

From day one, Tesla has targeted five-star safety ratings for each and every one of its models. The Model S achieved five stars overall and in every sub-category of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tesla expects the Model X to follow suit and become the first SUV to score a clean sweep of perfect scores.

The Model 3 might be cheaper, but it’s arguably more important than either to Tesla’s future. So nothing less than a perfect score will satisfy Elon Musk. Tesla Model 3 safety is a non-negotiable for the California company, so take it as read that the Model 3 will be one of the safest cars in its class.

As the Tesla Model 3 release date is so far off we can’t back that up with concrete numbers just yet, but expect the new car to sweep the board.

Musk is pushing for emergency braking to become an industry standard and it will feature on the Model 3, alongside the latest version of Autopilot. So the Model 3 will change lanes, take emergency evasive action and even park without too much input from the driver.

By late 2017, Tesla should be capable of Level 4 autonomous driving, but the regulators will never approve it in that time. So expect the self-driving hardware to be in place. All it will take is a firmware update from Tesla for the car to take over completely. Musk reckons this will make the car 10 times safer than having a human in control.

Tesla Model 3 wrap up

As we get closer to the Tesla Model 3 release date in Q4 2017, the specs, performance and more will become clearer. Right now we know that 373,000 people have put in pre-orders for the first affordable Tesla ever made. If the cars live up to the hype, then this will be an absolute sales sensation and the order books for the next two years will fill up almost instantly. It’s far and away Elon Musk’s most important car to date and we’re waiting with baited breath to see the results.

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