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 becomes more easily available? Let’s find out.

Tesla Model 3 release date

The Tesla Model 3 is officially here. That said, only a handful of people who booked the car initially have received keys so far. The rollout is unsurprisingly going to be touch slow due to production issues which were supposed to be resolved by now, but aren’t. If you decide to reserve a Model 3 now, you can expect delivery after anywhere between 12 and 18 months — or perhaps even longer.

Another factor to keep in mind is that this concerns the rear-wheel drive model of the car, with production of the all-wheel drive iteration set to begin next Spring.

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.

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 15.4-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.

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, and features a 50 kWh battery with a maximum range of 220 miles. The long range iteration will pack a 75 kWh unit and bump up the maximum distance to 310 miles.

Tesla doesn’t make slow cars, and while the Model 3 is less than the half the price of its larger and faster siblings, it is certainly no slouch. The two versions of Model 3 are capable of getting from 0 to 60 in 5.1 (long range) seconds to 5.6 seconds (base model). The top speed of the base model and the long range iteration are 130 mph and 140 mph respectively.

Tesla Model 3 range

Range anxiety is always an issue with electric cars. But the Tesla Model 3 range will be 220 miles on a full charge, with the long range option pushing that up to 310 miles.

Even the base Model 3 is compatible with Tesla’s Supercharger network, which can replenish half the battery in as little as 20 minutes. Unlike the Model S and Model X though, supercharging will not be free with the Model 3. The exact amount is yet to confirmed and it will vary based in which state in the US you are in how much charge is available before you plug it in.

One Twitter user who used the Tesla Supercharger at the Harris Ranch facility was charged $8.60 for a 43 kWh charge ($0.20/kWh), which is enough to drive another 170 miles. For a similar range with a regular car, the fuel cost may be as much as $20 depending on your location. While it’s not great that you will have to pay for using the Supercharger, it’s definitely still a whole lot cheaper than gas.

Customers can also fit a Dual Charger station in their home that gives you 30 to 37 miles of range for every hour the car is plugged in.

Tesla Model 3 price

The Tesla Model 3 price starts at $35,000 for the base model, with the long range model setting you back $44,000.

If you are looking for tax incentives though, it may be best to get your reservation done early. The rules are somewhat vague at the moment but as it stands, only the first 200,000 owners will be eligible for the full $7500 tax break, with that number becoming half every six months. Considering that the Model 3 already has a reservation backlog of around 500,000, it may already be too late.

Every car will come with a Supercharging connection, which was a $2500 upgrade on the base Model S, but the using the Supercharger will not be free. Everything else requires a premium.

While the Model 3 is also capable of self driving, you will need to opt for the $5000 Enhanced Auto Pilot and the $3000 Fully Self Driving Capability options. Another $5000 premium will get you better grade materials, a wood-veneered dash, 12-way front seats, 12-speaker sound system, two inductive phone chargers, and the panaromic glass ceiling.

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.

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.

Tesla Model 3 wrap up

Right now we know that 500,000 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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