2018 Model 3 New Car Test Drive
Not many cars have had as hard a road to traverse getting into the marketplace as Tesla's Model 3. Developed as a mass-market alternative to the bigger, costly Model S electric sedan, the battery-powered Model 3 has undergone a series of production obstacles.
Production began during 2017. Several hundred thousand prospective buyers plunked down a $1,000 deposit. As of June 2018, though, fewer than 31,000 have been manufactured, according to Bloomberg. Though production has been growing, that's still far short of Tesla's goal: producing 5,000 cars per week.
Four versions have been announced. The Long Range model promises an EPA-estimated range of 310 miles, while the base version is rated at 220 miles. Coming later is an all-wheel-drive version. A performance variant also will include all-wheel drive.
A 192-kilowatt (258-horsepower) electric motor drives the rear wheels. The two versions use battery packs of different capacities. Tesla has declined to provide battery capacity figures, but they've been estimated at 50 kilowatt-hours for the base model and 75 kWh for the Long Range version.
Build quality of early examples has been variable. Many owners report no discernible problems, but others have been plagued by issues. Our own test Model 3 handily qualified as dreadful.
Tesla's Model S and Model X have earned good crash-test ratings, but the Model 3 has not yet been tested. Automatic emergency braking is standard. Adaptive cruise control is available only with the $5,000 Autopilot package, which also includes blind-spot monitoring, forward-collision warning, active lane control, and automatic headlights.
Despite the glaring quality concerns, Tesla is gradually delivering on its promise of a moderately-priced model. As of mid-2018, only the higher-cost Long Range model was available. Tesla advises that anyone seeking the $35,000 base model should expect to wait 6 to 12 months. For all-wheel drive and Performance models, the wait is 6 to 9 months. Even for the rear-drive Long Range model, buyers can expect a 4-6 month delay for delivery.
Production has not yet reached, or even approached, Tesla's lofty goal. Still, in the first five months of 2018, an estimated 19,000 have been delivered to customers. During that same period, Bloomberg estimates that more than 30,000 were built.
Base Model 3 ($35,000) has rear-wheel drive, cloth upholstery, keyless entry, a 60/40-split folding rear seatback, dual-zone automatic climate control, 18-inch wheels, and a central 15-inch touchscreen. Wi-fi and LTE wireless connectivity are standard, along with navigation. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not available. (Prices do not include $1,200 destination charge.)
Long Range Model 3 ($44,000) contains a larger battery pack, boosting range from 220 to 310 miles.
Options include heated seats with premium trim and upholstery, 12-way power front seats with memory, premium audio, tinted glass roof, heated foldable side mirrors, and LED foglamps.
A $5,000 Premium Interior package is available. The $3,000 Autopilot package bundles several active-safety features and, anticipating the future, Full Self-Driving Capability.
All-wheel-drive and performance models (not yet priced) are expected to debut late in 2018.