Six Things You Need to Know About the 2018 Tesla Model 3

Elon Musk is quite an interesting character. He’s a man worth a mind-boggling $13.5 billion, a fortune made through ventures such as PayPal, OpenAI, SolarCity, Hyperloop, SpaceX, and Tesla Motors. The latter outfit interests us the most, more so after the recent unveiling of the much-awaited Tesla Model 3.
Tesla Model 3 11 photos
Photo: Tesla Motors
Tesla Model 3 design sketchTesla Model 3 trunkTesla Model 3 frunk (front trunk)Tesla Model 3Tesla Model 3Tesla Model 3Tesla Model 3Tesla Model 3Tesla Model 3Tesla Model 3
To make a long story short, Tesla Motors pushed the EV envelope with the Model S. Mainstream automakers such as Nissan, GM, and VW have tried to catch up, but they’re far from offering an all-around package as good as the Model S. With the much-hyped Model 3, Tesla pushed the envelope once again.

The thing is, not everything about the Model 3 is milk and honey. For those who are new to the subject, the Tesla Model 3 presented on March 31 is nothing more than a phase 1 prototype. The real deal is slated to arrive by the end of 2017 as the 2018 Tesla Model 3. Till then, the Palo Alto-based automaker will bring changes to the interior and exterior design of the Model 3. However, there are some particularities you need to know about the battery-powered compact executive sedan before you place an order on one.

Let’s start with the bad points. Here goes:

The Waiting Game

In the first three days of pre-orders for the Model 3, no less than 276,000 units were reserved. What’s wrong with that? Considering that the company busted through the 50,000 per year sales barrier in 2015 and it aims to deliver as many as 90,000 vehicles this year, the problem is that you’ll have to wait a lot for your Model 3 to be delivered. That’s what happens when the manufacturing capabilities of an automaker are overshadowed by demand.

On April 1, Elon Musk tweeted that he definitely needs to “rethink production planning” and that’s no April Fools’ because the Model 3 is a make-or-brake product for Tesla. The Tesla Gigafactory 1 is instrumental, although the largest building by physical area will only handle the production of lithium-ion batteries, not cars. That’s why Elon suggested that Tesla could ramp up production to 500,000 cars per year by building a factory on the Old Continent.

Hypothetically speaking, if the 276,000+ orders translate into actual sales, then the Model 3 will overshadow the Nissan Leaf as the world’s most popular electric vehicle. If you multiply the $1,000 deposit required for a pre-order by 276,000, that works out at $276 million. Multiply the starting price of $35,000 by 276,000 and the result is $9.66 billion. It remains to be seen how many customers will cancel their pre-orders by the time production starts.

The Too-Minimalist Dashboard

No instrument cluster, no dials, nada at all except for a floating 15-inch landscape-oriented touchscreen placed dead in the center of the cockpit. If memory serves me well, lots of gearheads weren’t too pleased with Mercedes-Benz when the German manufacturer revealed the second-gen B-Class in 2011 due to the position and integration of the infotainment system’s display.

A central display tacked on the dashboard goes beyond Mercedes-Benz. Off the top of my head, I can tell you that Mazda and BMW followed suit. So how come lots of people love what Tesla has done with the Model 3? Double standards much, Tesla fanboys? I don't hate the Model 3 for its dashboard, albeit I’m not a fan of it. All things considered, there’s something particularly 21st century about this thing.

It is a certainty that the dashboard design will change by the time Tesla starts production of the Model 3, with Musk promising “steering controls and system” that feel “like a spaceship.” Whatever Elon smokes, I need it too. And another thing. When he was asked on Twitter about the “lack of a dashboard/HUD,” Musk replied that “it will make sense after part 2 of the Model 3 unveil.”

The Small Opening of the Trunk Lid

Amid all the thumbs ups, the Tesla Model 3 received a thumbs down for its trunk. Not the capacity, nor the width of the trunk opening, but the shape and small opening of the trunk lid. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Tesla Model 3 is different from its hatchback brother as far as the trunk lid is concerned.

Then again, engineers couldn’t have given the Model 3 a hatchback because there’s a ginormous piece of glass extending from the base of the windshield all the way to the trunk. From an even more technical point of view, sufficient passenger headroom has been made possible by moving the rear cross support beam. Then again, it’s still a compromised trunk at best.

A bicycle or a 7-foot (2.1-meter) long surfboard will fit no problem. At least, that’s what we were promised. Elon Musk has also suggested that “we should be able to increase the opening width and height.” A tow hitch will be offered as an optional extra, even though a pickup truck is better suited for the job.

And now for the good points:

It Will Be Affordable

If you’re not too picky and you can live on a daily basis with an entry-level 2018 Tesla Model 3, then you’ll need $27,500 to get one. Minus the tax credit, the retail price for the Model 3 hikes to $35,000. Now let’s compare that with the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt. Approximately $30,000 after incentives or $37,500 without them translates into a $2,500 advantage for the 2018 Tesla Model 3.

Of course, there are cheaper EVs than the Model 3 available in the United States such as the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MIEV, and Kia Soul EV. The thing is, a Tesla is similar to an iPhone. Other manufacturers that jumped on the electric bandwagon are similar to an Android phone. I think I made my point.

Another reason why the Model 3 will be preferred over all of its reasonably priced competitors is that all other EVs except for the ones made by Tesla look remarkably dull. Want yet another reason why the Tesla Model 3 will catch on? It is similarly priced to the BMW 3 Series. The premium compact executive sedan segment is still relevant, even though crossovers and SUVs are king.

Virtually No Range Anxiety

The rear-wheel-drive, single-motor 2018 Tesla Model 3 will have enough juice in its battery for a range of 215+ miles (346 kilometers). The Musk man made it clear that the all-wheel-drive, dual-motor 2018 Tesla Model 3 will not cost an arm and a leg. Word has it is that $5,000 or less should do the trick.

Intel is slim on the battery capacity of the entry-level Model 3, but you can bet your two cents that a bigger battery pack will be offered as an option. With it, the Tesla Model 3 is expected to boast 300 miles (483 km) of range on a full charge. Who needs more than that for his daily commute? I certainly do not.

If it comes down to a longer trip, the ever-growing Tesla Supercharger network will tend to your needs. It doesn’t matter from what kind of perspective you look at things because the manufacturer itself has got range anxiety covered. Not the government, not a third party.

It Sets the Scene for Advances in Electrification and Battery Technology

The Kia Soul EV, which is priced at $31,950 before the $7,500 federal tax credit, has an EPA-estimated driving range of 93 miles (150 kilometers). The much more expensive BMW i3 ($42,400) can be driven up to 81 miles (130 km). The i3 with the range extender won’t do more than 150 miles (241 km). Needless to say, mainstream automakers are too far behind Tesla Motors as far as range is concerned.

With the arrival of the Model 3, the automotive industry will have to react as quickly as possible if it doesn’t want to be left for dead by Tesla. It boggles the mind how a company that set up shop 13 years ago has rewritten the electric vehicle rulebook with funds that pale in comparison to how much the mainstream has spent on making the EV viable and affordable.

Beyond its good points and its bad points, the Tesla Model 3 has thrown the ball in the court of the establishment. The Volkswagen Group took notice, especially after the Dieselgate fiasco made everything worse for the internal combustion engine. Heck, even PSA Peugeot Citroen the Groupe PSA has promised it will debut four electric vehicles by 2021. When all is said and done, the mold has been set.

Those who claim that the Model 3 will make the EV world go round are not wrong in their assessment.

Later edit: 325,000 pre-orders and counting.
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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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