After years of speculation, intrigue, and a seemingly endless stream of rumors, Tesla’s highly anticipated Model 3 is finally here. Impressively — and perhaps somewhat surprisingly — Tesla actually managed to begin early deliveries of its $35,000 car on time, a welcome change of pace given the delays that plagued both the Model S and the Model X.
What makes the Model 3 launch all the more interesting is that it’s long been the linchpin in Tesla’s overarching business plan. In fact, Tesla’s plans to release an affordable EV for the masses was originally laid out more than 10 years ago when Elon Musk penned the first installment of Tesla’s “Secret Master Plan.” Therein, Musk said that Tesla was going to build a sports car in order to fund what would ultimately become the Model S. Following that, Musk explained that profits from the Model S (which didn’t officially have a name, at the time) would be used to design and manufacture an even more affordable EV that would ultimately be known as the Model 3.
Musk’s master plan reads in part:
So, in short, the master plan is:
Build sports car
Use that money to build an affordable car
Use that money to build an even more affordable car
While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
Don’t tell anyone.
Almost 11 years later to the day, Musk’s master plan has played out almost exactly as Musk envisioned, a remarkable feat to say the least. Sure, the Model S was delayed, and sure, a Model X was added into the mix, but the Model 3 is now official and in the hands of early reservation holders.
Alongside the Model 3 release bonanza, some select outlets were given opportunities to take Tesla’s new EV for a test spin. And lest you thought that the Model 3 was all hype, the early reviews we’ve seen thus far suggest that the EV revolution is about to kick into high-gear.
Below are a few choice excerpts from some of the early reviews.
The car doesn’t have a key, or a key fob. Instead it syncs to your phone through a bluetooth connection and will automatically unlock as you approach. The backup in case your phone dies or you need to hand it off to a valet is a thin key card that you can keep in your wallet. Swipe it on the car’s B pillar to unlock it, and place it on the center console to turn the car on.
Tesla is getting better at building cars. Unlike early versions of the Model S and X, the Model 3 is built to be a daily driver, with plenty of cupholders, door pockets, and console storage. The materials of the arm rests and doors feel ready for abuse. And the stitched synthetic material used for the premium seats is different than leather, but not inferior.
MotorTrend relays that any concerns about legroom are completely overblown:
Tesla worked hard to increase interior space, and subjectively it succeeded. For a compact car, the Model 3 feels incredibly light and airy. The dash is pulled ahead and pressed down, but cleverly, the touchscreen is apart from that, close to your right hand. (It was embedded into the Model S’ dash, constraining them to be equidistant.) The Tesla Model 3 has a trunk opening instead of a Model S-like hatch to delete the hatch-required crossmember, which shaves rear headroom. The prototype’s trunk opening was criticized as too small; now it’s yawning. And at 15 cubic feet, with a very low lift-over and 60/40 folding rear seats, it looks hungry for a surfboard or a bike.
Tim Stevens of CNET found the lack of a traditional dash less of an issue than some are making it out to be:
And that single, central display? It does take some adjustment not having a traditional speedometer or the like behind the wheel, but I didn’t mind it. In fact, I found myself a little less distracted as I wasn’t constantly glancing down at my speed. Some drivers will surely struggle with it, though, and I still hope that Tesla offers a heads-up display at some point, but for me at least, it’s not an issue.
The Tesla team went to lengths to explain that the Model 3 has been designed to simplify everything from its construction to its operation. Gone are the Model S’s projecting door handles in favour of nicely crafted aluminium ones which project like those on an Aston when you poke one end. Open the door and slide in and the interior is incredibly simple and uncluttered. The steering wheel features two buttons which adjust everything from the traditional (volume, radio frequency) to the more unique (door mirror adjustment and steering wheel positioning). It’s a smart approach and highlights the thought that’s gone into the simplification of the cockpit, but not at the expense of functionality.
The fit and finish of this Model 3, which was among a few dozen handed over to employees at a ceremony Friday led by CEO Elon Musk, was tight. Panel gaps were perfect. Doors open and closed with a solid thunk. Now, Musk just needs to, as promised, make 499,999 more a year to the same standards.
All in all, we haven’t really seen much of any negativity surrounding the Model 3. Now the big question becomes whether or not Tesla can actually ramp up production in order to meet demand.