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Coming Soon(ish) To Australia – The Cheaper Tesla Model 3

For quite a few years now, the really big name in electric cars has been Tesla.  Named after the scientist who did a lot of pioneering work in the field of electricity (and, according to popular legend, tried to invent a death ray just like a mad scientist from a cheesy thriller), Tesla vehicles have been considered the crème de la crème of sustainable motoring, the electrical equivalent of Koenigsegg or Lamborghini.  By and large, they’ve mostly been something for the very wealthy and mostly those overseas as well.

It could be that this is about to change.  Last year, Tesla decided to produce a cheaper variety – cheaper being a relative term, of course; it’s got a US$35,000 price tag at the very basic level.  This Model 3 will begin production this year and will probably be fully released in 2018, joining the Model S and the Model X that a select few are already driving.

As we don’t usually review Tesla models on our car review pages, as it’s still a very exclusive brand name (any more than you find us reviewing Aston Martins, Ferraris or Rolls-Royces), I thought it would be fun to do a wee review of the new Model 3. After all, you never know; it might take off and be readily available so you may as well read all about it here!

The first question that probably pops into anybody’s head when the topic of electric cars crops up is “How am I going to charge the thing?” After all, we all know how quickly our smartphones and tablets lose charge.  Tesla has already thought of this.  Yes, you can probably charge up a Tesla car or any other electric car at your typical charging station, but Telsa also has a chain of “Supercharger” stations that can charge a Tesla car battery to 80% in half an hour.  This translates to 270 km of driving; a typical bog-standard charging station would give you 17 km with half an hour’s charging.  These Supercharger stations are located up Australia’s eastern coast – sorry, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin – from about Ballarat, Victoria, through to the Gold Coast.  Charging to 100% takes 75 minutes, as the rate of charge is designed to slow down for that final 20% for scientific reasons I can’t quite wrap my head around and am not going to attempt to try explaining. Range-wise, the Tesla Model 3 can do 345 km on a fully charged battery.

So what does the “budget” Tesla, the Model 3, have in store for those who decide to put in their pre-orders?  It’s a rather sleek looking small luxury sedan that seats five.  Unlike the typical fossil-fuel powered vehicle, it doesn’t have a big grille at the front, which is a bit disconcerting at first glance for those of us who are used to the decorative grille styling of, say, BMW or Jeep.  It’s certainly picked up a few comments on various online motoring forums.  This lack of a grille, combined with the lack of an exhaust pipe at the back, the glass roof and the aerodynamic profile, makes for a very uncluttered look.  There appears to be two styles of alloy wheel available, at least according to the official photos, and they look very nice indeed.  The official pics also suggest three paint colours: red, black and silver.

One of the other features of the Tesla 3 that may be a little disconcerting on the one hand but sophisticated on the other is the autonomous feature or self-driving technology – the motoring equivalent of autopilot (which is what it’s called on the top-of-the-line Tesla models, which are also autonomous).  This shouldn’t be a surprise.  After all, the head of Tesla Motors is Mr Artificial Intelligence himself, Elon Musk.

In the specs department, details are still sketchy.  I get the feeling that the company is being deliberately enigmatic – as enigmatic as the eggshell-smooth grille.  Details are especially sparse regarding the interior.  However, we have been told that the rear seats fold flat so that, in combination with the extra space, you can sleep in the back if you want to – or pop in a surfboard.  On top of this, all the space up the front that would have been dedicated to an internal combustion engine in a conventional car has been given over to extra luggage space: a front trunk (which another reviewer has called a “frunk”), which is reminiscent of the old classic VW Beetles.  The other hot feature that they have let slip is the acceleration: 0–100 in six seconds, which is slower than the Model S’s 2.7 seconds but is still very, very respectable.  The Model 3 has also designed to have five-star rating as well.

For those who want a bit more, here’s the official release video and speech (with more details about the posher Model S and X).

Oh yes – there is a story going around that the Model 3 was going to be called the Model E but the stylized E with three lines inspired a name change.  Guess they realised what the three models were going to spell if they lined them up with the newcomer in the middle and decided it wasn’t family-friendly enough…

If you’re interested, you can pre-order yours through the official Tesla website .