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Tesla Model 3 is the one you've been waiting for

"Alannah Loewe" (2020-01-02)

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2018 Tesla Model 3 Long Range
Here's the electric car you've been waiting for. Or, rather, here's the one the somewhere north of 500,000 of you who put down $1,000 to preorder one, anyway. We're finally getting a chance to try out the 2018 Tesla Model 3, the long-awaited solution to Tesla's biggest problem: It sells cars that most people can't afford. The Model 3 is thus poised to shift Tesla down from hallowed, aspirational startup to legitimate, skeptic-free corporate success.

That's a lot to demand from a single, $35,000 car. While my first impressions behind the wheel of the Model 3 made it clear the car was going to be good, there's one problem already: The car you're looking at actually costs $56,500. That mean it's no longer a competitor of the $37,495 Chevrolet Bolt EV and instead has been elevated up into the range of a nicely equipped BMW 3 Series -- or even a base 530e. How? Let's start there.

Options and pricing
Typically at Roadshow we don't talk about configuration until the end of a review. But since price is such a huge part of the Model 3's allure, I'm going to get it out of the way right up front.

The Tesla Model 3 theoretically starts at $35,000. For that you'll get a car with a healthy 220 miles of range and a 0-60 time of around 5.6 seconds. That performance is on par with a $40,000 BMW 330i, and a few tenths quicker than the $45,600 BMW 330e hybrid. (And if you're unsure whether you're ready to go full-electric, check out our full guide on everything from hybrids to EVs.)

However, for now at least, you can only get the Model 3 Long Range, with its 310 miles of range, and that starts at $44,000. There's a good chance you'll want to add another $5,000 for the Premium Package, which adds modern necessities such as heated seats. Tesla's much-hyped Autopilot driver assistance package is a further $5,000, and if you want to add the future "full self-driving capacity," that'll be $3,000 more.

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Add another $1,500 for banh rang the wheels and, finally, $1,000 to get the red multi-coat paint. On the car we tested, it adds up to a final sticker price of $56,500, plus a further $1,000 destination charge. Yes, you could get away for as little as $44,000 right now, but then you'd be rolling on a car with no heated seats, and when you're talking this much money... that just feels wrong.

If I were buying, I'd skip the paint and find my own wheels to save $2,500. I'd also take the gamble and leave off the future self-driving option, giving me a price of $54,000. Just for comparison's sake, a BMW 530e hybrid starts at $52,650.