New 2018 Tesla Model 3 Sedan New 2018
Tesla Model 3 Sedan

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KBB Editor's Overview

By KBB.com Editorial Staff

Elon Musk has overpromised and underdelivered with the 2018 Tesla Model 3, the highly anticipated electric sedan that should be rolling out of the Fremont, California, assembly plant at the rate of 5,000 cars per week but isn’t. Production woes aside, the base Model 3, which starts at $36,000 ($35,000 plus a $1,000 delivery charge) and has a range of 220 miles, is enticing -- even if a similarly priced (albeit more compact) 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV has a better range of 238 miles. Oh, and one other problem: The only Tesla Model 3 currently being built is the long-range version (310 miles), with a starting price of about $50,000. Not exactly an EV for the masses as intended.

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You'll Like This Car If...

If you’re smitten by technology and touch screens, if you prefer software updates to tune-ups, and if you like the idea of using electricity instead of fossil fuel, you’ll dig this Tesla.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you’re thinking you can charge the Model 3 for free using Tesla’s Supercharger network (as you can with the Model S and Model X), think again. You’ll pay each time with the Model 3.

What's New for 2018

Tesla makes changes to vehicles (sometimes via software updates) whenever needed, not by model year, so it’s tough to say precisely what’s new for the Model 3 in 2018. This much we do know: Only long-range Model 3s (310 miles) with rear-wheel drive are being built right now, followed soon by a long-range dual-motor Model 3 with all-wheel drive. The standard Model 3 -- the one with 220 miles of range and that oft-quoted started starting price of $36,000 -- won’t be available until the end of 2018. Or maybe early 2019. Order online now and be prepared to wait.

Driving It

Driving Impressions

With its large battery pack in the low and flat floor, plus a mostly steel chassis, the Model 3 tips the scales at a not-so-svelte 3,900 lb. But with most of that mass being low and between the axles, the Model 3 behaves like a proper sports sedan on a twisty road, aided by minimal body roll and a slightly rear-heavy 48/52 weight distribution. This Tesla is similar in size to a BMW 3 Series, and its single-speed electric motor (with an estimated 220 horsepower) is mounted in back between the driven rear wheels. From the driver’s perspective, the oddest trait of the 2018 Tesla Model 3 is the lack of a conventional instrument panel in front of the steering wheel. Instead, the Model 3 has a 15-inch multifunction touch tablet mounted horizontally atop the center stack and controlling/sharing everything from air conditioning and charging information to the audio and navigation systems. It takes some getting used to this layout, but the speedometer display is easy to read in the top left corner of the screen. Almost no buttons or switches are in sight, apart from window lifts and turn signals. The Model 3’s powertrain is so quiet that road noise from the tires is more pronounced than in other cars. Unlike in, say, the Nissan Leaf, the Model 3’s regenerative brakes aren’t tuned to bring the vehicle to a complete stop when you lift your foot off the accelerator pedal. Nevertheless, the 2018 Tesla Model 3 is pleasant to drive, firm but comfortably suspended and possessing a low cowl that provides a great forward view. What’s more, the panoramic glass roof (part of the optional Premium package) gives the 5-seat Model 3 cabin an airy feel.

Favorite Features

OVER-THE-AIR UPDATABILITY
When Tesla recently sought to improve the braking performance of Model 3s already in customer hands, it did so via an over-the-air update to the anti-lock tuning of the brakes. Stopping distances from 60 mph were reduced by nearly 20 feet. Impressive.

TWIN THUMB SCROLLS
Not a huge deal, but novel: Dual scroll wheels on the spokes of the Model 3’s thick-rimmed steering wheel allow the driver to power-adjust the tilt and telescoping functions while keeping hands on the wheel, right where they should be.

Vehicle Details

Interior

The design of the 2018 Tesla Model 3 interior is minimalist and handsome, almost Scandinavian. We like the symmetry of the dash, and the absence of switches and knobs is almost eerie, making it seem as if something’s missing. The front seats are supportive and offer plenty of headroom, but the 60/40 split rear bench suffers from a lower cushion that lacks support and forces your knees up into your chest.

Exterior

With the absence of a radiator and a traditional front grille, the Model 3 lets you know right away it’s an EV, and a handsome one at that. This compact new EV sedan stands out from the crowd, highlighted by its low cowl, sweeping aerodynamic roofline, and flush door handles.

Notable Standard Equipment

Besides standard automatic emergency braking and eight airbags, the 2018 Tesla Model 3 has Wi-Fi and LTE Internet connectivity, voice-activated controls, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control, and a center console with two USB ports. Streaming FM/internet radio is also standard, as is a front trunk just big enough to accept a large piece of carry-on airline baggage.

Notable Optional Equipment

A $5,000 Premium Upgrades package includes heated 12-way power-adjustable front seats, tinted-glass roof, two rear USB ports, and premium interior materials with handsome open-pore wood trim. The package also includes a more powerful audio system with tweeters, surround speakers and a subwoofer, plus a special center console offering covered storage and docking for two smartphones. In regard to autonomous driving, the 2018 Tesla Model 3 is available right now with a $5,000 Enhanced Autopilot package. Promised for later is a Full Self-Driving Capability package that doubles the number of active cameras to eight, but still needs software validation and regulatory approval.

Under the Hood

If you open the Model’s 3’s hood, all you’ll see is that handy front trunk. The electric motor, with an estimated 220 horsepower, is nestled between the rear wheels. The long-range Tesla Model 3 being delivered now has a 75-kWh lithium-ion battery; the standard Model 3 coming later is fitted with a 50-kWh pack.

AC induction electric motor with 50-kWh battery pack
N/A horsepower
N/A torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: N/A MPGe

AC induction electric motor with 75-kWh battery pack
Estimated 220 horsepower
Estimated 300 lb-ft of torque
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 136 MPGe/123 MPGe

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Pricing Notes

To reserve a 2018 Tesla Model 3, you -- like the 400,000 capital raisers before you -- need to visit Tesla’s website and plunk down a $1,000 deposit. Problem is, the base Model 3 with the promised Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $36,000 is not being built right now. The Model 3 being sold right now is the rear-drive long-range model, which has the $9,000 long-range battery pack and $5,000 Premium interior upgrades that drive the price to $50,000. When you add the $5,000 Enhanced Autopilot package and $3,000 Full-Self-Driving Capability, you’re looking at nearly $60,000 before any tax credits. At this point, it’s too early to determine a KBB Fair Purchase Price or resale values.

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