Lowest-priced, largest-volume Tesla yet has wooed and wowed the buying public in the US. Should UK buyers join the queue for a Model 3?
Elon Musk wants to start a candy company. Yes, the CEO of Tesla (and SpaceX, once of PayPal) is, apparently, deadly serious about this, he tweeted the other day. Thus it means it has “never been harder to be a parody account”, according to a perpetually amusing Musk parody account that presents ideas as if they were from a bored Elon.This stuff makes it hard, sometimes, to separate the noise around Tesla from the substance of Tesla. There’s more hubbub, more hype, more anti-hype, more short-selling of stocks, both more hoo-ha and doubt, more nonsense surrounding the company than there is any other vehicle maker. More scrutiny than there is around even Volkswagen. Despite, y’know, the obvious.To the chase, then: this is the Tesla Model 3, the third current and fourth ever Tesla production car. Originally, there was the Roadster, developed with help from Lotus, and currently, there is the Model S luxury hatch and Model X SUV, both seven-seaters.This Model 3 (Tesla would have liked it to have been called the Model E, but Ford nabbed the trademark) will be supplemented by a Model Y crossover later still – Tesla says two years, I suspect more – so the range will include ‘S3XY’ models. You can see what they did there. The automotive industry doesn’t do enough humour, to be fair.Oh, and Tesla plans to add another Roadster later, and an articulated truck. Plus, Musk-wise, there are the sweets, those SpaceX reusable space rockets that land on barges, solar roof panels, tunnels, hyperloops and flamethrowers, among myriad ventures.How would you feel about all of that if you’d ordered a Model 3, production volumes of which are still somewhat mired in the “production hell” Tesla talked about last year? Frustrated? Maybe. Well, they know it.So, here it is, anyway. The Model 3 is, as every Tesla is, a fast electric car with a convincing range. It’s Tesla’s first affordable, high-volume car, although both ‘affordable’ and ‘volume’ still need work: it costs $35,000 in the US, with a UK price still to be confirmed. And although Tesla’s already building more of these than anything else, it’s still not enough.At the moment, the factory in Fremont, California, US, is turning out around 2200 cars a week, which sounds like a lot but falls short of the 5000 cars a week Tesla wanted to be making by now; and the 10,000 a week it would like to build eventually. Right-hand-drive UK variants won’t arrive until next year, at the earliest, after left-hand-drive exports start, so we took it upon ourselves to fly and taxi to Fremont to try one.At the moment, not only are all Model 3s left-hand-drive, but they’re also of the highest mechanical and trim specification – although neither of these is unusual when you want to capitalise on early orders, of which there are around half a million.If you’re looking for a rival, consider the BMW 3 Series or 5 Series, depending on your outlook. The Model 3 is a five-seat saloon and 4.7m long, which puts it a toe width longer than a 3 Series, although it’s more spacious inside, hence the 5 Series comparison. There are fewer mechanical shenanigans to package, which is why there’s good interior space and a boot at both the back and the front. …read more