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Model 3 buying guide

Looking to leave Mercedes, BMW or Audi behind and buy a Tesla? Here’s how to find out which model is right for you, comparing Model 3 vs Model S and Model X

Tesla Model S, Model 3 and Model X
Tesla’s range of EVs now consists of the Model S, 3 and X.Tesla

Since Tesla began operations in 2003, the electric car company — named after 19th- and 20th-century inventor Nikola Tesla — has been a gamechanger for the automotive industry. In just 16 years, Tesla has become one of the most important automakers in the business.

Never mind just electric vehicle sales, the Tesla Model 3 is now the best-selling luxury vehicle in the US overall, with more than 140,000 sold in 2018. The Model 3 helped the startup car company achieve 197,517 total sales last year, according to industry sales tracker GoodCarBadCar, allowing the all-EV luxury automaker to rank 20th among the top 35 auto marques sold in America. That ranking means Tesla’s 2018 sales bested brands such as Chrysler, Acura, Cadillac and Infiniti.

Sign at Tesla dealership
Tesla doesn’t use a traditional franchise dealer model, instead, it has corporate-owned showrooms.Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty

As Tesla’s popularity grows, it still has some hurdles to overcome, including build quality and reliability issues. For some customers, those issues have been exacerbated by Tesla’s lack of a traditional service network. There’s also ongoing concerns around the company’s financial condition.

Tesla's CEO Elon Musk speaks at press conference
Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, has been a major force in the brand’s rise to prominence.South China Morning Post/Getty

Tesla through the years

Originally founded in 2003 by a pair of engineers, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, Tesla gained Elon Musk as principal investor and chairman in 2004.

In 2008, Musk became Tesla’s CEO. That was the same year the company introduced its first automobile: the Tesla Roadster. Although priced at more than $100,000, the all-electric Lotus Elise-based Roadster was remarkably advanced for its time, with a 245-mile range and a sub-4-second 0-60 time on the way to a top speed of 125 mph.

The Roadster would eventually pave the way for the Model S five-door in 2012, followed up with the Model S-based Model X crossover SUV in 2015 and the Model 3 compact luxury sedan in 2017.

Tesla Model 3

Today, Tesla’s least-expensive model is also its most popular. So popular, in fact, that Tesla received nearly 200,000 deposits for the car on the day reservations opened. That popularity was likely spurred by the Model 3’s promised $35,000 base price, but it took nearly three years after the car’s unveiling for the Standard Range model to be made available. In fact, after putting the cloth-seat-trim $35,000 model on their configurator for a while, Tesla subsequently removed it, although you can apparently still order it over the phone or in person at a showroom. The net-net? Nearly all Model 3 sales have transacted at much higher prices.

Assuming you don’t want to try and go through that special-order rigamarole to save $4,900, today’s de facto entry-level Model 3 is the Standard Range Plus. It offers rear-wheel drive, a battery with a 240-mile range (per EPA estimates), a 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph.

Tesla Model 3 interior
The Model 3 has a sleek cabin that defines the word “Minimalism.” It’s not without its advantages, or drawbacks.Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The next rung up the ladder, the Model 3 Long Range, adds $10,000 to the MSRP but includes 310 miles of range, a quicker, 4.4-second 0-60 mph dash and a top speed that’s 5 mph faster. More importantly, perhaps, it also includes dual-motor, all-wheel drive hardware and the nicer Premium Interior that includes a 14-speaker audio system and Premium Connectivity. The latter includes satellite mapping with live traffic, streaming audio and an internet browser. This trim also includes a nicer center console with additional charging, plus LED fog lamps.

Still itching for more? Then you’ll want the Model 3 Performance trim with its 3.2-second 0-60 time and 162-mph top speed for $59,900. However, when fully loaded, the Performance trim comes within earshot of $70,000, putting such Model 3 sedansin a very different class of vehicle altogether.

ModelDrivelineRange (miles)0-60 accel. (sec)Top speed (mph)Base price
Model 3 Standard Range PlusSingle motor, rear-wheel drive2405.3140$39,900
Model 3 Long RangeDual motor, all-wheel drive3104.4145$49,900
Model 3 PerformanceDual motor, all-wheel drive3103.2162$59,000

Recommended configuration

In my reviews, I typically recommend that people try to add as many options as possible, but my approach with the Model 3 is a little more conservative. I think 240 miles of range is good enough for most people, so I’d start with the Standard Range Plus car unless all-wheel drive is required.

Autopilot is now standard on all Model 3 trims. In addition to the expected blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, forward- and side-collision warning, Autopilot adds adaptive cruise control with lane-centering.

It’s important to note that a lot of people confuse Autopilot with autonomous driving technology. They’re not the same — there still are no self-driving cars on the market today. Autopilot is a hands-on SAE Level 2 system, albeit a very good one when operated correctly.

Tesla self-driving sensor map - artist's rendering
Tesla’s optional so-called Full Self-Driving hardware is not without its critics.Tesla

Next, if you can swing it, I’d consider spending another $6,000 for Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving Capability,” which includes Navigate on Autopilot. Your $6,000 also gets you automated parallel parking and Tesla’s Summon feature. Again, according to Tesla, with Summon, “Your parked car will come find you anywhere in a parking lot. Really.” The website also says that later in 2019, the system will “recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs,” while also allowing “automatic driving on city streets.”

A note about that last bit: CEO Elon Musk has promised that this pricy Full Self-Driving option will shortly enable full, hands-off autonomous driving via over-the-air update. However, most industry experts and critics take serious exception to this assertion. That’s largely because the system doesn’t make use of technology like lidar and extensive 3D mapping, two features nearly all experts consider to be cornerstones of future self-driving tech. If you value some of FSD’s other features, including Navigate on Autopilot and auto parking, then it’s probably worth spending the extra $6,000. If you’re seeking true full autonomous driving capability, the jury remains very much out on the viability of this system, so you might want to save your money.

Tesla Model 3 front trunk, a.k.a. frunk
Yep, the Model 3 has two trunks!Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Moving inside, the $1,000 black-and-white interior is nice, but the all-black cabin looks just fine, while still offering the same features of the multi-color cockpit. It’s also worth noting that the Long Range Model 3 is the most affordable trim to offer the Premium Interior with the 14-speaker upscale audio system.

Next, I would spring for the 19-inch sport wheels. They’re $1,500 dearer than the 18-inch Aero wheels, but they go far in making the Model 3 pop. Finally, I’d order mine in black, because all four of the Model 3’s other available colors cost a whopping $1,000 to $2,000 extra.

As configured, that keeps me a few thousand under my $50,000 buyer’s remorse threshold. Furthermore, considering the Model 3’s features and performance at that sub-$50,000 price, it gives the coveted German compact luxury sedans like the 2017 Audi A4BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class a run for their money.

Naturally, if you live in an area that sees real winters, you’ll likely want to pony up for one of the all-wheel drive trims that start at $49,900.

Buy the Tesla Model 3 if:
You want a game-changing, compact luxury sport sedan that’s all the rage and is also really fun to drive.


Please note the above statements are US based data, especially on pricing. The models offered in Sri Lanka are Right Hand Drive

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