We already know several things about the Tesla Model 3. For example, it will start at an MSRP of $35,000 and feature an electric range greater than 200 miles. While these stats appeal to consumers who want a Tesla, they don’t help us understand the compromises the sedan will reflect when compared to the Model S. From comments made by company executives, we can piece together an outline of the company’s mass-market offering.
We’ll start with the size of the Model 3. According to Tesla Chief Technology Officer J.B. Straubel, a less expensive car will not mean a small car. Straubel, speaking at an energy industry event in late February, told the crowd to expect a vehicle along the lines of an Audi A4, the Houston Chronicle reported. That would make it only slightly smaller than Model S, which has a wheelbase of 116.5 inches and length of 196 inches.
A4, though classified by the EPA as a compact car, is hard to call small with a wheelbase of 111 inches and 186.1 inches total length. By comparison, the midsize Toyota Camry features a shorter wheelbase (109.3 inches) and longer total length (190.9 inches). All things considered, the Model 3 projects as a comfortable car for four people, though certainly not as spacious as a Model S.
In terms of battery pack size, Straubel alluded to the declining costs of the materials needed to keep an electric vehicle running for longer distances. The Chevy Bolt EV’s preliminary specs, which include a 60 kWh battery and 200 horsepower, offer clues as to what Model 3 consumers can expect.
Since the original Model S ran on a 60 kWh battery pack in its base model, we don’t have to reach back far to see what type of performance is possible in this energy bracket. Prior to its phase-out, the 60 kWh Tesla had an EPA-rated range of 208 miles and worked with a maximum 302 horsepower. It could sprint to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds (per Tesla). Chevy says the Bolt EV will get there in seven seconds or less and top 200 miles in range.
On the topic of Model 3 features, Straubel said the future Tesla “will surprise people,” the Houston Chronicle reported, so there is reason to expect the automaker’s signature tech entering the low-price segment. Expecting leather seats, of course, would be a stretch, though that is a given in any model outside of the luxury bracket.
Tesla’s appealing style will not be lost on the Model 3, either. According to A Tesla Motors Club post, a company insider suggested the affordable model’s looks would have much in common with Model S, saying the virtually halved price was mostly a result of dropping battery costs.
From what we have to work with, the Tesla Model 3 will be slightly smaller, less plush, and less powerful than the flagship Model S. Nonetheless, with the advances in battery tech and automaker’s ability to increase the scale of production, there are not many compromises on the table. In other words, it sounds like a smash hit in the making.