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Review: Tesla Model 3: Elon Musk's mass-market car is a magic carpet ride

Charles Fleming, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

Tesla's Model 3 is the most highly anticipated car of the 21st century. It may be the most eagerly awaited car of all time.

More than 450,000 people put down $1,000 refundable deposits to reserve one of the "affordable" battery electric sedans after Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk unveiled the car and inaugurated the waiting list in March 2016.

Since then, online forums and automotive news websites have breathlessly reported every Musk tweet, production delay or postponed delivery date.

Now the first Model 3s are rolling away from the Fremont factory, and we were able to secure one for a long holiday weekend test drive.

So?

The Model 3, from its inception as Tesla's "mass-market vehicle," promised the transportation trifecta of long range, low cost and high performance. The 3 was to be sporty, silent and quick, and emit zero pollutants, while going at least 200 miles on a charge and costing less than $35,000 before rebates and incentives.

Many people assumed it would include Tesla's technologically sophisticated Autopilot driver assist software (it doesn't -- customers have to purchase an upgrade) and be fully rechargeable in less than an hour through Tesla's now-nationwide "Supercharger" network (it is, but Model 3 owners won't have free access to the network as Model S and X owners do).

Some certainly hoped they would be driving their $35,000 models 3s by now, but they can't because the entry-level cars aren't being built yet: Tesla is producing only the fully loaded 3s at this time. The one we drove costs $57,500.

On its actual promises, the Model 3 delivers -- mostly.

The sleek midsize sedan, in its base model, is powered by a lithium-ion battery, attached to a permanent magnet motor, that will accelerate the rear-wheel-drive car from zero to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds to a top speed of 130 mph.

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