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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

That battery pack is capable of running up to 220 miles between charges and can be recharged at the rate of 130 miles of range per half-hour at one of Tesla's Supercharger stations -- or at the rate of about 30 miles per hour from a 240-volt system.

The upgraded battery pack -- which adds $9,000 to the base price -- can move the 3 from zero to 60 in 5.1 seconds, and up to 140 mph. Its range is 310 miles between charges, with a Supercharger recharge rate of 170 miles of range per half-hour, or 37 miles per hour from a 240-volt system.

(Tesla refuses to divulge the actual size of the batteries, which to my knowledge is an industry first, preferring to speak only about the user's likely range. Published estimates put the long-range battery at about 75 kilowatt-hours, which is the size of the current entry-level Model S.)

The 3s are warrantied for four years or 50,000 miles. The standard battery comes with an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty; the upgraded system is guaranteed for eight years and 120,000 miles.

Compared with the S and X, the 3's acceleration rates are slow. Compared with most other $35,000 sedans, they are impressive. The four-door, five-passenger Model 3, weighing in at a reported 3,549 pounds (3,814 with the long-range battery), jets from corner to corner like a much lighter vehicle.

From a full stop around town or from cruising speed on the freeway, the sedan streaks smoothly and stealthily, gaining ground with virtually no sound or vibration. The car's regenerative braking function allows for a lot of single pedal driving, as taking pressure off the accelerator forces the car to slow almost to a stop.

 

On the outside, the 3's strong belt and hip lines echo the styling of its bigger Model S and Model X siblings. (See our reviews of the Model S P85D and Model X P100D.) The face is friendly but, like Hello Kitty, it has no mouth -- needing no grille to suck in air to cool an internal combustion engine.

The roof line is an elegant arch, French-curving from the windshield to the trunk lid in one clean line. Door handles, as on the S and X, are sunk flush into the body. But unlike the S and X, there is no exterior badging, except for the now-recognizable Tesla T. Only on the rocker panels, when the doors swing open, do the words "Model 3" appear.

The inside may be the vehicle's most dramatic feature. Textile seat covers -- leather on the premium package -- wrap extremely comfortable driver and passenger perches. The use of glass instead of metal and fabric for the roof material allows for excellent head room and a sense of airy openness. Three full-sized adults can fit snugly in the rear seats, which offer adequately good leg room.

The rear seats fold flat too, which creates a really roomy trunk -- in addition to the front trunk "frunk" space under the hood.

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