The Model 3 represents Tesla's foray into the realm of relative affordability. So far, it's been a successful experiment – the Model 3 led the compact luxury market for 2018, outselling such stalwarts as the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. A newly expanded range of models means the 2019 Tesla Model 3 intends to continue pressuring the traditional segment leaders.
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2019 Tesla Model 3 Overview
What's New for 2019
As Tesla eschews model years for periodic updates, nothing has been introduced specifically for cars built in 2019. The marque does, however, perform routine running changes, software updates, and hardware enhancements. With Tesla, it's more a matter of continuous evolution than year-to-year refreshes.
All that said, the biggest recent news with the Model 3 lineup is the arrival of the much-ballyhooed $35,000 entry-level variant. Though it has less features and range than its upmarket siblings, the introduction of the base Model 3 means there's finally a Tesla with a price that lies squarely in the heart of the overall car market.
Prices have been also been lowered by about $2,000 for all variants as the $7,500 federal tax credit gets slashed in half for the new year. This is due to the brand now having sold more than 200,000 electric cars; once an automaker reaches that threshold, the tax credit begins to get phased out. By 2020, Tesla buyers will no longer be rewarded with any amount of federal tax credit.
Choosing Your Tesla Model 3
Few cars are as straightforward as the Model 3 when it comes time to build your own. Options are almost nonexistent, and the dizzying array of equipment differences between trims has been largely kept at bay. The various trims of the Model 3 are instead primarily determined by range and performance.
The two options that are available regard technology and can be had across all trims. The $3,000 Autopilot option bundles lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and pedestrian detection – enough to let the car shuffle itself down the highway with nary an input from the driver.
For another $5,000 on top of that (for a total of $8,000), you can opt for "full self-driving capability" that imbues the Model 3 with ambitious autonomous abilities. These include an autopark feature that lets the car park itself in any space and a summon feature that brings it to you in a parking lot. It also gives the Model 3 the self-sufficiency to handle all aspects of highway driving, including lane changes and passing as well navigating on- and off-ramps.
Charging time is largely the same across all models. Plug a Standard Range or Mid Range model into one of Tesla's supercharger stations, and a depleted battery will gain back 150 miles of range in 30 minutes; that same amount of time gives a Long Range car 170 miles to play with. At home on a 240-volt outlet (Level 2), 37 miles of range is regained for every hour plugged in, regardless of model or battery size.
Every Model 3 comes with a 120-volt adapter (Level 1), 240-volt adapter, a public charging adapter, and a 20-foot cable connector with a carrying bag. A charging station can be installed in your garage by Tesla; check the right box on their website and they'll come out to give you an installation estimate.
While the Performance model is enticing, the better buy in the 2019 Tesla Model 3 lineup is the dual-motor Long Range variant. The 310 miles of total range should quell any range anxiety, and the extra motor and all-wheel drive improve performance in both dry and inclement weather.
2019 Tesla Model 3 Review
An affordable Tesla finally hits the market. It took nearly three years, but we now have a $35,000 2019 Tesla Model 3 for consideration ... well, $36,200 including destination. This bare-bones, Standard Range model may not have the amenities of the pricier versions, but it does bring with it a more affordable price point. Besides, there's a $3,750 federal tax credit for the taking, and additional incentives await in some states.
Although it's simple on amenities, the base Model 3 delivers an EPA-estimated 220-mile driving range. It also moves from zero to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds, keeping you ahead of most models in this segment.
Sport sedan with performance numbers to back it up. The base model may have laudable performance numbers, but the top-end versions equipped with dual motor all-wheel drive and the Performance variant raise the prowess bar considerably.
Tesla’s traction control and stability control systems work so well that this sedan stays planted, avoiding the wheel spin and tire noise that typically accompany any other vehicle with its blistering off-the-mark acceleration. This sedan quietly rockets from zero to 60 mph in as fast as 3.2 seconds with 450 horsepower and 471 pound-feet of torque at the ready.
Tesla backs up the performance numbers with a great driving position, fast, well-weighted steering, a smart drive system, and a firm yet comfortable suspension system. It takes on such German stalwarts as the Audi A4 and BMW 3-Series, beating both at what they do best: performance driving.
Polarizing design. Place the Model 3 and Model S side by side and the differences between the two are apparent. Quite frankly, the Model 3 doesn’t have the panache of its older, larger sibling, although its lines are somewhat similar. The front end is less polished and seems almost unfinished, but make no mistake about it: this is a Tesla.
Inside, the minimalist cabin is clean, but it also seems cheap and perhaps too basic for the price. You won’t find conventional switchgear and buttons, but an oversized, horizontally-oriented touchscreen. Overall, the look is about as spartan as they come and the materials used are also basic. Then there's the matter of fit and finish – Mercedes-Benz and Lexus have nothing to fear here.
Supercharger network to back you up. Perhaps one of the most significant facts about the Tesla Model 3 is that owners have access to the company’s supercharger network. This network essentially eliminates worry about charging, as stations are strategically placed along major routes and at reasonable intervals. Unlike other electric vehicles that rely exclusively on private and public charge stations, the Tesla network ensures owners a place to get a quick boost and continue on with their drive.
As of this writing, there are nearly 1,500 charge stations in the supercharger network. Initially offered for free, Tesla now passes the cost of charging to customers. The company encourages home charging, with the supercharger network serving as an important backup.
Final thoughts. Tesla now has one of the most affordable EV models on the market, aiming for mainstream shoppers. The cost is still more than what you’d pay for a gas-powered Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima, but it comes in less than the Mercedes-Benz GLA or Jaguar XE.
While the base 2019 Tesla Model 3 does bring in a favorable price point, we think most shoppers will be attracted to top models with longer range and more power. Expect your final cost to top $40,000, with tax credits and other incentives for the taking.