Tesla Model 3: What we know so far about the production electric car

April 10, 2016

Just over a week ago Tesla Motors opened the reservation books for its Model 3 electric car, which is expected to be delivered in production form by late 2017.

About 115,000 refundable pre-order deposits, at $1,000 each, had already been placed for the Model 3 even before it was shown on the evening of March 31. And about a week later, the number has already exceeded 325,000.

ALSO SEE: Tesla Model 3 revealed; should you get in line for $35k, 215-mile electric car?

Outside of the promised 215-mile driving range, 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds, and included Supercharging charger technology and Autopilot active-safety features, Tesla released very little specific product information about the Model 3 at the event. Although it did show the car—a “design prototype” that demonstrates the design, packaging, and some of the attributes of that production model.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at Tesla Store opening in Westfield Mall, London, Oct 2013

Since then, however, through Twitter, CEO Elon Musk has answered a number of questions that paint a clearer picture of what that production version may include—and what the prototype is teasing.

Click through for a roundup of insights from Twitter.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

It will be Euro-sized. The Model 3 will likely be narrower than the Model S and Model X (those models are 77.3 inches wide and 81.5 inches wide, respectively), which will help it fit onto tight European roads more easily—and size it more closely to its expected BMW 3-Series and Audi A4 targets.

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

It’s ready for rough roads. Musk confirmed that the Model 3’s air suspension will dynamically adjust ride height depending on road condition—an asset for some markets, like India (and Detroit).

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

All-wheel drive will be optional. Both of the prototype vehicles used during preview test drives had all-wheel drive, and Musk confirmed that will be an option, at a price of less than $5,000.

Tesla Model X towing Bowlus Road Chief

Tesla Model X towing Bowlus Road Chief

It can tow. Just as with the Model S and Model X, the Model 3 will be tow-ready, for at least lighter loads; Musk confirmed that a tow hitch will be available.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Don’t fall in love with that face. The front end of the prototype will likely change. Musk reported “some tweaking underway” for the front-end design, which goes without a grille and the customary brightwork. Musk reported a running coefficient of drag of just 0.21—even better than the 0.24 of the Model S, and a number that could contribute to an impressive highway range

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - piloted by VP Doug Field

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - piloted by VP Doug Field

Extraordinary interface. The steering-wheel design of the Model 3 isn’t final; expect something innovative here for the control interface. “Wait until you see the real steering controls and system for the 3,” tweeted Musk. “It feels like a spaceship.” And expect that square center display screen to likely be supplemented by a head-up display.

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

The back seats do fold flat. We’re glad Musk confirmed that, as it could be a deal-breaker for some, and officials could neither demonstrate trunk-opening nor seat-folding at the reveal event. And apparently two child seats will easily fit in the Model S—or three with a slim seat design.

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

Tesla Model 3 design prototype - reveal event - March 2016

It’s vegan-friendly. Musk confirmed that the Model 3 will offer a vegan interior option, and said there’s enough legroom for even those 6’-5” tall (I can confirm that it’s even better, as at 6’-6” I fit quite comfortably in back).

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Above all, don’t forget the Model 3 is still a design prototype—albeit one of the most closely studied ones in years. As emphasized by Tesla officials at the event, this is not its final production form, although you can get an idea of the shape and packaging of the car. Musk noted even before the reveal that “some important elements will be added and some will evolve.”

Musk promises a "Part 2" for the Model 3 reveal, “which takes things to another level” closer to production time. While there will be plenty of speculation between now and then—as well as debate over whether Tesla can bring this ambitious high-volume model to market in time—you can bet there are more surprises on the way.

[Thanks to Mazen Kara for the Twitter-roundup inspiration]

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