Today, Tesla’s least-expensive model is also its most popular. So popular, in fact, thatfor the car on the day reservations opened. That popularity was likely spurred by the Model 3’s promised $35,000 base price, but it took nearly three years after the car’s unveiling for the . In fact, after putting the cloth-seat-trim $35,000 model on their configurator for a while, , although you can apparently still order it over the phone or in person at a showroom. The net-net? Nearly all Model 3 sales have transacted at much higher prices.
Assuming you don’t want to try and go through that special-order rigamarole to save $4,900, today’s de facto entry-level Model 3 is the Standard Range Plus. It offers rear-wheel drive, a battery with a 240-mile range (per EPA estimates), a 0-60 mph time of 5.3 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph.
The next rung up the ladder, the Model 3 Long Range, adds $10,000 to the MSRP but includes 310 miles of range, a quicker, 4.4-second 0-60 mph dash and a top speed that’s 5 mph faster. More importantly, perhaps, it also includes dual-motor, all-wheel drive hardware and the nicer Premium Interior that includes a 14-speaker audio system and Premium Connectivity. The latter includes satellite mapping with live traffic, streaming audio and an internet browser. This trim also includes a nicer center console with additional charging, plus LED fog lamps.
Still itching for more? Then you’ll want the Model 3 Performance trim with its 3.2-second 0-60 time and 162-mph top speed for $59,900. However, when fully loaded, the Performance trim comes within earshot of $70,000, putting such Model 3 sedans in a very different class of vehicle altogether.
In my reviews, I typically recommend that people try to add as many options as possible, but my approach with the Model 3 is a little more conservative. I think 240 miles of range is good enough for most people, so I’d start with the Standard Range Plus car unless all-wheel drive is required.
Autopilot is now standard on all Model 3 trims. In addition to the expected blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, forward- and side-collision warning, Autopilot adds adaptive cruise control with lane-centering.
It’s important to note that a lot of people confuse Autopilot with autonomous driving technology. They’re not the same — there still are no self-driving cars on the market today. Autopilot is a hands-on, albeit a very good one when operated correctly.
Next, if you can swing it, I’d consider spending another $6,000 for Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving Capability,” which includes Navigate on Autopilot. Your $6,000 also gets you automated parallel parking and Tesla’s Summon feature. Again, according to Tesla, with Summon, “Your parked car will come find you anywhere in a parking lot. Really.” The website also says that later in 2019, the system will “recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs,” while also allowing “automatic driving on city streets.”
A note about that last bit: CEO Elon Musk has promised that this pricy Full Self-Driving option will shortly enable full, hands-off autonomous driving via over-the-air update. However, most industry experts and critics take serious exception to this assertion. That’s largely because the system doesn’t make use of technology likeand extensive , two features nearly all experts consider to be cornerstones of future self-driving tech. If you value some of FSD’s other features, including Navigate on Autopilot and auto parking, then it’s probably worth spending the extra $6,000. If you’re seeking true full autonomous driving capability, the jury remains very much out on the viability of this system, so you might want to save your money.
Moving inside, the $1,000 black-and-white interior is nice, but the all-black cabin looks just fine, while still offering the same features of the multi-color cockpit. It’s also worth noting that the Long Range Model 3 is the most affordable trim to offer the Premium Interior with the 14-speaker.
Next, I would spring for the 19-inch sport wheels. They’re $1,500 dearer than the 18-inch Aero wheels, but they go far in making the Model 3 pop. Finally, I’d order mine in black, because all four of the Model 3’s other available colors cost a whopping $1,000 to $2,000 extra.
As configured, that keeps me a few thousand under my $50,000 buyer’s remorse threshold. Furthermore, considering the Model 3’s features and performance at that sub-$50,000 price, it gives the coveted German compact luxury sedans like the, and a run for their money.
Naturally, if you live in an area that sees real winters, you’ll likely want to pony up for one of the all-wheel drive trims that start at $49,900.
Buy the Tesla Model 3 if:
You want a game-changing, compact luxury sport sedan that’s all the rage and is also really fun to drive.
Don’t buy the Tesla Model 3 if:
You don’t have easy access to Level 2 charging and you live away from convenient Superchargers.