The final piece to Tesla’s master plan

Elon Musk just unveiled arguably the most important model to ever wear a Tesla badge. It’s called the Model 3, and it bears the responsibility of being the California-based electric car manufacturer’s first low-dollar, high-volume seller in its 13-year history. That means it should contribute mightily to the company’s stated goal of bringing all-electric transportation to the masses.

Let’s start with the aesthetics. The Model 3 looks like a scaled-down Model S, with sleek, simple lines, and a gracefully curved roof. Several different wheel designs were on display for the unveiling, but sizing was equally large, filling the flared fenders with ease. LEDs appear in the front fascia, where a grille-free nose is in place for maximum aero efficiency.

Exact details on what will power the Model 3 are still under wraps, but Musk confirmed at least 215 miles of range and a 0-to-60 mph time under the six-second mark. He also reiterated that more range and faster acceleration would be offered on higher trim levels. The option for supercharging will come as standard, as will autopilot mode. Tesla expects 5-star safety ratings in every crash test category.

Inside will be enough space for five adult passengers to sit “comfortably.” To help make room within the downsized exterior dimensions, the instrument panel was compressed and the front seats were moved forward. In back, there’s a solid piece of glass sloping up to the roof, offering a roomier feel. Like the S, there will be two trunks, one in front and one in back, and Musk also confirmed that a seven-foot surfboard would fit inside the cabin.

Pricing will start at $35,000. Musk says he’s “fairly confident” deliveries will commence sometime next year, which is good news for anyone who plunked down $1,000 to place one of the 115,000 pre-orders already on the books.

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