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Consumer Reports | Product Review

Everything we know about the new Tesla car

(Tesla Motors via Reuters)

People lined up to order the Tesla Model 3 before the company even unveiled it. But even after the electric car took the stage March 31, many details were unclear.

Consumer Reports combed the company’s press information and Tesla’s social media to create this FAQ.

When will the Model 3 be available? Tesla says Model 3 production should start in late 2017. But Tesla has a habit of announcing ambitious goals, and the public and press get overly excited by them. Starting production usually means small batches of “pilot” production that are used for regulatory purposes and are not for public sale. Ramping up to mass production at an annualized rate of 200,000 vehicles will take several months at least — meaning it should be early 2018 before deliveries occur en masse.

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How much will it cost? Tesla has said the base-spec Model 3 will cost around $35,000 before federal and state tax credits. As Consumer Reports has found with Teslas, though, the price accelerates quickly when you need more functionality or power.

If I order one today, when would it arrive? Within 48 hours of the March 31 unveil, there were at least 276,000 orders and climbing, each order requiring a $1,000 deposit. That means — based on Tesla production forecasts — if you placed an order today, your Model 3 likely won’t be ready until well into 2019.

Will the Model 3 use front-, rear-, or all-wheel-drive? Like the Model S, the Model 3 will offer both rear- and all-wheel drive using either a single- or dual-motor setup.

Does the 0-60 miles per hour time of just under six seconds apply to the dual-motor cars? The 0-60 mile-per-hour times for the base-model, single-motor car are said to be less than six seconds. But the dual-motor cars should be significantly quicker. Consumer Reports’ testers rode shotgun in a dual-motor Model 3 at the launch event, and its 0-60 estimate was under five seconds.

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Will the Model 3 be a hatchback like the Model S? Despite its similarity in shape to the Model S, the Model 3 will be a sedan with a traditional trunk opening.

How far can the Model 3 go on a charge? Tesla says the Model 3 should travel 215 miles on a full electric charge. This is important, as the car does not have a gasoline engine, so you are constrained by the availability of recharging plugs. Most of the affordable EVs have a range around 80 to 120 miles, so a Tesla in this price range could be a real game changer.

Will the Model 3 come standard with all autopilot features? Tesla’s Autopilot consists of hardware and software. All Model 3s will have Autopilot hardware and safety features as standard, with “convenience” software features as an extra-cost option. Consumer Reports interprets this to mean that all Model 3s will have front- and side-collision avoidance, while the software for adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, automated lane changing, and automatic parking will be an extra-cost option that could be activated with over-the-air software updates.

Will Tesla Model 3 buyers be eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit? Maybe not all of them. The federal tax credit has a cap: After a manufacturer sells a cumulative 200,000 eligible pure-electric vehicles, the IRS 30D(a) tax credit for that manufacturer’s vehicles remains at 100 percent of its original value for one quarter, then the credit is halved in value ($3,750) for two quarters, then drops to 25 percent ($1,875) for one quarter. After that, the credit is eliminated.

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