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Model 3 Unveiled: Here's What Tesla Motors, Inc.'s Lower-Cost Car Looks Like

By Daniel Sparks – Apr 1, 2016 at 1:15PM

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And here's all there is to know about the important vehicle.

Elon Musk unveils Model 3. Image source: Tesla Motors.

Since 2006, when Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk shared his "secret master plan," investors have been waiting for the company's "more affordable" car, or its Model 3.

The Plan:

1. Build sports car

2. Use that money to build an affordable car

3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car

In 2008, Tesla's sporty Roadster came first. Then Tesla's Model S launched in 2012, and it was later accompanied by a similarly priced Model X SUV in 2015. But now it's time for the culmination of what the company has been working toward. It's time for Tesla to unveil its lowest-cost car to-date: Model 3.

Ahead of Thursday's unveiling, all investors and customers knew about Model 3 was that it would have a starting price of $35,000, a driving range on a single charge of 200 miles or more, and be slightly smaller than the $70,000-and-up Model S. The big missing piece of the puzzle, of course, was the electric-car's design.

But the wait is over. Here is Tesla's Model 3:

Model 3. Image source: Tesla Motors.

Model 3. Image source: Tesla Motors.

The specs
Here's what the company shared about the vehicle after unveiling the prototype for the first time on Thursday night.

Design: Slightly smaller than the Model S, the car still manages to comfortably fit five adults. A large, glass windshield in the back gives passengers more headroom than the Model S. Importantly, the company managed to maintain both the front and rear trunk while achieving this spaciousness.

Infotainment: The infotainment system was built into a 15-inch touch screen. Interestingly, the touch screen also serves as the purpose of the vehicle's dashboard. The dashboard normally visible behind the wheel wasn't there.

Price: Living up to the company's promise, Model 3 pricing starts at $35,000.

Range: Also living up to the Tesla's promised range of 200-plus miles, the base model version of Model 3 has a range of at least 215 miles.

Charging: Access to Tesla's free Supercharger network for long-distance travel comes standard with every Model 3.

Performance: The base model will have a zero-to-sixty time of "less than six seconds," the company said. For comparison, Tesla's base version of its Model S, which has a starting price of $70,000, has a zero-to-sixty time of 5.5 seconds. Further, an all-wheel drive option will be available, but does not appear to come standard.

Autopilot: Tesla's autopilot hardware will come standard, with safety-related autopilot features included. This is also the case with Tesla's Model S and Model X. The company includes autopilot safety features standard and charges $2,500 for owners to enable autopilot convenience features, such as automatic steering, and summoning.

Availability: The company plans to begin deliveries by the beginning of next year.

What wasn't said
Tesla left many key questions unanswered during the presentation, including what the Model 3's autopilot hardware will be capable of, what the maximum range of Model 3 will be, or what upgrades will be available (and the pricing for these upgrades).

Model 3. Image source: Tesla Motors.

Of course, it wasn't a surprise that the company didn't share everything about Model 3. Musk recently said tonight's event would just be "part 1."

"Part 2 is super next level, but that's for later...," Musk said on Twitter shortly after the event was over on Thursday night.

The real deal
For a $35,000 price point, the value in Model 3 is impressive. Getting a ride in the Model 3 myself after the event, I was surprised by the vehicle's performance, handling, and space.

Demand for the vehicle is off to a solid start. Tesla said on Thursday night it had raked in 115,000 deposit-backed reservations since it began accepting them that same morning. And, keep in mind, these reservations were made by customers who hadn't yet seen the vehicle.

Reservations reached 180,000 24 hours after Tesla began accepting them, Musk said on Friday morning on Twitter.

Now investors will have to wait to see whether Tesla can truly begin deliveries by late 2017.

Daniel Sparks owns shares of Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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