In December 2010, Nissan took impressive strides with its first-ever all-electric vehicle: the Leaf. While the Leaf flaunted stellar reliability and low ownership costs, it lacked certain aspects, particularly in the looks department. Four years later, BMW began delivering the i3; its “affordable” electric hatchback priced just above $40,000. Where the first-generation Leaf had rather bland and unattractive styling elements, the i3 had, and still has a unique design. The design aspects are so unique that it even scares off potential buyers six years later! In 2017, GM began to deliver the Chevy Bolt EV in the early months. On paper, the 2017 Bolt was the holy-grail of EVs. Its price started at under $40,000, and it had a 200hp motor as well as a 238-mile range derived from a 60 kWh liquid-cooled battery pack. However, the 2017 Bolt had a very cheap interior that spoiled the entire experience for some. “The seats felt like cafeteria chairs with all the bolstering of a church pew,” said Mr. Regular, the narrator for Regular Car Reviews. Until May 2019, there was no quintessential vehicle in the affordable EV segment. The reasoning behind this statement is that every affordable EV was lacking in some facet at the time, whether it was range, attention, acceleration, or overall comforts. While the Model 3 was available before 2019, $46,200 was the price of the entry-level model, the Mid Range.
In February 2019, Tesla announced two new variants for the Model 3: the Standard Plus and the long-promised Standard Range. Since prices at Tesla fluctuate almost in exact synchronicity as Elon’s Twitter profile picture changes, the prices listed have changed. The 2019 Standard Plus began at $37,000, and the 2019 Standard was planned for $35,000. Yes, this was “the” $35,000 version promised by Musk during the debut in 2016. The new entry-level Tesla would include manual, cloth seats, manual steering wheel adjustments, grey dash trim, no center console, and other cost-cutting attributes. However, Tesla’s plans soon changed.
On April 11, 2019, Tesla delivered a memo regarding the cancellation of the base model and its tantamount to it. Since the original base model needed different seats, dash trim, and steering wheel apparatus, production would be complicated further (Tesla dropped Obsidian Black Metallic as well as Silver Metallic two quarters ago). Furthermore, the Standard Plus was outselling the Standard sixfold, proving that it would be an economically poor choice to begin production of the base model. Tesla stated that the new “Standard Range” would essentially be a Standard Plus with certain software limitations. The driving range was limited to around 216 miles, and the acceleration (0-60) to 5.6 seconds. The car also lacked “Immersive Sound,” usable fog lights, floor mats, and rear heated seats (the latter two were also lacking in the Standard Plus). Standard safety features included lane departure warning (LDW) and automatic emergency braking (AEB). Including the required delivery fees, the Tesla Model 3 Standard cost $36,600 in mid-2019. (this was due to a $400 price increase across the board in mid-May 2019 that was retracted later in the year) Looking solely on sticker price and disregarding the FTC, the 3 had better affordability than the base i3, the base Bolt, and the Nissan Leaf S Plus.
This Model 3 Standard Range was purchased in late June 2019. At the time, Pearl White Multi-Coat was priced at $1,500, and there was a $3,750 tax credit in place. (the pricing on the spec sheet does not include the paint cost as Pearl White Multi-Coat is the new standard color or the FTC extinguished on January 1) Today, the car costs $35,000 alongside a required $1,200 delivery fee. The price amounts to $36,200. Base Autopilot will set the buyer back $3,000, the 19 inch Sport wheels $1,500 (note that the base aero covers can be removed revealing a more visually attractive option like pictured above), and any other paint or interior color $1,000 ($2,000 for Red Multi-Coat). FSD is available on every Tesla produced after October 2016, but it is $8,000 atop the $3,000 for base Autopilot. Note all new Teslas include base Autopilot except for the Standard Range. So, a Red Tesla Model 3 Standard with 19 inch Sport Wheels, white interior, and FSD will run to $51,700 - not so entry-level anymore.
How to Order:
1. Order a Standard Plus starting at $37,990 on tesla.com
2. Call Tesla to flag your order as a Standard Range
3. Check over the paperwork to make sure it went through
4. Haha, yes!
First and foremost, I anticipate what will be asked first: is it fast? It is undoubtedly a fast car, hell, it will stick you in the back of the seat and leave a smile on your face. Despite this being an “entry-level” Tesla, the specs are far from that label. The Model 3 Standard accelerates from 0-60 mph quicker than a Mercedes-Benz CLA250, BMW 330i, and an Acura TLX V6. Our tested zero to sixty time was 5.4 seconds, which is the same as a Jaguar F-Type 2.0. The real kicker is the 30-50 mph, which is under 2 seconds compared to 3-4 seconds in a typical ICE sports sedan. There was never an instance when I was driving that I thought it did not have enough power.
The steering in the Model 3 is very precise. The reason for the precision is the electrically assisted steering. The electrically assisted steering allows for the car to feel very nimble on the road. Most cars have power steering, which does not react immediately to the driver’s input, so the Model 3 feels noticeably different. Since it’s on a skateboard platform, it has a very low center of gravity, which aids in handling and rollover prevention. On the topic of handling, it ranks at .84 g on a 300-ft skidpad. While there’s plenty of sports sedans with better handling in the $30,000-$40,000 range, there were no instances where I felt it lacked in (slightly above) normal driving.
The ride quality is that of a typical sports sedan; take a 3 Series. It’s stiff but planted. The terrain of certain rough roads can be felt throughout the cabin, but nothing upsetting to the occupants. While driving, the car feels quite substantial, with no squeaking or air whistling. The interior is mainly composed of soft-touch materials across the dash, doors, and mostly everything within reaching distance. The areas that are non-soft-touch are the lower door panels, lower center console areas, and the driver and passenger seat backs. On the topic of seats, the “vegan leather” seating material feels better than most leather in other similarly priced cars. An important property of the interior is that the white seats feel moderately softer to the touch versus the black seats. A softer seat material for $1,000; the choice is yours. No matter what model, the interiors will remain the same, aside from aluminum pedals in the performance model.
Other than the lack of “Immersive Sound” (which is noticeable), Autopilot, fog lights, and the limited specs, this still is a Tesla, and you are saving $3,000. But would I recommend it? For most people interested in the Model 3, no. As of late July 2020, a Tesla Model 3 Standard Plus starts at $39,190 and includes base Autopilot in the United States. The off-the-menu variant begins at $36,200. If you add base Autopilot to this model, the price will rise to $39,200! Now you are paying more money for a car with less range (216 miles vs. 250 miles), slower acceleration to sixty (5.6 seconds versus 5.3 seconds), and other limitations. The only two cases where I see this vehicle working out are if the driver doesn’t feel the need for Autopilot or wants to stay around the mid- $ 30,000 mark. The Model 3 Standard is still a Tesla with all the luxuries of the other 3s and Ys. You can even watch Netflix or play Beach Buggy Racing while charging or impress your friends with the acceleration. And the best part? It looks just like any other Model 3, inside and out, save the 20” performance wheels, calipers and spoiler.
Image Courtesy: Charlie Deets