Tesla Model 3 debuts in UK at Goodwood Festival of Speed

The Tesla Model 3 has made its official European debut at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, allowing potential British customers a first glimpse at what will be the company’s most affordable model.

Tesla Model 3 at Goodwood Festival of Speed front

Although it’s the first time it has been seen in Europe, we’ve known about the all-electric Tesla Model 3 for quite a while now; the first US customers have received their cars, it’ll be a while before the first models arrive in the UK (currently due mid-to-late 2019).

If you’re prepared to wait, however, you’re promised a car that could change the automotive landscape forever; Tesla has also confirmed there’ll be a Model 3 performance version that’ll beat BMW’s magic M3 too. Here’s what you need to know about the Model 3…

Tesla Model 3 at Goodwood Festival of Speed

Priced from $35,000 (which is around £24,460 as of 17 April 2018), the Model 3 sits below the more upmarket Model S and Model X ranges, and is aimed at taking on the likes of BMW’s 3 Series, and Mercedes’ C-Class. So can it shake up the petrol and diesel competition?

Well if Elon Musk’s promised performance version turns in to reality, then definitely: Tesla’s CEO has confirmed that there’ll be a variant that’s 15% quicker and better handling than the BMW M3 – a very bold statement. He claims that this will cost around $78,000, which is more than twice the starting price of the entry level Model 3.

Tesla has revealed the Model 3, which is now ready for production.

It certainly looks the part; its styling is based very much on the larger Model S, although there’s a more tapered rear end and a curvier roof line. In essence though, it is a down-sized version of the larger car.

However, its bulbous roof and general American-ness means it is a little larger than its main competitor, the BMW 3 Series. Its body also means it benefits from an excellent drag coefficient of just 0.23 – impressive considering its class.

Tesla Model 3 interior

Step inside and things are even less complicated and minimalist than the bodywork. No conventional dials here. Instead the dashboard is dominated by a huge 15.4in floating screen that controls just about all the car’s functions.

All Model 3s come with an impressive specification too, featuring a wifi hotspot, keyless entry, dual-zone climate, voice command controls and of course Tesla’s ever-advancing Autopilot system that’s capable of semi-autonomous driving.

The interior could not be more minimalist.

For those wanting a little more luxury, a Premium Pack can be added which adds wood-veneer trim (like the car in the picture), a 12-speaker stereo, heated and electrically adjustable seats. All Model 3s are expected to come with a panoramic roof, too.

Thanks to its low-lying electric drivetrain, the Model 3 gets two boots which combined offer 425 litres of space and, while that’s not quite what some of its rivals offer, it’s not too far off the mark.

All models are expected to get Tesla's trademark panoramic roof.

Performance-wise however, it should be every bit as capable as the most potent petrol 3 Series. In standard form, it gets a 0-60mph time of 5.6 seconds (quicker than your average hot hatch, then) and a top speed of 130mph.

It gets a range of up to 220 miles on a single charge, although a long-range battery option is also available for a hefty $9,000, and extends this range to 310 miles. The pricier battery pack also takes 0-60mph to 5.1 seconds and top speed to 140mph.

0-60mph in just 5.6 seconds makes the Model 3 quicker than many hot hatches.

For now, all Model 3s are to be rear-wheel drive, and thanks to a near-perfect weight distribution courtesy of those low-lying batteries, it should be as impressive in corners as it is in a straight line. An all-wheel drive version is likely to become available next year too.

Other options include Enhanced Autopilot, which matches the speed to traffic conditions and is capable of automatically changing lanes. This does push up the price by another $5,000 (£3,800) though.

The Model 3 (centre) is the third car to join Tesla's current range.

If a Tweet reply by Tesla founder Elon Musk is to be believed, the Model 3 will be available with the suitably named Ludicrous Mode too, which unleashes the full potential of that electric drivetrain – a Model S in Ludicrous Model gets to 60mph from rest in a startling 2.3 seconds, for example.

Tesla Model 3 interior 2

30 lucky American customers got their hands on the Model 3 last week, but with a waiting list of over 400,000 units, if you’ve not already put down the required £1,000 deposit you’re likely to be in with a long wait.

Unless you've already placed an order, don't expect to get behind the wheel of a Model 3 until mid 2018 at the earliest.

The first cars are likely to hit the UK market in 2019. How much they will cost is still up for debate, but if they do come in at anywhere around £25,000, which is in-line with the traditional fuel-powered exec saloons it’s aiming to take on, it’s likely to be a big hit.

However, we’ll have to wait and see whether residual values and lease rates will be as favourable as they are for a Mercedes C-Class.

If you’re interested in a hybrid or EV, here’s five of the best currently available for less than £250 per month.

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