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Tesla delivers first Model 3 cars, here's what it's like behind the wheel

  • Tesla delivered its first Model 3 electric cars in front of thousands of the company's workers in Fremont, California.
  • The first 30 Model 3s were delivered to Tesla employees.
  • The car starts at $35,000, less than half the price of Tesla Model S or Model X.
  • Like all electric cars, the instant torque and acceleration stands out.

With the kind of prime time theatrics Elon Musk has become known for displaying as he has built Tesla, the company delivered its first Model 3 electric cars in front of thousands of the company's workers in Fremont, California.

"This is a great day for Tesla," said Musk before he turned over the first 30 Model 3s to employees who had ordered the new car. Musk himself will keep the very first production version of the Model 3.

With a streamlined interior and a video screen over the center of the dashboard, the Model 3 is the most modest vehicle Tesla has built. It also starts at $35,000, less than half the price of Tesla Model S or Model X.

"It was never our goal to make expensive cars," Musk said. "We finally have a great affordable electric car that is absolutely what is needed. There was no great affordable electric car and this one is."

That affordability and Tesla's growing popularity help explain why the automaker now has over a half million reservations for its newest car. The updated reservation total means Tesla has added more than 100,000 potential buyers since it last discussed how many people had put down a deposit of $1,000 in order to buy a Model 3.

The challenge now is ramping up production and meeting that demand. Tesla hopes to build 20,000 Model 3s in the month of December and then another 400,000 next year as the company targets total vehicle production of a half million in 2018.

In other words, Tesla's assembly lines are moving into overdrive.

"Everything was focused on how we could move this through the assembly line faster and more efficient with great quality," said Doug Field who leads the Tesla vehicle programs.

So what does the Model 3 feel like behind the wheel?

Like all electric cars, the instant torque and acceleration stands out. While the Model 3 does not have the immediate thrust you feel with the Model S in ludicrous mode, this is a car with more than enough acceleration off the stop going 0-60 in 5.6 seconds.

The interior stands out because of a raised 15-inch touchscreen display that has all of the information you need, including a navigation map. Does the lack of an instrument cluster behind the steering wheel seem strange? Not at all. In fact, I was comfortable having everything on the touchscreen.

Finally, forget about needing a key fob to start your car. With the Model 3, your phone is your key. You also get a valet key so when you pull up to a restaurant or hotel, you can give the valet key.