Electric Cars

Everything we know about the Tesla Model 3 before deliveries begin

The first batch of Model 3s will head out to owners on Friday. Let's recap what we know -- and what we're still waiting to find out.

Tesla

Tesla will finally hand off the first group of Model 3s to their lucky owners on Friday, July 28. But unlike many other new vehicle debuts, much of the Model 3 remains shrouded in mystery. Let's go through what we know, and what we want to know.

What we know: How it looks... on the outside

The exterior is no longer a surprise. Elon Musk showed off two pictures of the first production-spec Model 3 to leave the assembly line, which Musk himself claimed after the original reservation holder donated it to the Tesla CEO.

The look isn't that much different from the prototypes and release candidates we've seen in pictures and on the road. The wheels are a bit simpler, but they still look high end. Some folks believe the front end looks incomplete, but I think it's a great adaptation of the Model S on a more compact body.

There aren't too many whiz-bang features on the outside -- it's supposed to be an affordable car, after all -- except for the door handles. They may appear to be the same kind of motorized handles as the Model S, but they're actually a bit simpler. A simple push activates a hinge that swings the handle out for the driver to grab.

The first photos of a new model don't traditionally come from the CEO's Twitter account, but welcome to 2017, I guess.

Elon Musk/Tesla

What we know: A (hopefully) smooth transition

This is a big moment for Tesla. The Model 3 production ramp-up will be unlike anything the company has handled to date, and with hundreds of thousands of reservations to fill, delays aren't going to go over very well.

In order to deal with the influx of new customers, Tesla is adding more mobile repair trucks to its fleet, as many issues don't need a trip to the service center to be resolved. The company is also increasing the number of Tesla service facilities, because it's already backlogged when it comes to repairs.

What we maybe know: It's not stupid fast, or stupid complicated

Some Model 3 information has leaked its way to the public, and one document gives us a bit more information on some of its features.

Its 0-60 time is a claimed 5.6 seconds, which is far more "normal" than the insane numbers the Model S spits out. Instead of two screens, like the Model S, it'll use one single 15-inch digital display mounted centrally on the dashboard. The trunk is reportedly manual, as well.

A streamlined options list will reduce the number of configurations to less than 100, from more than 1,500 in the Model S.

This leaked chart, apparently sent out by Tesla, is intended to help buyers choose between the Model S and Model 3.

Tesla

What we maybe know: How it looks... on the inside

Tesla has shown off a couple pictures of the Model 3's exterior, but the interior remains a mystery. There have been a few spy videos making their way around the internet, but most are shot through a car window on a sunny day, so there isn't much to see.

It's generally assumed that the Model 3 will have a less impressive interior than the Model S -- again, because it's supposed to be affordable. Tesla's aim for simplicity moves all digital functionality to a single, 15-inch display on the dashboard. There isn't even a gauge cluster in front of the steering wheel! There have been a few shots of the front and back seats, but for the most part, we're still waiting to see the interior clearly.

What we don't know: Powertrain specifics

Tesla has made no mention of what sort of electric motors power this vehicle, or what batteries supply the juice. What's the range? Tesla's consumer site says it starts at 215 miles, but nobody knows how many range options there are above base. How much power does it make? It's anybody's guess.

Tesla's 145-kW Supercharger system will work with the Model 3, but it'll likely follow a pay-per-charge scheme similar to what the automaker has instituted on new Model S and Model X vehicles.

If I were an owner, I'd be quite confused as to why I know nothing about a car that I should be receiving in a matter of months.

What we don't know: Full pricing

That brings us to perhaps Tesla's most egregious sin so far -- the automaker hasn't established a full pricing scheme. All we know is that it starts at $35,000, according to Tesla's site, and that's before any tax incentives. But, given that the feds slowly phase out credits as automakers sell more than 250,000 incentive-qualifying vehicles, Model 3 owners far down on the reservation list might be paying more than they originally thought.

If the hundreds of thousands of reservation holders all want base Model 3s, great -- they know how much it costs. But add any single option to the mix, and the price becomes a giant question mark, and these cars are being delivered to owners on Friday.

I have no problem waiting for additional information. But the people who plunked down chunks of change on reservations deserve to know what they're buying into. Hopefully, we'll know more on Friday.