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Tesla's $35,000 Model 3 just got even harder to buy

Tesla also started a Model 3 lease program, but you can't buy it out when the lease ends.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

It hasn't even been two months since Tesla unveiled the long-awaited $35,000 Model 3, but it's already been removed from the online configurator, relegating it to off-menu ordering, like a weird Jamba Juice smoothie.

Late Thursday evening, Tesla published a blog post explaining a raft of changes it just made to the Model 3 lineup. The $35,000 Standard Range model -- the one with cloth seats where black is the only free color -- has been removed from Tesla's site, meaning it's only available to order via phone or a trip to an actual Tesla store. The same goes for the Model 3 Long Range in rear-wheel-drive configuration.

Don't worry, it gets more confusing from there. The Model 3 Standard Range is now a Standard Range Plus model with software disabling a number of features, including music streaming, navigation and heated seats. It also sports the Standard Range Plus' battery, rated at 240 miles, but 10% of that is software-locked. Thus, the latest iteration of $35,000 Model 3 loses its standard heated seats (sort of) and a couple miles of range (90% of 240 is 216, compared to its original estimated range of 220 miles). Buyers do have the option to unlock those features at a later date, though, essentially upgrading the car from Standard Range to Standard Range Plus.

Before we know it, the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range will only be available for purchase through Stefon.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

The Model 3 Standard Range is the only Model 3 variant to escape a price hike, as well. Tesla announced that Autopilot will now be standard on all Tesla vehicles (with the exception of the $35,000 car). However, it comes at a bit of a discount -- on the Model 3 range, Autopilot used to be a $3,000 option, but its mandatory inclusion only adds $2,000 to the car's bottom line.

Tesla also announced the start of a Model 3 leasing program in the US. The lease runs for 36 months, and lessees can choose from three annual mileage allotments -- 10,000, 12,000 or 15,000 miles per year. All Model 3 configurations are available, according to Tesla, and the price obviously varies with each. The minimum deposit is $3,000, but the payment due at signing will vary from $4,199 to $4,584 depending on the variant. Monthly payments vary from a little over $500 for the Model 3 Standard Range Plus to $889 for the Model 3 Performance.

Here's where the leasing gets weird. Most car leases give you the option to buy the car outright at the end of the lease period, but not Tesla. According to the automaker's blog post, it will collect all these leased cars at the end of their terms for future use in Tesla's ride-hailing network.