There is no doubt that the forthcoming Tesla Model 3 will be the most important vehicle in the history of the corporation so far. Tesla’s meteoric rise has shocked and surprised many motor industry observers, yet the most challenging period of the company may still be ahead. With all the major auto manufacturers moving into the electric car niche, Tesla must surely establish itself as a truly mainstream player in the next few years.

The relatively affordable Model 3 is clearly an attempt to do this, and thus it will play a central role in the short to medium-term Tesla future. So here is a rundown on the very latest on this critical Tesla release.

Tesla Model 3 - What Features Will Tesla Unveil In March?

Tesla Model 3 – Autopilot

It seems firstly that Tesla could be intending to utilize its driver-assistance technology with the Model 3. This is surprising considering the timeframe for this technology to be workable was certainly not considered to be as soon as the release date of this vehicle. But analysts are increasingly suggesting that the autopilot technology will be earmarked for the Model 3, and that it will be part of the vehicle’s launch portfolio.

The extent to which the autopilot functionality is included in the Model 3 remains to be seen, and is it possible that Tesla could include several different versions of the technology, with different price points involved. It is also probable that we won’t see autopiloting in the most affordable $35,000 variant of the car.

The semi-autonomous features built into existing vehicles have enabled such innovations as automatic steering and the ability to summon vehicles in out of garages. Some of these features at least should be expected for inclusion in the Model 3, but to get one’s hands on a version of the Model 3 featuring all of them it will probably be necessary to pay a significant premium.

However, one telling interview from the aforementioned Musk suggests that the Model 3 will require an entirely new suite of sensors in order to provide journeys without any input from a human driver. This suggests that this exalted goal of Tesla will not be part of the Model 3, considering that the vehicle is expected to launch at some point next year. Tesla is probably working hard with this idea in mind, but it just doesn’t seem to be logistically possible considering the complexity of the technology and the timescales involved that have already been predicted.

The Model 3, though, should see some form of basic self-piloting and autonomy.

Powertrain and performance

Records indicate that the Model 3 is expected to deliver a level of performance that will be comparable to the existing BMW M3 and M4. The powerful torque electric motors in the Model 3 will enable the vehicle to reach a speed of 60 mph in a time that will be very close to rivalling the 4.1-second benchmark that has already been delivered by the German saloons.

It is debatable whether Tesla will include the 90kWh battery that was resident in the Model S, but years of development means that whatever cell is included in the Model 3 it should provide plenty of range for the vehicle. Indeed, notorious CEO and founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, has openly suggested that 200 miles should be considered a realistic expectation for the vehicle.

Charge issues

One of the interesting aspects of the battery in the Model 3 is that treating it favorably actually makes a significant difference to the range of the vehicle. Reports have suggested that leaving the vehicle unplugged overnight, particularly in colder weather conditions, can result in as much as 40 miles being reduced from the range of a single charge.

Tesla is rolling out free high-speed charging stations in an attempt to encourage owners to utilize its vehicles over longer distance journeys, and this may be central to the success of the vehicle. However, Motley Fool has suggested that although it is completely manageable for Tesla to implement this policy, it cannot be guaranteed that such access will be free for owners of the affordable Model 3 vehicle.

Design

It is widely anticipated that the Model 3 will be a smaller saloon cousin of the Model S, Sharing several characteristics with the earlier Tesla release. Effectively, this vehicle will be competing with other established vehicles such as the BMW 3 series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and Jaguar XE.

Thus, analysts have suggested that the Model 3 could effectively resemble a Model S with a shorter wheelbase, with the vehicle expected to be around 20 percent smaller than its predecessor. The Model 3 will also probably feature a low drag coefficient in an attempt to reduce the air resistance that the vehicle experiences, while this move would also enable the electric powertrain to deliver more clout.

It has also been rumored that Tesla could utilize the Model 3 platform to produce several more new vehicles, with a crossover to accompany the Model X particularly likely. Tesla is now attempting to penetrate the consciousness of the mainstream car consumer, and this could involve producing a wide range of vehicles to suitable all possible tastes.

In line with this suggestion, Autocar has reported that the platform of the Model 3 has been deliberately engineered in order to accommodate multiple other body styles should Tesla require this option. Among the possible vehicles that could be extrapolated from this platform are an estate version of the Model 3 and a completely new pick-up truck concept.

Price and release

Tesla has confirmed that the price for the Model 3 will begin at $35,000, and consumers in the United States can even potentially pick one up for $27,500 thanks to government credits. However, this will be for the base vehicle, and more expensive variants of the vehicle will be purchasable at a premium.

It is rather dangerous to predict a release date for the Model 3, as Tesla is absolutely notorious for vehicle delays. But it is cautiously predicted that the Model 3 could ship in Q4 2017, just in time for Christmas.