Tony O'Kane | Apr 1, 2016

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has revealed the all-electric brand’s Model 3 midsize sedan today, the fourth vehicle to wear the Tesla badge and the model that’s expected to bring high sales volumes to the still-young automaker.

Touted as the vehicle that will catapault Tesla from being “niche” to “mainstream”, the Model 3 will be Tesla’s most affordable car to date with a starting price in the United States of US$35,000 (AU$45,750).

But don’t expect to be able to walk into a Tesla showroom and drive off in one anytime soon, over 115,000 Model 3 pre-orders had already been placed before Elon Musk even took to the stage. Buyers have been lining up at Tesla stores in their thousands around the globe to place a deposit and reserve their slot in the order book.

Meanwhile, a solid launch date has yet to be announced. In his address to an audience of excited fans and media, Musk said that he was “confident” deliveries would begin “next year”.

How long it will take to fulfill those 115,000 initial orders - and the many thousands more that are likely to flood in now the car has been revealed - remains to be seen. Tesla expects the addition of the Model 3 will see demand skyrocket to 500,000 cars annually for the brand.

Sized to compete with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series, the Model 3 has a similar silhouette to the Model S large sedan, with a low bonnet and short rump framing an airy cabin.

From the front, it boasts bigger, more upright headlamps and, unlike the Model S and Model X, no defined “grille” to speak of. The only feature on its front bumper is a slim air intake down low.

Inside, the Model 3 forgoes a conventional instrument cluster and instead shows vehicle vitals on a large central screen that’s shared with the infotainment system.

Musk promises it will be roomy too, with the ability to “fit five adults comfortably” thanks to front seats that are fixed further forward than in other similarly-sized sedans, and a full-length glass roof that imparts a spacious feeling to the cabin.

Like the Model S, the Model 3 will get both a front and rear trunk to carry cargo, while Musk says a seven-foot surfboard can be carried internally.

Precise performance stats are still under wraps, but Musk established that the Model 3 will, at the bare minimum, be able to hit 100km/h in under six seconds, travel for nearly 250km on a single charge and boast a Supercharging capability as standard.

All Model 3 variants will also get Tesla’s Autopilot suite of semi-autonomous driving aids as standard as well.

However there’s still no mention as yet of how many variants will be offered or charging times, though Tesla will offer the Model 3 in both 2WD and AWD configuration.

Performance fans will also have something to look forward to, with Musk saying that “of course, there will be Model 3 versions that will be much faster”, hinting at an all-electric M3-killer.

Musk thanked Model S and Model X buyers for indirectly helping fund the development of the Model 3, whose higher volume ambitions and lower purchase price required “billions” of dollars in development funding.

Its arrival will see Tesla hit new heights in sales, with the company preparing to ramp up its production lines to be able to build 500,000 vehicles before the end of the decade. Most of those cars are expected to be Model 3s.

Tesla’s “Gigafactory” battery plant - the largest of its type in the world - will also go into overdrive to help meet expected demand. Meanwhile, Tesla also plans to double the number of Supercharger charging stations around the world (which are currently free to use for Tesla owners) by the end of 2017.

MORE: Tesla News and Reviews

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