We spotted Tesla’s Model 3 in the wild a week before its official launch

A Tesla Model 3 seen in the wild. Troy Wolverton

Tesla’s new, mass-market priced sedan has been seen in the wild.

We spotted the blue Model 3 driving north in the east San Francisco Bay Area between San Jose and Fremont on Friday morning. The car exited Interstate 680 in South Fremont, taking the exit that leads to Tesla’s factory.

Although the car had Tesla’s “T” badge on its back, it didn’t appear to have any other badges that indicated what model it was. But by the car’s size and design, it was clearly the Model 3.

By the licence plate number, it appears to be the same Model 3 Electrek spotted in April. That means the vehicle was more than likely what Tesla calls a “release candidate,” or a pre-production version of the finished car.

Tesla has said that it would begin making deliveries of the car this month and would hand over cars to the first 30 customers on July 28. Earlier this month, Tesla rolled the first production Model 3 out of its factory.

Tesla has a lot riding on the Model 3. The company is hoping the vehicle, which will have a starting price of $US35,000 will be the first electric car to appeal to a mass audience. In anticipation of the car’s launch, investors have bid up Tesla’s stock; it’s up more than 50% in the last year.

The early outlook for the car is good; Tesla has received some 400,000 pre-orders for it.

A rear view of the new Tesla car. Note the Tesla ‘T,’ but also the lack of a model name on the rear. Troy Wolverton

The Model 3 has a very smooth and restrained design, which is the handiwork of Tesla’s chief designer, Franz von Holzhausen. The sedan has a more subtle rear haunch than the Model S and a continuous glass roof that starts at the windshield and run through the rear spoiler.

Tesla has said the car can drive 215 miles on a single charge.

But the company faces growing competition. Last year, GM released the Chevy Bolt, a similarly priced electric car that gets 238 miles on a single charge. Meanwhile, Volvo announced earlier this month that all of its cars will either be electrics or hybrids by 2019.

One more look. While it resembles Tesla’s Model S, the Model 3 is smaller and shorter. Troy Wolverton

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