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After 2 long years, our reporter finally gets her Tesla Model 3

Sue Carpenter with her Tesla Model 3 at the Tesla delivery center in Marina Del Rey.
Sue Carpenter with her Tesla Model 3 at the Tesla delivery center in Marina Del Rey.
Randy Perry

The Tesla Model 3 has been in the news pretty much nonstop since it was first unveiled two years ago. Since then, more than half a million people have put down deposits for the company's $35,000 sedan for the masses. Including me. Few people have received their cars due to massive production delays at the Tesla factory, but I finally got mine April 20, more than two years after putting down my $1,000 deposit for the car sight unseen.

Why I bought the Tesla Model 3 before seeing it or driving it

Simple. I loved the Model S. When I reviewed the S for the Orange County Register back in 2013, I was leasing a Nissan Leaf. Driving the Model S felt like a tryst -- like I was cheating on my ball and chain. Simply put, the Model S was one of the most remarkable cars I'd ever driven, so when I went to Tesla's unveiling of the Model 3 in March 2016, I succumbed. It was only $1,000 to get in line. I could always get it back if I changed my mind.

First contact

After receiving a confirmation email that Tesla received my deposit, I didn't hear from Tesla about my car for 18 months. Sure, I received the occasional marketing email, but it wasn't until November 1, 2017, that I got an update on delivery timing for my Model 3 saying I might get the car as early as December. Well, that didn't happen. The next time I logged onto my Tesla account, my delivery date had been bumped to a new window -- between January and March of this year, then between April and June. And then, on March 22, I got an email saying (finally) my Model 3 was ready to order. I should note that the reason I'm able to get my car now is because I'm getting the more expensive first production version, which starts at $49,000. The $35,000 version won't be available until later this year.

The process

Easy. Almost everything was done online, from placing my deposit to configuring the exact version of the car I wanted, arranging financing, making my down payment and coordinating a trade-in. I had two phone calls from a sales associate nudging me to finish the digital paperwork and letting me know the exact date and time I could pick up my car, but the one and only time I had any human contact during the process was when I picked up the car at the delivery center in Marina Del Rey.

The delivery center

It's nondescript. If it weren't for the red Tesla flags fluttering in the wind outside its entrance, you'd never suspect. The Teslas are parked inside, on carpet -- past an espresso bar that serves a variety of coffee drinks brewed with a special Supercharger blend. I was introduced to my personal sales associate Roberto, and he pulled back a curtain to escort me to my shiny red Model 3, which was parked with about 30 other cars -- most of them black, gray and white. He walked me through the car's basics, including the Tesla app that serves as the 3's key, and its basic features. A half hour later, I signed the purchase agreement and registration, and then I was off.

So, how is it?

Considering I was getting major cold feet about the car a few weeks ago, after reading reports about shoddy build quality and reviews that criticized its do-everything tablet-like screen, I LOVE it. It's a lot more money than I wanted to spend -- total cost including taxes and registration came out to about $56,000 -- but it's super fun to drive, extremely quick off the line, quiet, great handling. I hope I continue to love it, because for how much it's costing, I'll need to keep it for the next several years. The screen is way more intuitive than I thought it would be. And that stereo! I forgot how much I love listening to music while driving on a sound system that sounds like God is my DJ. With the Model 3, I may not get free supercharging, but the Tesla music library is a gem.