Can you believe that the Tesla Model 3 has been in production for six whole years? That’s one pandemic, two presidents, three Fast & Furious films worth of time. Over that six-year span, it’s become one of the most popular cars in the world, so it seems about time that Tesla gave it a facelift. Well, the much-anticipated Project Highland is finally here, a comprehensive update to the swift-selling electric sedan. Despite being a mid-cycle refresh, it seems extensive, with Tesla claiming that 50 percent of the Model 3’s parts are new for 2024. Shall we see what’s changed?
Up front, the Model 3 looks less amphibian than before. From the strong horizontal headlights to the deletion of the pout in the front bumper, the new Model 3 manages to simultaneously look sleeker and more boring than the outgoing car. I reckon the simplification of the front bumper is partially to blame, for the deletion of in-bumper lamp assemblies combined with simpler lines leaves a lot of unbroken painted surface on the front end.
The rear end is cleaner than the outgoing car’s in a good way, with sleeker taillights, the Tesla wordmark replacing the logo on the trunk, and a new rear bumper than conjures up shades of Model S. Interestingly, the taillights are entirely mounted on the trunklid, which means the European-style rear fog lamps in the bumper could double as multifunction lamp assemblies to maintain legality. As for other exterior bits, the 2024 Model 3 gets new 18-inch and 19-inch wheels, along with two new paint colors — a new red and a new grey.
On the inside, I’m simultaneously impressed and repulsed that Tesla managed to pull even more out of an already spartan interior. The woodgrain strip across the dashboard is gone, replaced by a strip of contrasting trim further up the dashboard, just above the air vents. Sure, ambient lighting joins the party to jazz things up a bit, but I don’t think it makes the revised dashboard look any less like a paper shredder.
Speaking of the dashboard, the 15.4-inch everything display sports thinner bezels and claims higher brightness and contrast than before, a sensible upgrade considering the old car’s screen quality was starting to age slightly. If you’re going to make tech the focus of your interior, you better be latched onto the latest trends like an aphid. Speaking of trends, here’s one that’s far overdue: Ventilated front seats. The new Tesla Model 3 can cool your buttocks, provided you’re riding up front. Now that’s a great piece of tech. However, not all technology in the revised Model 3 is good.
No more stalks, just controls on the steering wheel for basic lamp and washer functions. Look, this was a dumb idea on the Ferrari 458 Italia and it’s an even dumber idea here because stalks don’t move with the steering wheel. No matter how much lock you have wound on, stalks are always in the same place. Sure, moving the indicators to capacitive touch buttons on the steering wheel may be cheaper, but I’m not convinced it’s safer than what everyone’s already used to. Likewise, the shifter is now in the touchscreen, which doesn’t exactly sound user-friendly. Well, that’s cost-cutting for you.
Weirdly, although the front of the passenger compartment is more minimalist than ever before, the rear seat gains its own eight-inch screen with multimedia and climate functions. Factory-installed rear seat entertainment in a car of this size and price is fairly unprecedented, but it should make Uber rides more comfortable. Speaking of comfort, the new Model 3 uses laminated rear side window and rear window glass to reduce noise, nearly giving it a full array of laminated glass. Oh, and the uplevel premium audio system grows from 14 speakers to 17 speakers, while base audio is a nine-speaker affair.
As far as mechanical changes go, ride quality over small imperfections in the outgoing car is certainly busy, so Tesla has re-tuned the springs and dampers, altered the front suspension geometry, and stiffened the actual chassis in the aim of ironing out tar snakes.
Tesla hasn’t released details on battery size or EPA range just yet, but we can learn a few things by comparing WLTP range. According to Tesla’s European website, the rear-wheel-drive car sees an 11-mile bump in WLTP range, while the Long Range dual-motor car sees a slightly smaller nine-mile bump in WLTP range. Peak charging speeds remain unchanged over the outgoing car, and relatively small range increases on an optimistic cycle could mean that the bulk of extra mileage comes from aerodynamic improvement.
There’s no word yet on when the refreshed Tesla Model 3 will make it to American roads, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see it by the end of next year. It’s typically much easier to tool up for a mid-cycle refresh than for an all-new model, although with a refresh this extensive, you never know. Oh, and pricing in Europe and China sees a slight bump with the new model, so watch out for that when this revamped Model 3 comes stateside. Overall, this facelift isn’t revolutionary, but it should keep Tesla’s entry-level sedan ahead of the pack.
(Photo credits: Tesla)
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