– Oslo, Norway
Until now, the restyled Tesla Model 3 has been referred to as “Project Highland. That calling card has been helpful in recent months when sifting through the many rumours surrounding the once-$35,000 electric car that Elon Musk presented way back in 2016.
But now the new Model 3 is here. The refreshed Tesla has updated exterior aesthetics with a design that makes it more aerodynamic, added sound insulation that makes it quieter, and updated suspension and seating elements that make it more comfortable.
|2024 Tesla Model 3 Rear-Wheel Drive
|Single Permanent Magnet Electric
|283 BHP / 310 Pound-Feet
|344 Miles (w/18-Inch Wheels)
One thing the updated Model 3 does not introduce is the long-awaited "mega casting" chassis, nor does it mount new batteries (such as CATL M3P with LFP and manganese chemistry, BYD Blade structural, or Tesla-Panasonic 4680 structural); but it does consume less and has a longer range thanks to updated software.
I took a spin in the new Model 3 for the first time in Oslo, Norway, to get a better idea as to how the updated EV looks and drives.
Editor’s Note: This review was produced by Motor1 Italy and has been translated from Italian to English. Edits have been made for style and clarity, and units have been converted from metric to standard where required. All currency conversions are accurate as of publication. For the original version of this story, click here.
Elegant And Efficient Exterior
The leaked photos of Project Highland prototypes hinted at the new look, but now we know that the front end of the new Tesla Model 3 has lost its characteristic headlights that once stretched upward over the fenders. As expected, the Model 3 has a grille-less nose with no cooling elements, save for a thin horizontal air intake at the lowest part of the bumper.
Now the headlight clusters of the 2024 Tesla Model 3 are thinner and more horizontal, and the proportions of the front end have also changed accordingly. The refreshed side view looks less "detached" from the windscreen and roofline than it did in the past.
The restyling does make the Model 3 slightly bigger; 472 centimetres (185.8 inches) long instead of 470 cm (185.0 in), 188 cm (74.0 in) wide, and 144 cm (56.7 in) high, with a wheelbase of 288 cm (113.4 in). The weight changes between versions, depending on the type of battery and motors, but it barely differs from that of the outgoing model: 1,761 kilograms (3,882 pounds) for the new Model 3 RWD (previously the figure was 1,760 kg (3,880 pounds) and 1,824 kg (4,021 pounds) for the new Model 3 Long Range (previously 1,844 kg / 4,065 pounds).
There are new body colours, too: Ultra Red (deeper than the previous red) and Stealth Grey (darker than the existing grey). In addition, the no-charge colours for most markets will be white, black, and blue – that means customers hoping for tax incentives no longer have to choose white only.
The new design also has improved aerodynamics, with the coefficient dropping from 0.225 Cd to 0.219 Cd. The company originally touted it as “the lowest of any Tesla” – but the Model S still had a drag coefficient of 0.208. The wheels can be 19 or 18 inches and have lower drag, contributing to 5 percent and 8 percent improvements in total efficiency, respectively.
All around the body are the cameras that monitor the car's surroundings and work on what is unofficially called hardware 4.0, enabling new software management that will allow the so-called Tesla Vision to make up for the lack of distance sensors in the bumpers.
The taillights are no longer split into two parts in the dividing area between the bumper and the tailgate. Instead, the lights are integrated into the trunk lid, emphasising the new geometry and allowing for the new "TESLA" wordmark in the centre, written in full instead of the stylised logo. The reverse lights and rear fog lights are in the lower part of the bumper, where a new aerodynamic diffuser has been designed.
Along with its new look, the trunk lid remains electronically operated but it has an extra actuator. This helps boost the cargo capacity to 594 litres (20.9 cubic feet) instead of 561 l (19.8 cu ft). Plus there's an additional 88 l (3.1 cu ft) in the “frunk.”
Closing the doors makes for a more muffled sound, partly because the interior reinforcement structure has been modified to better withstand the US side crash tests, with increasingly demanding standards (to dissipate twice as much energy in the event of a crash, taking into account that there are more SUVs on the roads). Sound deadening is provided by double glazing in the rear as well, and all other glass surfaces are acoustically insulated.
There are new seats; the rear bench has a revised configuration, while the front seats are ventilated, still with vegan leather upholstery. Rear passengers get an 8.0-inch touchscreen to adjust climate control and music for a new rear audio system that is isolated from the other occupants so as not to disturb them. Rear passengers can also watch YouTube, Netflix, and other streaming platforms on this screen, and there are two 65-watt USB-C outlets that can charge up to two laptop computers.
New dimmed ambient lights live in the upper part of the cabin around the perimeter, which can be set in different colours from a menu in the infotainment system. There is a soft material insert on the top of the dashboard that can be customised, just as the materials from which the centre console is made have changed, particularly the aluminium of the wireless charging surfaces for the phones, which dissipates heat better (although there is no dedicated ventilation).
The interior update that is most noticeable at a glance is the steering wheel, which has more touch-capacitive controls inherited from the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X, but with improvements to input response – and because the horn is back in the centre. The turn signals are no longer controlled from the left lever behind the steering wheel, and gone is the gear selector on the right. The latter is replaced by a sliding bar on the digital screen.
The newly designed steering wheel touch controls have a better response than in the Tesla Model S and Tesla Model X, but I still prefer the lever for the turn signals that was there before, while the shift control on the touchscreen takes some getting used to.
The centre touchscreen has a larger surface – 15.4 inches instead of 15.0 – thanks to thinner bezels, although the rigid metal case remains unchanged. Among the new features introduced in the software is the ability to turn off the climate vents on the right side – hopefully leading to less arguing between the driver and passenger when they don't agree on a set climate.
The richer audio system now goes from 14 to 17 speakers, and it has a new amplifier and different management software. That not only improves music listening but also hands-free phone calls, thanks in part to the presence of two microphones in the cabin instead of the single microphone in the previous Model 3.
To get a better feel for the new Model 3, Tesla suggested that I also briefly drive the outgoing Model 3. And in just the first few miles, driving over manhole covers and speed bumps, you can feel how the suspension has improved, absorbing imperfections better than before. The steering response is also different; it's a little less prompt than before in how it changes direction, but the steering feels more progressive and linear as the geometries of the front end have changed.
Having then attached the suspension to the body with stiffer subframes and having chosen new bushings and different calibrations for the springs and dampers, the 2024 Model 3 isolates the passengers more from the outside, adding to the cabin's better sound insulation.
The Michelin and Hankook tyres on these test vehicles were developed specifically for the new Model 3, not only to reduce rolling resistance and – to a lesser extent, aerodynamics – but also to better absorb road imperfections and to keep the Model 3's driving pleasure intact.
The restyled Model 3 also inherits the brakes from the outgoing version, as well as the same batteries, as mentioned. The Model 3 RWD I drove in this test continues to use the battery with LFP prismatic cell chemistry from China's CATL, which should give it a 60.0-kWh capacity (57.5 kWh usable). The single motor rear-engine output remains 283 bhp and 310 lb-ft (420 Nm) of torque, 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) takes 6.1 seconds, with a limited top speed of 125 mph (201 km/h) instead of the 140 mph (225 km/h) in the previous Model 3.
The new Model 3 has a 319-mile (513-kilometre) claimed range in the WLTP combined cycle with 19-inch wheels or 344 miles (554 km) with 18-inch wheels, instead of the 305 miles (491 km) in the previous Model 3. AC charging is 11 kW and DC fast charging is 170 kW.
The Model 3 Long Range, on the other hand, has 498 bhp and 364 lb-ft (493 Nm), a 78.0 kWh battery (75.0 kWh usable) with NMC chemistry and 2170 cylindrical cells, for a 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) time of 4.4 seconds and a 125 mph (201 km/h) top speed instead of the 145 mph (233 kmh) top speed of the previous Model 3.
And in just the first few miles, driving over manhole covers and speed bumps, you can feel how the suspension has improved, absorbing imperfections better than before.
This version also has a WLTP range of 421 miles with 18-inch wheels or 391 miles with 19-inch wheels, with 11-kW AC charging and 250-kW DC fast charging. The previous Model 3 had 374 miles.
In general, the overall efficiency of the new Tesla Model 3 has improved by 5 to 8 percent depending on the model, and in this first test drive, I had a consumption of almost 15.0 kWh/62 miles, which projected onto the 60-kWh battery capacity would bring 249 miles (400 km) of range.
But since my driving style on Norwegian roads was restrained, I am waiting to do a longer test drive in which I use the full battery to get closer to the claimed range value instead – and learn more about the battery.
Slightly Pricier, But Much Better
After Tesla's emergence in 2008 with the original Roadster, and after the introduction of a car with more significant production volumes like the Tesla Model S in 2012, Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla Model 3 in 2016 with the promise of a starting price of $35,000 (£27,800), which theoretically made the car available to the masses before mandatory option packages and tweaks drove the price into the 40s. Still, it was an instant success for the company.
With that in mind, the 2024 Tesla Model 3 has relatively big shoes to fill. It has a starting price that is €1,000 (£850) higher than the outgoing model when taking into account new equipment (such as ventilated seats). On the online configurator, the Tesla Model 3 starts at €42,490 (£36,300) and the Long Range model starts at €49,990 (£42,700). [Editor’s Note: All of these prices are for the European market and have been converted to GBP at current conversion rates. These do not necessarily reflect UK prices].
Production of the new Model 3 is being carried out in China's Giga Shanghai plant, without – at the moment – involving the Giga factory in Berlin (which builds the Tesla Model Y), the facility in Austin, Texas (now used for the 4680 cells and the Tesla Cybertruck, Model Y, and Semi), or the historic Fremont factory in California (where the Model S and Model X are assembled).
Gallery: Tesla Model 3 (2023)
Tesla Model 3 2023 - Rear wheel drive