Why The Tesla Model 3 Highland Refresh Was Much Needed

Why The Tesla Model 3 Highland Refresh Was Much Needed

Tesla may be at the top of every segment it is present in, but its models are aging, and the Model 3 needed a desperate refresh.

Tesla is the world’s biggest electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer, but in order for it not to be beaten by Chinese EV maker BYD, there’s no room for Tesla to be complacent. Tesla’s situation is further made difficult by the fact that its lineup of EVs isn’t exactly new. Granted, Tesla’s manufacturing techniques by using “gigacasting” is indeed advanced, while its EV drivetrain in terms of efficiency is unparalleled, but the sheer fact that its entire model range hasn’t received a full generational change yet probably won’t entice new customers and even more so existing ones. Thankfully, Tesla has given the Model 3 an update, and while it’s not a full generational change, it’s still enough to attract more customers to the brand. Here’s why.

The Fountain Of Youth

The updates made to the Tesla Model 3, internally called “Highland”, are quite major as it somehow transforms the character of the exterior. Whereas the curvatures at the front fascia of the pre-facelift Model 3 gave it a semblance of a front grille, the 2024 update completely eliminated that in favor of a cleaner look that fully embraces the fact that EVs don’t need a grille. This is complemented by the slimmer LED headlights, new C-shaped LED taillights with the center element of the lighting units now eliminated, as well as new 18-inch Photon and 19-inch Nova wheels.

These updates give the 2024 Tesla Model 3 a more minimalist and fuss-free exterior design. Though the changes are minor, it does transform the Model 3’s looks. From its previous aesthetic that serves as a gap between the aesthetic of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and EVs, the new Model 3 fully embraces the transition to electric mobility with the elimination of any design flourishes simulating the vents of grilles of an ICE car.

New Interior And Tech Amenities

Likewise, the interior also receives numerous updates to keep the design fresh and attract new customers to the brand. The minimalist, button-less layout is still fully embraced, but the new dash design incorporates LED ambient lighting that flows through the door panels. Those door panels are likewise new, and for the first time, those doors also contain lights for a new blind spot warning indicator. Though this isn’t the first time Tesla offered such a feature, the brand’s implementation of blind spot warnings has always been via a camera feed that was displayed through the infotainment.

The 2024 Tesla Model 3 gets a new steering wheel design. Apart from the aesthetic differences, the turn signal controls have been moved to the steering as well, which means that Tesla has eliminated all the stalks. You might be asking at this point, didn’t the previous Model 3 feature a stalk-based gear lever? Well, just like in the updated Model S, that has been moved into the touch screen, which we’re not a fan of.

Updates have also been made to the car’s interior tech amenities. The infotainment screen is now brighter and more responsive, while the sound system has been improved from 14 to 17 speakers. Lastly, those seated at the back now have their own screen to play. There’s a new, center console-mounted eight-inch screen that gives rear occupants access to climate controls, as well as even entertainment features like Netflix, Disney Plus, and YouTube.

Class-Leading Range

Tesla has not yet fully revealed the specifications of the Model 3, such as battery size which they stopped revealing in 2023. What we do know is that, as usual with Teslas, its range will be unparalleled in the segment. It must be noted that these numbers are only for the European-market Model 3, with Tesla yet to reveal how the U.S.-market Model 3 is expected to perform.

When fully charged, the new Model 3 can travel 11-12 percent further than the previous model, partly thanks to an improved drag coefficient of 0.23 Cd to 0.219 Cd. As a result, the base Standard Range rear-wheel drive (RWD) can now travel up to 513 kilometers (319 miles) based on WLTP estimates, while its 0-100 km/h (62 mph) time is good for 6.1 seconds. On the other hand, the Long Range all-wheel drive (AWD) does the 0-62 mph sprint in just 4.4 seconds as well as travels further on a single charge with a range of 629 kilometers (391 miles), likewise based on WLTP estimates.

These range improvements for the European model are quite impressive, especially with the Standard Range RWD whose 319-mile range is pretty much able to fulfill more of the needs of European customers already to serve as their primary car. Interestingly, the new Model 3 is actually slightly slower to 62 mph compared to the previous Model 3. For perspective, here’s how the Highland update for the 2024 Model 3 compares to the pre-updated Model 3, both of which are European-market models in order to make the comparison fair and square.

Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Tesla Model 3 “Highland” Standard Range Tesla Model 3 Long Range Tesla Model 3 “Highland” Long Range
Drivetrain Single motor, rear-wheel drive Single motor, rear-wheel drive Dual motor, all-wheel drive Dual motor, all-wheel drive
Horsepower 279 hp TBA 346 hp TBA
Torque 330 lb-ft TBA 376 lb-ft TBA
0-60 MPH 5.8 sec. 6.1 sec. 4.2 sec. 4.4 sec.
Range 305 miles 319 miles 382 miles 391 miles

If you’re wondering where’s the Tesla Model 3 Performance? Well, that has yet to be revealed for this update of the Model 3. For reference, the outgoing Model 3 Performance for Europe has a dual-motor AWD setup that produces 450 horsepower and 471 pound-feet of torque, which is enough for a 0-62 mph time of 3.3 seconds and a range of 340 miles based on WLTP estimates.

Not only did Tesla upgrade the drivetrain and battery, but they also improved the Model 3’s driving dynamics as well. This is thanks to revisions in the suspension as well as the stiffening of the body structure. Acoustic glass all over the vehicle also aims to reduce outside noise from entering the cabin.

Why This Update Was Much Needed

The Tesla Model 3 has been in production since 2017, but over that six-year period, the electric sedan only got incremental upgrades. Granted, this still kept it at the top of the premium electric sedan segment, since even amid newer competition at the time, the Tesla offered the best range, the best efficiency, as well as the most capable performance levels. It also certainly helps that Tesla’s Supercharger infrastructure is unparalleled thanks to the sheer diversity of the network.

Yet, even if it’s at the top of the segment, there is no room for Tesla to be complacent. This is especially true with its premium EV competitors in China, whose features, range, and capabilities are on par or even better than what the Model 3 can offer. Sure, the Model 3 is the best in its segment, but that’s only if you take into account its competitors in Western markets. In China, the situation is much more competitive, with more than 100 Chinese EV companies vying for the loyalty of the customers yet to be tapped in the world’s biggest EV market.

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