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2024 Tesla Model 3 Up Close: Refined and Renewed

tesla model 3 2024 01 exterior front angle jpg 2024 Tesla Model 3 | Cars.com photo by Christian Lantry

Tesla has been a pioneer when it comes to offering vehicle enhancements via over-the-air software updates (some of which we haven’t always appreciated in our long-term Model Y SUV because of how they’ve affected vehicle controls), but the electric-vehicle maker hasn’t been quick to update the exterior and interior designs of the Model Y or the Model 3 compact sedan, the latter of which debuted as a 2017 model.

While the Model 3’s design hasn’t changed much in the intervening years, the 2024 model gets refreshed exterior styling and an updated interior with more technology and new design cues, and we were able to get an up-close look at it at the 2024 Chicago Auto Show.

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Subtle but Effective Exterior Updates

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For 2024, the Model 3 gets the equivalent of the car industry’s “mid-cycle refresh,” a familiar tactic used to keep a vehicle that’s midway through its lifecycle fresh and relevant — except in the case of the Model 3, it’s happening in the car’s eighth model year, a point at which legacy automakers would be launching or would have already launched a fully redesigned version of the car in question.

The Model 3’s changes are concentrated at the front and rear. The front end sports a new bumper and headlights that give the sedan a sharper, sleeker look that loses the bumper lip that had been a controversial design element of the prior Model 3. The rear sees similar changes, with new taillights that offer an updated take on the previous ones as well as a restyled bumper.

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Mostly Modest Interior Changes — Save for One

The theme of subtle changes continues in the Model 3’s cabin, which gets updated materials, new ambient lighting with customizable colors and a restyled dashboard. The new cabin has a premium feel thanks to soft-touch materials throughout, including large swaths of suede-style fabric on the doors. There’s also perforated upholstery that complements the new ventilated front seats. As before, there’s a large touchscreen in the center of the dashboard that shows everything from the gear you’re in to where you’re going.

Perhaps the most consequential change for the driver is the Model 3’s updated steering-wheel controls. The familiar turn-signal stalk has been replaced with steering-wheel touchpads that activate the left and right blinkers. Gone, too, is the gear-selector stalk on the right side of the steering column; now, shifting into Drive or Reverse is accomplished by swiping up or down, respectively, on the touchscreen’s drive mode strip. The changes reflect Tesla’s continued efforts to replace physical controls that have long been part of the automotive landscape with software-defined ones.

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Space and comfort is fine in front for taller adults, and the center console between them has an updated layout. You feel the Model 3’s small size, however, when sitting in the backseat, which doesn’t offer the same level of comfort as the front seats. There’s just not a lot of space in back, and the seating position itself isn’t very comfortable. Backseat passengers do get a new 8-inch touchscreen at the back of the front center console, and it controls things like the climate vents and can also be used for gaming.

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Availability and Pricing

While you may remember when there were significant wait times for a new Tesla, the automaker’s website says that if you configure and order an updated Model 3 now, you can expect it to be delivered within two months. Two versions are available: one with rear-wheel drive and 272 miles of estimated range that can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds, according to Tesla, and another with all-wheel drive that offers 341 miles of estimated range and can reach 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. The RWD Model 3 starts at $40,380, while the AWD version starts at $48,380 (all prices include $1,390 destination fee).

Apart from the changes to the steering-wheel controls, the Model 3’s updates don’t radically alter how an owner is going to experience the car. The richer interior seems nice enough when you consider the car’s pricing, and new features like ventilated front seats and a rear touchscreen are welcome additions. It’s easy for a vehicle refresh to feel underwhelming when compared with the steady stream of all-new and redesigned vehicle debuts, but the 2024 Model 3’s is effective overall.

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Mike Hanley has more than 20 years of experience reporting on the auto industry. His primary focus is new vehicles, and he's currently a Senior Road Test Editor overseeing expert car reviews and comparison tests. He previously managed Editorial content in the Cars.com Research section. Email Mike Hanley

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