Did Tesla’s Model 3 ‘Highland’ refresh just leak? A detailed breakdown of the 4 images

    For months now, the Tesla community has been speculating about a rumoured Model 3 refresh known as ‘highland’. Today we have 4 new images that may be our most viable leak to date.

    The new images appear to show press images, displayed on a computer (mouse is a giveaway) with a healthy dose of reflection. Whoever took these photos did a good job of ensuring their face was not in the reflection.

    Multiple Tesla Model 3’s have been spotted in a number of countries that have both the front and rear covered, as to obscure the refreshed design. There has also been suggestions that Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory is due to switch to the new design around this time, further adding to the credibility of today’s leak as the timeline looks to align.

    As to why someone would be seeing these press images on screen, ahead of them going live on the public Tesla website, it’s likely these are being used in training for employees to get up to speed with what’s new.

    Since the first 30 Tesla Model 3s were delivered to customers back in July 2017, we really haven’t seen extenal changes outside changes from the crome to black trim. In 2021, Tesla moved to the new interior with an updated console and extended the dash trim to the doors. Outside of this, the Model 3 has remain unchanged for 6 years.

    With 4 images, let’s break them down and what we can learn about the Highland Model 3 refresh.

    Highland leaked image 1

    The front view of the vehicle provides a great look at the new front end of the Model 3. While there’s the same aerodynamically efficient design, we see the lower fog lights eliminated. We also see the headlights are redesigned, much more in the style of what we’ve seen on the Model S.

    The Model 3/Y headlights have always been a weird shape, so they are unlikely to be missed.

    Highland leaked image 2

    The 3 quarter view reveals the updated rims. These match the recent leaks of 2 new rim styles, with the obvious difference that the leak was in black, while these appear a silver finish.

    Typically the size and style of Tesla rims provide a good indication of what spec the vehicle is and what consumers will ultimately see in the vehicle configurator.

    These rims are large in size (possibly 20″) with not a lot of sidewall, but don’t feature the red brake calipers offered on the performance trim. This indicates the new wheels are the Long Range option, however Tesla doesn’t typically display press images of the wheels without aero covers.

    Given how critical the rims design (and covers) are to range, does this suggest a possible increase in the battery to accommodate and deliver a similar range without the covers (est. 3-5%)?

    We also see the mouse cursor hovering over the front wheel.

    Highland leaked image 3

    This view provides a rear 3 quarter shot, offering us a great look at the revised rear end. There’s another light upgrade here, moving to more of a C-shaped design. This also looks like they may be using the full lettered TESLA logo on the rear end, again a similarity to the Model S.

    The lower section of the rear bar looks like its getting a big revision, with the black aero diffuser extending much higher than the current Model 3.

    We also see the rear fog lights/reflectors have also been deleted. Perhaps Tesla has data suggesting low utilisation and they opted to remove them and save on cost and complexity.

    Highland leaked image 4

    The last shot is familiar in that we see these mountains and the motion blur effect in other Tesla press shots. This view shows the car in both red and gray. So far we don’t have any evidence of a new colour in the highland refresh.

    We also get a confirmation the black trim around the windows, the side repeater and the handles are continuing.

    Some of the renders we seen recently had a door handle deletion, undoubtedly stemming from the Cybertruck design, however these images appear to confirm that handles will continue.

    Given how confusing the flush door handles have been for everyday people, removing them completely may be one step too many. Its likely they Cybertruck’s construction material is much easier without handles as they would need to create the stainless steel panel, then cut a hole in it to accommodate a handle. Model 3 manufacturing is already setup to make millions of doors with handles, so it makes sense these remain.

    So these are the changes we can confirm (as far as confirmations go from leaks), but Tesla is likely to have many more we can’t see externally.

    One of the main changes underneath is an expected change to the front and rear casting that we see on the Model Y, also being used in the Model 3 highland refresh.

    Another potential change is the removal of stalks on the steering wheel. This has already been done in the Model S/X refresh and the car leverages computer vision and a software feature called Smart Shift to determine if you would need to drive forward or backwards and automatically select the gear.

    We expect this refreshed Model 3 will also have Hardware 4, which includes the upgraded cameras with higher resolution and red tint on their lenses.

    So after seeing the new leaked photos, what are your thoughts? Are these changes enough to get you to buy?
    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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