Review: 2024 Tesla Model 3 Highland Refresh takes good, makes it great, creating a very very compelling EV

    I recently had the chance to spend a week with the 2024 Tesla Model 3 Highland Refresh and now it’s time to detail my thoughts in a full review.

    The first major update to the Model 3 since its inception more than 5 years ago is a big one, while the car shares the same nameplate, the car features changes to almost every part of the product. In a post last month, I detailed more than 50 changes with side-by-side photos. showing interior and exterior upgrades.

    For those considering the Model 3 as their first EV, the car is easily the best version of the car Tesla has ever produced and despite all the additions, the price tag is still less than the original price, when Model 3 first went on sale in Australia back in 2019. 


    The front and rear of the car have received major updates, changing the look of the car substantially. You’ll still identify it as a Tesla from a distance, with a similar overall body shape, but look a little closer and you’ll start to notice the changes.

    While I don’t think there was anything fundamentally broken or wrong with the design before, there is always room for improvement and 5 years in, a new look has the chance to invite new buyers.

    Rather than minor annual updates to intentionally differentiate year models, Tesla kept the Model 3 largely the same for the first few years, a mid-cycle upgrade a couple of years ago (updating the interior) and now this, the wholesale change for the ‘Highland’ refresh.

    For those new to Tesla, the car offers a sporty design on the outside and a premium feeling on the inside, but this new revision takes many items from customer feedback and improves upon them.

    The headlights are a substantial change, with the shape now moving to a modern and sleek design, replacing the confusing deflated balloon shape previously offered. In a very Tesla way, they didn’t simply make a small tweak but completely rethought them. The headlights are now a single unit that incorporates the headlights, high beams, fog lights and indicators. This new generation of headlights, known as matrix LEDs offers localized dimming to make night-time driving even safer.

    At night, the headlights do a great job of illuminating the road ahead and the side of the road, giving you a fighting chance to see approaching wildlife. The high beams will stay on longer as the localised dimming means you can enjoy better illumination for most of the roadway, but cars in front or in the opposing lane of traffic are now isolated and the LEDs for that area of the light beam muted as to not blind them.

    Having tested this over the course of a week, I was never flashed by other drivers, which tells me this works well not only for me as the driver, but other road users. Accurate dimming of the high beams automatically has been an issue in the past and I’m confident the new Model 3 has that under control.

    The headlight change caused a flow-on change in the front quarter panels, and the front bar, which Tesla chose to refine and design, removing the lower fog lights (blank on the SR), for a cleaner look while taking some further aerodynamic advantages from the new profile.

    The rear of the car is the other big external change, with the styling getting a complete overhaul. The new rear lights move to a C-shape design and are now open with the boot lid. The badging has now changed to the TESLA letters spelled out, rather than the Tesla T logo, as it was on the original Tesla Roadster and next-gen Roadster prototype. Personally, I was happy with the simple and cleaner Tesla logo, but it’s a change, so you’ll know this is the new one when following it.

    The lower section of the rear bar now features a redesigned and more aggressive diffuser. While this review is focused on the standard-range rear-wheel drive model, the styling is repeated on the AWD long-range option.

    This takes us to the lack of a Performance Model 3. Being a Model 3 Performance owner, it was disappointing to see a gap between the last generation of the M3P and the replacement, but recent leaks confirm it is coming soon. The front and rear bar designs on the new Ludicrous performance variant are even more aggressive than this and personally, I love that design direction.

    Tesla often does a great job at finding the right compromise between design, and efficiency, understanding the tradeoffs between range and costs to consumers. Catching and managing the airflow that exits the vehicle under the rear, is an important aspect to achieving one of their lowest drag coefficient numbers ever.

    The sum of the changes to design adds up to a sleeker, more modern look and feel to the car, one that should appeal to a broader audience.


    There’s a crazy list of changes on this car, but the ones that interested me the most were Smart Shift and High Fidelity Park Assist as both of these are not available on either my 2019 M3P or our 2022 MY.

    Smart Shift

    My biggest question in reviewing the Model 3 was how well the Smart Shift actually works. In theory, Tesla uses some of their AI magic to automatically select the direction of the vehicle, but how often does it guess wrong?

    Having spent a week with the car and watched Smart Shift make its decisions dozens of times, there was only one example of it selecting incorrectly. This instance was a difficult one, but clearly, not one Tesla had catered for and needed to.

    I pulled into Bottle Shop drive-thru which was a unique setup, it was a semi-circle, and the car’s vision ahead was the store, while behind the car was clear, so the Tesla guessed that the best option was to reverse. The drive-thru was one way, but the car missed the signs and arrows on the ground indicating this.

    What was apparent to me, was that Tesla does a great job of indicating the direction of intended travel on the car’s screen, so spotting the arrow facing backwards, I simply swiped up on the right side of the screen to shift into Drive and was on my way. Admittedly this is an edge case, one that many will never encounter, but does demonstrate the system isn’t flawless.

    On the whole, I was incredibly impressed with the car’s gear selection choices, matching what I would select, 99% of the time. Tesla’s use of computer vision, leveraging the 8 cameras around the car, provides a unique situation where they can offer this functionality, a feature unlike any other.

    An important improvement Smart Shift, would be a change to the experience at the start of the day. You enter the car in your garage and both the forward and rear movements are blocked. In theory, Tesla shouldn’t allow you to select either as this would result in an accident if you released the brake and pressed the accelerator… but today, it does.

    For those cars with HomeLink, it should prompt the driver to open the garage door, and then automatically select the direction, once the path is clear. An even better improvement would be to allow an option that automatically initiates HomeLink in the morning when you first enter the car, further reducing the manual inputs and continuing to create the magical experience of owning this car.

    Tesla has stated previously that they’re on a journey to create the uncrushable car and while smart shift, along with Autopilot and FSD, feels like the beginning of that, we’ve got a decent journey ahead to make that a reality. Far too often we see stories of cars crashing through storefronts and as a risk mitigation, businesses have to spend thousands of dollars adding concrete bollards to prevent this from occurring. Tesla’s smart shift technology has the opportunity to put an end to this, but would need to be sold to third-party manufacturers to solve this problem for society. 

    High Fidelity Park Assist.

    Park Assist was a feature I’d only seen online until getting hands-on with the refreshed Model 3 and despite having two Teslas in the garage, the feature is unfortunately only available to those without ultrasonic sensors on their car (hope this changes soon). There’s no obvious reason for this, although some speculate that range calculations are still more accurate using USS than not.

    Having experienced the feature now, I think it works great. Would I park using this visualisation alone? probably not, as I found I did leverage the video feed from the reverse camera and side repeaters. We are expecting Tesla to ship Actual Smart Summon in the next month or two and if that works as expected, we won’t be doing much manual parking at all.

    In the US, where they have FSD (Supervised / formerly Beta), there is a fullscreen option for the visualisation and if that were the case, it may be possible to park with the visualisation alone.

    Whenever I reviewed the 3D mapping, it appeared accurate and had much better detail than the proximity lines from the current build. With high-fidelity park assist, the 3D voxels change colours to yellow, orange, and then red as you get closer to an object. When you’re within range of an object, you see the word STOP. I believe this is around 30cm away which is effectively the same as we have today.

    The visualisation is initiated when you enter reverse, but can be used up to 10km/hr at which point it then reverts to our standard display, the 3D render of the car. At the very least, high-fidelity park assist should be offered as an option to all HW3 Tesla vehicles users can enable, still with the same warning and disclosures.

    Stalkless wheel and wheel buttons

    Tesla is famous for their minimal interiors and it’s something I personally really love about my car. The wheel was the perfect example of pushing hard on minimalisation.. With just 2 scroll wheels (also buttons) on the original Model 3 wheel.

    As Tesla moves to remove the stalks, they have moved most of those features to the steering wheel as buttons. Integrated into the wheel, the buttons surround the scroll wheels so it makes the wheel a little more complex, removing the stalks offers simplicity in that area and importantly reduces the part count.

    The biggest mental accommodation you’ll need to make, centers around the change to indicating. In my experience, it’ll take between a few hours to a couple of days for this location to be committed to memory. Once you do, it’s a complete non-issue.

    To indicate the right, press the top button, for the left, press the bottom. Had I designed the layout, I would have gone for the Ferrari-style left on the left and right on the right and I suspect this would have been an easier positioning for many to adapt to.

    Removing the stalk, particularly the indicator stalk is an interesting move, and while it is different, I can’t say it’s better for the customer, while I appreciate it is better for Tesla. The Smart Shift, along with the lights, and windscreen washer button all make sense, so if you’re that deep into this change, it would be weird to leave a single stalk for indicators (I also like symmetry), so for that reason alone, maybe the buttons on the wheel for indicators did need to happen.

    For those people who buy the Model 3 and use it exclusively, this will be completely fine, retrain your brain and get on with enjoying the car. Unfortunately, I do think this harms the ability for fleet managers to consider the Model 3, as having employees jump between vehicles and having them re-learn how to drive is probably not a path many are willing to travel.

    New rear display

    Rear passengers now get the luxury of a display of their own. This enables passengers to watch their own video content from apps like YouTube and Netflix, or play games, while the car is in motion. With a Bluetooth headset connected, passengers can have their own audio experience while front row passengers continue to enjoy their audio entertainment options.

    The screen can be controlled by the front display by the driver, so if you have kids in the back, this is a great feature to set in place before commencing the drive (some options are locked when in motion).

    It is possible to play 2-player games between the front and rear displays, with titles like Beach Buggy Racing demonstrating how Bluetooth controllers are likely to be commonplace for casual gaming while stopped to charge.

    Upgrade driving experience

    One of the big changes with the refreshed Model 3 is the driving experience, chiefly led by upgraded seats. These seats are fantastic, now offering cooling to add to the previous heated seats. For a car with so much glass as this, in a hot Australian summer, being able to cool the occupants quickly and efficiently is a really important factor.

    With very comfortable seats that offer heating and cooling, you should feel very confident that riding in the car for hours will be a very comfortable experience.

    Issues and Opportunities

    One side effect of the great noise isolation that’s now available in the refreshed Model 3 is that you can’t actually hear when you press the horn. As a test, I put down the window and sure enough the horn works just fine, showing just how good the new glazing is.

    The change of the 12V port to the front console storage bin means you now have to use this to power any USB devices as it lacks the previous USB ports that were on offer. There is a popular accessory that brings USB ports to the top of the storage bin and items like this will be impacted. This may be another example of Tesla removing just one more part to optimise costs. There is 1 USB-C port in the armrest storage bin, but this doesn’t provide the same level of access.

    Tesla indicated that the new dash element was going to be a replaceable/customisable cover, but as it stands today, there are no options. We have seen on the leaked Model 3 Ludicrous that this will be a carbon-fibre element that I think would be popular if offered as an option in the SR/LR variants.

    Price and Availability

    The Tesla Model 3 is more affordable than many may realise. Starting at just A$61,900 (A$67k driveaway price VIC), it is really competitively priced when compared to other premium sedans and especially compared to other premium EVs.

    What is interesting to consider is the new rival that Tesla recently acquired in the mid-sized sedan market, the BYD Seal. Thanks to the 2024 new vehicle sales, we know Tesla handsomely outsold them despite a higher price point. This likely indicates customers are prepared to pay more for the technology in Tesla vehicles (Autopilot included), the range and access to the Supercharger network.

    Tesla also offers a growing number of service centres, the majority in metro cities and the ability to get a BYD serviced is certainly more constrained. As far as I know, Tesla remains the only EV maker that doesn’t have a fixed service schedule, rather they use vehicle telemetry to determine if parts need replacing. This means the ongoing costs of owning a Tesla are typically far lower than other brands as you have reduced charging costs (compared to fuel) and lower servicing costs.

    Model 3 is available to order now, and if you did that today, the order times are as low as we’ve seen, with delivery estimates in April-June.

    The Rear-Wheel Drive Model 3 offers up to 513km of range, 201km/h top speed and a 0-100m/h time of 6.1 seconds.

    If you need more range or want faster performance, the Model 3 AWD Long-Range starts at A$70,900 (A$76,799 driveway VIC). The larger battery provides up to 629km range and 201km/h and drops the 0-100km/h to 4.4 seconds.

    You can select just a few upgrades, from the 18″ Photon wheels to the 19″ Nova wheels. Paint options include 5 colours, Pearl White Multi-coat (included), Solid Black, Deep Blue Metallic ($1,500), Stealth Grey ($2,300), and Ultra Red ($2,600). Moving from the included black interior to black and white interior is an A$1,500 option.

    When it comes to software upgrades, we have Enhanced Autopilot costs A$5,100 and includes Navigate on Autopilot, Auto Lane Change, with Autopark, Summon and Smart Summon all listed as Upcoming.

    Full Self-Driving Capability which offers all the functionality of Basic Autopilot and Enhanced Autopilot, also gets you Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control for A$10,100. The big feature listed in the Upcoming section is Autosteer on city streets, which will arrive when Tesla ships FSD (Supervised) in Australia (currently only available in US and Canada).

    It is worth noting that chargers are not included with the car and you should head to the shop to select the appropriate charger for your needs. The high-performance wall charger costs A$800 and probably that again to have it installed, while the standard Mobile charger costs A$550.


    The 2024 Tesla Model 3 Highland Refresh offers significant improvements over its already impressive predecessor. The redesigned exterior is sleek and modern, particularly with the advanced new matrix LED headlights.

    While the move to a stalkless steering wheel requires some adjustment, other interior changes like Smart Shift offer surprising convenience. New features like High Fidelity Park Assist add value, and Tesla’s dedication to noise reduction enhances the driving experience.

    With a competitive price point, superior technology, access to the Supercharger network, and reduced ownership costs, the Model 3 remains a leader in the premium EV segment. Those considering their first EV will find this the best Model 3 yet, while those familiar with Tesla may appreciate the thoughtful refinements.

    If you have any questions about the new Model 3, leave them in the comments below.

    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


    1. I’ve driven the refreshed Model 3 and mostly enjoyed it, but the lack of stalks takes away a lifetime of reflex responses.
      I don’t see why Tesla would remove perfectly functioning controls to save costs then add a completely unnecessary ambient-lighting strip!

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