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2024 Tesla Model 3 Review: My, How You’ve Improved

tesla model 3 2024 01 exterior front angle grey scaled jpg 2024 Tesla Model 3 | Cars.com photo by Conner Golden
Photo of Conner Golden
Conner Golden joined Cars.com in 2023 as an experienced writer and editor with almost a decade of content creation and management in the automotive and tech industries. He lives in the Los Angeles area. Email Conner Golden

The verdict: Tesla’s comprehensive overhaul to the suspension, interior and user interface of the Model 3 makes it not just one of the best electric vehicles available, but one of the most compelling compact luxury sedans on the market — period. 

Versus the competition: Tesla faces increased competition across the board, and its Model 3 and Model Y find themselves in the sharpest crosshairs. With its 2024 refresh, the Model 3 is now on par with or better than BMW’s i offerings, and for some, it will be a more attractive choice than the Hyundai Ioniq 6.  

It’s a turbulent time for Tesla. As of this writing, the American automaker faces market, production and leadership struggles that are being magnified through a media lens that seems to relish every misstep and setback. Despite the headlines and a typhoon of genuine competition from legacy automakers, most Tesla products are still the benchmark for EVs when it comes to sales and public charging infrastructure.

Related: 2024 Tesla Model 3 Up Close: Refined and Renewed

Amid this turmoil and narrative, we have some good news: The updated 2024 Model 3 is quite impressive, and not just for an EV — it’s impressive in the luxury compact sedan class as a whole. As subtle as its changes might seem on (recycled) paper, there’s enough (plant-based) meat here to strongly appeal to new and returning Tesla customers alike.

An EV Playground

tesla model 3 2024 15 exterior charging scaled jpg 2024 Tesla Model 3 charging | Cars.com photo by Conner Golden

A bamboo platter of context, caveats and variables: I’m based in a suburb of Los Angeles, a sprawling metroplex roundly considered a playground for EVs of all shapes and sizes. Whatever all-electric you’re driving, you’re never more than a few minutes from a public charging station amid a state that has by far the highest concentration of them anywhere in the U.S. It’s not clear how many of those are Tesla ports or Superchargers, but given the automaker’s ubiquity here in California, it’s safe to say there are a lot.  

During my test drive, I buzzed around in a 2024 Model 3 Long Range wholly within the confines of the city; I didn’t attempt any road trips. And after evaluating the updated Model 3 as an urban runabout in one of the most EV-friendly American cities, I believe Tesla’s redesigned sedan might be one of the best small(ish) cars you can buy provided it fits your lifestyle.

Fine Refinement

tesla model 3 2024 09 exterior rear angle scaled jpg 2024 Tesla Model 3 | Cars.com photo by Conner Golden

For the moment, forget any software or feature updates in the updated Model 3. Tesla put an admirable focus on improving build quality, attention to detail, refinement and comfort in this car — and my goodness, does it show. Noise, vibration and harshness is down a claimed 20% over the last generation thanks to significant changes with the chassis.

The suspension has been overhauled front and rear, utilizing “frequency-dependent” damper valves that mechanically adapt to impacts in order to improve ride comfort and body control. New bushings and a modified rear subframe expand isolation, control and steering responsiveness, buoyed by additional changes to the wheel hubs and brakes.

The sum of all this is ride and handling composure that is at the very least on par with the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. It’s a massive improvement over the previous Model 3, a car that could be charitably described as “harsh.” Cars.com Managing Editor Joe Bruzek finagled a 30-minute drive in an updated Model 3 during a service session for Cars.com’s Model Y, piloting the sedan through a suburban Chicago environment that included both city streets and highways. His reaction?

“I was blown away by how differently the new Model 3 drives versus the old one, as well as our Model Y,” he wrote. “The 2024 Model 3 removes almost all harshness from the driving experience of the previous 2018 Model 3 Long Range I drove while retaining much of the fun-to-drive character.” 

tesla model 3 2024 16 interior front row scaled jpg 2024 Tesla Model 3 | Cars.com photo by Conner Golden

Indeed, it’s not just about comfort. In the configuration I drove, the 2024 Model 3 is genuinely fun to drive even just around town. Without drinking deeply from the Long Range’s 425 horsepower and instantly available 475 pounds-feet of torque, there’s still a universal sense of solidity and surefootedness that’s endemic to premium sports sedans like the 3 Series and Lexus IS. 

The Model 3’s is hardly the most “connected” drive — it’s still quite digital in sensation — but there’s satisfying weight and damping to driver inputs that go a long way toward elevating the experience. And now you’re finally not sacrificing comfort in this pursuit; I spent roughly an hour with the Cars.com Model Y in Chicago in early 2024, and though I marveled at its rapier-quick steering and conspicuous lack of body roll, the suspension was painfully tight; it crashed more than coddled over bumps. That kind of behavior is somewhat forgivable in a performance trim, but it’s unforgivable in a workaday Long Range configuration.

Surprising Silence

Thankfully, we can look forward to the new Model 3’s chassis improvements in a future updated Model Y.

“There aren’t any jarring hits or unsettledness with the 2024 Model 3; tire impacts are quieter and less intrusive,” Bruzek agreed. “Overall, the new Model 3 finally drives like a luxury car, and it easily rivals the ride and handling refinement of traditional German luxury cars.”

tesla model 3 2024 13 exterior wheel scaled jpg 2024 Tesla Model 3 | Cars.com photo by Conner Golden

It’s quiet, too. Yes, yes — one would assume all EVs are quiet by nature, but in the absence of a rumbling engine, suspension creaks, road noise and electric motor whine can be quick to fill the void. In the new Model 3, thicker padding and insulation work in concert with new acoustic glass for the side windows to properly muffle the interior to match this car’s price tag and market position — and it will likely pay the biggest dividends for returning customers.

Talking Tech

Speaking of returning customers, I’m probably focusing on the wrong stuff for them. Whereas quality control and general refinement are important for brand newbies and conquest sales, a returning Tesla advocate will likely do so for the tech and feature set — comfort be damned. Predictably, the fresh Model 3 adds a suite of tech and software upgrades that will either delight or disgust.

The most controversial change will likely be the relocation of the shift controls to the touchscreen and the addition of a directional swipe element. Drive is engaged by swiping the scroll bar forward or “up” on a dedicated area of the screen; swipe down for Reverse. Park is a one-touch function at the top of this pseudo scroll bar, and Neutral is a press-and-hold toggle at the bottom. All of this works in concert with the predictive shift protocol, which utilizes the parking sensors and a bit of logic to determine if you’re most likely going to drive forward or back upon returning to your parked car.

Sound confusing? It isn’t. Essentially, hitting the brake pedal with your seat belt on in a parked Model 3 will engage either Drive or Reverse depending on your environment. If it guesses incorrectly, simply select the correct direction on the screen. Screen responsiveness and reliability have been issues with Teslas, so just in case the swipe functions aren’t working, there are redundant touch-sensitive PRND controls on the headliner between the overhead light functions.

tesla model 3 2024 18 interior overhead scaled jpg 2024 Tesla Model 3 transmission selector | Cars.com photo by Conner Golden

Honestly, I thought I’d hate this setup, but in practice, I acclimated far quicker than I’d imagined; eventually, I started to like the flow that emerges from leaning in to the Tesla ecosystem. With my phone as the key, it was one fluid motion to enter the parked car, click the seat belt, hit the brake and drive away.

My Kingdom for a Stalk

On the contrary, it was the updated steering controls that I never got a hang of. In a tireless pursuit to eliminate all stalks from the steering column, the Model 3’s turn signals are now touch-capacitive controls on the left side of the steering wheel. No amount of mental repetition or practice made this function autonomic for me; I often hit the wrong turn direction, or the controls just didn’t engage at all. I get the goal of max minimalism, but perhaps a better solution would be a discreet pair of physical paddles or toggles behind the wheel — or simply bringing the stalk back.

Everything else, however, is generally smooth and flawless in operation. Back to the phone as a key for a second: Only a handful of times did the car fail to recognize my presence, which necessitates opening the app and manually unlocking the door. The other 50-or-so times were as painless of an ingress as is possible. Tesla says the new Model 3 detects phones up to 10 times more effectively than before thanks to more Bluetooth sensors.

tesla model 3 2024 02 exterior front grey scaled jpg 2024 Tesla Model 3 | Cars.com photo by Conner Golden

The new cabin is a marked step up, too. Gone is the crappy, poorly wearing wood veneer trim, replaced by textured cloth on a redesigned dash. It’s far more stylistically cohesive and significantly contributes to Tesla’s trademark minimalistic aesthetic. Too austere for you? Futz with the new ambient lighting to take it from an office space to a … well, colorful office space.

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Best in Class?

Overall, it feels like you’re actually getting your money’s worth with the new Model 3 rather than just paying for early access to tech. Other than some expected Tesla-specific user-interface quirks, it feels like a fully thought-out and comprehensively engineered product — and that’s not something you can say about every model in the lineup.

It’s not necessarily an exciting vehicle, nor will it appeal to buyers who are already anti-Tesla, but the refreshed 2024 Tesla Model 3 goes a remarkably long way in offering an upscale experience that happily matches both its price and competition. Let’s hope we can say the same about the next Model Y.

Cars.com’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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