Although the Model 3 has been instrumental for Tesla, consistently smashing its quarterly records, it has been three years since the model was last revised and the electric sedan market has continued to remain one of the most dynamic and constantly evolving in the industry.
Due to this, the Tesla Model 3 now faces increasingly fierce competition from the likes of the VW ID.7, Hyundai Ioniq 6, and Polestar 4, all of whom aim to dethrone the Model 3 and claim its much-coveted crown, and benefit from more elegant and exotic designs. Therefore, Tesla is in dire need of a facelift for the Model 3 to ensure it remains attractive.
Fortunately, several recent events strongly suggest that a Model 3 facelift may not be so distant. Firstly, Tesla, after a brief spell of significant price hikes, slashed the costs of both the Model Y and Model 3 in May, which may betray the company’s intent to clear inventory, aside from simply revitalising sales.
If so, this strategy is typical of manufacturers who are on the precipice of introducing upgrades to existing models. Moreover, production of the outgoing Model 3 has been frozen at Gigafactory Shanghai in China, whilst reports claim that Tesla have also dismantled the Model 3’s assembly line at Freemont Factory in California. It would not be outlandish to assume that this foreshadows the installation of new equipment to produce a Model 3 facelift (under the codename ‘Project Highland’).
These developments corroborate several spy shots that have been captured showing a vehicle resembling the Model 3 touring the streets close to Tesla’s California factory, with a handful of notable changes to the exterior. The front end of the Model 3 facelift, from the spy shots, appears considerably sharper, with multiple efforts having been made to smooth out some of the rougher aspects of the existing design. It is also evident that Tesla have discarded the fog lights entirely, instead favouring more slender horizontal headlights not unlike those on the Model S, with an LED signature that seems to have been sourced from the Roadster supercar whose production continues to be plagued with delays.
As a result, the Model 3 facelift will appear far more polished than its precursor and will boast an additional three cameras to improve the capabilities of Tesla’s onboard security and Autopilot systems, with one being in the centre of the air intake, and the other two on the sides of the vehicle.
It can also be expected that Tesla will have re-evaluated the interior of the Model 3, with a particular focus on pacifying the critics of the overbearing centre touchscreen that commands the dashboard of the current Model 3. Thus, it is likely that the facelift will appropriate the digital instrument cluster seen in the Model S, as well as potentially the “yoke” steering wheel as an alternative to the more traditional three-spoke wheel.
Additionally, it is speculated that the facelift will sport new seats and forswear any elements of wooden trim. In place of this, the revised Model 3 will incorporate cloth or fabric inserts to supplement the sportier blueprint. Other smaller refinements to the interior and tweaking’s of the infotainment system could also be on the table. However, Tesla is also anticipated to make the extremely contentious decision to opt for a “stalkless” configuration where all gear changes are made using the central screen instead of a column-mounted gear stick.
While major powertrain improvements that would considerably augment performance are not thought to be making an appearance, advancements in battery technology could see the Model 3 extend its range to beyond 400 miles on WLTP tests to keep pace with other manufacturers. For context, the outgoing Model 3 Long Range will deliver a claimed 374 miles on a single charge, although this does not consider real world limiting factors.
It may also be the case that the facelift model is more affordable than its predecessor as Tesla have recently streamlined and greatly reduced the complexity of their production process. As a result, the use of larger stamped components will decrease the number of welds by 1600 and the total number of components by 171. Therefore, this decline in production costs could translate into a more economically priced vehicle.
The official reveal of the Model 3 facelift is expected to take place later this month, which means the first models could arrive in the UK by the third quarter of 2023. It is highly probable that Tesla will follow this reveal with an announcement of a Model Y facelift, as the Model Y has also seen reductions in price.