The new Tesla Model 3 Highland builds upon its predecessor by incorporating a few notable upgrades, such as its refined interior and exterior design, a more advanced suspension system, good range, and excellent performance all while remaining competitively priced. Despite losing its indicator stalks and falling short in some key areas over its rivals, it’s still an impressive electric vehicle and as such, received our Best Buy award.
Regarding its audio configuration, the new entry-level Model 3 rear-wheel drive (RWD) has nine speakers, while the new all-wheel drive (AWD) model has a 17-speaker system instead with two upward-firing subwoofers in the boot. The latter system is on review.
Indeed, the new Model 3 has an upgraded audio configuration. The RWD model used to have eight speakers (later dropped to seven), while the AWD model used to have 15 speakers (later dropped to 14). When compared, the new RWD model now has tweeters at the front of the cabin. The AWD model now has two subwoofers as opposed to only one in the boot, while each of the front doors now house two woofers versus the singular unit that was present in the past.
Tesla Model 3 audio setup
To tweak the audio settings, one has to navigate through the 15.4″ infotainment system to find the appropriate menu. Here are our optimal settings:
- Sub: -2
- Bass: -2
- Lower-mids: +0
- Mids: +0
- Upper-mids: +0
- Treble: +1
- Immersive Sound: +1 (or -1 from Standard)
- Balance & Fader: Centre
To connect to the vehicle’s audio system using your smartphone, you’ll be limited to using Bluetooth only – the USB Type-C ports are all used for charging only. As Tesla’s infotainment system doesn’t support Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, this is the only way to playback media files from a phone.
Unfortunately, the SBC codec is supported only, which is a downgrade over its predecessor that supported both the SBC and AAC codecs – the latter being useful for iPhone owners, as it’s Apple’s native codec. Further, it’s a shame that higher quality codecs such as aptX or LDAC were supported, as it would have reduced the transmission loss, and thus improved the audio quality, over Bluetooth.
On the plus side, there is the option to plug a flash drive into the USB Type-A port found in the glove box. It must be formatted to FAT32 and should you wish to continue using the dashcam feature, you’ll need to partition the drive. Once utilised, you’ll be able to playback MP3 and higher-resolution files that have been recorded in the FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec File) and WAV formats – up to 24-bit 192 kHz is supported. This makes the Model 3 among a finite group of cars that can support higher-resolution playback, which is ideal for budding audiophiles.
Read next: A list of our favourite phone holders
Aside from your traditional inputs, there is ‘Premium Connectivity’, which is a subscription that costs £10 a month. This gives you the ability to stream music at a higher quality by using Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal, with video streaming platforms Netflix, YouTube and Twitch also available as alternatives.
As for media controls, there are the onscreen touch controls and the physical left scroll wheel on the steering wheel. When pressed it pauses or resumes, and when it’s shifted to the left or right will go back or skip a track, respectively. If you roll the wheel upwards or downwards it’ll adjust the overall playback volume.
Tesla Model 3 audio performance
For a demo of the Tesla Model 3’s audio system, head on over to our YouTube channel.
In terms of its audio configuration, the manufacturer hasn’t confirmed all the details with its systems, with total wattage also kept secret. However, we do know that the new RWD Model 3 has nine speakers and has the following setup: three 100mm midrange drivers in the dashboard, two within each of the front doors (a 25mm tweeter at the top and a 200mm woofer towards the bottom) and 100mm midrange drivers within each of the rear doors.
Update: since our original review, Tesla has updated its website to state that there is no subwoofer in the new RWD Model 3 and indeed having now tested the entry-level variant, TotallyEV can confirm that there is no subwoofer present. Below, you will see the press material that was shared and the updated segment that’s now live on the manufacturer’s website.
The AWD Model 3 has 17 speakers in total, its configuration is slightly different from the above: you have three 100mm midrange drivers in the dashboard, four speakers in each of the front doors (a 25mm tweeter at the top, a 60mm midrange towards the middle and 200mm dual woofers towards the bottom), 100mm midrange in each of the rear doors and at each corner of the parcel shelf and finally, there are two 200mm upward-firing subwoofers in the boot.
Contrary to people’s beliefs, the grille located between the front and rear passenger seats within the headliner is a control unit and does not form part of the audio system. This has been confirmed by Tesla, and from our testing no audio plays and calls do not become louder when your head is closer to the grille.
The dual subwoofer design is a step up over its predecessor. There’s more low-end rumble and extension, which can be heard and felt in Diddy, The Weeknd & French Montana’s single titled ‘Another One Of Me’. Indeed, R&B, D’n’B and EDM tracks sound fuller and have a bit more life to them in the lower frequency band. With that said, the upward-firing drivers don’t quite compete with the subwoofers that are found in the BMW i7, Bentley Bentayga, BMW i4, Audi e-tron GT, Porsche Taycan, Kia Soul EV, and Polestar 2 – these vehicles have that extra little oomph in the lower echelons of the frequency range, which will entice those who love bass.
However, the mid-bass tones are done to perfection. The dual-woofers found within each of the front doors do a faultless job of reproducing a punchy sound in Ciara and Chris Brown’s track titled ‘How We Roll’. There’s excellent control, no rattle and plenty of quantity; we reduced a few notches to the ‘Bass’ EQ to help subdue the impact as the addition of that extra woofer in each of the front doors does up the ante over its predecessor.
Despite the additional mid-bass quantity, its mid-range is still pinpoint accurate and class-leading for a vehicle in its category. The midrange drivers found within the front cowl, rear parcel shelf and all four doors help bring vocals to the foreground; they’re certainly not as recessed, as the systems found in the BMW i4, Audi e-tron GT, Porsche Taycan, Polestar 2 and BYD Seal.
In this department, mid-range performance remains unchanged from the original Model 3 and Model Y. Given both also did a tremendous job, you can’t fault Tesla for sticking with the same configuration. The only vehicles to top the new Model 3 in the mid-range frequencies are the Tesla Model S Plaid and the flawless-sounding BMW i7; two vehicles that cost a significant premium.
As for the highs, they’re similarly excellent at least at the front of the cabin. It is a shame that Tesla has still omitted tweeters at the rear of the cabin, as you’d find on rival alternatives or the manufacturer’s flagship Model S Plaid; the addition of rear tweeters would have not only helped with high-end extension at the back but also aided instrument separation.
Nonetheless, the tweeters found within each of the front doors provide fantastic extension at the top end. The highs are also not sibilant or harsh at louder volumes, which means you can listen for hours on end without getting any ear fatigue. To help bring out that extra bit of zest, we added one notch to the ‘Treble’ EQ.
What stands out is its soundstage reproduction, which is jaw-dropping especially when compared to similarly-priced rivals. Music is engaging, no matter where you’re sat in the vehicle, with instrument separation being particularly impressive at the front of the cabin. Listening to Armin van Buuren’s album, ‘A State of Trance, Ibiza 2023’, more specifically the track titled ‘Motive (Jochem Hamerling Remix)’, the Model 3’s system is capable of keeping up with the numerous instruments while still providing fantastic width and depth.
We should point out that via the infotainment system, we added one notch to the ‘Immersive’ slider (or one off the ‘Standard’ preset). To us, this configuration provides a little extra dynamism without impacting vocals. By turning the ‘Immersive’ slider to ‘Off’, you’ll get a more reference sound with better stereo imaging but have a more uni-directional sound. By going the opposite way, you’ll have a more omnidirectional experience but will compromise on accuracy with an unwanted reverb affecting the entire frequency range.
Aside from its stellar sound reproduction, the new Model 3 has a tranquil cabin, competing with some of the most serene vehicle cabins we’ve tested. Using a sound meter, we recorded: 35-36 dBA at a standstill; 54-58 dBA while driving at 20-30mph; 60-64 dBA at 40mph; and 69-72 dBA when cruising at 70mph.
Oddly, the objective numbers are higher than what we recorded in the original RWD Model 3. However, subjectively we can say that the new car has slightly better insulation thanks to the upgraded materials that have been used within the cabin. Driving comfort has also improved with a softer suspension setup, which aids in lowering cabin noise as fewer vibrations and shunts can be felt while driving.
TotallyEV’s verdict on the Tesla Model 3’s audio system
On the whole, the new Model 3’s audio system is an upgrade over its predecessor, which in itself set a benchmark for vehicles at its price point (be it fully electric or other). In some ways, the 17-speaker configuration found in the AWD Highland sits in-between the older AWD Model 3/Model Y and the Model S Plaid.
Indeed, the addition of an extra subwoofer in the boot and a secondary woofer within each of the front doors have aided the system’s low-end prowess, allowing it to compete with some of its modern rivals. As such, the 17-speaker system receives TotallyEV’s Audio Excellence award.