2024 Tesla Model 3 review: Australian first drive

24 minutes, 10 seconds Read

The updated Tesla Model 3 is designed to freshen the top-selling sedan – and address customer complaints with the original model. But have some changes instead made it worse?


What we love
  • Suspension is better over bumps without sacrificing handling, performance
  • Upgraded interior is plusher and more comfortable
  • Excellent real-world energy efficiency

What we don’t
  • Indicators on the steering wheel, gear selector on the touchscreen are clunky
  • Camera-based parking sensors are unreliable
  • Still no Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, instrument display, tyre repair kit or spare wheel

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2024 Tesla Model 3

After seven years in global showrooms, the Tesla Model 3 sedan has come in for a significant update – known to fans of the US car giant by its internal codename, ‘Highland’.

It is the most comprehensive update since launch for what remains Australia’s all-time best-selling electric car – and sits second in the battery-powered sales race this year behind its Model Y SUV sibling.

There’s a new look with restyled front and rear fascias, a refreshed interior with new materials and a brighter touchscreen, upgraded driver-assistance cameras, a longer driving range thanks to a slipperier body, and revised suspension, tyres and materials claimed to reduce road and wind noise, and improve comfort over bumps.

Combined with a slew of other small changes – new colours, wheels, improved phone connectivity, better sound systems – Tesla says 50 per cent of the car is new.

But there has also been one very controversial change: the deletion of the steering wheel stalks, which move the indicators to buttons on the steering wheel, and the gear selector to a slider on the touchscreen.

Has the updated Tesla Model 3 succeeded in making an already good electric car better?

How much does the Tesla Model 3 cost in Australia?

Prices start from $61,900 for the Rear-Wheel Drive (RWD), or $71,900 for the Long Range AWD (all-wheel drive) – all before on-road costs, as well as $400 order and $1400 delivery fees.

These prices are up $4500 and $1500 respectively – however, price cuts for the previous model mean they’re still $3600 to $8100 lower than equivalent versions were at the start of 2023.

The car on test is the top-selling Model 3 Rear-Wheel Drive, with a single electric motor, a 513km claimed WLTP driving range, and 0–100km/h acceleration in a claimed 6.1 seconds.

The only option on our test vehicle is $1500 Deep Blue Metallic paint, bringing its price to $63,400 plus on-road costs and order/delivery fees – or $66,319 drive-away in NSW.

There is no shortage of rivals at this circa-$60,000 price point, chief among them a trio of similarly sized four-door cars: the mid-grade BYD Seal Premium ($58,798 plus on-road costs), base Hyundai Ioniq 6 Standard Range ($65,500 plus on-road costs), and entry-level Polestar 2 Standard Range Single Motor ($67,400 plus on-road costs).

Only the BYD can beat the Tesla on range, performance and price – 0–100km/h in 5.9 seconds and 570km WLTP range – though Drive and other media outlets are yet to test the Seal on Australian roads.

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The Ioniq 6 claims 429km WLTP – or 614km for the $71,500 Extended Range battery version – while the Polestar quotes 532km WLTP.

New standard features for 2024 include redesigned front seats with ventilation (in addition to carryover heating), a slightly larger 15.4-inch touchscreen (previously 15-inch), restyled 18-inch alloy wheels with aero covers, an 8.0-inch rear passenger touchscreen, ambient interior lighting, and a traditional blind-spot monitoring system with lights near the mirrors.

Carryover features include FM/DAB digital radio, Bluetooth, satellite navigation, voice control, Tesla app support, synthetic leather-look seat trim, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a power boot lid, tinted glass roof, dual wireless phone chargers, power-adjustable front seats, and a suite of advanced safety features.

Tesla continues to persist without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support, an instrument display ahead of the driver, AM radio, or a tyre repair kit on Australian models.

Key details 2024 Tesla Model 3 RWD
Price $61,900 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Deep Blue Metallic
Options Premium paint – $1500
Price as tested $63,400 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $66,319 (NSW)
Rivals BYD Seal | Polestar 2 | Hyundai Ioniq 6

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How much space does the Tesla Model 3 have inside?

The first major change inside the updated Model 3 is noticeable as soon as you get in, close the door and hear its solid ‘thunk’ – a big upgrade compared to the metallic ‘clang’ produced by the doors of the previous model.

The fundamental design of the interior hasn’t changed – with a large touchscreen in the centre of the car to control nearly all vehicle functions, from music and navigation to opening the glovebox and adjusting the mirrors – but the dashboard, centre console, steering wheel and materials have been updated or redesigned.

Arguably the most controversial change is the deletion of the stalks behind the steering wheel – which has seen the indicator controls move from the left-side stalk to buttons on the steering wheel, and the gear selector move from the right-side stalk to a slider on the touchscreen, or a row of touch buttons on the roof in case there’s an issue with the touchscreen.

We will go into more depth on the touchscreen in the next section, and how the indicator and gear selector controls work on the road in the ‘what is it like to drive’ section – but our impressions are mixed.

Drivers are treated to a low seating position – despite the battery under the floor – with ample space for taller occupants to extend their legs and get comfortable, as the floors in the driver and front passenger footwells are lower than in the rest of the car.

The new front seats are a step up in comfort – with increased bolstering for reasonable support in tight corners – and the pain points in my lower back I experienced in the previous model’s seats are no longer present.

They’re now fitted with ventilation – a welcome addition, given they are trimmed in synthetic leather-look upholstery that can get hot in summer – in addition to carryover heating functions, and plenty of power adjustment to find a comfortable seating position.

The steering wheel is new, but retains the compact dimensions, thick rim, and heating abilities of the previous model. It continues to be adjusted electrically, but only by delving into a fiddly menu in the touchscreen, then using the scroll wheels on the steering wheel to adjust its position. At other times, these scroll wheels manage music and cruise control.

Almost every surface in the cabin is now trimmed in faux leather, a rubberised material, or carpet, which Tesla says both makes the car feel more luxurious and absorbs road noise.

Among the new materials is a felt-like covering on the dashboard in our black interior-equipped test vehicle – replacing the faux wood of the old model – which sits near a customisable ambient light strip running around the base of the windscreen, another nice touch.

Perceived build quality in our brand-new test vehicle was good, and the exterior panel gaps were consistent – but within a few hundred kilometres it developed a rattle in the left door trim panel when playing music at high volume.

With a low and short bonnet, and a large windscreen, forward visibility is good, and the glass roof lets a lot of light in – though it will heat up the cabin quickly on hot days. Rear visibility is compromised by the high boot lid.

Storage space up front now includes two large compartments and two cupholders – though the door pockets are not the largest we’ve seen, and the glovebox (accessed through the touchscreen) is small. Amenities include dual wireless phone charging pads, two USB-C ports (now powerful enough to charge laptops) and a 12-volt socket.

In the rear, changes to the posture and shape of the seats allow taller passengers to stretch their legs out more – and feel less like their knees are perched off the seat base – though it is still not as good in this regard as a similarly sized petrol car.

There is enough knee room for me to sit behind my driving position (at 183cm tall), and head room is good under the glass roof, though toe room becomes tight if the driver sets their seat low.

New for 2024 is an 8.0-inch touchscreen for back-seat passengers, used to move the air vents in the rear, play videos on Netflix, Twitch or other services, turn on the heated outboard seats, or change the music.

Tesla has cut out the space below the touchscreen – and the two USB-C ports below it – so the middle-seat passenger can slide their feet underneath it, rather than fight for foot space on the flat floor with the outboard passengers.

Other amenities in the rear include a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, map pockets on each front seat, three top-tether points for child seats, and two ISOFIX anchor points.

Boot space has increased for the updated Model 3, now quoting 594L (up from 561L) behind the rear seats, which includes a compartment under the floor large enough for a carry-on suitcase or, if you’re creative with the total boot space, enough room for two full-sized suitcases. There’s a further 88L under the front bonnet.

The boot is accessed by a power tailgate. Disappointingly, unlike versions sold in Europe, a tyre repair kit – let alone a spare tyre – is not standard in the Model 3 in Australia, and must be purchased from the Tesla online shop for $125.

2024 Tesla Model 3 RWD
Seats Five
Boot volume 594L seats up
88L under bonnet
Length 4720mm
Width 1933mm
Height 1441mm
Wheelbase 2875mm

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Does the Tesla Model 3 have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

The 2024 Model 3’s touchscreen now measures 15.4 inches – up from 15 inches, thanks to thinner bezels – and is said to be brighter and snappier than before.

That is on top of the previous model’s screen, which already offered desktop computer or smartphone-like responses, sharp graphics, bright colours, and access to downloadable software updates that add new features or improve existing ones over the air.

As before, the touchscreen controls nearly all vehicle functions – from the radio station and safety system settings to the air-conditioning temperature and fan speed, opening the glovebox, and the windscreen wipers. The complexity of the menus is daunting at first, but once you get used to the layout, it becomes easy to use.

On the new steering wheel there are shortcuts to the wiper and headlight controls, but to change their speed or brightness respectively, drivers still need to look away from the road to tap the touchscreen. We would also like physical controls for some key air-conditioning functions.  

Tesla continues to persist without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support in its vehicles.

Many apps available in these systems are built into the Tesla’s infotainment software – including Spotify, Zoom and Apple Music – and the embedded satellite navigation system is easy to use, powered by Google Maps, and with Supercharger locations included.

However, other Apple CarPlay or Android Auto apps such as Waze navigation or PlugShare for finding non-Tesla charging stations are not integrated – though there is a rather clunky workaround that uses the in-built web browser – and if CarPlay and Android Auto are fitted to $20,000 city hatchbacks and $30,000 work utes, there’s no reason why Tesla can’t give its owners the option of these features.

Other omissions: a dedicated instrument display – instead placing the speed in the corner of the central touchscreen, which is less convenient and harder to see at a glance than if it were directly below the driver’s line of sight – or AM radio, which remains critical for emergency alerts in rural areas where the Tesla’s FM or DAB digital radio functionality cannot reach.

As with all Teslas, there’s support for a smartphone app that can be used as the car’s key, check its location or charging status, enable the climate control, open the front storage area, or use the Summon feature that allows the car to be moved forwards and backwards without the driver inside.

The rear and side cameras are of excellent quality, though front and top-down 360-degree cameras would be a good addition.

The nine-speaker sound system in the Model 3 RWD doesn’t wear premium branding, but thanks to engineers from what Tesla representatives call a “Danish audio company”, it delivers great punch for the price. Stepping up to the Long Range brings a 17-speaker system (up from 14 speakers previously).

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Is the Tesla Model 3 a safe car?

The Tesla Model 3 is covered by a five-star safety rating from ANCAP, based on testing conducted to more lenient protocols by its sister organisation Euro NCAP.

It earned category scores of 96 per cent for Adult Occupant Protection, 87 per cent for Child Occupant Protection, 74 per cent for Vulnerable Road User Protection (pedestrians and cyclists) and 94 per cent for Safety Assist technology.

This rating was awarded in 2019, and is scheduled to expire after 31 December 2025.

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What safety technology does the Tesla Model 3 have?

Standard in all Model 3s is Tesla’s base ‘Autopilot’ package, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and lane-centring assist – plus autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot cameras, blind-spot monitoring lights, traffic sign recognition, a driver attention warning, and individual tyre pressure monitors.

Although not fitted to our test vehicle, buyers can pay $5100 extra for Enhanced Autopilot, with automatic lane-change functionality, and a more advanced highway driving system that can overtake cars.

This package also includes hands-free parking, Summon, and the Smart Summon feature that lets the car drive itself through a car park from the space to the owner without anyone inside. However, these are currently unavailable on 2024 cars, and will be activated later through a software update.

For $10,100 there is the Full Self-Driving feature, which claims to be capable of stopping for traffic lights and stop signs, and enable semi-autonomous, human-supervised driving in urban areas. While it is available to order, it cannot be enabled in Australia yet.

We experienced no false activations of the autonomous emergency braking system – also referred to as ‘phantom braking’ events – in our short time with the car.

The blind-spot monitoring lights are new for 2024 – to complement the blind-spot cameras – but the LEDs they use are small, and there is still no rear cross-traffic alert technology, as offered by nearly every other car at this price point.

Unlike our previous Tesla Model 3 test vehicle – which was stuck in a ‘delivery mode’ that would not complete the calibration of the Autopilot software – we were able to test the semi-autonomous driving software in this 2024 test car.

The adaptive cruise control works well in conjunction with the lane-centring assist, holding the set speed and keeping the car in the middle of the lane without feeling jerky or abrupt. However, it is best used on wider highways, rather than major suburban roads with narrower lanes and parked cars.

The cameras powering the system are Tesla’s latest ‘Hardware 4’ units, said to be of higher resolution for improved accuracy.

The 2024 Model 3 is the first Tesla in Australia to ditch ultrasonic parking sensors in favour of a system exclusively based on cameras and specialised software.

However – particularly in wet weather – we found them to be inaccurate and unreliable, yelling ‘STOP’ when there’s plenty of space to the car in front or behind, jumping at shadows, being indecisive on how far away it thinks an object is, and regularly flashing warnings that ‘Park Assist is degraded’, even in broad daylight.

Tesla is likely to improve the system over time through software updates, but in its current state, we couldn’t trust it – and just used our eyes to judge distance most of the time.

There are now seven airbags: dual frontal, front-side, side curtain, and new for 2024, an airbag between the front seats to prevent occupants’ heads clashing in a severe side-impact collision.

How much does the Tesla Model 3 cost to maintain?

The Tesla Model 3 is covered by a four-year/80,000km vehicle warranty (whichever comes first) and a battery warranty that guarantees the pack will retain at least 70 per cent of its capacity after eight years or 160,000km.

The overall vehicle warranty has fallen behind the industry standard of five years/unlimited kilometres, with Tesla now the only Top 20 selling new-car brand in Australia that offers less than five years of warranty coverage.

The US electric-car giant does not quote traditional time or distance-based service intervals. Instead, maintenance is “condition-based”, so it is only required when the vehicle detects a fault that needs to be fixed – with many tasks able to be completed by ‘mobile service’ technicians who come to your home or office.

Tesla does list some “recommended” service items on its website:

  • Every 10,000km, or if tread depth difference is 1.5mm or greater: Rotate the tyres
  • Every year or 20,000km, for vehicles in cold-weather regions: Cleaning and lubricating
  • Every two years: Replace cabin filter (new filter costs $26)
  • Every four years: Replace the air-conditioning desiccant bag
  • Every four years (previously every two years): Check brake fluid health, and replace if needed

A year of comprehensive insurance coverage from a leading insurer costs $2266, based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

For context, using the same insurance quote calculator and parameters returns estimates of $2368 for the pre-update 2023 Model 3, $2329 for a BYD Seal Premium, and $1857 for a model-year 2023 Hyundai Ioniq 6 Dynamiq (insurance quotes for MY24 versions not yet available).

At a glance 2024 Tesla Model 3 RWD
Warranty Four years, 80,000km
Battery warranty Eight years, 160,000km
Service intervals Condition-based

Is the Tesla Model 3 energy-efficient?

Tesla claims energy use of 13.2kWh per 100 kilometres for the Model 3 RWD – based on European WLTP lab testing – and a 513km claimed driving range, which compare to 14.4kWh/100km and 491km for the previous model.

Over more than 500km of testing, the trip computer listed 13.8kWh/100km. While it’s higher than the claim, our testing was skewed towards highways and spirited country-road touring – and we weren’t making an effort to drive efficiently.

In suburban driving we saw energy efficiency as low as 10kWh/100km – remarkable for a car of this size and performance – while on a 250km highway test loop south of Sydney we saw 13.9kWh/100km, translating to 415km of open-road range.

Due to time constraints we had to conduct much of our range test in torrential rain, with the windscreen wipers running at high speed, and the car needing to use more energy to help the tyres push water out of their way.

While we did have to slow down from the 110km/h speed limit at certain points due to the road conditions – rather than hold the constant speed – the energy efficiency may still be even better in the dry. Few electric cars are as close as this to their combined energy-efficiency claims on the highway.

You may notice that dividing the 60kWh battery capacity by Tesla’s 13.2kWh energy consumption claim gives about 455km of driving range. It is worth noting the claimed range and energy consumption are not measured on the same test cycle, therefore the figures don’t always line up.

As before, the Model 3 RWD is fitted with a lithium ferrophosphate (LFP) battery pack. Unlike lithium-ion or nickel-manganese-cobalt batteries in other electric cars – charging which beyond 80 per cent frequently can speed up battery degradation – LFP batteries can be regularly charged to 100 per cent without damaging the battery cells.

Tesla’s charging claims – up to 170kW on a DC fast charger, and 11kW on a home wallbox – are unchanged, given it hasn’t touched the battery for the 2024 model.

Interestingly, on a 250kW Tesla Supercharger we completed a 10 to 80 per cent recharge in 29 minutes and 50 seconds, or 25 seconds quicker than the 2023 model on the same charger (with both cars’ batteries preconditioned on approach).

The data shows the 2024 car charged faster between 30 and 65 per cent, before closing the gap by 70 per cent – though it may be a result of different ambient conditions on the days the cars were tested, rather than a change to the new model.

It’s worth noting the battery must be ‘pre-conditioned’ (heated) to the optimum temperature to charge at its quickest – and the car will only do this when the satellite navigation is set to one of Tesla’s own Superchargers.

Energy Efficiency Energy Stats
Energy cons. (claimed) 13.2kWh/100km
Energy cons. (on test) 13.8kWh/100km
Battery size 59.7kWh
Driving range claim (WLTP) 513km
Charge time (11kW) 6h (estimated)
Charge time (50kW) 1h 22min (estimated)
Charge time (170kW max rate) 29min 50sec (as-tested 10–80%)

What is the Tesla Model 3 like to drive?

Let’s start with what hasn’t changed: straight-line performance.

The 2024 Model 3 RWD feels just as quick as its predecessor – no surprise, given they share their 208kW rear electric motors and claimed 6.1-second 0–100km/h acceleration time – with sharp accelerator-pedal tuning that pushes you back into the seat.

The biggest improvement on the road has come in the suspension.

The outgoing Model 3 wasn’t too stiff or harsh to live with day-to-day, but it was firmer over bumps than it should’ve been, and could become tiring on long stretches of potholed city streets.

The 2024 model is not a magic carpet – you can still feel bumps – but small lumps and imperfections in the road surface that used to send jitters through the cabin no longer do, and it strikes a great balance between comfort and feeling tied down.

On a winding country road, the 2024 Model 3 retains the poise of its predecessor, with accurate and quick steering, a fast-acting traction-control system, and neutral handling that means the car doesn’t want to run wide (understeer) in corners. Some drivers coming from petrol-powered sports sedans may find the Model 3’s composure a bit clinical and lacking in driver feedback, however.

The more comfortable suspension seems to have induced a touch more body roll, though there was never much to begin with. The turning circle has grown larger (11.7m vs 11.6m), and is now just 10cm smaller than a Mitsubishi Triton dual-cab ute.

The 235/45 R18 Michelin e-Primacy electric-car tyres on this test vehicle also give up grip sooner than the cost-option 235/40 R19 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo3 rubber on the last Model 3 we tested – which are no longer available, and on 2024 cars with 19-inch wheels have been replaced by new Hankook electric-car-focused tyres.

Tesla has removed the ability to let the car ‘creep’ at low speeds like a traditional automatic-transmission car – or coast as if the car were in neutral – so the only choice is a ‘one-pedal’ regenerative braking system that comes to a full stop.

As before, there is only one level of regenerative braking – compared to other electric cars which let you vary its intensity – though it is generally well judged. The brake pedal feels confident in an emergency stop, when the ‘friction’ disc brakes come into play.

Other notes: there is less wind noise and tyre roar than before – thanks in part to the new tyres, double-glazed rear-side windows, and cushioning in the tyres – though there is still a fair amount of noise from the tyres on coarse-chip road surfaces, as well as some suspension noise.

The new headlights offer good illumination, but the automatic high-beam software remains unreliable, often switching on high beams in well-lit tunnels or when following other cars.

We should address the two elephants in the room: the indicator buttons on the steering wheel, and the gear selector on the touchscreen.

The indicators were unusual at first, but after 30 minutes on the road we got used to them.

They didn’t get any less difficult to use in a roundabout when the steering wheel is turned – because the left and right buttons are stacked vertically, not on different sides of the wheel – but over time, we suspect owners will learn to live with them. Nonetheless, the previous model’s indicator stalk was easier to use in all scenarios.

However, the gear selector on the touchscreen did not get much easier to use over our time with the car.

On hand is a feature called Auto Shift out of Park, which remembers your last direction of travel, and detects what’s in front or behind the car to suggest the right gear to enter (reverse or drive) when shifting out of park the next time you turn the car on (which happens by sitting in the seat, placing the key card in the designated place and putting your foot on the brake pedal, as there is no starter button).

It works well, and is handy in car parks. For example, the car will remember if you drove forwards into a parking space, so when you get back in it will suggest reverse – and allow you to enter the gear by just tapping the brake pedal, rather than swiping on the screen.

But during three-point turns the gear selection slider is clunky, taking more time and requiring more of the driver’s attention than simply flicking a stalk.

Of most concern is that – in our testing – the car did not always do what we asked. It is easy to not swipe far enough for the car to register the change from reverse to drive (or vice versa), creating a moment of panic as the driver taps the accelerator pedal, only for the car to move in the direction opposite from what they were expecting – hopefully not into a parked car.

There is a row of touch-sensitive buttons on the roof lining for park, reverse, neutral and drive, but these are only used to move the car if the touchscreen fails.

Key details 2024 Tesla Model 3 RWD
Engine Single electric motor
Power 208kW
Torque 420Nm (estimated)
Drive type Rear-wheel drive
Transmission Single-speed
Power to weight ratio 117.8kW/t
Weight 1765kg
Spare tyre type None
Turning circle 11.7m

Should I buy a Tesla Model 3?

Most of the updates to the Tesla Model 3 – softer suspension, more comfortable seats, a longer driving range, and a more premium-feeling cabin – have made an already accomplished electric vehicle even better, and one that should be near the top of your consideration list in this $60,000 price range.

However, for all the steps forward Tesla has taken, it has taken others back.

Most notably, the indicator controls on the steering wheel are fiddly, the gear selection slider on the touchscreen is clumsy, and the camera-based parking sensors are inaccurate and in need of more software refinement.

Several key omissions from the previous model remain – there is still no Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, AM radio, dedicated speed display, tyre repair kit or spare wheel – and the warranty is shorter than the industry average.

If you’re considering a new Tesla Model 3, we encourage you to take as long of a test drive as you can to see if you’re able to get used to the changes in the driving experience.

If the answer is yes, few other electric vehicles at this price offer the Model 3’s blend of driving range, comfort, performance, handling, technology and energy efficiency.

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How do I buy a Tesla Model 3 – next steps?

Customer deliveries of the updated Tesla Model 3 are due to begin between January and March next year, so it remains to be seen how much stock of the vehicle Tesla will have.

While the Long Range model brings useful improvements in range and performance – plus the surety of all-wheel drive – this cheaper, rear-wheel-drive model is better value, and will be more than enough for most buyers.

To configure and place an order for an updated Model 3, click here to visit Tesla’s website. Other similarly priced electric cars to consider include the BYD Seal Premium, Polestar 2 Standard Range Single Motor and Hyundai Ioniq 6 Standard Range. Buyers looking for an older Model 3 can search classified listings at Drive.com.au/cars-for-sale.

Ratings Breakdown

2023 Tesla Model 3 Rear-Wheel Drive Sedan

7.7/ 10


Safety Technology

Ride Quality

Infotainment & Connectivity

Handling & Dynamics

Energy Efficiency

Driver Technology

Value for Money

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Fit for Purpose

Alex Misoyannis has been writing about cars since 2017, when he started his own website, Redline. He contributed for Drive in 2018, before joining CarAdvice in 2019, becoming a regular contributing journalist within the news team in 2020.

Cars have played a central role throughout Alex’s life, from flicking through car magazines at a young age, to growing up around performance vehicles in a car-loving family.

Read more about Alex MisoyannisLinkIcon

This post was originally published on this site

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