Ask a motorist to name an electric car manufacturer and the brand they will probably come up with is Tesla. The company is synonymous with electric vehicle development. It certainly has a very high profile media presence and at first glance appears to have made big in-roads in the market with the Model 3 and Model X a common sight in your wing mirrors. Teslas are very distinctive and tend to stand out, but in reality the company has accounted for less than 1% of new car sales in Ireland so far this year. While some of this may be down to availability issues, another factor has been that until recently Tesla lacked the type of practical SUV option that many family buyers prefer.
This has all changed with the introduction of the Tesla Model Y. This is a more spacious version of the popular Model 3, but crucially makes the step from salon to a far more spacious and practical SUV design.
While the move may suit current Tesla fans with growing families, it also means that the Californian car maker is entering a very competitive market sector where it must compete with EV offerings from the likes of VW, Audi, Mercedes, Hyundai, KIA and many more.
- Spacious and practical
- Excellent performance
- Good range, fast charging
- Very safe
- Firm ride
- Can be noisy at speed
At a glance the Model Y and the Model 3 look very similar. Styling, especially at the front end looks much the same, but park one beside the other and the differences become apparent. The Model Y sits higher on the road than the Model 3 and has a much higher roof line, standing 181mm taller. So although the Y is only 50mm longer than the 3 it has the stance of a much bigger car.
The overall design has a look of familiarity about it, but it is still pleasing on the eye with dynamic lines flowing towards a rear that has hints of an old style sports car fast back. The design features frameless doors and flush door handles and lots of glass, giving the Model Y something of a minimalist exterior. It is a far cry from the type of busy, multi tone, designs that many modern SUV sport, but if you prefer refined and understated, then the Tesla ticks all the right boxes.
The minimalist theme continues inside the cabin of the Model Y. The design is clean, crisp and ultra modern, so that only the 15 inch touch screen and the steering wheel stand out. To many drivers this type of interior will be totally new and maybe a little alien. Everything happens through the touch screen from music to mirror adjustments, so it does take some getting used to and many will miss the simplicity of more tactile controls. The system is not compatible Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but comes loaded with functions such as Spotify, Google Maps and video playback as well as the back-up of Bluetooth.
The driving position is high and enhanced by the low dash, with plenty of room up front. Rear seats are spacious and headroom is very good with the panoramic roof making it very airy inside. The boot space will more than satisfy most needs with a standard 854 litre expanding to a massive 2158 litres with the seats folded. There is even an added storage space under the bonnet.
The Model Y comes in three specs, the dual motor all-wheel drive Performance and Long Range versions and the Rear Wheel Drive only version. The Performance version offers the type of speed and acceleration that might normally be found on a race track. The car delivers an estimated 434hp, will hit 100kmph in a blistering 3.7 seconds and can get up to 250kmph. The long range version has corresponding figures of 5 seconds and 217kmph and even the rear wheel drive will hit 100kmph in 6.9 seconds. In truth it is type of performance that you are unlikely to ever need, but having the power available is reassuring and if you do tire of the exhilaration of the acceleration, you can dial it down by using a Chill mode.
Where the experience of Tesla does really come into its own is when it comes to charging, with the company taking a more holistic approach to the issue which includes its own infrastructure in the form of on-route superchargers and destination chargers at the likes of hotels and restaurants. Tesla say that the 75kWh battery can deliver a range of 533km, which is excellent if achievable. In truth 400km may be more realistic in real world driving, but even this is impressive compared to much of the competition.
The car has a CCS charging connection that offers good compatibility with most charging stations and at a Tesla fast charger with 210kW it can go to 80% capacity in just 29 minutes. A home charger will take a normal overnight 7 hour 30 minutes at 11kW.
As a new model it is too early to know if the Model Y will provide the levels of reliability that can be a key factor in convincing drivers to go electric. You hear very mixed stories when it comes to the Tesla driving experience, with the majority very positive, but like most car makers, there is still the odd example that seems to develop a long list of problems. As a pioneer in its field you would expect Teslas to have the odd teething issues, but hopefully these will not be a major concern.
The Model Y is a big, heavy car, but should be able to deliver low running costs with its efficient electric motors and extended range. It is also a low tax option. At present there is only one service centre in Ireland, so if you want the official dealer stamps, al be it electronic these days, and do not live close to Dublin, and an issue cannot sorted out remotely, service or repair could be potentially expensive and inconvenient issue.
As a big, tall and heavy car the Model Y was always going to find it difficult to be agile and exciting when it comes to handling. In truth the Tesla engineers have done a good job. There is plenty of grip in corners, not too much body roll and the brakes are excellent. The steering feels a little unresponsive but you soon compensate for this.
Ride quality is a an issue for many electric SUVs and while this is not an issue on well maintained urban roads and motorways, you will feel the bumps on some of the less forgiving rural roads in the Model Y. The ride is very firm and noise and vibration can also be an issue over uneven surfaces. This is a little disappointing for a car with this power and price tag.
Tesla makes a big issue of safety and driver assistance systems and the Model Y follows this trend. It has not been Euro NCAP crash tested yet, but with the similar Model 3 achieving a 5 star rating and the Model Y getting top marks in the equivalent US tests, you can expect that the car will get A 5 star European rating.
The Model Y also features the Autopilot system. Although the name is somewhat misleading, as it is not intended to offer full antonymous driving, as yet, Autopilot features a host of cameras and sensors to detect potential danger and inform the driver or adjust the vehicle operation to avoid impacts. The car also offer excellent parking manoeuvre assistance. Overall the Model Y is a very safe car to drive.
- Running Costs
The price for the rear wheel drive Model Y starts at €59,490. The Long Range all wheel drive version, which is likely to be most popular, starts at €66,990 and the Performance version €72,990. This means the Model Y is quite an expensive car to buy and so may attract potential buyers who have their heart set on a Tesla rather than anyone just scanning the market. It should also be noted that you will need patience if you want one, as delivery dates are currently running into February or March of 2023.
The Model Y looks good, has an ultra modern interior that will appeal to many, but not all, offers sports car performance and scores well on range and charging. This will make it an attractive option for many, who will be prepared to over look the harsh ride. Euro for euro you could certainly get more for your money with a more traditional car maker. However, the Tesla name has a certain appeal to many and as such this will be a sought after vehicle.