If you think electric cars are nothing more than glorified golf carts then I would absolutely agree with you… when talking about EVs from Mercedes, Volkswagen, and BMW. These legacy car manufacturers merely pay lip service to “environmental sustainability”, a hand-me-down term that has entered the corporate lexicon and sounds like they are reading from the WEF, Klaus Schwab school of fantasy economics. Tesla started off as a geek with few friends and has gone on to become the benchmark electric vehicle manufacturer every other wants to emulate. To underscore Tesla’s rise, the company is currently valued at over $600BN, more than Toyota, Mercedes, BMW, Volkswagen, and Ford combined.
So enough of the Tesla opening fanfare, I can only stand so much. The Tesla Model Y was first revealed in 2018 and has only just been made available for the UK market. Tesla’s simple, minimalist philosophy extends to all areas of product development, from manufacturing cadence, and design, to model trim delineation. The Model Y is available in three trim levels with entry-level prices starting at £44,000 and rising to £60,000, before options, for the top-spec Performance. That’s it.
The options extend to a selection of exterior paint finishes, 18-inch or 19-inch alloy wheels, a tow hitch, a choice of black or white interior trim, Enhanced Auto Pilot, and Full Self Driving. That’s it. One more thing, you can also buy a Tesla wall charger for around £475.
The Model Y exterior styling is a clean and smart looking design reflecting Tesla’s minimalist approach, it is clearly influenced by the Model 3 design language. Indeed, the Model Y is based on the Model 3 platform and shares 75 percent of the sedan’s underpinnings.
Yet the Model Y is bigger than I expected, it’s bigger than A BMW X3, almost but not quite as big as an X5. Yet the simplicity of the exterior hides a complex and advanced manufacturing process, electric dreivetrain, and state-of-the-art software integration. However, the average consumer will never know about the amount of advanced engineering and software development it takes to get a Model Y shoehorned and shining into a Tesla showroom.
Again with the simplicity, the interior is ultra-minimalist, Steering wheel and 15-inch infotainment system. The usual storage compartments etc. That’s it. With such a minimalist approach, Tesla has to ensure the interior has a perception of quality because modern premium car interiors are overstyled. Mercedes is one example, and so all of us have been conditioned to think that a Mercedes or BMW interior is what we should all aspire to.
And it has to be said early Tesla interiors were a little lacking in quality control which wasn’t a great experience when they charged a premium. And when you pay £40k or £80k for a vehicle you expect it to be nothing less than excellent.
The Tesla Model Y’s interior feels like a significant step up, everything is solidly screwed together, the choice of materials lining the cabin feels much better, and it finally feels like a premium experience from behind the wheel. The seats are comfortable and lined in artificial leather which actually feels better than the expensive natural (slaughtered) Nappa leather favored by luxury car makers.
Its spacious up front and plenty of room is on offer for rear-seated passengers who enjoy a panoramic view of the heavens if they can see through the glass roof tint. Boot space is very generous, 854 litres with the seats up, 2,041 litres with the seats folded flat, with additional space under the bonnet for more storage. It is very obvious the Model Y is a very practical vehicle.
The Infotainment System
Tesla’s infotainment software is designed in-house and is one of the best systems on the market. It’s also intuitive to use and you soon get up to speed with operating and interacting with it. The car’s functions are accessed digitally, occaisonally via the steering wheel-mounted buttons. For example, if you want to change the wing mirrors, you access a menu on the infotainment screen and then change the angle of the mirror using the steering wheel-mounted buttons.
Many reviewers have bemoaned the lack of physical buttons. However, once you acclimatize yourself to Tesla’s way of thinking then the lack of physical buttons isn’t the doomsday scenario motoring journalists have been collectively whining about. Anyway, the infotainment system is responsive, superb UI interface and design.
This is an area where Tesla has often lacked finesse. Thankfully the Model Y Performance offers a refined and comfortable ride. While high-riding vehicles weighing over 2 tonnes are never going to threaten a true sports car, the Model Y is capable enough when embarking on a road journey interrupted by meandering bends. Crucially the ride comfort is satisfyingly good.
The Model Y Performance rides on a stiff suspension setup which is further negated by riding on 19-inch low profile tryes. Nevertheless, the ride is comfortable enough to make short or long journeys effortlessly relaxing.
Being an electric vehicle, the near silence adds to the driving experience serenity, and also shows how good the interior acoustic dampening is.
So, what about the range? The Model Y Perfromance utilises a 75kWh battery, dual electric motors provide AWD. The theoretical range is around 313 miles. Real-world range is around 295-305 miles if driven within normal boundaries. Tesla has the best supercharging network so you can make a journey from London to Scotland without facing insurmountable issues, and you will always find a Tesla Supercharger fully functional and operational.
In terms of performance, with 527bhp on tap, the Model Y Performance is like a rocket ship, an oxymoron of course. Acceleration from a standstill is instantaneous and pushes you back in the seat. Only high-performance supercars/hypercars have this kind of insane straight-line capability. The Model Y Performance can mix it with a V8-powered Porsche Cayenne Turbo GT yet it costs a third of the price. Admittedly the top speed of 150mph is pushing the limits of the Model Y Performance, look at it this way, you are getting hypercar levels of straight-line accelerating performance for a fraction of the price.
I was skeptical about the Tesla Model Y. The main reason was a biased presumption that Tesla had yet to fix their debatable levels of quality control both for the interior and exterior. The underlying technology, the electric drivetrain, and efficiency were proven years ago. It seems Tesla has overcome the early build teething troubles.
Early adopters will always pay a premium for next-generation technology and Tesla has become the leader in their domain. The Model Y is perhaps the best iteration of the Tesla brand, a showcase for advanced manufacturing and technology wrapped up in a minimalist form and function philosophy.
If I was in the market for a new electric car, the Model Y would be at the top of my list.