It’s been only three days since Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s newest electric car, the Model Y compact SUV, was launched during a rock-show style event at its Los Angeles design studio. So, what has been the response so far?
The founder of the electric car and battery storage pioneer presented the car following a retrospective of the company’s achievements to date, including Musk’s own Roadster – the first ever made, as well as of course the Model S, Model X and Model 3.
Arguably the most talked about electric car launch since its predecessor, the all-electric Model 3 sedan, the Model Y will first sell from the northern autumn of 2020, starting at $US47,000 for the rear-wheel, Long Range version ($A66,300 at today’s rates), with the Dual Motor AWD and Performance version also available for at $US51,000 and $US60,000 ($A72,000 and $A84,600 at today’s rates respectively).
The “base” Standard model will be available from the northern hemisphere’s spring 2021, costing $US39,000 ($A55,000 at today’s rates).
A blue Model Y rolled out onto stage at the event joining its stablemates while Musk talked the audience through the various specifications of the Model Y – which starts with real world range of 370km for its base model, and can drive over 240km/hr and accelerate from 0-60mph (96.5km/hr) in 3.5 seconds for its Performance variant.
Musk also pointed out features like safety and handling, which like many other electric cars exceed their ICE counterparts thanks to a low-mounted battery pack and therefore low centre of gravity.
“It has the functionality of an SUV but will ride like a sports car,” Musk said. “This thing will be really tight on corners.”
“It’s testing out at a 0.23 drag coefficient which is extremely good for an SUV.”
Perhaps conscious that at first sight the Model Y does not have the physical presence of the Model X, Musk also pointed out features like the panoramic roof.
“It really feels, just like the Model 3, if you’re inside, it feels like you can see the sky,” he said.
How does the Model Y actually stack up though?
While it’s a good 18 months until the Model Y goes into production, Tesla did have one working model at the event (the blue one, as well as a white shell), and some lucky punters at the event were able to take a test ride and have shared their experiences.
Youtube reviewer Daerik in particular has posted an insightful overview of his impressions of the Model Y, with a lot of comparisons to the Model 3, S and X.
Riding in the backseat and talking to a driver in the front, he got to find out a lot of things not mentioned by Musk in the unveiling event.
Sharing 75 per cent of parts with the Model 3 means it has the same battery and motors as the Model 3, with the same turning radius and super flat handling.
It also shares the front seats and dash – it’s worth noting though that the front seats are seated on a riser to give from row passengers that feeling of stepping of out of a vehicle of height one expects in an SUV.
With a 7 seater option, what is new in the Model Y are the second and third row seats, which Tesla is selling as able to seat 7 adults.
This is an important point; size-wise, we here at the Driven have made the comparison between the Model Y and its premium SUV cousin, the Model X – that it is “a smaller, and vastly cheaper version of the Model X”.
But it does need to be remembered it is not so much a smaller and more affordable version of the Model X, but a larger version of the Model 3.
Tesla has added a video to its website showing the interior of the Model Y with the seats folded down, showing that it does have ample room if you don’t need to transport people as well.
Daerik however points out that the back row really is probably just big enough for children, because it is in fact Model 3’s “bigger brother”, keeping the same aerodynamic but slightly higher roofline (and hence still a good drag coefficient).
As Musk described, Daerik concurs on the panoramic glass, which opens up the interior thanks to its Model X windshield and Model S panoramic roof.
The rest of his review is worth a watch:
So, what could the Model Y be compared to so far?
As an electric car in what is the most popular auto segment in many parts of the world, including Australia according to V-Facts, it has plenty of competition.
One punter on Twitter posted this useful comparison to his current 7-seater Toyota Prius (yes a hybrid but worth the comparison size-wise).
— Franco Mossotto (@FMossotto) March 16, 2019
The Model Y is not meant to be a competitor to much higher priced electric SUVs such as the Jaguar I-Pace and Audi e-tron.
And with its low price point (compared to other electric SUVs) it is clear that the Model Y does not seek to be a big, extremely roomy SUV like its Model X cousin.
It will be more likely to go up against the compact SUVs such as the Mazda CX3, or the Honda CH-R and compact electric SUVs like the Hyundai Kona Electric.
It is exactly what it is supposed to be: an entry level electric SUV that on initial impressions will tick boxes for a select, but increasingly growing, audience.
Editor’s note: This article has been edited to reflect the correct drag coefficient.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.