Excited fans, disappointed investors, and big promises by Elon Musk: the Tesla Model Y unveil had it all. Set to be the fourth car in the California automaker’s current line-up, the new electric crossover could well be the most successful. Indeed, Musk predicted Tesla would end up selling more Model Y than it has sold Model 3, S, and X combined. Read on for five things you need to know as the dust settles on the Model Y reveal.
Tesla’s early plans for the Model Y were ambitious. The crossover would debut a new platform, Elon Musk first promised, borrowing features like the Model X’s Falcon Wing doors, but built upon an all-new architecture that would be more flexible, easier to build, and cheaper than the Model 3’s platform. However saner voices at Tesla changed his mind.
Instead, to save time and expense, the Model Y leaned heavily on the Model 3. Using the same core architecture, only taller and with more interior space, the crossover stuck with more mundane rear doors and a familiar design. The upshot is the potential for seven seats – albeit eating into rear cargo room, and likely to be uncomfortable for adults – and an aesthetic that slots neatly into one of the most popular segments in automotive right now.
Indeed there are some who’ve argued that the Model Y is the car the Model 3 should have been from the beginning. Demand for the small sedan has been brisk, certainly, but it could potentially have been brisker still had Tesla opted to cater to the ferocious small SUV category from day one.
Tesla isn’t giving lengthy test drives in the Model Y yet. Indeed, our time inside the car at Thursday’s event didn’t even see us take the wheel: instead, the automaker had professional drivers at the helm, to give people a quick circuit up and down the road with some twisty stuff added in. It’s hardly enough to make a conclusive judgment about the car, but definitely sufficient to remind us of something else.
That’s the Model 3. Tesla may be calling the Model Y an SUV, but it definitely feels a lot like its sedan sibling. You sit a little higher, and the panoramic glass roof makes a difference to how the cabin feels, but really this is a very car-like crossover, with familiar dynamics.
Those dynamics are promising if you’re a keen driver, mind. Again, it’s too soon – and we’ve had too little experience – to make any final conclusions, but the low center of gravity and that instantaneous electric torque make the Model Y a perky little thing.
Elon Musk promised a roughly 10-percent more expensive car than the Model 3, and sure enough the Model Y arrives from $39,000. That gets you the Standard Range model, good for an estimated 230 miles from its battery, and a respectable 5.9 second 0-60 mph time.
As was the case with the Model 3, though, you won’t be able to buy a $39k Model Y from the start. Tesla will instead launch the Long Range, Dual Motor AWD, and Performance versions of the car initially. That will mean the most affordable Model Y will, at first, be $47,000.
Those three cars are open for reservations now, though they’re not expected to begin shipping until fall 2020. You’ll need to put $2,500 down as a deposit to stake your place in line.
There’s no shortage of performance on tap. The Model Y Long Range offers 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, while the Dual Motor AWD pares that to 4.8 seconds. The Model Y Performance, from $60,000, should do 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds and promises a top speed of 150 mph. That’s despite still delivering an estimated 280 miles of driving – or 300 miles from the Long Range car.
How hands-on you’ll have to be during that driving depends on how much use you make of Autopilot. Tesla’s controversial blend of adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping is, unsurprisingly, a headline feature on the Model Y. You’ll pay a headline price, too, given Autopilot is a $3,000 option (and the Full Self-Driving Capability package is a further $5,000).
Whether or not you go for all that, the Model Y dashboard is at odds from what most crossover cabins look like. Tesla has done away with most of the controls and dashboard ornamentation, replacing them with a clean sweep of fascia atop which a 15-inch touchscreen perches. That’s where HVAC, infotainment, Autopilot, and everything else is controlled from. Of course, owners will also benefit from Tesla’s over-the-air software updates.
The assembled Tesla fans at Musk’s big launch event on Thursday may have been overjoyed at the sight of the Model Y, but the same can’t be said for the market. Shares in Tesla opened down 5-percent on Friday morning, as investors proved less convinced by the new EV than the automaker’s fans. The big concern? That the Model Y just wasn’t special enough.
Analysts criticized the car for being too derivative of the Model 3, and Musk’s at-times rambling presentation of being too much like an “infomercial.” The absence of a “one more thing” at the end – which last time, memorably, brought the unveil of the new Tesla Roadster – was also cited. Meanwhile concerns about Model 3 demand and more expensive reservations this time around for the Model Y also saw the stock price tumble.
That wasn’t the only issue shaking investor confidence, mind. When, exactly, the Model Y would begin shipping was also a point of contention. Last year, at the June Tesla shareholder meeting, Musk had suggested the new EV would ship in the first half of 2020; that’s been pushed back to fall 2020 for the earliest Model Y deliveries. By then, there’ll be some serious electric competition on the market.