Using the chassis, interior, and powertrain from the smaller Model 3, the 2021 Tesla Model Y adds additional cargo space, an optional third row of seats, and SUV styling to the more affordable end of the brand's offerings. Power from the Model Y's dual on-board electric motors is plentiful and all-wheel drive is standard (for now), but we found the taller SUV body dulls the otherwise taut behavior of the Model 3's chassis. Driving range is superb with a maximum range of up to 316 miles per charge; more expensive rivals such as the Audi e-tron and the Jaguar I-Pace offer far less. While the interior lacks the panache of non-EV rivals such as the Mercedes-Benz GLC-class or Volvo XC60, it's still fairly comfortable and practical, if a little rough around the edges.
What's New for 2021?
It's hard to say what might change with the Model Y for 2021, because unlike other automakers, Tesla is known to make a series of running changes throughout the year rather than group things into a large batch when flipping the switch from model year to model year. That being said, other than the introduction of an optional pair of pop-up third-row jump seats, we aren't forecasting any major design or technology upgrades this year.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Buying an electric car is all about the range, and the Long Range and Performance models offer 326 and 303 miles of driving range, respectively. As a result, we'd go with the Long Range, which offers plenty of performance. There are few ways to customize your Model Y, and only five colors for the exterior—three of which cost an additional $1000 or $2000. And those seeking the optional third row of seats will be able to add them for an additional $3000.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Like the Model 3, the Model Y lineup will eventually include a cost-leader trim (in this case, a rear-wheel-drive version of the Long Range model), but the first variants to launch will be the all-wheel-drive Long Range and Performance models. Thanks to a generous Car and Driver reader, we were able to test an all-wheel-drive Long Range, which zipped from zero-to-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds, a mere 0.4 second behind our long-term Model 3 sedan. While the Model Y offers impressive acceleration, it doesn't deliver the same level of driving satisfaction as the Model 3. The SUV body creates a higher center of gravity, which dulls the sharp edge of the Model 3's handling, and the Y's ride is considerably rougher over road imperfections as well.
Range, Charging, and Battery Life
The all-wheel-drive Long Range offers 326 miles of range; the Performance model's estimated range drops to 303 miles. But the latter comes with 20-inch wheels, a lowered suspension, a higher top speed (145 mph), quicker claimed acceleration, and a dedicated Track mode. Tesla has not yet released an estimated range for the upcoming rear-wheel-drive Long Range model.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates that the Long Range model is good for 131 MPGe in the city and 117 MPGe on the highway, while the Performance model's fuel economy estimates are 115 MPGe city and 106 MPGe highway. The Model Y that we tested was a Long Range model, and over our 200-mile highway fuel economy test route we recorded just 94 MPGe and an estimated highway driving range of 220 miles.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The Model Y doesn't come with the larger Model X crossover's complicated Falcon Wing doors; its interior is mostly carryover from the Model 3 sedan. Like that car, it is largely free of buttons and relies mostly on a large infotainment display centered on a simple dashboard. An all-glass roof lends an airy ambience to the cabin but is heavily tinted to avoid roasting occupants in Sun Belt states. The optional third row of seats adds a steep $3000 to the Model Y's price—we can't imagine they'll be spacious enough for adults to ride in comfort.
Infotainment and Connectivity
In the Model Y, almost every function is managed through the large, slim infotainment display that's in the middle of the dashboard. Everything from climate control to the speedometer is shown on this display, which takes some getting used to. The Model Y offers the same entertainment functions as the Model 3, including embedded Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube apps as well as video games perfect for killing time while waiting for the battery to charge at the public charging station. Don't worry, drivers are locked out of using these distractions while the vehicle is moving.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
There's nothing to report on crash-test results from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Tesla is known for its very advanced Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system, and the Model Y offers the feature as standard. Even more advanced features such as a self-parking feature and a Summon feature are optional. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control with semi-autonomous driving mode
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Warranty coverage for the Model Y mirrors that of the Model 3, Model S, and Model X models, which means four years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and eight years or 100,000 miles of coverage for the battery and electric motors.
- Limited warranty covers 4 years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 8 years or 100,000 miles
- No complimentary scheduled maintenance