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Tesla Model Y lineup expands with Rear-Wheel Drive version

The Tesla Model Y Rear-Wheel Drive is the new entry-level option in the range, starting from £51,990

Tesla Model Y - front static

A third variant of the Tesla Model Y has launched, called the Rear-Wheel Drive. It’s available to order now, with Tesla saying customers can expect first deliveries from December this year. At £51,990, the Model Y Rear-Wheel Drive sits below the Long Range and Performance versions in the mid-sized, all-electric SUV’s lineup. 

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The Tesla Model Y Rear-Wheel Drive receives the same 82kWh battery pack as the more expensive models (75kWh of which is usable). However, as the name suggests it’s rear-wheel drive unlike the all-wheel drive Long Range and Performance versions. 

The battery in the Model Y RWD powers a single electric motor mounted on the rear axle - rather than the dual-motor set up in the other models. The Model Y RWD doesn’t receive any differentiating exterior design details. 

New Tesla Model Y: powertrains, range and performance

Given the lack of a dual-motor, all-wheel drive system, the Model Y RWD has slower acceleration than its counterparts. It takes 6.6 seconds to go from 0 to 60mph, where the Long Range will take 4.8 seconds and the Performance 3.5 seconds. Top speed stands at 135mph - the same as the Long Range. The Performance will top out at 155mph. 

The Model Y Rear-Wheel Drive is the lightest of the three models, weighing in at 1,909kg to the Long Range’s 1,979kg and the Performance’s 1,955kg. Even with the slight reduction in weight, the RWD model offers the lowest driving range (267 miles on the larger 20-inch wheels and 283 miles on the 19-inch wheels).

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If you want the maximum range out of a Model Y then the Long Range version is the obvious choice. Like the RWD, range is dependent on the wheel size. On the smaller 19-inch ‘Gemini’ wheels, the Long Range offers a maximum 351 miles. Spec the larger 20-inch and you’ll see the range drop to 331 miles. Being focused on speed, the Performance model will return a 319-mile range on its larger 21-inch ‘Überturbine’ wheels.  

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In addition to the extra power, the Tesla Model Y Performance comes with chassis upgrades. There are improved brakes, lowered sports suspension and aluminium pedals. A tiny carbon fibre lip spoiler also appears on the bootlid.

New Tesla Model Y: specifications and technology

The £51,990 Model Y Rear-Wheel Drive kicks off the range, followed by the £57,990 Long Range and the range-topping £67,990 Performance model. 

When the Model Y was first introduced in the UK, it came with five seats as standard, although buyers can choose to add a third row in the back, increasing seating capacity to seven. That choice has been removed so for now its five-seats only. 

Whatever Model Y you choose there’s the same choice of paint finishes and a choice of either black or black and white upholstery, too. Standard equipment includes power folding and heated door mirrors and a full-length panoramic glass sunroof, which Tesla says offers protection from both ultraviolet and infrared radiation.

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Inside, there’s electrically adjustable front seats, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, a 13-speaker audio system, four USB ports and two wireless smartphone charging pads mounted in the centre console. An option of a tow bar is available across the range.

Buyers also benefit from an enormous 15-inch tablet-style infotainment system mounted in the centre of the dash, which can display everything from navigation instructions to films and TV shows. 

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All versions of the Model Y can be optionally specified with Tesla’s Enhanced Autopilot system. The upgrade costs £3,400 and adds an auto lane-change function, automatic parking and a feature which claims to offer automated driving on the motorway from entry slip road to exit ramp.

There’s even a setting called Smart Summon, which Tesla says will allow the Model Y to automatically come and find you in a car park – and even head off by itself to find its own parking space. The function is controlled using the Tesla smartphone app.

For £6,800, buyers can upgrade this system to Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Capability package. It features all of the functions in the Enhanced Autopilot system, along with a setting that can automatically react to changing traffic lights and the company’s in-house designed “Self-Driving Computer.”

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The package also signs the owner up to future over-the-air software updates for the car’s autonomous systems. Currently, Tesla is working on tech that will allow the car to steer itself around city streets.

In terms of charging, the RWD offers a maximum charge rate of 170kW whereas the Long Range and Performance can charge at 250kW. 

New 2022 Tesla Model Y: design, interior and dimensions

If you’re thinking that the Tesla Model Y looks an awful lot like the Model 3, you’d be right – it’s all part of Tesla’s strategy. The firm’s CEO, Elon Musk, has previously said that the SUV will share three-quarters of its components with the saloon, including its platform, to help cut back on development costs.

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So, the Model Y has a similar silhouette (albeit with a slightly taller ride height) to the Model 3, while the saloon’s blanked-off radiator grille, slim LED headlamps and neat ducktail spoiler have all been replicated. However, the Model Y SUV features a hatchback tailgate to boost practicality.

Musk has said that the Model Y “will have the functionality of an SUV, but the capability of a sports car,” promising neat handling thanks to its low-mounted battery pack. It also has a drag coefficient of 0.23, making it more streamlined than a Toyota Prius.

The Model Y measures 4,750mm long, 1,920mm wide and 1,623mm tall. That makes it 68mm longer, 25mm wider and 58mm taller than the Jaguar I-Pace – but it’s considerably shorter than the Audi e-tron. It’s also significantly lighter than both rivals, weighing a claimed 2,003kg in both Long Range and Performance specification.

These dimensions also mean that the Model Y has grown in every direction compared to the Model 3 on which it’s based. The upshot of this is greatly improved cabin space: Tesla says that the Y has 43mm more headroom and an impressive 135mm extra legroom for rear seat passengers compared to its entry-level saloon.

Now click here to read our review of the new Tesla Model Y Long Range

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Senior news reporter

A keen petrol-head, Alastair Crooks has a degree in journalism and worked as a car salesman for a variety of manufacturers before joining Auto Express in Spring 2019 as a Content Editor. Now, as our senior news reporter, his daily duties involve tracking down the latest news and writing reviews.

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