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In-depth reviews

Tesla Model Y review - Electric motor, drive and performance

The Model Y’s ride is now significantly less firm than it used to be, and the range-topping Model Y Performance could be the ultimate all-electric sleeper

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

Electric motor, drive and performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£44,990 to £59,990
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Tesla established itself as a maker of super-quick electric cars all the way back in 2009 with the introduction of the Lotus Elise-derived Roadster sports car. Since then, all of its cars, from the Model S saloon and Model X luxury SUV, to the Model 3 hatchback and Model Y family SUV, boast supercar-style sprinting ability.

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It might rival small vans for cargo space and weigh in around two tonnes, but even the entry-level, rear-wheel drive Model Y is capable of embarrassing much more expensive machinery off the line. Of course, the dual-motor/all-wheel drive setup in Model Y Long Range and Performance helps put the power down but, in everyday driving, it’ll most probably just offer some added reassurance when the weather is poor and the roads are more slippery.

We like the choice you get in the Model Y between an automatic gearbox-style creep mode and no movement at all at a standstill, so you can tailor how the Tesla behaves around town based on your driving style. There’s no way to adjust the strength of the regenerative braking in the Model Y though, which is very strong, but you get used to it very quickly and it allows for one-pedal driving in town. If you need to use the brakes they’re very easy to modulate precisely, too.

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We found earlier examples of the Model Y weren’t nearly as comfortable or refined as rivals like the Audi Q4 e-tron or VW ID. Buzz when we pitted them against one another. However, it seems Tesla took note of our complaints, as we were amazed by the significantly better ride quality in the Model Y Performance during our twin test with the Lexus RZ 450e. It’s still on the firm side of comfortable, but doesn’t crash into potholes or rattle your bones like other examples we tested not too long ago.

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We also like that the enormous amount of glass and short nose makes the Model Y easy to place on the road, but rear visibility is borderline pathetic due to the sleepy racked back window.

When cruising on the motorway we noticed a fair amount of road noise infiltrates the cabin, but not so much that it's a dealbreaker or couldn’t be mostly covered by the radio. We also had a decidedly mixed experience with our test car’s Autosteer function (which is in the beta stage for now). It did keep us in the centre of the lane without ping-ponging us between the lines like some similar tech we’ve tested, however the hands-on system would deactivate when it deemed we put in too much steering force, even after being prompted to add some to check we hadn’t fallen asleep or got distracted. Still some work to be done then.

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On twistier roads, the Model Y offers neither the driving engagement you get from, say, the BMW iX3, nor the relative agility of the Jaguar I-Pace. It takes a little while to adjust to the sharpness of the Tesla’s steering, which is very responsive, with a fast rack and barely a millimetre of dead zone on centre. That feeling of hyperactivity is great in something like a hot hatchback, but in a heavy family SUV, it’s a bit unusual.

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The same goes for the Track mode featured in the Model Y Performance. Our test car actually had presets for track and drifting, although we doubt if anyone ever will use these. There is however the option to switch from Sport to Chill power mode – this softens the throttle response yet still provides an adequate amount of oomph for even spirited driving and overtaking on the motorway.

0-62mph acceleration and top speed

Tesla claims the rear-wheel drive Model Y will do 0-60mph in 6.6 seconds, while the Long Range and Performance dual-motor variants dispatch 0-60mph in 4.8 seconds and 3.5 seconds, respectively. The rear-drive and Long Range Model Y have a top speed of 135mph, which goes up to 155mph for the Performance model.

In the Model Y Long Range we tested, accelerating up to motorway speeds is easy thanks to the straight-line performance, while the throttle response is eager and power delivery from the two electric motors was smooth.

The Model Y Performance delivers truly ballistic, organ-rearranging acceleration the instant you put your foot down. It’s an impressive party trick for sure, and the immediate power delivery knocking you back into your seat will wake you up better than a double espresso, which never fails to astonish. However, once you’ve demonstrated just how fast the Model Y Performance is, nailing the throttle every time you exit a junction is only going to irritate your passengers. 

There’s no soundtrack or artificial noises either, like you get in a Porsche Taycan or BMW’s electric cars. Instead there’s just a slight whine from the motors under hard acceleration, which is often accompanied by some involuntary curse words/panicked laughter when you notice just how fast you’re going.

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News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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