Image: Tesla
Image: Tesla

The Tesla Model Y—basically a slightly lifted Tesla Model 3—has finally hit the streets. This means there are some reviews out there to help us learn what this tall-ish electric crossover is actually like to drive and sit in compared to its sedan sibling. Here’s a roundup of some of those reviews.

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The Tesla Model Y is an important machine for the California-based electric vehicle company. Small SUVs are in high demand these days, and, since its inception, Tesla has had no offerings in that category. The closest model is the still fairly large and quite expensive Model X.

Last March, Tesla debuted the Model Y—a vehicle that Tesla said in its “Fourth Quarter & Full Year 2018 Update” would share 75 percent of its components with the Model 3. Though the Y was initially expected to hit the market in the fall some who ordered the cars are already taking delivery, as Tesla announced in its YouTube video below titled “Model Y deliveries begin!”

With people now taking ownership of the small electric SUVs, there are now some YouTube video reviews hitting the interwebs. Plus, as Electrek notes, the owner’s manual is also out, so let’s check out some specs and then jump into the reviews.

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Specs

Image: Tesla
Image: Tesla

The Tesla Model Y comes in two versions, Long Range AWD and Performance. Both are all-wheel drive thanks to a permanent magnet synchronous motor out back and an AC induction motor up front. Both also get the same battery pack. The difference in range is only a single mile according to Tesla—316 for the Long Range AWD and 315 for the Performance. By comparison, the Model 3 Long Range AWD and Performance are rated to go 322 miles on a charge.

Zero to 60 mph acceleration takes 4.8 seconds for the Model Y Long Range, while the Performance can cut that down by 1.3 seconds and reach a 10 mph higher top speed at 145 mph. (If you’re curious, the Tesla Model 3 is quicker, with the Long Range doing zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, and the Model 3 Performance doing it in 3.2. Both 3s should reach a top speed of 145 mph).

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The Model Y Performance trim can also be optioned with the “Performance Upgrade” at no additional charge. It reduces the range to 280 miles, ups the top speed to 155 mph, throws in some performance brakes and special 21-inch wheels, lowers the suspension, and gives the pedals a sporty aluminum alloy look. (For reference, the “Performance Upgrade” on the 3 jacks its top speed to a higher 162 mph, and lowers the range to an also-higher-than-the-Y 299 miles).

The Long Range Model Y is listed at $54,190 with destination charge and “doc fee,” while the Performance is $62,190, though Tesla notes that cheaper Standard Range cars will enter production early next year. The Model 3 Long Range starts at about $50,000, and the Performance comes in at about $58,000.

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Image: Tesla Owner’s Manual
Image: Tesla Owner’s Manual

With the Y sharing powertrain and drivetrain components with the 3, the big selling point of the crossover over its platform-mate has to do with dimensions, which are shown above and come from the car’s owner’s manual.

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The Model Y, displayed in the left section of the table, is a couple of inches longer, about three inches wider excluding mirrors, over seven inches taller, and has at least a 2.2 inch wider track width. Ground clearance is only 1.1 inches higher than the 3, and the wheelbase is essentially the same.

Image: Tesla Owner’s Manual
Image: Tesla Owner’s Manual
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It should be no surprise that the Model Y offers more interior space to go with those bigger exterior dimensions. Headroom is up for all passengers, and legroom is up for the rear passengers by over five inches. Though front legroom and rear hip room are actually down a bit, and shoulder room is largely the same, cargo volume is up for the Model Y, with a rating of 68 cubic feet versus the Model 3's 15 cubic feet. It’s unlikely that the Model Y really has over four times the 3's cargo volume, so, if I had to guess, this figure likely has to do with the way Tesla measures the Model Y’s hatchback cargo area versus the 3's enclosed trunk. Still, the Y definitely has more space for your junk, as we’ll show in a bit.

As for weights, neither the Y nor the 3 is rated to tow, and according to their owner’s manuals, the Model Y Long Range’s gross vehicle weight rating is 5,302 pounds, or 309 pounds more than that of the 3. (Tesla defines Gross Vehicle Weight Rating as “The maximum allowable total mass of [the vehicle]. This is calculated as the weight of [the vehicle], all passengers, fluids, and cargo.”).

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Though the Y has a higher GVWR (the “maximum allowable total mass”), it also weighs more. Curb weight comes in at 4,416 pounds, while the Model 3 weighs 4,072 for the Long Range Dual Motor and 4,100 pounds for the Long Range Performance with the dual motor setup. So the Y seems to be at least 316 pounds heftier than the 3, and since the Model Y’s GVWR is less than 316 pounds higher than that of the 3, it stands to reason that the new crossover is actually capable of holding less overall passenger and cargo weight than the 3. This seems odd given the Y’s larger cargo volume, but makes sense given the shared components.

Also interesting is the fact that the Model Y’s owner’s manual mentions a heat pump; this is apparently a first for Teslas. Such systems, which are common on modern EVs, use heat from the ambient environment and waste heat from the powertrain to warm the cabin rather than requiring the vehicle to rely solely on a wasteful resistance element.

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It’s Quick And Handles Reasonably Well Like Every Tesla

Now let’s look at a couple of reviews. Since the Y is so similar to the 3, many of the new reviews hitting YouTube have to do with the Y’s packaging, and not so much with the way it drives. But the YouTube channel Throttle House recently posted a full review, shown above, and it includes thoughts on what it’s like to pilot Tesla’s new small crossover.

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“The moment you mash on the throttle, it flies,” the host, James, says about the acceleration. The handling is apparently not bad, either. “If I take a corner at speed, it’s pretty rooted. It’s not quite the Model 3, but it’s better than the Model X,” he says. “The confidence that I’m shooting through these corners. If anyone else was in this car right now, they’d probably be a bit scared. But I’m not, because I know the car can handle it.”

Though it’s good in the curves, the Y is apparently still not exactly the most precise canyon carver, James says: “It’s not thrilling, it’s not exhilarating the way a sports car is—I’d still have the Miata for the weekend—but it makes you giggle. At a stoplight, you know you can embarrass so many cars, and that is worth a lot.”

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Unsurprisingly, Styling Is Ridiculously Similar To The Model 3

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We already know that the Tesla Model Y doesn’t exactly stand out in the Tesla lineup in terms of styling, but Throttle House sat the car next to the Model X and Model 3 to compare the machines, and it’s pretty cool to see the similarities among the siblings. “Tesla apparently tried to avoid the Russian doll look with their lineup, but it standing next to these two, still looks like the lovechild of the 3 and the X,” James says in the clip. That’s no surprise, especially since exterior bits, including the headlights and door handles are shared with the 3.

The rear end styling and the overall height are similar to the X, while the front and the overall length and width line up quite well with the 3.

On the inside, YouTuber Tesla Raj shows off the Y’s similarities to the 3. “We’re now inside the Model Y, and it looks exactly like a 3,” he says. He mentions that the door panels, buttons, stalks, knobs, dash, rearview mirror, and even the 15-inch touchscreen are the same.

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Speaking of interior commonalities to the Model Y’s sedan sibling, Throttle House says “I feel raised, I feel higher. But other than that, pretty Model 3.” Another YouTuber, Jon Rettinger, has a nice YouTube video (embedded a few paragraphs down) showing both the 3 and the Y side-by-side. “Besides being a little higher, they’re going to appear to be identical,” he says, describing what it’s like to sit in the Y. “The quality of the materials inside to the piano black [trim] are all identical to the 3.”

By now you should pretty much get that the Y and the 3 are ridiculously similar.

More Ride Height, More Space, Some New Features Over The 3

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But there are enough differences to make the Y stand out over the 3. Probably the most interesting things I’ve seen in recent YouTube videos are the “seat risers.” As I mentioned earlier, the Model Y is about seven inches taller than the 3, and yet it only has 1.1 inches of additional ground clearance.

It’s clear, then, that with the Model Y, the command seating position that crossover buyers love so much isn’t coming by way of additional ride height—it seems that suspension changes over the 3 are minimal—but rather via a raised roof and seats on stilts.

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And I mean that last bit literally. Look at the screenshot above from Tesla Raj’s YouTube video, and you’ll see that the front seats—shared with the Model 3—actually sit on what the YouTube host calls seat “risers.” They’re basically six-inch spacers between the floor and the seat mounting brackets, and per the video, they yield a decent amount of under-seat storage space.

It’s hard to tell, but there doesn’t appear to be anything stopping something from rolling out from under this seat into the driver’s footwell. It also seems there are few actual provisions for under-seat storage; some sort of organizer or bin would seem like a nice addition, though I get that leaving this wide open could offer a good place for rear passenger feet.

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Per the tweet above, it appears that these stilts aren’t exclusive to the Y; the Model X uses a similar method to raise up the front seating position.

In addition to the higher seating position, one of the big advantages of the Y over the 3 is storage space. The frunk, shown below, is apparently significantly bigger than that of the 3. The rear hatch not only offers a significantly larger opening compared to the 3's trunk, but—with the seats folded—it yields a huge flat storage area with plenty of room to stack cargo.

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Here’s a look at the flat load floor. You’ll notice two folded rear seats. Those will be available later on for $3,000.

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Image: Tesla
Image: Tesla

Tesla Raj shows off all the storage areas by using carry-on bags to help viewers understand the scale. One fit in the frunk and one even fit in the under-floor storage bin in the rear. In addition to it, there are bins on the left and right side of the rear cargo area and there’s a shallower bin just in front of the deep bin. Plus there’s a 12-volt cigarette outlet back there, which the Model 3 doesn’t have.

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Though the Y isn’t any wider in the second row than the 3, the added legroom is apparently a big deal for second row passengers, with Tesla Raj saying: “Our shoulders are probably a little snug back here...but legroom, I feel great.”

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James from Throttle House concurs, saying: “It is very comfortable in here; I have plenty of space, plenty of headroom. I’m five foot ten, and there’s still a couple of inches here.” He also lauds the reclining rear bench, which offers three different angles and makes it easy for the passenger gaze out of the glass roof.

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Also unique to the Y over the 3 is a power liftgate and a pass-through center seat in the second row. (Yes, that little metal nub that sticks out in the photo above is a bit odd). In addition, the rear seats fold in a 60-40 configuration via a power button (shown below) on the side of the cargo area.

Image: Tesla Owner’s Manual
Image: Tesla Owner’s Manual
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Tesla Raj mentions that the Y’s mirrors are larger than the 3's, and he notes the wireless charging and rear USB-C ports. Plus, he shows an emergency door-opening release cable under the mat in each rear door storage cubby (see below), and mentions an “Off-Road Assist” feature—none of these are available in the Model 3.

Here’s how Tesla describes that Off-Road Assist feature:

Off-Road Assist is designed to provide overall improvements when driving off-road. In addition to allowing the wheels to spin, Off-Road assist balances the torque between the front and rear motors to optimize traction...When Off-Road Assist is on, the accelerator pedal provides more gradual torque, which is useful for crawling at low speeds.

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Image: Tesla. This is the rear door emergency release.
Image: Tesla. This is the rear door emergency release.

So the Y doesn’t have a ton of upgrades over the 3. It has a taller roof, the seats are on stilts, the rear cargo area has a power hatchback over a manual trunk lid, there’s more rear legroom and more storage space in the rear and in the frunk, there’s an “off-road mode,” there are some USB-C chargers, there’s a 12-volt charger, there’s a second-row that reclines, and there are a few other differences like an added tow hook provision in the rear and different wheels.

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Yes, the Model Y is very Model 3-ish, but the changes apparently make quite a big difference. James from Throttle House calls the new Tesla “comfortable, and spacious, with a few recline-y tricks and a hatchback—and fast.” YouTuber Robb Rettinger says: “This is an infinitely more practical car than the 3...You get noticeably more space than the Model 3.” And we all know that if there’s one thing Americans love in their cars, it’s space. I can see why people would drop a few more grand on this over the sedan though, as an enthusiast, I’ll take the lower, sleeker, quicker, more efficient 3.

Sr. Technical Editor, Jalopnik. Always interested in hearing from auto engineers—email me. Cars: Willys CJ-2A ('48), Jeep J10 ('85), Jeep Cherokee ('79, '91, '92, '00), Jeep Grand Cherokee 5spd ('94).

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