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Saturday 23rd September

This is the Tesla Model Y

Will this $39,000 SUV based on the Model 3 be Elon Musk's next best-seller?

Published: 15 Mar 2019

“This will probably sell more than the Model S and Model 3 combined.” Not our words, the words of his holiness, Elon Musk, high priest of the EV evangelists, speaking at the reveal of the new Model Y SUV at Tesla’s LA design studio. It was inevitable that a sister car for the wildly successful Model 3 would follow. An SUV was the only logical play. So ladies and gents, this is it: Model Y. A small seven-seat all-electric SUV set to arrive in 2020 from $39,000.

Take a look at the pictures (yes, all three of them, afraid that’s all we were supplied with) and there’s a lot of Model 3 in there, but then they do share running gear, chassis, interiors and any other bits Tesla could feasibly carry over. When Musk first announced the Model Y would make its debut on March 14, he tweeted: “Model Y, being an SUV, is about 10 per cent bigger than Model 3, so will cost about 10% more and have slightly less range for same battery.” To be fair, that’s some good summary right there, so if there’s somewhere you need to be, that may be all the info you need.

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Still here? Excellent. Yes, it’s 10 per cent bigger, but crucially it also has a hatchback, meaning that extra space is more accessible. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t carry over the massively complicated, and heavy, and expensive falcon doors from the Model X (a car Musk refers to as a “spaceship,” and a car he got “a bit carried away with”) because like the Model 3, this is supposed to be a low-cost car – the latest phase in his mission to bring electric cars to the masses.   

It’s made from high-strength steel, not aluminium like the Model X and Model S, and carries over the Model 3’s interior pretty much wholesale – same ultra-minimalist design, same 15-inch central touchscreen to control everything. The major difference is a higher roofline with seats raised accordingly, and the fact that it can be ordered with seven seats as an option. Bit of a surprise that one, definite 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the crowd when Musk confirmed it.

It’s not a huge car this, somewhere around BMW X1 in size, so to have a third row is a definite USP. Whether humans can actually fit back there is another matter entirely. I’m afraid the only car at the launch party was whisked off stage, so we didn’t have a chance to investigate.  

The model range will be familiar to anyone that’s thought about buying a Model 3. It starts with the rear-wheel drive, Standard Range model costing $39,000 ($4,000 more than the cheapest 3), with a range of 230 miles, 0-60mph in 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 120mph. As usual, you’ll have to wait a bit for deliveries of the cheap one – until Spring 2021 in the US and longer in Europe, whereas the rest of the line-up will start deliveries, in the US, in autumn 2020.

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Moving up you have the rear-drive Long Range model  - $47,000, 300 miles of range, 0-60mph in 5.5secs and 130mph. Then the Dual Motor version: four-wheel drive, $51,000, 280 miles, 0-60mph in 4.8secs, 135mph. And finally the Model Y Performance: 4WD, $60,000, 280 miles, 0-60 in 3.5secs, 150mph and which, let’s face it, is the one you want.

Charging is exactly the same deal as the Model 3, so you’ll have to pay for your supercharging (boo), but with a global network now of 12,000+ superchargers in 36 countries across the world (hooray), it’s still hands-down the fastest and most reliable network out there.

And it’s about to get better – Tesla’s first operational Supercharger V3.0 was up and running outside the Model Y event, a 250kW charger capable of delivering 75 miles of range in five minutes, or perhaps a better but utterly irrelevant headline; 1000 miles per hour. Musk confirmed existing supercharger stations will be upgraded to the V3.0 standard, and new stations installed, starting from later this year.  

And just to remind us that the whole ‘production hell’ thing hasn’t put him off electric cars for life, Musk also brought along the Tesla Semi to the Model Y launch - that’s the lorry capable of 500 miles on a charge and a Golf GTI-shaming 0-60mph in 5.0secs without a trailer hitched - and the new-generation Roadster. Still only in prototype form, that's the $200,000 sports car that he claims will do 0-60mph in 1.9secs, 250mph flat out and beat any other hypercar’s acceleration figures in between… and also deliver a 620-mile range. Production is expected to begin next year - we’re strengthening our neck muscles in anticipation already.      

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But perhaps Musk's greatest trick is something he points out on stage. That ten years ago, he was labelled a fraud and ridiculed, while now pretty much every major manufacturer (he cites GM, Ford and VW) has committed to widespread, if not total, electrification of their range. A decade ago he was laughed at, now he’s leading the way.

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