Tesla Model Y overview
Tesla is a company never far from the headlines, for both good and ill, thanks to the various adventures of its controversial chief executive. However you may feel about the man, the American firm certainly has changed the motoring landscape and helped in no small way to kickstart the electric car revolution. As for its actual cars, they are like any other and given that this is our first chance to spend some proper quality time with the Model Y on Irish roads - now that it's been given a few upgrades and a little more range than it was launched with - it seems like a good time to see how the Model Y is standing up to rapidly-growing line-up of high quality rivals.
The Tesla Model Y range
Tesla doesn't, as you might have noticed, do thinks like other car makers. So, there's no range of differing trims in the Model Y line-up, just a choice of powertrains and some individual options.
At the base of the range is the €52,990 rear-wheel-drive version, featuring a range of 455km on a single charge. Next up is the two-motor, four-wheel-drive Long Range model, the one we're testing, which costs €66,990 and has a range of 533km. Finally, there's the Model Y Performance, which has a range of 514km and can get to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds. That costs €72,990.
Standard equipment includes synthetic 'vegan' leather seats, 19-inch alloy wheels, a big 15-inch touchscreen, adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping steering (a setup Tesla refers to, not without controversy, as Autopilot), a panoramic glass roof, navigation with live services, two wireless phone chargers, two-zone climate control with HEPA air filter, a 13-speaker 'Premium Audio System', powered and heated front seats and heated rear seats. The big screen also comes with some crowd-pleasing options built in, including video games and apps for Netflix, YouTube and Disney+, all of which are very handy when you want to kill some charging time.
Available options are €1,200 for metallic paint or €2,300 for tri-coat red paint (plain white is the only standard colour), €2,300 for 20-inch alloy wheels, €1,350 for a tow-hitch, €1,200 for white seat upholstery, €3,800 for 'Advanced Autopilot' that can change lanes for you and which has an automated parking system, or €7,500 for 'Full Self Driving Capability' around which there remain a number of safety question marks.
Tesla offers a PCP deal at 5.9 per cent APR, which would put a basic Model Y on your driveway for €926 per month with a €7,600 deposit over 48 months. For the most up to date offers, have a look at the Tesla Ireland website.
The Tesla Model Y interior
Sitting into the Model Y, you'll experience a curious mix of the future and the past. The futuristic bit is that almost every function of the car is controlled by the big 15-inch landscape-oriented screen in the middle of the dashboard. The past bit is that, oddly, (and in common with the Tesla Model 3 saloon) the Y has slivers of wood trim running across the tops of the doors and the dash, which seems incongruous for a company that tends to snootily refer to other car makers as 'legacy firms.'
The screen works reasonably well, thankfully, and you'll soon find yourself swiping and pressing your way through the various menus. That said, some of the buttons are a bit on the small side to stab quickly while driving, which is not especially helpful, and the small display for your speed, found at the very top right corner of the screen, isn't the easiest to see. We can't quite understand - other than for reasons of cost - why Tesla doesn't use a small extra display behind the wheel, in the manner of the Ford Mustang Mach-E. The 'toys' on the screen are great, though - the video games will keep any child on board entertained for hours (although they do usually mean you vacating the driving seat) and the whoopie cushion 'fart' effect will keep the child in you happy for the same amount of time.
There's lots of storage in the Model Y's cabin, thanks to deep and extremely useful covered bins in the centre console, while at the front of the console, beneath the screen, is a pair of suede-covered wireless phone charging pads that do a decent job of holding your phone in place when driving. There are four USB-C sockets dotted around the cabin, plus another USB-A socket inside the glovebox (which, of course, is opened by a button on the screen).
Space in the back is excellent and the boot is utterly massive. Tesla quotes a boot volume of 854 litres, but that's measured up to the roofline, which makes comparisons with other vehicles a little tricky. Even so, the space on offer is vast and the 60:40 split rear seats fold flat with the mere press of a pair of buttons inside the electric tailgate. There's useful underfloor storage in the boot too (ideal for stashing your charging cables) and the 117-litre 'frunk' in the nose is large enough to be more than just a space for overspill. With the rear seats folded, there's a van-like 2,158 litres of space on offer overall. This is a seriously practical car.
Not, though, a seriously well-made car. Teslas have long been criticised for having at best variable quality levels, and this Model Y is no exception. While the materials used in the cabin look and feel quite high grade, the quality of assembly leaves much to be desired. The overall silence of electric cars tends to exacerbate any interior rattles and creaks, and this Model Y was full of them. Quite apart from not being very confidence inspiring, it's hardly appropriate for a car with a €66,000 price tag to have such a poorly-constructed interior.
The Tesla Model Y driving experience
The Model Y's ride quality is the first thing that needs to be addressed. On our first acquaintance with the Y, the ride seemed so harsh as to be actually difficult to live with, but that was on the optional 20-inch alloys. This test car, on 19s, rode better if still on the occasionally uncomfortable side of firm. The damping of the suspension is also quite poor, allowing bumps to significantly unsettle the car. In comparison, a similarly stiff Ford Mustang Mach-E feels much more composed and sure-footed, while the likes of the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Nissan Ariya and Volkswagen ID.5 are all far more comfortable overall.
The Model Y's steering is not a lot better. It's quite light and artificial and offers little in the way of encouragement when cornering. It also tends to fight an annoying battle with the lane-keeping steering system, depending on the road markings. As with the rest of the 'Autopilot' system, it's frustrating and occasionally seems to play fast and loose with the flow of traffic around you - to be perfectly honest, I didn't feel entirely safe using the Autopilot on a busy motorway, and just turned it off and took back control myself. Hardly a ringing endorsement for Tesla's technology.
Much better is the performance of the battery, which even in the recent cold snap continued to provide good range. Tesla quotes 533km on a full charge, which is impressive and is actually slightly more range than the Model Y launched with, thanks to the constant evolution of the car's software that is updated regularly over the air. Mix in the chilly weather and lots of motorway miles and the Y should still pretty easily put 450km between charges. Best of all, if you do need to charge when out and about, there's the Supercharger network, which charges the Model Y at up to 250kW and which makes most other charging stations look silly.
The Model Y's performance is pretty impressive in acceleration terms, with 0-100km/h done and dusted in just 5.0 seconds. That's from a maximum 441hp and seems fast enough for what's supposed to be Tesla's sensible family car. Actually, it's arguably a bit too much - the throttle response, even in the 'Chill' driving setting, still seems quite snappy and sudden, and the Model Y can be a tricky car to drive smoothly at times.
Our verdict on the Tesla Model Y
The problem with the Model Y is that it feels like a car that has been rushed into production. By taking the impressive chassis of the Model 3, Tesla should have been able to create a sharp-driving family SUV, but instead it's made a hard-riding, ill-handling car that has questionable quality levels and a troublesome 'Autopilot' system. Tesla still leads the rest of the motoring world in terms of its battery performance and charging, but the other car makers are catching up fast and some have even overtaken it already.
What do the rest of the team think?
Agreed with Neil on the ride comfort - this car is more acceptable than the first example we drove a while back. It's still not quite comfortable enough, but it's no longer terrible. Less acceptable are the creaks and groans from the cabin, though, detracting from what otherwise feels like a polished product. For example, I think the regenerative braking and brake pedal feel are among the best on the market, while the infotainment is impressive, too. Saying that, I also wish that the driving data was displayed elsewhere. Ending on a positive, I managed to average 16kWh/100km in the car, which is phenomenal given the Model Y's size, weight and considerable performance.
Shane O' Donoghue - Editor