Tesla expanded its portfolio with a fourth model named Model Y. It joins the Model S, the Model 3, and the Model X to deliver an important message about electric cars: they’re S3XY. That’s the thinking behind Tesla’s naming structure. On a more serious note, the Model Y shares about 75 percent of its components with the Model 3, a strategy which will help the California-based company leverage the benefits of economies of scale. The two cars are inevitably similar in several key areas, but they’re also different where it counts to reflect the fact that they’re aimed at different target buyers.
We’re looking at where Tesla’s two smallest models overlap, and how they’re different.
The Model 3 took Tesla’s design language in a new, more mature direction. It stands out with a grille-less front end, a low hood made possible because it doesn’t have a gasoline-burning engine, and swept-back LED headlights. Stylists made it as aerodynamic as possible to increase its driving range, which explains why it has an almost fastback-like roof line that flows into a trunk lid with an integrated spoiler. Sharp lights that stretch into the quarter panels emphasize the car’s width, while the use of chrome trim adds a touch of elegance to the overall design.
The Model Y clearly follows the path blazed by the Model 3 from the tip of the front bumper to the base of the windshield. It wears the same low hood and elongated headlights as its sedan counterpart. Beyond that, designers looked at the Model X for inspiration. The Y’s long, sloping roof line echoes the X, as does the shape of its angular taillights. Above all, it’s instantly recognizable as a member of the Tesla family without being a carbon copy of another car. Both cars have a 0.23 drag coefficient, but the company has largely avoided the Russian doll approach to styling.
Tesla puts an immense emphasis on technology when it designs an interior. The Model 3 embodies this approach with a 15.0-inch screen that looks like a super-sized iPad. Positioned on the dashboard, it displays the car’s infotainment system, and it bundles a long list of functions in order to replace nearly every stalk, button, and dial commonly found inside the car. Do you want to adjust the mirrors? There’s a menu in the infotainment system for that. Are you trying to adjust the climate control? Poke the screen a few times to set the temperature, and even move the air vents.
The Model Y uses the exact same 15.0-inch screen as the Model 3 to display the same infotainment system, and its interior shows a similarly high level of minimalism. However, it’s considerably more spacious thanks to its taller roof line. It can seat up to seven passengers when buyers tick the seven-seater box on the list of extra-cost options, and its total trunk space checks in at 66 cubic feet. In comparison, the Model 3 is strictly a five-seater, and its cargo capacity stands at approximately 15 cubic feet.
Both the Model 3 and the Model Y are optionally available with Autopilot. It’s a semi-autonomous technology that adds eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and a forward radar that work together to allow the car to change lanes, read speed limit signs, navigate freeway off-ramps, brake if it detects a collision is imminent, and park itself. Drivers need to remain alert at all times; Autopilot doesn’t turn either vehicle into a fully self-driving car. Tesla is working on one, but it’s not ready yet.
There are no less than six different variants of the Model 3 to choose from. The basic, Standard-Range version corresponds to the $35,000 price tag Tesla promised when it introduced the car in 2016. For the money, buyers get up to 220 miles of range, a 5.6-second sprint from zero to 60 mph, and a 130-mph top speed. The entry-level 3 is only offered with rear-wheel drive.
Buyers who step up to the Standard-Range Plus unlock 240 miles of range, and a 5.3-second sprint from zero to 60 mph. The Mid-Range and Long-Range versions can drive for up to 264 and 325 miles, respectively, on a charge. They remain rear-wheel drive. Buyers who need all-wheel drive have two options: the Long-Range, and the Performance. Both offer up to 310 miles of range, and the Performance model scoots to 60 mph from a stop in just 3.2 seconds, a figure that makes it as quick as many supercars.
The Model Y is bigger, heavier, and less aerodynamic than the Model 3 so it’s a little bit slower. That’s not to say it disappoints — at least not on paper. The Standard Range model has 230 miles of range, and it takes 5.9 seconds to reach 60 mph from a stop. There is no Mid-Range version, so buyers who want a quicker Y that can drive further need to step up to the 300-mile Long-Range variant. Adding dual-motor all-wheel drive bumps that figure down to 280 miles while lowering the Y’s zero-to-60-mph time to 4.8 seconds. Finally, the Model Y Performance retains the all-wheel drive version’s 280-mile range, but it takes just 3.5 seconds to scoot from zero to 60 mph.
The Tesla Model 3 is available now all across the United States, though some variants — including the entry-level model — can take up to eight weeks to ship. Pricing ranges from $35,000 for a rear-wheel drive, standard-range model to $58,000 for a top-spec, Performance variant with all-wheel drive. Buyers are eligible for a $3,750 tax incentive, though that figure will drop to $1,875 on July 1, 2019, and fall to $0 on December 31, 2019, because Tesla entered its phase-out period when it sold its 200,000th car.
Tesla introduced the Model Y in March 2019, over a year before the planned start of production, and the first deliveries are tentatively scheduled for the fall of 2020. Pricing starts at $39,000 for the entry-level model, and tops out at $60,000 for the Performance. Buyers will not be eligible for federal tax incentives, though they might be able to claim local incentives depending on where they live.
Both cars are exclusively sold online. While Tesla changed its mind about closing a majority of its brick-and-mortar stores, it’s sticking to its digital sales strategy, and betting motorists will happily buy a Model Y without driving it — or even sitting in it — first. Those who are disappointed with it can return it for a full refund after seven days or 1,000 miles, whichever comes first.