Tesla’s more affordable SUV, the Model Y, is here ahead of schedule, despite the pandemic, and it’s ready to take on rivals. The only issue is, well, it doesn’t have many rivals.
The all-electric SUV field is pretty thin, especially in the luxury price bracket where the Tesla competes. Currently starting at $75,990, before any rebates, in Canada for the Long Range model, the nearest rivals to the Model Y in terms of price and range are probably the Audi e-tron and Jaguar I-Pace. Both of them, however, are significantly more expensive.
Some U.S. customers took delivery of their Model Ys in March, judging by several ecstatic videos posted to YouTube. The Model Y wasn’t originally due out until fall this year, but, last month, Tesla posted a video indicated deliveries were already beginning.
Canadian deliveries are shown as beginning “mid-2020” on Tesla’s website.
Tesla did not respond to requests for comment on delivery timelines for Canadian customers or how the company is handling sales during the pandemic.
S, 3, X, Y models
The all-wheel drive Model Y sport utility is the fourth vehicle in Tesla’s current lineup, which also consists of the Model S and Model 3 sedans, and Model X SUV.
Calling the $75,990 Model Y ‘more affordable’ is a relative, of course. The larger Model X SUV with its fancy falcon-wing doors starts at $119,990 and makes the Y look like a bargain.
The Audi e-tron costs $90,000 while the Jaguar I-Pace starts at $89,800. The price difference between those two and the Model Y would seem, on paper at least, hard to justify.
In terms of range, the Tesla has those rivals beat with just over 500 kilometres of driving range (EPA estimate). The 2019 e-tron and 2020 I-Pace are good for 329 km and 377 km, respectively, according to Canadian government ratings. As ever, your mileage may vary.
Off the line, the Model Y has the European beat too. The $85,990 Performance model does 0-100 km/h in just 3.7 seconds.
Both the Audi and Jaguar drive beautifully and have interiors that are arguably more befitting of cars with a luxury price tag. If minimalism is your thing though, it doesn’t get better than the Tesla’s cabin. The only real downside to such minimalism is that there are precious few physical controls. As on the Model 3, nearly everything is controlled through one giant touchscreen on the dashboard, which can be distracting for drivers.
Upcoming luxury rivals to the Long Range Model Y, include the Volvo XC40 Recharge (a compact SUV) and the Polestar 2 (a high-riding hatchback). Both are exceptionally stylish, Swedish-designed EVs.
The arrival of the electric Mercedes EQC, which was originally due in Canada this year, has now been pushed back to 2021. BMW’s electric iX3 SUV, which could have arrived as early as this year, may now not even come to Canada at all, according to a company spokesperson.
As it stands, the Model Y’s toughest rival likely comes from within Tesla. The Model 3 Long Range sedan offers all-wheel drive and 518 km on a single charge for $67,990. Or, you can have the full-fat Model 3 Performance for $77,990.
Compared to the Model 3 sedan, with which the Model Y shares most of its parts, the SUV is more utilitarian. Its hatchback trunk grants the SUV an extra 1,450-litres of maximum cargo volume.
The SUV is slightly longer, taller and wider. It also has an extra inch of ground clearance, which will make it more adept on bad roads. The real benefit day-to-day though is extra space for rear-seat passengers. There’s significantly more head- and legroom, which will make installing child seats much easier.
A seven-seat version Model Y is slated to arrive in 2021 with, “room for up to seven adults.” It looks like it would be a real tight squeeze for those adults in the third-row though.
Of particular value to Canadians, is the fact the Model Y appears to come as standard with a new heat pump, as indicated in the owner’s manual. Long story short, that means the Y should lose less range in cold weather compared to other Tesla models, which make do without this new heat pump.
A cheaper Model Y, starting at US$39,000, is slated to arrive in early 2021. At that price – which equates to about $55,000 Canadian – the Model Y could be a credible rival to a much broader range of current and upcoming EVs.
The Kia Niro EV, for example, is hard to ignore in terms of driving range per dollar: $44,995 gets you 385 km of range. Ford is aiming for 480 km of range in its Mach E, which is scheduled to arrive in late 2020 for $50,495. And VW is hoping to get closer to total-cost-of-ownership parity with gasoline cars in its upcoming ID.4 SUV due out in 2021.
To truly break into the mainstream, electric vehicles like the Model Y will need to take on not just each other, but gas and diesel powered cars too. EVs are still more expensive than their traditional counterparts, but prices continue to creep down while electric range continues to creep up. If you’re in the market for any kind of luxury SUV, the Model Y is worth a look.
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