2021 Tesla Model Y Officially Makes the Successful Electric Car Company S-3-X-Y

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

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Likening his company’s first SUV, the Tesla Model X, to a Faberge egg crossed with a spaceship, Elon Musk revealed the smaller 2021 Tesla Model Y crossover to an enthusiastic crowd at the company’s Hawthorne, Calif. design center.

Though it will be more affordable, don’t assume the Model Y is a Cadbury egg crossed with a spaceship. With a $39,000 starting price for the Standard Range version, it’s still going to be pricey when you add options. Nevertheless, Musk says this new SUV will likely outsell both the Model 3 and the Model S combined.

What is the Tesla Model Y? Good question. It’s a midsize, 3-row, 7-passenger, electric crossover SUV based on the Model 3 platform. Maximum range is EPA-estimated at 300 miles, maximum acceleration to 60 mph is claimed to be 3.5 seconds, and maximum cargo capacity measures 65 cubic feet. You can order one right now, with vehicle deliveries starting in the fall of 2020.

“Bringing S3XY Back”

Blue 2021 Tesla Model Y
The 2021 Tesla Model Y isn’t as expressive as the larger Model X, but it does appear to be more proportionate. (Tesla)

“We are bringing sexy back, quite literally,” said Musk, as he closed out his presentation of the new Model Y.

This is a reference to how the company’s model names spell out S-3-X-Y. Musk explained that the Model 3 was originally intended to be the Model E, but then Ford got testy about it. “Ford killed sex,” Musk quipped during the Model Y reveal.

Four versions of the Model Y are available. The Standard Range model is the least expensive and offers the least amount of range at 230 miles. Acceleration to 60 mph takes 5.9 seconds, it is rear-drive only, and it won’t be available until spring of 2021.

Next up is the Model Y Long Range. It starts at $47,000 with rear-wheel drive, and $51,000 with dual-motor all-wheel drive. The AWD system continually distributes torque between the front and rear wheels and drops acceleration times from 5.5 seconds to 4.8 seconds. There is a cost, however, in addition to the extra four grand you’ll spend on it. You get 20 fewer miles of driving range, for a maximum of 280.

At the top of the lineup, the Model Y Performance costs $60,000, accelerates to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds, and can go 150 mph. The Performance trim also includes standard 20-inch wheels and red-painted calipers to go along with its performance braking system.

Tesla is rolling out its third-generation Supercharger stations, and Musk promised a “radical improvement in Supercharging worldwide by next year.” Once they’re in place, the Model Y will be able to soak up 168 miles of range in just 15 minutes, claims Musk.

A Study in Austerity

2021 Tesla Model Y white interior
If the Model Y’s interior looks like the Model 3’s, you’re not mistaken. You get seats, a steering wheel, and a single 15-inch touchscreen display. (Tesla)

Similar to the Model 3, the Model Y’s interior is a study in austerity. A steering wheel and large 15-inch touchscreen display dominate the cabin, which is bathed in natural light thanks to a standard panoramic glass roof.

Two interior colors are available to go with the five exterior colors: Black with a light wood trim band on the dashboard, or White with a white band. The Model Y seats five people unless you opt for the $3,000 third-row seat, which brings capacity to seven. Fold the second- and third-row seats down, and the SUV offers 65 cu.-ft. of cargo space, which is about as much as a Hyundai Tucson.

Safety is a priority for Tesla, according to Musk, and the Model Y is expected to earn top crash-test ratings. In addition to standard forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and blind spot monitoring, the Model Y will offer Autopilot semi-autonomous driving assistance technologies. It runs $3,000 when you order the SUV, or $4,000 if added after delivery.

Musk says that full self-driving capability is coming, just as soon as it receives regulatory approval. This option costs $5,000 when you order or $7,000 after delivery, and includes the following functions:

  • Automatic driving on highways and city streets
  • Automatic parking into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces
  • Automatic recognition of and response to stop signs and traffic lights
  • A Summon feature whereby your parked Model Y “will come and find you anywhere in a parking lot”

You’re Looking at the Next Best-Selling Tesla

Red 2021 Tesla Model Y Rear View
Though smaller than a Model X, the new Tesla Model Y will offer an optional third-row seat for 7-passenger capacity. (Tesla)

No doubt, the 2021 Tesla Model Y is the company’s most important vehicle to date. It offers the utility and styling of the Model X crossover SUV at a more accessible price point, just as the Model 3 combined the flair and performance of the Model S sedan in a more affordable package.

Last year, Tesla sold more than 120,000 examples of the Model 3, more than double the number of any competitor in the entry-luxury segment.

It’s easy to believe Musk’s claim that the Model Y will easily exceed that figure. Especially given the rapid recharging times with its third-generation Superchargers.


About the Author

  • Christian Wardlaw has 25 years of experience serving in automotive editorial leadership roles with Autobytel, Edmunds, J.D. Power, and Tribune Publishing. A married father of four, Chris is based in the Los Angeles suburbs and believes fuel cell electric vehicles will power the future.

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