mReview: Tesla Model Y RWD - The New American Dream

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It's 2008. American company General Motors, once seen as the largest automaker in the world, loses the top spot to Japanese rival Toyota. Worse, they post a record-breaking loss of USD $38.7 billion, unheard of in the industry.

Meanwhile, Tesla Motors, a young fledgling American company from San Carlos, California has just begun production of their insanely popular Roadster electric sports car, promising a healthy mix of old-school driving fun and groundbreaking zero-emissions technologies. 

This is not only a declaration of war against the sports car establishment, but also to legacy carmakers who have long viewed electric cars with dismissiveness at best, and disdain at worst.

It's now 2023. Tesla has grown exponentially to become the most profitable car company in the world. Volume sellers like the Model S flagship and the Model 3 have paved the way for its runaway success, and the company is now setting its sights on the money-making SUV market.

Enter the Model Y, their vision of what a mid-size SUV should be. It shares over 75% of its components with the Model 3, but sits higher and with noticeably larger dimensions. Will this shake up the industry once more like all the other Tesla cars, or will it be just another anonymous crossover destined for mediocrity?

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

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The Model Y does not serve to reinvent the wheel, but to simply refine a proven formula. After all, why mess with something that's already a hit with consumers?

This ethos is most apparent in its exterior design, where many parallels can be drawn with the Model 3 saloon. But look closely enough, and you can begin to see where the differences lie.

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A more upright greenhouse, an elevated rump at the back, and blacked-out trim pieces contrasting against the red paintwork give the Model Y a more adventurous look that's in line with crossovers, while still maintaining a polished and premium look.

It even looks muscular too, with a single strong character line that widens out towards the rear fender and door on either sides. The front apron has been mildly redesigned to look more cohesive with the rest of the sheet metal, but otherwise nearly identical to its saloon-based sibling. 

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A Tesla simply isn't one without a wide array of cameras (eight in total) installed all around the vehicle. It's the same case with the Model Y, with two very prominent cameras on the front fenders, and two more on each of the B-pillars.

Not only do they look out for potential blindspot hazards, they act as security cameras – very high definition ones, at that – whenever the car's locked, and will automatically start recording should no-gooders try to mess with it.

And speaking of pillars, the B-pillar on the driver's side doubles as a scanner for the Tesla card key, and one simply has to tap on it to lock or unlock the vehicle. 

Minimalist But Sterile

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Many designers love minimalist aesthetics, especially when they want to evoke a sense of spaciousness and freedom. Tesla takes this up a notch by removing buttons altogether in the Model Y's cabin, save for the clicky steering wheel-mounted scroll buttons and the multifunction stalks, and the door switches.

Every other control is now operated via a dash-mounted 15-inch infotainment display that looks more at home on a laptop than in a car. It's vibrant and crisp, not to mention utterly responsive. But I cannot help but feel that this is a step too far, where user experience is concerned.

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Even the simplest of functions have to go through the screen, down to opening the glovebox. Should the screen go kaput one day, it would only be logical for there to be manual fail safes in place to override it. But with the Model Y, such solutions are simply not there. 

With that said, the powered doors do have mechanical latches inside that can be pulled to open them, should the buttons fail. 

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The rest of the cabin is arguably plush and futuristic, though a bit dull. The white leather seats are comfortable and definitely supportive enough for longer journeys. You are perched up relatively high off the ground, and the surrounding views are crystal clear thanks to the wide glass windows and panoramic glass roof. And when it comes to ergonomics, everything is within easy reach.

Two USB Type C ports are available for the front occupants, together with a wireless charging pad. The centre console also acts as an start button of sorts for the car. Simply place the Tesla card key on it for verification purposes, and you can already drive off.

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Rear occupants will have very little to complain about too, thanks to the tall and wide cabin. With a flat floor and wide comfortable seats, up to three full-size adults can easily sit at the back. Two USB Type C charging ports are available on the rear centre console, along with the all-important AC blower.

It quickly becomes apparent that it's not just outer space that Elon Musk is obsessed with, once you open up the bootlid. There's 854 litres of cargo space to play around with, and even more once you remove the false flooring. Flatten the 40:20:40 seats down and you get a smidge above 2,100 litres of space.

And then there's the frunk, which opens up to reveal 117 litres of space, perfect for a small luggage.

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To put this to the test, I offered a friend and her parents a lift to the airport, where they were scheduled to fly off in the dead of night. Four full-size luggage bags fitted perfectly in the boot, while a medium-size luggage occupied the middle seat. The frunk's dimensions was perfect in storing another small luggage.

And with that, we bolted straight for the airport smoothly with zero issues. A competent family hauler, this definitely is.

Quick Off the Mark

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Despite weighing close to two tonnes and having power delivered to only its rear wheels (this being the non-Performance variant), the Model Y is extremely quick off the line. It's equipped with a single motor that pumps out 295 electrified horses and 420 Nm of torque, with a 6.9-second century sprint and a top speed of 217 km/h.

In real world terms, this essentially means lightning fast acceleration that makes overtaking maneouvres a cinch.

For a base model, these figures are easily more than adequate for daily use, so do you really want to fork out another S$50,000 for the Performance-spec model?

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Handling dynamics are surprisingly good for this 1.6-metre tall SUV, taking on corners confidently and stably. The steering wheel is well-weighted and you have a generally good idea of what the front wheels are doing. And with no front-positioned motor to interfere with the front wheels, you can appreciate the responsive and sharp nature of the Model Y around the corners.

Where it falls short is in overall comfort. Road noise is apparent once you're on the move, and the doors creak a fair bit when you're transitioning from flat surfaces to inclines, such as in a multi-storey carpark. 

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I am also not a fan of the stiff ride quality, which causes plenty of micro vibrations that make the drive quite jarring and migraine-inducing. Even the slightest of road undulations are met with harsh suspension feedback. Lessons should be taken from Polestar when it comes to overall refinement with a dedicated EV chassis. 

Perhaps for future iterations of the Model Y, the suspension could be retuned to be a tad softer to focus more on general comfort.

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Tired of driving and want to let the car take over for a short while? Autopilot is available, and enables the Model Y to stay in its lane, apply the brakes in an emergency situation, and also keep pace with the car ahead on motorways.

For just under S$6,000 more, you can benefit from Enhanced Autopilot, which allows adds navigational functions to the Autopilot, and even automatic lane changing. And for S$11,500 more, you can gain access to the company's Full Self Driving feature, which opens up even more options such as Traffic and Stop Sign Control.

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Where the Tesla is the undisputed champion is in the area of charging. It benefits from the company's Supercharger infrastructure, which delivers 250kW of power from any of their nine stations in Singapore. Running low on range, I opted to charge the Model Y at the Tampines 1 station. 

Within 30 minutes, the available range on the test car jumped from just under 100 km to 416 km. Suffice it to say, I was thoroughly impressed. If all charging stations delivered power as efficiently as Tesla's Superchargers, it would come as no surprise if EV adoption rates see a stratospheric jump.

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Perhaps the most convincing aspect of using the Supercharger (apart from the lightning fast speed) is the convenience of it all. I did not have to fiddle around with applications and clunky interfaces, only relying on the on-board Supercharger locator within the infotainment system which also provides availability information.

I simply pulled up at the station, took the cable out from its dock and hovered it near the Model Y's charging port, before it opened up automatically. From there, it was just a matter of plugging it inside. Voila, job done.

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Power consumption is one of the Model Y's strengths, too. It consumes 6.4 km/kWh, which puts it in the same league as the MG4 Trophy that the Editorial team assessed recently. And on a full charge, Tesla is confident that it can provide 455 km of WLTP range.

The New American Dream (With Caveats)

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There is no denying that Tesla is here to stay. And there is no doubt that they have considerable presence and brand recognition, even among non-car enthusiasts, thanks to strong marketing and star power emanating from their chief.

The Model Y cements this in the Singapore market with its spaciousness, technological bells & whistles, and a near-perfect charging infrastructure. Couple all of that with a relatively fun driving experience, and it's spiritually even a bit like their Roadster but much more well-sorted, and with families in mind.

And at S$132,620 without COE (accurate as of press time), you're getting a much better deal than from the Koreans. If you can live with the over-reliance of software-based controls for just about every function and some build quality quirks, the Model Y could very well be the next best family car for you.

Tesla Model Y RWD Specifications
Price: $132,620 (w/o COE)  VES Band: A1
Asynchronous Motor
220 kw (295 bhp), 420 Nm
Single-Speed Automatic
Driven Wheels:
6.4 km/kWh
6.9 s
Top Speed:
217 km/h 
Battery Capacity:
70 kWh
4,751 mm x 1,921 mm x 1,624mm
2,890 mm
Cargo Capacity:
854 - 2,154 litres

Photo Credits: Muhammad Mu'tasim (@mutasimdrives)

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