- Incredibly fast
- Class-leading luggage space
- Competent range and excellent charging
- £7,000 premium over Long Range
- Ride is relatively hard
- Minimalist interior not to everyone’s taste
Range (WLTP): 319 miles Top Speed: 150mph 0 to 60: 3.5 sec Efficiency: 4.3 miles per kWh
The Tesla Model Y was the third bestselling car in the UK in 2022, and the top EV by far. As of September 2023, it’s the fourth bestselling car this year. The Long Range version we reviewed at the end of 2021 will have been the lion’s share of these, but this has now been joined by a rear-wheel drive version and the one we’re reviewing here – the Performance model. Like every Performance Tesla, it’s insanely quick. But with a significant premium over the Long Range, the question is whether you really need a family SUV that fast.
Price and Options
Tesla is famous for having very few options with its cars. With the Model Y Performance, you can choose from five paint colours, two interior designs, whether you have a tow hitch, and whether you want to go beyond the basic Autopilot. And that’s it. There’s not even an alternative wheel selection.
The rather striking red of our review car is a £2,100 option, while the free basic colour is white. Black, grey, and blue are all £1,100. The UK hasn’t received the new options such as Dark Cherry that are available in some other regions. The Performance has the 21in Uberturbine alloys as the only choice, which isn’t available with other models. You can choose between the standard black or £1,100 white and black interiors. However, the seven-seater you can select in the USA isn’t available in Europe. The tow hitch costs £1,090 and then Enhanced Autopilot is £3,400 with Full Self Driving (which doesn’t really bring you much in the UK) £6,800.
Compared to European car brands with multi-page PDFs of expensive accessory packs, the fact that we’ve been able to sum all the Model Y Performance options up in a single paragraph shows how streamlined the ordering process for Tesla’s cars is. Since the Model Y was launched, the prices have gone down a bit too. The Performance is now £5,000 cheaper than it was at £59,990, and the Long Range £2,000 cheaper at £52,990. The Rear-Wheel Drive car is £44,990.
These prices compare very well with the competition. They massively undercut premium options from Mercedes and BMW, and Volkswagen Group cars are generally more expensive too if you want anything like the same capabilities. For example, the Skoda Enyaq iV vRS starts at £54,370. The Tesla Model Y Long Range is cheaper, but with more range and performance. The Tesla Model Y Performance version we have here is over £5,000 more, but in a different league for speed. So the Model Y Performance is hardly cheap, but if you want a family SUV with the same speed capabilities from another brand, you’ll be paying a lot more (if it’s available at all) – and that includes ICE options.
You will barely be able to tell the difference between a rear-wheel-drive Model Y and the Long Range version from most angles. They even have the same choice of 19in or 20in wheels. But the Performance version is a bit more obvious. The suspension is lowered a little compared to the other two models and comes with the exclusive 21in Uberturbine wheels. There’s a carbon fibre spoiler on the rear as well, plus the signature red line beneath “Dual Motor” on the rear.
The looks of the Model Y are a matter of taste, like the Model 3. Both cars have been designed with aerodynamics in mind rather than flamboyant good looks. It has a coefficient of 0.23Cd, which is superb for an SUV. The Y looks like a tall 3, which is essentially what it is, being built on the same platform. However, the Highland Model 3 has diverged from this appearance and the Y has yet to be updated with these changes (this will be Project Juniper, due in 2024). The Y is about 150kg heavier than the 3. Other than being taller, the Y is a hatchback, which makes it a more practical and versatile vehicle.
Like the 3 and other Ys, the Performance version has two interior choices. Our car came with the basic black one, while the black and white interior is £1,100 extra. Both use synthetic leather-like upholstery. We’ve never liked the wood veneer strip on the dashboard, which the white interior doesn’t have. However, the matt finish trim is a major improvement over the piano black gloss trim of the first-generation Model 3, which was a major fingerprint magnet.
Unlike most things Tesla, both front seats have discrete buttons at the side for electronic adjustment. The driver’s position is stored as a preset associated with a user, which can be connected to a keycard and smartphone. The front seats are nicely sculpted and comfortable for a long journey. There's more headroom than a 3, obviously, due to the taller roofline. The seats are heated and so is the steering wheel, all now readily available along the bottom of the LCD panel.
Tesla is still unique in offering two wireless charging spots in the central console. There's plenty of space in two centre cubbies for storing things, plus a couple of cupholders. The glove compartment is reasonably sized, but there’s no discrete button for opening it. You either need to use the LCD or a voice control for this.
The rear of the Y is where it really wins out over the 3 for space. There is much more room here for passengers to stretch their legs out and be tall. The standard Tesla panoramic sunroof adds to this sense of space. The rear seats are heated with the Performance but these can only be operated from the infotainment panel in the front. Rear passengers do get a couple of air vents and a pair of USB C ports, however.
Tesla interiors are not up there with German brands, or even challengers like Genesis. But some people do like the fuss-free minimalism. The Model Y doesn’t exude luxury inside, but it’s mostly very functional and comfortable.
Storage and Load Carrying
It was always annoying that the Model 3 isn't a hatchback. The Model Y very much is, but the SUV form factor takes luggage space to a whole new level. The boot is powered but with no kick-release opening. Inside, the room is positively immense for this car's footprint.
Even with the seats up, you get 854 litres. Drop the seats forward, with a 40/20/40 split, and this rises to 1,869 litres. That's more than an E-class Mercedes estate. There's even a sizeable 117-litre frunk, taking the total close to 2,000 litres. Unlike the Model 3 Performance, the Model Y Performance can also be specified with a towing bar that can pull up to 1,600kg braked, a £1,090 option.
Overall, the luggage space on the Model Y is class leading. There’s loads of room for a family trip away or shopping for DIY materials.
The big controversy when the 3 and the Y were released was the focus on the large 15in central LCD panel, which is even used for seeing the speed and current limit. You do get used to it, although it is a bit annoying that so few functions have discrete buttons. The removal of the steering wheel stalks with the Model S Plaid and Highland Model 3 hasn’t made its way to the Model Y yet.
Tesla is constantly improving things here, though. You can now control windscreen wiper speeds with a push of the button on the left stalk and the steering wheel dial on that side. This is still less intuitive than a dedicated wiper stalk, but a vast improvement over what went before. Otherwise, this stalk is for indicators and headlights, although the latter are mostly automatic. It’s worth noting that the rain-sensing wiper algorithm is a bit psychotic on Teslas. It seems to have improved with the most recent software updates, but still sometimes triggers the wipers in full sunlight or fails to run them fast enough in heavy rain.
Starting the Model Y either requires placing the keycard near the cupholders or just having your paired smartphone in your pocket, then pressing the brake pedal. The right-hand stalk then selects drive or reverse, with the button on the end putting the car back in park mode. There is no separate parking brake. The right-hand stalk also enables adaptive cruise control with another pull down, and then Autopilot mode with one more. This is Tesla’s autosteering cruise control, which we will discuss in more detail in the safety section of this review.
By default, Teslas have auto hold and relatively aggressive regeneration enabled, so you can mostly drive single-pedal and just tap the brake very occasionally to adjust speed or hit the pedal hard in an emergency. Apart from the functions described above, the left-hand dial on the steering wheel is for controlling media, and the right-hand one is for the adaptive cruise settings, which we will discuss later in this review.
There aren’t separate buttons for air conditioning, there’s no dashboard display, and no head-up display on the windscreen either. You can move some frequently used functions to icons along the bottom of the central display for easy access, however. The temperature controls for the dual-zone air conditioning are permanently there, making them relatively simple to operate. But if you want to redirect air you’ll probably have to pull over, enable autopilot, or ask your front passenger to help.
The 15in infotainment display is a bit of a tour de force in design in other respects, however. It’s great to have such a large map view when navigating. You also get pop-up side camera views when you indicate, to help with blind spot detection. In a recent update, Tesla has made it possible to set the infotainment screen to a larger font, which is a major improvement if you’re someone who uses reading glasses.
The menu is very well designed, with all the car’s functions logically laid out and readily accessible. You can switch from full power to Chill Mode and vary the steering response. The Model Y doesn’t have adaptive suspension, unlike the Model S and X. But there’s fine control over every function of the car. Tesla also famously has the most mature Over-The-Air updating system in the business. Assuming you can give the car WiFi connectivity, updates will download automatically, and you can use the smartphone app to trigger them when convenient. Updates arrive almost weekly, and sometimes bring valuable new features for free.
Tesla’s in-car entertainment has also been class leading for a while. You can watch Netflix, Disney+, YouTube and Twitch on the 15in display. You can also stream music from Spotify, linked to your own account. There’s gaming, too. You can play the games using the car’s controls or pair a game controller of your own. However, any media streaming, as well as live traffic, requires premium connectivity. You usually get a year of this with a new car purchase, after which it’s £9.99 a month.
One thing you don’t get with any Tesla, so far at least, is support for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. However, there is good integration between the Tesla smartphone app and car functions. Sending addressed to the satnav is seamless. With so many multimedia functions built in, you probably won’t miss having your smartphone functions projected directly onto the infotainment screen.
Performance and Driving
Teslas are infamous for their speed, and the Performance version of the Model Y is a case in point. It's not quite as quick as the Model 3 Performance, but 0-60mph in 3.5 seconds would still give an Aston Martin a run for its money. This makes the Tesla Model Y Performance an absolute king of A-road overtakes. Although the Y is taller than the 3, it still corners quite flatly, which gives it better handling than you’d expect for an SUV.
However, while the ride quality is a little better than a Model 3 Performance, it's still not the smoothest around, and no match for the Tesla Model S’s air suspension. Given a smooth road, the Model Y glides along effortlessly, unless you hit the accelerator, after which it bolts like a startled hare. It sits very competently on motorways, too. But potholes and bumps are obvious with the Performance’s stiffened suspension. The Model 3 Performance is more fun and engaging, but the Y variant is still great to drive.
Range and Charging
Teslas generally rank highly for efficiency and range. However, the Model Y was merely middling when it was launched. Things have improved since then. The Long Range now offers 331 WLTP miles, and the rear-wheel-drive version 283 miles, although both figures drop if you opt for the 20in wheels. The Performance model offers 319 miles, which is decent. That's from a 75kWh battery, meaning 4.3 miles per kWh from the WLTP rating.
However, during our testing, which involved a 470-mile round trip to and from Devon, we obtained around 3.4 miles per kWh. That's still good for an SUV and means as much as 250 miles in the real world. While this is commendable, Tesla's secret weapon is charging, with the Supercharger network still one of the most reliable networks around. DC charging goes all the way up to 250kW officially, so on a V3 or V4 Tesla Supercharger or IONITY 350kW supply, you can get from 10 to 80% in just 25 minutes – not even enough time to watch an episode on Netflix. AC charging is supported up to 11kW, and if you do have three-phase power it will take 8 hours 15 minutes to charge from full to empty. A 7kW supply will take more like 12 hours.
In a country like the UK that has plenty of Supercharger locations, long distance journeys in the Tesla Model Y are painless. On the aforementioned 470-mile round trip to Devon, there were multiple options for charging along motorways. Tesla’s charging experience is mostly seamless. You simply plug in, and the charger recognises your car and user account automatically for payment. Tesla Superchargers also tend to be cheaper than other DC charging networks.
Our recorded real-world 3.4 miles per kWh will make for reasonably economical driving. However, Tesla insurance groups are always high. The rear-wheel drive Model Y is in group 46, the Long Range in 48, and the Performance in the top Group 50. The warranty is decent but not up to the level of Korean cars. The basic guarantee is four years or 50,000 miles, and can be extended, but the battery warranty is a commendable 8 years or 120,000 miles, for 70% retention.
The Model Y has a five-star Euro NCAP rating, with the safety technology central to this result. Features include emergency braking, collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring. The cameras can be used as a dashcam, although you must supply a Flash drive yourself, which must be installed in the USB port in the glovebox. Then, when you honk the horn or are involved in an accident, footage will be saved for later viewing.
You can also turn on sentry mode when the car is parked. This detects motion near the car and makes a recording, although power consumption is quite high. You can even view the car’s cameras remotely using the app, but not the recordings. These can only be viewed on the car’s infotainment screen or by removing the USB drive and plugging it into a computer.
Tesla’s Autopilot cruise control system has received both good and bad publicity, but from our experience is excellent and included with all cars as standard. You pull the drive stalk down once more after drive mode and you get adaptive cruise. But if you're on a motorway and you don't fancy steering, you can pull the stalk down one more time to enable Autosteer. This will sense the road markings and take care of cornering. You do need to keep your hands on the steering wheel and give it a little jiggle every so often to show you're awake, but this is one of the most relaxing cruise controls around. The wheel on the right moves the target speed limit up and down and you can jog it left and right to alter how much space to leave in front.
Tesla has been beta testing self-driving on city streets in the USA, and just started in Australia. You can buy into that in advance with the FSD option for £6,800. But you don't get much else with this other than Traffic Light and Stop Sign control. Right now, the £3,400 Enhanced Autopilot gives you plenty of extra features for half the price, all of which are also in FSD. This includes Navigate on Autopilot, which allows the car to change lanes by simply indicating and having a clear space to move into. It also includes Autopark, which doesn't work very well with parallel parking in narrow British streets. But Summon and Smart Summon are potentially a bit more useful. Summon lets you lead the car out of a parking space that is too tight to open the doors – handy if you have a really narrow garage. We’ve not always found this entirely reliable, however.
|Price:||RWD – £44,990; Long Range – £52,990; Performance – £59,990|
|Range (WLTP):||RWD – 283; Long Range – 331 miles; Performance – 319 miles|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||12 hours|
|Charge time (50kW, 80%):||60 minutes|
|Charge time (250kW, 80%):||25 minutes|
|On Board Charger:||11kW|
|Efficiency:||Performance – 4.3 miles per kWh|
|0-60mph:||RWD – 6.6 seconds; Long Range – 4.8 seconds; Performance – 3.5 seconds|
|Top Speed:||RWD / Long Range – 135mph; Performance – 150mph|
|Power:||RWD – 295hp; Long Range – 346hp; Performance – 527hp|
|Wheels driven:||RWD – rear-wheel-drive; Long Range / Performance – all-wheel-drive|
|Cargo:||854 litres; 1,869 litres with rear seats down; frunk – 117 litres; towing 1600kg braked|