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Tesla Model Y Compared To Best Selling Luxury SUV, Lexus RX 350

After comparing the Tesla Model Y to BMW’s high-performance SUVs last week, I thought it might be a similar story comparing it to the best selling luxury SUV, the Lexus RX 350. Where the BMW was comparable in performance, but MUCH more expensive, the Lexus is comparable in initial price, but has MUCH slower performance.

After comparing the Tesla Model Y to BMW’s high-performance SUVs last week, I thought it might be a similar story comparing it to the best selling luxury SUV, the Lexus RX 350. As you will see in this comparison, it is a very different story. Some things are the same, like Tesla’s incredible lead in fuel efficiency and emissions, but other things, like performance and price, are very different. Where the BMW was comparable in performance, but MUCH more expensive, the Lexus is comparable in initial price, but has MUCH slower performance.

Tesla Model Y in Oxnard, California. Photo by Kyle Field/CleanTechnica.

Lexus RX 350. Photo courtesy Lexus press kit.

Specification Comparison

Screenshot from EPA website

As you will see if you compare the Tesla Model Y with any gas or diesel SUV, it is many times more efficient. In this case, it gets 5.5 times as far on the same amount of energy. This allows you to save an estimated $5,250 in fuel costs over 5 years.

Lexus RX pricing from my local dealer’s website. I picked features comparable to the standard features for the Tesla Model Y Long Range.

Tesla Model Y pricing from Tesla’s national design studio.

We now have exact dimensions, versus the educated guesses I had last week (but note that it turns out my guesses were good enough and didn’t slant the analysis). The Lexus RX 350 is 5.5 inches longer, 3,8 inches higher, but 1 inch narrower. The interior space comparison is not what you would think, however.

The Tesla Model Y has more rear legroom and 12 cubic feet more cargo capacity, even though it is shorter in length and height.

The Lexus RX has 5.5 inches more rear hip room than the Model Y even though it is narrower. Those planning on putting 2 car seats and a person, or even 3 car seats, in the back may want to see a Model Y in person before purchasing it. If that 50.6 inch figure is accurate, that could be a problem for families with 3 young children. The 7 seat option available next year may be a better choice. My article published a year ago still has some of the best photos available of the 3rd row of the Model Y.

The acceleration is much faster in the Tesla Model Y than the Lexus. The passing time difference will be even more noticeable, since electric cars have instant torque and don’t have to wait for a transmission to downshift for maximum power. The turning radius of the Model Y is a surprising 5.4 feet less than the Lexus.

The comparison isn’t all in Tesla’s favor, though. Although neither vehicle seems to be a serious off-road vehicle, the RX has 1.6 inches more ground clearance, which will come in handy in deep snow. The RX 350 also offers 3500 pounds of towing capacity. I expect Tesla will offer at least the 2000 pounds the company offers on the Model 3 someday, but they may wait until the sales slow and they need a demand lever to pull. Since I expect the Model Y to be very popular, you could be waiting years for that trailer hitch (or you could have a third party install one).

Even though the chart says that the RX 350 only seats 5 and the Tesla Model Y seats 7, that is a little unfair for 2 reasons. First, as mentioned above, the 7 seat option isn’t available yet on the Model Y, and secondly, those wanting 7 seats today can get the RX 350L that has 7 seats for about $3,000 more.


The Lexus buyer is clearly prioritizing smooth, quiet luxury over performance or economy. Tesla has its large advantages in efficiency and emissions, as it usually does, and overall passenger and cargo room are very compatible.

The shocking difference in performance for the $50,000 to $60,000 price range will convince a lot of people that they don’t have to give up performance to have the utility of an SUV, or spend $100,000 on a high-end BMW SUV or Tesla Model X.

Lexus has a nice array of active safety features that are similar to what Tesla offers now, but it offers no hope of upgrading to higher safety or full self driving, as Tesla owners expect to receive in over-the-air (OTA) updates. So, who should get a Lexus RX over the new Tesla Model Y? Those who need towing or 7 seats today or those who aren’t willing to make the leap to the radically minimalist interior that Tesla installed in all of its models, especially the Model Y and Model 3.

If you decide to order a Tesla, use a friend’s referral code to get 1,000 miles of free Supercharging on a Tesla Model S, Model X, or Model 3 (you can’t use it on the Model Y or Cybertruck yet). Now good for $250 (up from $100) off on solar, too! If you don’t have any friends with a Tesla, use mine:

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I have been a software engineer for over 30 years, first developing EDI software, then developing data warehouse systems. Along the way, I've also had the chance to help start a software consulting firm and do portfolio management. In 2010, I took an interest in electric cars because gas was getting expensive. In 2015, I started reading CleanTechnica and took an interest in solar, mainly because it was a threat to my oil and gas investments. Follow me on Twitter @atj721 Tesla investor. Tesla referral code:


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