Editor’s note: At 3:00pm ET today (that’s in 1 hour from the time this is publishing), CleanTechnica is hosting a webinar with the owner of a Tesla Model Y and a Tesla Model 3. The owner is a former automative engineer who was actually involved in the GM EV1 project back in the day. The webinar involves a 15–20 minute presentation and then Q&A. It is open to all CleanTechnica subscribers — $3/mo, cancel any time. We will host another webinar at some point with Roger Pressman and Matt Pressman to tackle the new Tesla beast from another angle or 10 as well. Subscribe and stay tuned. In the meantime, here is a superb comparison article of all 4 core Tesla models by someone who has owned them all. —Zach Shahan
At this stage of Tesla’s impressive growth, there are well over 1 million Tesla owners. But only a tiny percentage have owned all four mainstream Tesla vehicles — Model S, Model X, Model 3, and Model Y. I’m one of the few that have been able to do that.
|Driving Tesla’s new Model Y (Source: EVANNEX. Photo by: Casey Murphy)|
After six years of driving the Model S, four years of driving Model X, two years with Model 3, and about 2+ weeks with Model Y, I think it’s fair to say I just might have a unique perspective on how Tesla’s vehicles have evolved over time and the strengths and weaknesses of all four models.
In this article, I want to discuss my impressions of how my new Model Y compares to other models in the Tesla lineup. It’s reasonable to argue that any comparison of this type is apples-and-oranges. However, I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Every Tesla model is unique, and because each leads the industry in many important categories, it’s worth comparing them against one another. The reason is that potential Tesla owners (and more than a few repeat owners) are asking the following question:
How does the Model Y compare to Model S? Model 3? Model X?
Obviously, the answer to this question is always driven by personal circumstances, taste, and preferences, but there are some criteria that will help in answering it.
- Aesthetics — The overall exterior and interior look of the vehicle — the visual amenities it offers and the manner in which it strikes the eye.
- Functionality — The driver-oriented functions provided by the vehicle.
- Interior volume — Interior space and volume are pivotal to buyer acceptance. Three key factors are in play here: leg and head space, side-to-side space (the width of the vehicle’s passenger compartment), and interior storage volume outside the passenger compartment.
- Technology — The technology offered by all Tesla vehicles has more similarities than differences (once we get into the weeds, I recognize that things are a bit different, but my focus is on the average car buyer, not tech geeks). It is, however, important to understand how that technology has been refined across different models.
- Performance — Every top-of-the-line Tesla model is high performance — road handling, off-the line quickness, and braking are often the envy of high-performance ICE vehicles and more than a few ICE exotics. But performance does vary from model to model.
- Drivability — This characteristic goes to the fun of driving.
|A look at the new EVANNEX “Stormtrooper” Model Y (Source: EVANNEX)|
Model Y vs. Model 3: In my opinion, the Model Y is more impressive in person than it is in photos or video. I own a Model Y Performance (long range, dual motor, 21” Überturbine staggered wheels). It has a “big” aggressive look, even though it sits on the same base as the Model 3. Its added height (when compared to the Model 3) gives it stature that isn’t present in the smaller sedan (a vehicle I have driven and loved for over two years). The Model Y’s slightly wider stance gives it a more imposing look from the rear, and its height somehow improves its front-facing profile when compared to the Model 3. Verdict: Model Y
Model Y vs. Model X: Aesthetic comparisons of the Model Y with Model X are strained by the luxury nature and larger size of the larger SUV. For sheer attention-grabbing aesthetics (and function) the Model X falcon-wing doors are a show-stopper not present in the Model Y. In addition, the length and stance of the Model X are hard to challenge with Model Y’s shorter body. However, both SUVs (“crossovers” if you prefer) avoid the boxy, staid look of many of their competitors. Verdict: Model X
Model Y vs. Model S: The Model S is the clear aesthetic winner here. Low, long, and sleek, the Model S draws the eye in ways that the Model Y cannot. Verdict: Model S
Since most vehicle functionality delivered by Tesla is software-based and continually updated, it is close to equivalent across the entire Tesla family of vehicles. Having said that, let’s compare head to head:
Model Y vs. Model 3: In a way, the Model Y is a refined version of the Model 3. The functions delivered by both vehicles are nearly identical, although some have been refined in the Model Y. Verdict: tie
Model Y vs. Models X and S: It isn’t so much that the Model Y provides better or more numerous functions, it’s that those functions have been refined. Consider the HVAC system and the graphical interface that controls it. The Model Y uses a revolutionary air delivery system while the Model X uses a more conventional air venting system. On the other hand … for Model X, falcon-wing doors! Overall, however, we again encounter the word “refinement” — something that the Model Y exhibits across the board. Verdict: Model Y.
Head & Leg Space
Model Y vs. Model 3. Sometimes head and leg space dimensions aren’t a true measure of passenger comfort. The tilt of the seats (front and back) along with human body type can have as much or more to do with comfort than the numbers themselves. For front leg room, both Model Y and Model 3 are nearly equivalent. In the rear, Model Y provides a bit more leg room, and along with the ability to tilt back the rear seats, provides an extra modicum of comfort. Verdict: Model Y
Model Y vs. Models S and X. No contest here. Verdict: Model S and Model X
Model Y vs. all other Tesla Models. Model Y is a smaller SUV, and as such, has a passenger compartment that is slightly wider that Model 3 and narrower than either Model S or Model X. Verdict: Models S and X are clear winners; Model Y and Model 3 are tied.
Interior Storage Volume
Model Y vs. all other Tesla Models. To some extent, this is simply a numbers game:
- Model X: 87.3 cu. ft.
- Model Y: 68.0 cu. ft.
- Model S: 26.3 cu. ft.
- Model 3: 15.0 cu. ft.
However, it’s worth noting that Model Y has a surprisingly large storage volume and will serve the needs of a significant majority of all car buyers. However, if numbers are your game or your need, Verdict: Model X.
Model Y vs. all other Tesla Models. Tesla is the only automotive manufacturer that provides significant and regular over-the-air updates to its already impressive technology. Every Tesla model now provides the first elements of autonomous driving. Every Tesla model has a driving and control interface that is at least one generation ahead of any competitor. Without diving into the complexities of the multi-node computer network that controls every Tesla, it’s fair to say that Model Y’s tech is at least as competent as every other member of the Tesla family.
One significant tech change that Model Y evidences is the use of a heat pump — a more efficient way to heat the vehicle in cold weather. All other Tesla models use resistive heating, which creates a rather significant drain on the battery, with ramifications for vehicle range in cold weather. Verdict: almost a tie, but the heat pump gives Model Y the edge.
Model Y vs Model 3. Like every other “performance” version of Tesla’s vehicles, the Model Y Performance provides an awesome driving experience. Lightning quick and amazingly responsive for an SUV, the Model Y duplicates most of the performance attributes of the Model 3. It comes close to the Model 3’s cornering and stability, it’s equally nimble in heavy traffic situations, it corners and brakes well — although, does appear to exhibit a bit more lean than the Model 3 and is a little less “light” at high speed. Its braking is competent. Verdict: Model 3, but not by much.
Model Y vs. Models S. The Model S delivers many of the performance attributes that matter, providing better cornering, an adjustable suspension, and more power. It is, in my opinion, less nimble than the smaller Model Y. Verdict: Model S, but not by much.
Model Y vs. Model X. The Model X provides surprisingly good performance for a large SUV (with all of the performance disadvantages that vehicle configuration entails). However, it’s no match for the smaller and more nimble Model Y. Verdict: Model Y.
Model Y vs. all other Tesla Models. It’s difficult to quantify drivability — a combination of the feel of driving and the fun associated with moving from point A to point B in a vehicle. Model Y provides a solid combination of aesthetics, functionality, and performance that all feed into any assessment of drivability. It delivers the tech I want and the functionality I need. It’s competitive in every category against bigger, more expensive Tesla models.
I’ve been fortunate to have driven every other Tesla model over long periods of time. My early driving experience with the Model Y has convinced me that it represents an evolutionary refinement for the Tesla lineup. Each Tesla model has characteristics that make it unique, and all provide an outstanding driving experience. Although I’ve only been driving my Model Y for 2+ weeks, it’s the clear drivability winner for me. Verdict: Model Y