In response to Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA] CEO Elon Musk’s tweet today about the Tesla Model S price dropping to $69,420, the person representing Tesla Owners Silicon Valley on Twitter asked about progress on the 7-seat Tesla Model Y. Elon responded that production starts next month and deliveries will begin in early December, which is basically right on schedule with much earlier forecasts from Elon about the 7-seat Tesla Model Y timeline.
Starting production on 7 seater next month, initial deliveries early December
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 14, 2020
There has been much speculation about what a 7-seat Model Y will look like — as in, how much space will be available to people in the third row and whether the third row will face backward instead of forward. I don’t want to go down the speculation route on this matter (we’ll find out the answer soon), but I do personally assume the seats will face forward and there will be modest room in the third row for little legs. I certainly expect the space to be comparable to or better than any other 7-seater in the Model Y’s class.
Instead of pondering that matter, I’d like to explore which vehicles the Model Y will possibly be competing against (other than other Teslas) and how that competition may play out.
To start with, let’s note a few figures regarding the Model Y:
- Long Range trim: $49,990 (before savings), 0–60 mph in 4.8 seconds, 316 mile range
- Performance trim: $59,990 (before savings), 0–60 mph in 3.5 seconds, 291 mile range
- 7 Seater trim: ???
Also note that the Model Y has lane keeping and adaptive cruise control by default as well as Tesla’s standard and unique infotainment system and premium interior and sound. Of course, Tesla also offers an unmatched “Full Self-Driving Capability” package for an extra $8,000.
With that base information out of the way, below are 6 competing vehicles that offer 7-seat packages.
First on deck is the Chrysler Pacific Hybrid, a plugin hybrid minivan that offers decent efficiency (82 MPGe), 32 miles of electric range on a full charge, and the iconic Chrysler minivan design. It may not have the infotainment, semi-autonomous driving tech, top safety score, or performance of a Tesla Model Y, but it offers the ease of sliding minivan doors, plenty of space (140.5 cubic feet of cargo space when the third row is folded down), and that old-timey feel of sort of funny family comedies of our youth. Of course, its 0–60 mph time of 7.8 seconds also fits that overall personality. A definite plus on the Pacific’s column is that the starting point is $39,995 but you can still get a $7,500 federal tax credit if you have that much tax liability. But, again, it’s not a Tesla and lacks those various features noted above.
The Acura MDX is the vehicle here “most in the Model Y’s class.” The starting price is $44,500 and it has a moderate level of premium/luxury interior. Though, note that to get closer to Tesla’s tech level (closer, not the same), you have to pay $5,000 for the Technology Package. You can also get an interesting $2,000 Entertainment Package that provides multimedia features in the back seats. This is the closest to a premium-class performance option, but its 0–60 mph time is still just 6.5 seconds, not nearly the 4.8 seconds of the Model Y Long Range let alone the 3.5 seconds of the Model Y Performance — and you don’t get the often-useful (and fun) instant torque.
The Dodge Durango, to my eyes, fits a different demographic, but that’s probably my limited view — Tesla’s current customer base is far beyond any one or three subcultures. It spans the population. What the Durango offers is a lower base price — $30,795 + $1,095 for the third row. However, that’s a pretty barebones trim, and higher-spec options with better specs quickly get into Model Y range. The Model Y also offers tremendous fuel and presumably maintenance savings. As always, there is no matching Tesla’s safety score, semi-autonomous driving tech, infotainment, or performance. The base Durango SXT has a 6.4 second 0–60 mph time, and top-end SRT has a time of 4.4–4.8 seconds but a starting price of $62,995, which is even higher than the Model Y Performance’s starting price.
There are the well known luxury class competitors from Germany, of course, such as the Mercedes-Benz GLE, which has a starting price of $54,750 plus $2,100 for the 3rd row and thousands in extra features the Model Y has by default like better sound ($1,375) and augmented navigation video ($350) as well as features Tesla doesn’t offer like heated & cooled cupholders and front passenger seat memory (though, Tesla is supposed to be implemented this one at some point). Of course, the GLE would have much higher fuel costs and it emits various forms of pollution.
Then there’s the BMW X5. It’s simply in a higher price tier, especially if you include its much higher operational costs, so I’m not going to spend much time on this one. The Model Y outperforms it in all the ways it outperforms all the other vehicles in this comparison, but also costs less, so this choice basically comes down to whether or not you love the BMW brand.
The final SUV perhaps worth considering for people on the market for a 7-seat SUV who don’t necessarily feel a requirement to get a zero-emission, fully electric vehicle is the Mazda CX-9. The model, the Sport trim, starts at $33,960, quite a compelling price point. While total cost of ownership may actually give the Model Y an advantage (I’ll explore that this weekend), that’s a low-end price point that can more easily work for some families than $49,990 + whatever the cost of the extra two seats will be. A higher trim CX-9 costs considerably more, of course, up to a $46,605 starting price point. All in all, though, you are not getting a high-tech, quick-as-an-eagle, cutting-edge, safety-leading SUV like you are with a Tesla Model Y. If that’s okay and you’re mostly focused on cost and utility, this is clearly one of your best options, but check in this weekend for the total cost of ownership comparisons — this model has a 28 MPG highway and 22 MPG city fuel economy rating, except for the the highest trim option, which has worse fuel economy, and that means high fuel costs compared to cheap or free electricity for the Model Y.
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All images courtesy of automakers except top Tesla Model Y photo, taken by me.