Can electric cars be S3XY? Tesla says yes with the new Model Y crossover

Tesla unveiled a new battery-electric crossover named Model Y during a private event held at its Los Angeles design studio. Heavily based on the Model 3, the Y is a smaller, more affordable alternative to the Model X that will likely become the California-based company’s best-selling model. Buyers can reserve one today by sending Tesla a refundable $2,500 deposit; the first deliveries are tentatively scheduled to take place in 2020.

The Model Y doesn’t stray far from Tesla’s current design language. When viewed from the front, it borrows many styling cues like swept-back LED headlights from the Model 3. It’s not equipped with the X’s trick “falcon” rear doors because Tesla has gone to great lengths to make its smaller cars simpler — and consequently cheaper to build — than its bigger models. Its arched roof line is reminiscent of the Model X‘s, and it flows into a rear end with an integrated spoiler. It looks like a bigger Model 3 with a hatch, which is exactly what it was designed as. Both cars have a 0.23 drag coefficient, and that’s not the only area in which they overlap.

The 3’s high-tech, minimalist interior carries over to the Model Y with only minor modifications. A 15.0-inch, television-like touchscreen mounted on the dashboard replaces a vast majority of the buttons, dials, and stalks commonly found in modern cars, a configuration that’s unique to Tesla. It displays the infotainment system, which includes standard navigation, and it lets the front passengers perform a variety of functions like folding the door mirrors, adjusting the steering wheel, and turning on the headlights. And that’s just the tip of the tech iceberg. Model Y owners will notably be able to use their smartphone to lock and unlock the car via Bluetooth signal.

The bigger dimensions make the Y more family-friendly than the 3. It offers seating for up to seven passengers, though the seven-seater configuration is a $3,000 option, and Tesla notes its trunk space checks in at 66 cubic feet, considerably more than the Model 3. And, because it doesn’t have the X’s falcon doors, owners will be able to install a roof rack.

What’s under the sheet metal?

Tesla Model Y interior

Tesla decided not to build the Model Y on its own platform, a wise decision from a manufacturing point of view. It consequently shares about 75 percent of its parts with the Model 3, including its basic chassis. The entry-level model comes with a lithium-ion battery pack that delivers up to 230 miles of range. It’s rear-wheel drive, and it scoots from zero to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds.

Next up in the Model Y hierarchy is a long-range, rear-wheel drive model with 300 miles of range, followed by an all-wheel drive variant with a 280-mile range. Finally, the range-topping Performance version gets 280 miles and a quick, 3.5-second zero-to-60-mph time that’s on par with many supercars. Tesla will start by delivering the more expensive (and more profitable) variants, so the entry-level car won’t arrive until the spring of 2021.

“This thing will ride really tight around corners.”

“[The Model Y] has the functionality of an SUV, but it will ride like a sports car. This thing will ride really tight around corners,” promised Tesla boss and co-founder Elon Musk during the car’s unveiling.

Tesla hasn’t revealed how long the Model Y takes to charge. To add context, the Model 3 needs 10 hours’ worth of electricity when plugged into a standard, 240-volt charger, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Owners will be able to use Tesla’s growing network of fast-charging Supercharger stations, though they’ll have to pay for every kilowatt-hour they consume. Rates vary from region to region.

Buyers have the option of paying $3,000 for Autopilot. It’s a semi-autonomous technology that adds eight cameras, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and a forward radar to help the car change lanes, read speed limit signs, navigate freeway off-ramps, brake if it detects a collision is imminent, and park itself. Tesla stressed it remains on-track to release a fully autonomous car by the end of 2019, and full self-driving capability is a $5,000 option, so it’s not too far-fetched to assume the Model Y will drive itself at some point during its production run.

When can I get one?

Tesla Model Y lineup

Sold exclusively online, the Tesla Model Y starts at $39,000. The long-range version costs $47,000, the all-wheel drive model carries a base price of $51,000, and the Performance flagship retails for $60,000. Only the last three versions will be available in 2020; buyers who want the cheaper Y will need to wait until early 2021. Model Y buyers will not be eligible to claim federal tax incentives because Tesla has entered its phase-out period.

Production is tentatively scheduled to start in 2020, though years of covering Tesla have taught us to take its deadlines with a grain of salt. There’s no word on where Tesla will build the Model Y. It could make it in Fremont, California, next to its other three cars, but some sources claim production will take place in the Gigafactory located in the Nevada desert. The company will release additional details as the start of production nears.

One of the Y’s most direct competitors, the production version of the Audi Q4 E-Tron concept, will arrive on the market in late 2020. Ford’s electric, Mustang-inspired crossover will fight for the Model Y’s turf as well. In the meantime, Tesla’s newest model will compete against gasoline-powered models like the Audi Q5, the BMW X3, the Mercedes-Benz GLC, and the Acura RDX. This competitive set places it at the heart of one of the most popular segments of the new car market in America. If everything goes according to plan, it stands a good chance of becoming Tesla’s best-selling model by a long shot, eclipsing even the popular Model 3.

“In 2018, 1.4 million SUVs were sold in the $40,000-$90,000 range. This means if Tesla captures only a modest portion of this segment, it will deliver significant sales growth,” JD Power wrote in a report. It added that SUVs and crossovers represent about 49 percent of the new car market in America, and Digital Trends expects that figure will continue to grow in the coming years.

Updated on March 14, 2019: Added full details about the Model Y.

Cars

Tesla gives us a cryptic look at its cyberpunk, Blade Runner-inspired pickup

Tesla has started designing its long-promised pickup truck. The yet-unnamed model will come with dual-motor all-wheel drive and lots of torque, plus it will be able to park itself. It could make its debut in 2019.
Cars

Tesla lets you skip the dealership, order a car from the comfort of your couch

Tesla has always bypassed traditional dealerships, and it has now adopted an online-only sales model that lets customers configure and order their car without leaving their couch. Here's what you need to know.
Cars

Fisker plans sub-$40,000 electric SUV with 300 miles of range for 2021

Fisker Inc. plans to launch an electric SUV with a base price of under $40,000, and a range of around 300 miles in 2021. The unnamed vehicle could compete with the Tesla Model Y, if it ever gets into production.
Cars

Sibling rivalry: The Tesla Model Y takes on the Tesla Model 3

Tesla expanded its lineup with a fourth car named Model Y. It's an electric crossover positioned as a more spacious alternative to the Model 3. The two cars share about 75 percent of their components, but they're aimed at different buyers.
Cars

Waymo boosts robo-taxi plans with new service center in Arizona

Waymo has announced plans for a facility in Phoenix, Arizona, that will help to service, maintain, and grow its fleet of autonomous Waymo One cars. The vehicles operate as part of the company's robo-taxi ridesharing service.
Cars

Vivint’s Car Guard keeps tabs on your vehicle when you’re not in it

A simple plug-in that you can place in just about any vehicle, Vivint's new Car Guard will automatically detect if your car is bumped, towed, or stolen and will alert you about it.
Product Review

The Ferrari Portofino is the super stallion you’ll want to drive every day

With the introduction of the Portofino, Ferrari addresses the California T’s stylistic shortcomings while improving comfort, convenience, and performance. There’s little “entry-level” about this super stallion.
Cars

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC coupe gets a tech upgrade, keeps quirky styling

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC coupe debuts at the 2019 New York Auto Show with an upgraded infotainment system that incorporates Mercedes' digital assistant. The SUV launches later this year with turbocharged four-cylinder power.
Cars

This modified Land Rover Discovery is heading to Africa to help fight malaria

A Land Rover Discovery will be used by the Mobile Malaria Project for a 3,900-mile trek across Africa to study malaria. The SUV is equipped with a mobile gene-sequencing laboratory, as well as everything necessary for serious off-roading.
Cars

Volvo wants to use speed limiters, in-car cameras, and data to reduce crashes

Volvo believes new tech is the best way to improve car safety. The Swedish automaker will let owners set speed limits when loaning out their cars, install cameras to monitor drivers, and use data to design better safety features.
Cars

BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe teased way ahead of its November debut

The BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe is coming to the United States, eventually. The new compact BMW won't be unveiled until the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The Gran Coupe will be based on a front-wheel drive platform.
Cars

Autonomous shuttle rides coming to New York City via Optimus Ride

Workers at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in NY City will soon be able to make their way around the 300-acre industrial park in Optimus Ride's self-driving shuttles. The tech startup says it's the first trial of its kind in the state.
Cars

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi group uses Microsoft cloud platform for connected cars

The Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is launching a new cloud platform for its cars. Based on Microsoft Azure, the Alliance Intelligent Cloud will enable features like connected services and over-the-air updates.
Cars

The 2019 Toyota C-HR gains a popular tech feature as its price comes down

Toyota has updated the C-HR, its entry-level crossover, by adding an entry-level trim level to the lineup. Every model regardless of price also comes standard with an 8.0-inch touchscreen compatible with Apple CarPlay.