The Tesla Model 3 isn’t just the planet’s best-selling EV. It’s a world dominator of Marvel proportions, whose 300,000 global sales in 2019 were nearly three times as many as China’s BAIC EU-Series sedan, and more than four times as many as the Nissan Leaf.
The recipe for the Tesla Model Y, then, is simple. Start with that Model 3 sedan. Reshape it into a roomier crossover-like body with the commanding views and standard all-wheel-drive that are catnip to not just Americans, but increasingly global buyers. It seems like a safe bet that the Model Y will, as Elon Musk predicted, supplant the Model 3 as the world’s most popular EV.
The race among electric SUVs might be more interesting if the Model Y faced serious competition. But it doesn’t. Compared to would-be rivals — the Audi E-Tron, Jaguar I-Pace — the Tesla wins on matters large and small. (The Ford Mustang Mach-E is next up, but is still months away from showrooms).
Let’s give the E-Tron the swanky-interior trophy. Let’s grant that the Jaguar looks the sexiest. But most everything else falls in the Tesla’s ledger, often by wide margins.
The Model Y Long Range I drove starts from $54,190. Handsome blue-metallic paint and 20-inch black alloy wheels kicked that to $57,190. The Audi starts at $75,795, and reached nearly $86,000 in a test model.
The Jaguar starts from $70,875, with my tester topping $81,000. In defense of the legacy luxury brands, both the Audi and Jaguar read “richer” than the Tesla, from materials to fit-and-finish. But $25,000 to $30,000 “richer” is a stretch, considering their other handicaps.
To wit: The Model Y Long Range’s 316-mile boundary embarrasses the Audi’s official range of 204 miles, or the Jaguar’s 234 miles. That yawning range gap is the difference between easy round-trips and thumb-twiddling charging stops and detours — or roads not taken at all. (The Model Y’s ingenious heat pump, a first for any Tesla, should help preserve driving range in cold climates).
Even the $62,900 Model Y Performance version, with 456 horsepower and 497 pound-feet of torque, manages 291 miles of range. And the Performance’s vicious, 3.5-second slap to 60 mph will leave the Jaguar and Audi wondering what hit them. That 3.5-second moon shot is faster than several vastly pricier fossil-fueled SUVs, including the Porsche Macan Turbo and Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
For $10,000 less than the Performance edition, the Long Range — also with dual electric motors, one per axle — generates 384 horses, 376 pound-feet of torque, and a Tesla-cited 4.8-second scamper to 60 mph.
Perhaps more impressive than stoplight speed is the way the Model Y catapults from 30, 70, or 90 mph, with the merest squeeze of throttle. Passing internal-combustion cars in the Tesla is so easy, it’s not even fair. But it is fun.
Tesla buyers will spend just $550 a year on electricity (by EPA estimate) to cover 15,000 miles, versus $900 for the Audi and $850 for the Jag. And while the Audi drives wonderfully — just not for very far — it plops nearly 1,400 extra pounds on the scales, at 5,843 pounds versus a maximum 4,475 for the Model Y.