For a car that’s taken nearly two years to arrive on UK shores, the new Tesla Model Y certainly doesn’t hang around.
The elegantly minimalist yet eminently practical SUV family crossover has a burst of acceleration that makes it one of the hottest – or should that be coolest – school-run, shopping or leisure vehicles to go on sale in the UK.
And I’ve been among the first to drive one on British roads since order books opened just a few days ago.
Almost time for take off: Tesla’s latest car – the Model Y compact SUV – is set to hit UK shores early next year. We’ve had a preview of how it drives on UK roads. And here’s our initial verdict
Only last week it was confirmed that Tesla’s long-awaited compact SUV was coming to Britain in early 2022 – and customers could start placing their orders and leaving deposits.
The announcement of its arrival came just days after it was confirmed that the Model 3 it is based on became the nation’s most-bought car in September 2021 – the fifth time it has topped monthly sales charts.
Last week I also had the chance to pick up a test car from Tesla’s depot at Brooklands in Surrey – once the site of the world’s first purpose built race track but now a combination of business and shopping park, as well hosting as a brilliant motor car and aviation museum.
I even posed up the car alongside a scale model of Concorde to celebrate two crafts with awesome take off and cruising speeds.
Time to get behind the wheel of Tesla’s latest arrival
For anyone who’s never before driven a Tesla, there are some basics you first have to get your head around.
Firstly, there’s no key.
You can programme your smartphone to act as a key – or use a credit-card-sized electronic key card that you wave near the door, to give you access.
Only last week it was confirmed that Tesla’s long-awaited compact SUV is now available to order in the UK – and British customers can start leaving deposits for two versions, including this Long Range AWD
Prices start from £54,990 in the UK for the Long Range version, with a pricier Model Y Performance also available to order
Ray Massey poses inside the clean and clutter-free cabin of Tesla’s new UK arrival, with first deliveries of the Model Y hitting UK roads in early 2022
Once inside, you can wave the card again to fire up the electric motors and battery. Pull down the stalk near the steering wheel into ‘D’ for drive, and you’re away.
The car I drove was the entry-level Model Y Long Range all-wheel drive starting at £54,990 and with a range of 315 miles.
That should get you from London to Newcastle on one charge, if you drive judiciously.
Tesla Model Y: Will it fit in my garage?
Model tested: Tesla Model Y Long Range AWD
Price: from £54,990
On sale: now
First deliveries: early 2022
Width (inc mirrors): 2,129mm
Ground clearance: 167mm
Top speed: 135mph
0-60mph: 4.8 seconds
0-62mph: 5.0 seconds
Range: 315 miles
Transmission: All-wheel drive Dual Motor
Display: 15 inch touchscreen
Load space: 2,158 litres (includes 1,854 litre rear and front 117 litre front trunk
Turning circle: 12.13 metres
Mine was an early left-hand drive version on Dutch plates, with right-hand-drive cars expected to begin filtering over from Shanghai, China, in early 2022.
It can go from rest to 60mph in 4.8 seconds with a top speed of 135mph.
The raw acceleration figures don’t adequately convey the rocket-like boost you experience when you push the go-faster pedal and are consequently pinned firmly to your seat as it takes off. It really does shift.
And there’s more to come.
An even more powerful Model Y Performance model priced from £64,990 follows mid-year with a lower 298-mile range and top speed restricted to 150mph, but with 0 to 60mph acceleration in just 3.5 seconds, which will give plenty a supercar a run for their money in a straight-line sprint.
For now, the Long Range Model Y is more than enough for me – and many of you, I will assume.
Yet for all its pulling power, the Model Y is a very soothing and cosseting car, tootling nicely around town and in urban areas, with good manoeuvrability and the ability to spin on a sixpence, with a turning circle of just 12.13 metres.
You can set the amount of braking ‘resistance’ to help re-charge the car as you drive, and also enable ‘one-pedal’ driving which brakes the car naturally when you take your foot off the accelerator.
There are two drive modes: Chill and Standard. While Chill eases down the power delivery, it’s the latter I preferred, offering on-tap grunt to get you out of tight spots.
On top of that you can specify the steering as Comfort, Standard and Sport, to boost the responsiveness or be more laid back.
Tesla’s Autopilot safety system is also included as standard, with ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ and the ‘Full Self-Driving’ available as additional paid for options.
Also as standard is AutoSteer, Traffic Aware Cruise Control, automatic emergency braking, forward and side collision warning, blind sport monitoring, lane departure avoidance, and ‘obstacle aware acceleration’.
I took it for a spin to the Brooklands shopping zone, and even popped mischievously for a photo into a filling station – where petrol supplies have been challenging. No need for unleaded with this car.
And as well as home charging, Tesla has its a nationwide and Europe-wide chain of chargers.
The 15-inch central touchscreen upfront controls everything – though there is also voice control
Ray Massey took the Model Y for a spin to the Brooklands shopping zone, and even popped mischievously into a filling station – where petrol supplies have been challenging. No need for unleaded with this car
Practicality in droves will make it an attractive family car for the eco-conscious
The new Model Y crossover shares its platform with the existing Tesla Model 3, but is a fraction longer (by 50mm), rides higher, with a bigger and rather cavernous boot. Helpfully, this is also a hatchback compared to the 3’s saloon boot.
It also gets a full-length glass roof that allows light to flood into the spacious interior while also blocking out infra-red and ultraviolet light, reducing heat and glare even with direct sunlight overhead.
It has plenty of space in the back and lots of headroom.
The three rear seats fold down – together or individually – to give even more boot space.
The middle one drops to allow skis, longer sports gear, or self-build furniture to poke through. There are even practical buttons beneath the wide tailgate which you can press to push the sears down (though you have to push them back up by yourself).
A spacious boot makes the Tesla Model Y an ideal family motor. A seven-seat version isn’t expected for the UK market
A small front trunk – or ‘frunk’ – bolsters the overall luggage capacity and is ideal for smaller items you don’t want rolling around the boot
The soft stain-resistant and durable seat fabric is vegan-friendly for those who have an ethical or taste objection to leather.
As with the Model 3, there are five paint options with the Pearly White Multi-Coat on my car being the base option.
Mine was riding on 20-inch ‘Induction’ wheels, with 19-inch ‘Gemini’ rims also available. The Performance model gets 21-inch wheels. Each in turn are an inch bigger than the equivalent Model 3. It’s aerodynamic styling is enhanced by flush door handles that pop our when you push them.
There are four interior charging docks for smartphones – two up front and two in the rear – but you’ll need an adaptor if you have an older phone with earlier generation USB connections.
The 15-inch central touchscreen upfront controls everything – though there is also voice control.
You can customise it, too – and get used to seeing visual impressions of vehicles around you on screen.
And as well as home charging, Tesla has its own nationwide and Europe-wide chain of Superchargers offering ultra-quick times
The rear has plenty of space for adults as well as children, as Ray Massey showcases during his test drive
Will it be a hit? Ray Massey says it will certainly be among the favourites for eco-conscious parents on the school run
For EV fans and Tesla’s cult following, it’s a no-brainer
In some quarters Tesla is treated more like a religious cult than a car-maker, with hardcore disciples who will brook no criticism whatsoever of the marque or its founder.
But there’s no getting around certain Tesla quirks.
Doing things differently and re-imagining the art of driving is part of their appeal. But if you’ve spent decades mastering the ‘traditional’ car set-up you’ll need a little time and patience to adapt.
It’s like mastering an Apple Mac after a lifetime on Windows PCs.
I know owners who are in seventh heaven with their Teslas – once they get totally familiar with it.
My biggest criticism – and something I’m sure Tesla could easily and imaginatively put right– was the absence of a head-up display.
The Model Y is set to rival other performance electric SUVs including the Ford Mustang Mach-E and Audi E-tron Sportback.
But I predict a lot of happy families will make a bee-line for this new Tesla. Look out for them on those school runs.