When you slide behind the wheel of a BMW X4 M Competition or a Mercedes-AMG GLC63 S Coupe, everywhere you look there are reminders that you’re in a performance variant. Heavily bolstered leather and suede sport seats, carbon-fiber trim, flat-bottomed steering wheels, and track-ready gauge clusters adorn those SUVs’ cabins. The Tesla Model Y Performance, however, offers few such signals of the power its packing in its minimalist interior. The Y’s flat-backed seats, simplified dashboard, big 15-inch touchscreen, and lack of switches and controls are all carried over from the entry-level version and are nearly identical to what you’ll find in the least expensive Model 3 sedan.
Some family resemblance is to be expected, since the Model Y is essentially a taller and more bulbous hatchback version of the Model 3 sedan. Like the 3, the Y also offers a speedier Performance trim, but while the Performance option turns the Model 3 into a legitimate sports sedan, the Model Y Performance doesn’t go quite as far. For example, the 3 offers Track mode and the Y does not, a sign of the Model Y’s insufficient commitment to enthusiasts.
Energetic But Unwieldy
The Model Y’s acceleration approaches the numbers set down by its sedan sibling, and although it lacks the gut-punch Cheetah driving mode that’s so devilishly delightful in Tesla’s Model S, the estimated 470 horsepower from its two electric motors make it feel lightning quick. At our test track, the Model Y Performance snapped off a brisk 3.6-second run to 60 mph and sailed through the quarter-mile in 12.1 seconds at 113 mph. That makes it 0.5 seconds slower to 60 than the Model 3 Performance, with the same half-second margin applying to the quarter-mile pace. Compared to the gasoline-fueled German competition, the Performance is just behind the X4 M’s 3.3-second sprint to 60 mph with the BMW pulling away by the quarter-mile marker with an 11.6-second hustle at 119 mph.
While the Model Y’s acceleration and skidpad grip of 0.94 g are in line with gasoline-powered rivals like the X4 M Competition and the GLC63 S Coupe, it feels clumsy and increasingly unhappy as you probe its cornering limits. The Tesla’s ride is noticeably flintier and less refined, and tire impacts resonate through the structure. The Model Y can’t hide its 4439-pound weight. Pressing toward that 0.94-g number taxes the Pirelli P Zero rubber, and the suspension never seems to settle down.
When pushing the Model Y hard, you’ll also miss the way the seats offered by the German competition hold you in place. Tesla’s seats provide no such support, which makes spirited driving a game of trying to stop sliding around by bracing yourself.
Adding the Performance trim over Long Range model adds a lowered suspension, bigger brakes, 21-inch wheels, aluminum pedals, and $10,000 to the price. The Performance model also ups the top speed to 150 mph from the Long Range’s 135 mph, a fact that will only really affect drivers in Germany. The base version costs $62,190, and our test vehicle stickered at $72,190, including a $1000 Midnight Silver paint job and the $10,000 semi-autonomous Auto Pilot driving system. If you’re willing to overlook the Performance’s handling behavior and acceleration is your favorite performance metric, the added cost of the Performance version may be worth it. The Performance is 0.8-second quicker to 60 mph and gets to the quarter-mile 0.6 second faster.
Teslas are so impressively quick that many buyers are willing to overlook obvious build-quality issues. Our test vehicle suffered from the same squeaks and rattles we’ve noticed in other Teslas, and there were also several technology glitches, including one that left the Auto Pilot system unusable. An inoperative backup camera proved to be a bigger inconvenience, as the Model Y’s shape effectively reduces rear visibility to zero when trying to back out of a parking space.
In addition to the addictive acceleration, buyers gravitate to Tesla because its EVs offer class-leading range. On the Model Y Performance’s 21-inch wheels and summer tires, the EPA estimates it will travel 291 miles on a single charge. In our 75-mph highway test, we managed 230 miles before having to recharge, putting the Model Y Performance near the head of the battery-powered SUV class.
The Model Y’s spacious rear seat and cargo area make it slightly more practical than the Model 3 sedan, but aside from the staggering acceleration, the Performance version lacks the handling and driving experience of many gas-burning SUVs. Still, if it’s an EV you’re after and you don’t seek out high g-forces, are willing to forgive some quality hiccups, don’t mind a slightly less-refined vehicle, and put range and performance above all else, the Model Y doesn’t have much competition.
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