I’d like to say the new Tesla Model Y Performance is a game changer, but then that’s like stating the bleeding obvious when it comes to the American electric car company.
From the moment the first Tesla Roadster was revealed to the public for the first time on July 19, 2006 ar at Santa Monica airport in Southern California; this was going to be the electric car company that would write the blueprint on EVs.
The Elon Musk-led start-up then followed up with the big-ticket Model S sedan and then the Model X SUV from 2010, while the wildly successful and far more affordable Model 3 sedan arrived on the world stage in 2017 – and it’s still going gangbusters in every market it competes in six years on.
But for those not yet bitten by the EV bug, or still largely unfamiliar with Tesla’s all-too-simple nomenclature, the Model Y is essentially the SUV version of the Model 3 sedan.
The Model Y Performance tested here has arrived as the properly fast version, capable of blowing away all but the world’s fastest cars and yet with enough space inside to practically call it a one-bedroom apartment on wheels.
Then there’s Tesla’s outstanding technology play – enough to entertain kids and older technophiles for hours on end.
Nevertheless, does it stack up against EVs from traditional marques as well as sophisticated electric cars from those emerging brands out of China and Korea?
While the starting price is $95,300 plus on-road costs, our tester featured a couple of options; including Red Mutli-Coat paint ($2400), as well as the Black and White Premium Interior ($1500).
For sure you need either Metallic or Multi-Coat paint on your Model Y, but we’d go for the all-black interior, especially if this served as your daily driver.
So, after options and on-road costs are added, our Model Y Performance is priced at $111,306 drive-away.
Note: Pearl White Multi-Coat is standard on the Model Y Performance, but even Solid Black costs $1500, as does Deep Blue Metallic and Midnight Silver Metallic.
Rival makes and models include the Kia EV6, which ranges from $72,590 for the base Air RWD, through to $99,590 for the hi-po GT, which goes head-to-head with the Model Y Performance on test.
Then there’s the Hyundai Ioniq 5, which has been updated for 2023 and beyond. It costs from $72,000 for the base Dynamiq RWD, through to the range-topping Epiq AWD at $85,000. There’s a go-fast Ioniq 5 N on its way here too with proper track capability – watch this space.
There are slightly smaller options too, like the C40 Recharge Pure Electric, or the luxurious Genesis GV60. Or there’s the BMW iX3 from around $104,000 plus on-roads but it doesn’t have the performance of the go-fast Model Y.
2023 Tesla Model Y pricing:
- Model Y RWD: $69,300
- Model Y Performance AWD: $95,300
Prices exclude on-road costs
To open the doors on your Tesla Model Y Performance, best to set your smartphone up as a key – but then you’ve also got a Tesla key card to open the doors by swiping it on the B-pillar.
It worked all but once, but mostly I had both in my pockets and the car automatically unlocked as I walked up to it, and locked itself as I walked away. Wouldn’t just a key fob suffice?
Here’s the thing: while Tesla is all about cutting-edge technology, there’s not a lot on show in the cabin besides a singularly-huge, centrally-mounted,15-inch tablet-style touchscreen. Those boffins at Tesla figure that’s all anyone needs, and to some extent, they’re right.
There’s an equally strong argument for and against, especially for those like this tester, who prior to driving the Model Y Performance wouldn’t have bought a daily driver without Apple CarPlay or even a digital instrument display in front of the steering wheel.
As an avid CarPlay adoptee from its earliest days, I can tell you it was all rather confronting when faced with a journey without it for the first time in years. How was I going to make calls, message colleagues, use Waze or even play my freaking music without it?
Well, you do have Apple Music accessed via a QR Code (then sign in with your Apple ID) but there’s still no CarPlay or Android Auto without going for a Tesla Mirroring App from a third party.
Nevertheless, as someone who is still learning despite my age-old-experience, I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I learned to live without it – just a few hours behind the wheel and I wasn’t really giving it a second thought.
While Tesla voice commands function well enough most times, simply by pressing a rather annoyingly-fiddly scroll wheel on the steering wheel; asking it to navigate its way home to Collaroy on Sydney’s Northern Beaches immediately had me heading to Colorado in the US – some 13,400 kilometres away as the crow flies.
I tried it several times and got the same result, eventually calling on Siri to intervene.
As tech heavy as the Model Y Performance is, it’s nice to sit back and enjoy the driving experience without any such distractions ahead of you. There’s not even a head-up display to break the single-minded focus and newfound on-road serenity.
The entire dash is completely devoid of knobs, dials and buttons, except for the touchscreen and those fiddly scroll wheels either side of the steering wheel. At this point I’m on the fence as to how I feel about all this.
Despite the Model Y Performance’s lowered suspension, the seating position at its lowest adjustable point puts you well into the car, leaving you feeling like you’ve got a commanding view of the road yet also braced for some proper spirited driving.
The steering wheel itself is relatively small in diameter and nicely tactile, while the all-vegan-upholstered seats are exceptional for their super-soft feel, comfort and support. Easily some of the most comfortable I’ve sat in; though given this Model Y’s performance credentials, adjustable side bolsters might prove a useful feature… Elon.
One of the Model Y’s outstanding features is the quite incredible 13-speaker sound system – most likely using Dolby Atmos surround sound as part of recent upgrades.
Forget about high-end Harman Kardon units or even Bang & Olufsen, because the system in the Tesla produces staggeringly good sound – perhaps the best I’ve heard in an SUV.
While the optional white upholstery looks sensational and claims to be somewhat stain-resistant, we’d be recommending the standard black trim if the Model Y Performance is the family chariot.
Charging phones, laptops or Air Pods is practically a free-for-all with no less than four USB-C ports, two wireless charging cradles up front, as well as a USB-A port and 128GB storage device in the glovebox.
Storage holes are literally everywhere from the triple-console spaces up front including a huge centre console bin with another forward of the cupholders to large, lined door pockets throughout.
Along with completely flat floors in both front and rear seat rows, oodles of legroom, and plenty of headroom despite the Model Y’s heavily-raked tinted glass roof, there’s an overall feeling of immense spaciousness in the cabin, which looks and feels larger many large SUVs. And that’s before we start counting the gross luggage capacity.
Behind the second row you’ll find an extraordinarily generous 971 litres including an underfloor compartment.
Use the buttons on the left-hand side to automatically fold the rear seats (you’ll have to push them back up though), and space grows to 2158 litres.
Wait, there’s more. Hit the frunk icon on the touchscreen and up pops the bonnet where you’ll find another 117 litres of cargo volume. However, there’s no spare wheel – not even a space saver – just a puncture repair kit.
Not much, except form some plastic liner with a neatly secured tow hook. There’s space for your charging kit complete with cables and plugs for home and fast charging connections.
But if you’re wondering what powers the Model Y Performance, that’s a little more complex.
It’s powered by dual electric motors (3D3 – front, 3D6 – rear) making 137kW and 220kW respectively, for combined outputs of 357kW and 659Nm.
It’s fed by a 75kWh battery pack and can go from standstill to 100km/h in just 3.7 seconds – making the Tesla Model Y Performance as quick as the current Porsche 911 Carrera S with PDK, which has a price tag of $298,100 before on-roads. Top speed for the Tesla is 250km/h.
You can charge the Model Y Performance at home using an AC charger at up to 11kW, or at 250kW using a Tesla Supercharger or via an Ultra-Rapid charger using a CCS DC plug.
Driving Range on the WLTP standard is a claimed 511km.
The great thing about driving an EV is there’s no warming anything up like you should do in an combustion-powered car.
You just hop in, move the right-hand instrument stalk up or down and off you blast – it’s that easy. When you arrive at your chosen destination, simply push the button at end of the stalk, get out, and walk away.
There’s no handbrake to worry about or key fob to push – all of that stuff is automatic in the Tesla.
There’s so much instant torque on tap that small gaps in traffic are dealt with ease. And don’t bother about joining the queue of cars at the next set of traffic lights, either – as long as there’s a free lane, use that, and you won’t even need to punch it.
Just a quick prod of the throttle and you’ll be 50 metres down the road before the rest of the mob even get rolling.
With the complete absence of a driver’s instrument display, you obviously don’t have a speedometer ahead of you. Instead, it’s on the top-right-hand corner of the touchscreen at eye-level.
You’ll get used to it in no time at all – but it’s still not the ideal position for a quick glance.
There’s only one level of brake regen in the Model Y Performance, and it’s perfectly calibrated and as good in feel as the system you’ll find in a Porsche Taycan. You’ll get the hang of it in no time at all, so that genuine braking isn’t something you need to worry about all that often.
The psychology behind the wheel of this go-fast EV is interesting. You’ve got so much grunt at your disposal and yet you tend to cruise around in a more relaxed, confident manner knowing full well you can smoke pretty much anyone on the road – in complete and utter silence of course.
It might tip the scales at just under 2.0t, but the Model Y Performance feels agile and light on its feet thanks to quick steering that’s nicely weighted, at least in Sport. That’s pretty much what I left it in whenever I was driving it – the only other drive mode is Chill for motorway cruising.
There’s not much of an EV sound though, like that in BMW’s iX – which get astonishingly emotive performance sounds, albeit man-made by Hollywood composer, Hans Zimmer.
The big improvement over the standard single-motor Model Y is the new-found ride comfort thanks changes to the car’s double-wishbone front and five-link independent rear suspension dubbed ‘comfort suspension’.
Technically, Tesla has improved support stiffness at the top of the shock absorbers by 50 per cent, while adjusting their compression damping to reduce the damping force of low-speed impacts.
Previously, I found both the Model 3 and standard Model Y to be largely unbearable in the ride department, so let’s hope all Tesla models get this upgrade when facelifts arrive.
I made sure to hit as many patches of broken road and rough edges, and not once was there any jarring through the chassis. It’s a massive step up for Tesla and another game changer for the brand, in my view.
Overall, the Model Y Performance is an excellent handling SUV, displaying minimal roll and with solid composure when cornering at the speed limit.
It’s also got an excellent weight balance and inherent low centre of gravity and doesn’t mind being hustled along. It’s quite impressive and lots of fun when conditions permit.
That said, the turning circle isn’t great, with U-turns even on wide roads requiring a three-point turn.
Model Y RWD highlights:
- 19-inch alloy wheels
- Adaptive LED headlights
- Black vegan interior
- 5 seats
- 15-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Side and rear-view cameras
- All-around parking sensors
- Satellite navigation incl. charge network mapping, live pricing
- Dual wireless phone chargers
- 4 x USB-C ports (2 x front, 2 x rear)
- 128GB portable storage for Sentry camera system
- 13-speaker sound system
- 12-way power adjustable front seats
- Heated front seats
- Heated rear seats (all three)
- Heated steering wheel
- Tinted glass roof
- HEPA air filtration
- Dual-zone climate control
- Power folding, auto-dimming, heated side mirrors
- Custom driver profiles
- Key card entry
- Smartphone app connectivity
- Electronic fold-flat rear seat releases
Model Y Performance adds:
- 21-inch Uberturbine wheels
- Performance brakes
- Lowered suspension
- Aluminium pedals
- 250km/h Top speed (up from 217km/h)
- Carbon-fibre spoiler
Enhanced Autopilot ($5100) adds:
- Navigate on Autopilot
- Auto Lane Change
- Smart Summon
Full Self-Driving Capability ($10,100) adds:
- Traffic Light and Stop Sign Control
- Upcoming: Auto steer on city streets
Full Self-Driving Capability ($10,100) bundles Basic Autopilot (incl. adaptive cruise control with steering assist) and Enhanced Autopilot packages, and then adds further functionality with Stop Light and Stop Sign Control.
For the record, it’s not really full self-driving capability as the product name suggests, at least in our view.
Make up your own mind, but we think the standard Autopilot is fine for Australian conditions as they stand.
Of more than 30 cars tested over 2022, the Tesla Model Y was the “top performer” by ANCAP, scoring a five-star safety rating but also managing the highest average score (weighted across the four criteria) of all vehicles tested.
It achieved a 97 per cent score for adult occupant protection, 89 per cent for child occupant protection, 82 per cent for vulnerable road users, and 98 per cent for safety assist. Unsurprisingly, it is loaded with standard safety technology.
Standard features include:
- 7 airbags incl. front-centre airbag
- Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
- Forward, Reverse
- Car, Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Junction assist
- Backover prevention
- Blind-spot assist
- Lane keep assist
- Reversing, side view cameras
- Front, rear parking sensors
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Automatic high-beam
- Intelligent speed limiter
The Tesla Model Y is also equipped with Sentry Mode, which uses the car’s nine cameras (internal and external) to monitor any undue interference with the vehicle.
It’s reassuring to say the least, especially when you can observe the car from all angles both internally and externally, and even beep the horn and flash the lights via the Tesla App on your phone once you’ve set up your profile.
This is where Tesla lags behind almost all its rivals – only offering a four-year, 80,000km warranty.
Still, there’s a battery and drive unit warranty than covers eight years/192,000km for AWD Models, which will guarantee a minimum 70 per cent battery retention at that point.
Tesla does not publish specific service intervals, though it recommends a brake fluid check every 24 months, cabin air filters every two years, HEPA filter replacement at three years and an air-conditioning service every four years, in addition to the standard wheel balancing and tyre rotation.
Efficiency-wise the Model Y Performance is slightly worse off than its standard Model Y sibling by claiming an average of 15.4kWh/100km – a figure I got very close to, albeit with the occasional prod of the throttle.
Charging the Model Y Performance at an AC charging box at home means you can go from 0-100 per cent in around 8 hours 15 minutes. Using a Tesla Supercharger cuts the charging time down to 27 minutes.
Tesla is also unique in its ability to offer access to its Australia-wide Supercharger network of more than 50 charging stations, along with plenty of other fast-charging options, too.
Aesthetically, the Tesla Model Y Performance could be described as hideous; at least as far as it’s external shape goes and from any and all angles. It’s just not attractive – subjective as that is.
Inside, there are lots of idiosyncratic flaws, like the complete lack of a driver’s instrument display or HUD, no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – either of which might be deal breakers for some.
Even the four-year/80,000km warranty isn’t up to scratch these days when most carmakers are offering at least five years; with several offering seven years or even more in the case of Mitsubishi.
Never mind all that, because the Tesla Model Y Performance has more than enough going for it to completely change any preconceptions you might have had before getting behind the wheel.
It’s devastatingly quick, extraordinarily comfortable, has innovative technology which others are still playing catch-up to, as well as more passenger and luggage space than most families will know what to do with.
There’s also Tesla’s Supercharger network, critical to the overall ownership experience and far superior to that offered by rival makes and models, as well as public charger providers like Chargefox.
It’s also a bargain when compared alongside competitors from premium legacy brands.
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