2021 Tesla Model Y

By March 12, 2021

The 2021 Tesla Model Y is a fully electric compact crossover SUV that seats up to seven and has a 326-mile range, which is better than any other electric utility vehicle. It has a fastback shape that yields more cargo space than many other compact crossovers.

The Model Y offers a compelling combination of punchy performance, exceptional efficiency, and dazzling quick infotainment (although lacking Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), plus over-the-air updates that freshen the vehicle like a smartphone. But issues with its build quality persist, and its Full Self-Driving package, although unparalleled, isn’t true to its name.

For 2021, every Model Y gets more range. The 7-seat layout is new; we haven’t tried it yet, but that third row looks very, very small. There’s also a new rear-wheel-drive Standard Range model; the existing Long Range and Performance models have all-wheel drive with a motor on each axle.

The instrumentation is austere, absent conventional switchgear. And its functional roofline makes usable space for five adults, plus all their stuff in the trunk (rear) and frunk (front).

Tesla no longer reveals specs such as horsepower, torque, and battery pack size. Just speed and range.

The Standard Range takes 5.3 seconds to hit 60 mph, and has 244 miles of range. The Long Range model has a 326-mile range and hits 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. The Performance model has less range (303 miles) but can rip off a 0-60 mph time in just 3.5 seconds, quick enough to blow off all but a few high-performance cars.

The Standard Range uses a 60 kilowatt-hour battery pack, while the Long Range and Performance models use a battery pack with about 80 kwh of usable capacity.

A 240-volt Level 2 charger can provide about 45 miles of range per hour of charge, if you happen to have a stout 60-amp circuit dedicated to the 48-amp task. Tesla’s V3 Supercharger network can restore 162 miles in 15 minutes—although you’ll pay as you go to use it.

The Model Y gets five stars in safety from the NHTSA. it hasn’t been crash-tested by the IIHS, but its sedan twin, the Model 3, has earned a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS.

Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, active lane control, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts, and additional driver-assistance features.

Autopilot includes adaptive cruise control that will bring the vehicle down to a stop, in one lane. It and all assisted-driving features beyond that are part of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving package, which costs $10,000 and includes on-ramp to off-ramp driving plus some features that fall close to gimmickry.

Model Lineup

Made in California, the 2021 Model Y comes in three versions: Standard Range, Long Range, and Performance.

The Standard Range (244 miles) uses one motor and is rear-wheel drive. It starts at $43,190, and comes with 12-way power adjustable front seats, heated front and rear seats, power-folding heated side mirrors, a giant 15.0-inch touchscreen, and four USB ports. There’s no compatibility for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but there is video streaming and an internet browser, with the data plan.

The Long Range (326 miles) uses two motors and is all-wheel drive. It starts at $51,190 and is equipped with the same features.

The Performance (303 miles), starts at $61,190 and is equipped the same but it’s much faster. With optional paint, the tow package, and the Full Self-Driving package, it reaches $74,190.

The 2021 Model Y comes with a 4-year/50,000-mile vehicle warranty, plus an 8-year (100,000-mile to 150,000 mile, depending on the model) battery and drive unit warranty.


The Tesla Model Y has an egg-shaped profile with inconsistent angles and character lines on the sides. Its roof is tinted glass, from the front windshield to the rear window, and looks smooth and spectacular. Many of its details are taken from the beautiful Model 3 sedan.

To better understand the Model Y, consider that this compact crossover’s footprint is the same as the mid-size Model 3, while being only 2 inches longer overall, and 7 inches taller under that glass roof. That’s how it can be so spacious inside while being relatively small outside.

But it doesn’t look tall. Its ground clearance is only 1.1 inches higher than the Model 3, at 6.6 inches compared to 5.5 inches.


The instrument panel is daringly minimalist. There’s some suede-like trim and a few strips of wood and brightwork, but overall the interior makes Volvos look elaborate by comparison.

A giant 15.0-inch touchscreen replaces the traditional instrument cluster and has a flat menu system to control audio, climate and side mirrors, and opens the trunk, frunk, and glove box. There’s no start button, not even a remote entry fob. Instead, you pair your smartphone with a master keycard, and the car recognizes your phone and starts up when you sit inside.

The seats are heated in all five positions in the first two rows.

The glass roof that sweeps from windshield to trunk makes the Model Y feel like a virtual convertible, and affords the same kind of head room.

The 2021 Tesla Model Y is a paragon of packaging, with 68 cubic feet of cargo space, counting that in the front trunk.

Driving Impressions

Even the slowest of the three Model Ys is quicker than nearly any gasoline crossover of its size and price. The rear-wheel-drive Standard Range model hits 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, the all-wheel-drive Long Range model does it in 4.8 seconds, and the awd Performance model takes in 3.5 seconds.

The torque is instantaneous and gut-dropping. Even the Long Range will take your breath away if you stomp on the accelerator from a standing start.

In the Standard drive mode, regenerative braking enables one-pedal driving. Switch over from Standard to Chill mode, with the brake regeneration on Low, and it’s a smoother way to drive.

The ride is fairly firm, and because the center of gravity is so low, the Y stays flat in sharp corners. The Performance model can be a bit jittery at times, but no more than other SUVs with sport suspensions.

With a tow package, the Y can pull up to 3,500 pounds. An Off-Road Assist feature helps traverse unstable surfaces like snow, mud, or loose rocks.

Final Word

The 2021 Tesla Model Y offers sensational performance and all-electric power. It looks nothing like an SUV, while offering the same cargo space, with comfort for three passengers in the rear. We think all-wheel-drive, another 82 miles of range (34 percent), and quicker acceleration make the Long Range worth its $8,000 premium.


—By Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection

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