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2021 Tesla Model Y Review

Borrowing much of what you can’t see, as well as most of the interior bits from the smaller Tesla Model 3, the Tesla Model Y is an all-electric crossover. Model Y provides more interior room than the entry-level Model 3, and it offers an optional third-row seat.

Two models are available: Long Range and Performance. Both offer impressive acceleration, a number of safety/driver-assist features, and over-the-air technology upgrades.

What’s New for 2021?

A third-row seat is now available across the Model Y lineup.

What We Like

  • Over-the-air updates
  • All-electric
  • Hair-trigger acceleration
  • Driver-assist features

What We Don’t

  • Touchscreen-only operation of most functions
  • No Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto
  • Federal tax incentives have expired
  • Stingy available third-row seat

How Much?

$58,990 – $63,990

Fuel Economy

Using two motors (one for each axle) and a battery pack to drive all four wheels, the Long Range Tesla Model Y delivers a government-estimated 131 MPGe in the city, 117 MPGe on the highway, and 125 MPGe in combined driving. With the same powertrain, the Performance trim gets a government-estimated 115 MPGe city, 106 MPGe highway and 111 MPGe combined.

With a range of up to 326 miles, the Long Range grade also has a top speed of 135 mph. However, it reaches 60 mph from a standstill in a snappy 4.8 seconds. The Performance version posts the most impressive performance numbers. It hits 60 mph in 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of 155 mph with a max range of 303 miles.

Standard Features & Options

Tesla offers its 2021 Tesla Model Y in Long Range and Performance versions. Both are AWD. Both provide smartphone access eliminating the need for keys or fobs. Also across the Model Y lineup, the Tesla Mobile App puts you in contact with your Tesla for remote unlock, remote pre-conditioning, location tracking, as well as several other functions. Pearl White is the standard color. Four other extra-cost color options are available.

The Long Range Model Y ($58,990) comes standard with a full suite of safety/driver-assist technologies like emergency braking with pedestrian warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control. Also standard are eight airbags, 19-inch wheels, an all-glass roof, power liftgate, power tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel, five USB ports, automatic dual-zone climate control, navigation system with voice recognition, 8-way power front seats, reclining second-row seat, heated front/rear seats, Bluetooth connectivity, 15-inch touchscreen, and a 15-speaker audio system with HD radio and LED headlights.

Topping the Model Y range is the Performance ($63,990) model with the Performance Upgrade Package. In addition to its added range, performance, and AWD, this Model Y has 21-in. wheels, high-performance rubber, a lowered suspension, a spoiler, and upgraded brakes.

To any of the Model Y trims, you may add the third-row seat for $3,000, as well as Tesla’s Autopilot for $10,000. Autopilot is a suite of driver aids such as summoning your car in a parking lot and auto-steering on freeways. Autopilot now uses in-cabin cameras to see if the driver is paying attention when the autonomous driving system is active. Of note, the change even applies to Model Ys already purchased; over-the-air updates took place in May.

Note: Tesla has added a pay-as-you-go subscription for the full self-driving capability. Buyers can upgrade from the Basic Autopilot system for $199, or from the Enhanced Autopilot system for $99 a month. This can be done through the Tesla app.

Last: Choosing any color other than Pearl White will set you back $1,000.


Providing typical passive safety features like stability control and traction control, the Model Y delivers a full suite of standard safety/driver-assist technologies including front/rear park assist, emergency braking with pedestrian detection, collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, lane-departure warning, 360-degree cameras, and adaptive cruise control. A total of eight airbags are also standard.

Five-passenger variants of the Model Y received the government’s top score of 5 stars across all of its crash tests resulting in a 5-star overall safety rating.

Behind the Wheel

In addition to saving fuel, what makes an electric vehicle (EV) so alluring is 100-percent of its thrust is immediately available. There is no tachometer to monitor nor gears to shift. All of the performance is right there from the instant you goose the throttle. This is especially evident in larger capacity EVs like the Model Y Long Range and Performance models. Acceleration can be breathtaking. Although the Model Y is a crossover, it handles more like a sporty sedan. Think Mazda6 or Nissan Maxima. The steering is quick and the floor-mounted battery array provides a low center of gravity.

Drivers may tailor functions, such as acceleration and regenerative braking to taste. We really like the “Hold” stopping mode that achieves braking simply by lifting your foot off the accelerator.

We’re not as big on the role played by the 15-in. touchscreen. Sure we appreciate its size and positioning on the dashboard, but we think it oversees far too many functions. A few hard controls wouldn’t clutter the landscape and would decrease the constant fussing with and talking to the touchscreen.

In a recent over-the-air (OTA) update, Tesla has allowed the in-car Wi-Fi to work even while the Model Y is being driven. Think of the Model Y as a rolling hotspot.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Volvo XC40 Recharge P8 – An all-new model from Volvo, the XC40 P8 probably won’t have quite the range of the Model Y Long Range or Performance trim, but it will be EV quick. Pricing had yet to be announced when this review was written, but it will be in line with the Model Y.

2021 Audi e-tron – Pricier than the Model Y, the Audi e-tron doesn’t have the legs of the Model Y Long Range or Performance trims. It is, however, loaded with technology and a stunningly beautiful cabin.

2021 Jaguar I-Pace – The Model Y looks like a real bargain compared to the I-Pace that starts at $71,000. For that money, its range isn’t as good as the upper Model Y trims. However, it is comfy and roomy inside.

2016 Tesla Model X – Although we’re not convinced of the long-term reliability of the rear gull-wing rear doors, the 2016 Model X is a roomier alternative to a new Model Y. Prices hover around the top end of a new Model Y, but the extra room may just be worth it to you.

Autotrader’s Advice

The 2021 Tesla Model Y is a strong contender in the EV crossover/SUV arena. But keep in mind that range is key when picking an EV. If you plan to do some traveling in your 2021 Model Y, the Long Range model is the answer. Find a Tesla Model Y for sale.

Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps
Russ Heaps is an author specializing in automotive, financial and travel news. For nearly 35 years he has covered the automotive industry for newspapers, magazines and internet websites. His resume includes The Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, The Washington Times and numerous other daily newspapers through syndication. He edited Auto World magazine, and helped create and edit NOPI Street... Read More about Russ Heaps

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