Automotive radicalism, Tesla Model Y style

Tesla’s new Model Y isn’t a particularly pretty car. This SUV, raised eighteen centimeters, has a much less fluid profile than the Model 3 sedan from which it is the derivative. Its comfort is not irreproachable either. In the absence of controlled damping, it is difficult to offer a padded suspension when we weigh a little more than 2 tons, or 130 kg more than the reference model. One can also object that most of the interior materials, hard to the touch, lack class.

The essential is elsewhere, retort those who have fallen under the spell of the Californian manufacturer. The faults of a Tesla are unique in that highlighting them seems almost incongruous, and the Model Y could well confirm the privilege enjoyed by this successful firm, whose aura radiates well beyond its customers. In the third quarter, it broke its record, with 241,300 sales worldwide, up 20%, and its registrations in France were up 157% in September.

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Discovering the Model Y offers the opportunity to take an inventory of what makes the salt of the passion for Tesla, against the tide of the market stagnation and the speech according to which the car has become an object reduced to its sole function. A phenomenon which is based on a form of radicalism, to use a very common term.

A range between 480 km and 507 km

Like the rest of the range, this model claims to be an electric car, which induces a rather different relationship to its vehicle. On the courtyard side, having to organize your trips according to the charging stations as soon as you have to cover several hundred kilometers. On the garden side, drive a quiet automobile smoothly, which allows instantaneous acceleration ignoring the inertia effects of a heat engine.

The Model Y has no grille and assumes to weigh 300 or 400 kg more than a thermal vehicle. While the exterior styling, designed to maximize aerodynamic performance, is by no means disruptive, the interior clearly sets itself apart from the competition. The furniture with simplified lines, the dashboard from which emerges a large 15-inch touch screen, but also the absence of physical controls and the brightness provided by the glass roof compose an atmosphere that breaks with automotive references. The batteries distributed between the axles and the compactness of the two electric motors free up a large living space, but also unprecedented storage volumes in the rear trunk (854 liters) and in the one located at the front (117 liters).

The interior of the Tesla Model Y.

The Tesla universe, which cultivates more the spirit of the avant-garde than the feeling of being a pioneer in ecology, underlies a special relationship with technology. The Model Y has a range of 480 km in the Performance version and 507 km in the Long Range version, thanks to the presence of a battery with sophisticated chemistry, the capacity of which is around 75 kilowatt-hours (kWh) – oddly enough , the manufacturer refuses to provide certain technical data – but not only. The brand can boast of mastery of the electric powertrain, which makes it possible without forcing consumption averages below the 16.9 kWh per 100 km officially announced.

Flatter le technophile

The Model Y illustrates the desire to flatter the technophile who lies dormant in any electric car enthusiast and to take note that a car, such as a smartphone, will now be distinguished by its on-board software rather than by its pure performance. Rather than bothering with a key, the smartphone acts as a key. A surveillance camera remains in service, even when the car is locked, and, on the GPS, the surrounding vehicles or the layout of the cycle lanes are displayed.

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In traffic jams, the car stops, then restarts on its own, but if we want to go further in terms of autonomous driving, it will be necessary to pay the price. An option at 3,800 euros allows you to take advantage of automatic lane change or “hands-free” parking, which is not quite a luxury with a car that is 4.75 m long and has a huge turning radius. . Another at 7,500 euros authorizes, among other things, to coordinate the cruise control with stops and red lights.

From 57,990 euros

At Tesla, technology is also about staging. The digitization of the controls makes it necessary to look in the tree structures of the screen for almost all the settings (air conditioning, opening of the glove box, orientation of the mirrors, etc.), a rigorous choice quickly abandoned by the manufacturers who, like Peugeot, had embarked on this path. The American brand persists, and its followers zealously bend to these constraints. At Tesla, we also know not to take ourselves seriously. For example, by offering the possibility of personalizing the sound of the alarm (Cockroach, or the reproduction of the rattle of an antique horn), or by showing arcade games, or even a wood fire on the screen when the car is recharged.

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Openly elitist (its price starts from 57,990 euros, with an ecological bonus of 2,000 euros), the Model Y marketed, since September, in Europe, is manufactured in Shanghai, pending production, in the months that come, in the future Berlin factory. The manufacturer has little concern for the success of this car, which also relies on the undisputed popularity of SUVs, and could well become the most widely distributed Tesla in the world. The brand has just suspended its sponsorship program, which, obviously, seems disproportionate to it given the dynamism of demand.