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Jonathan Bell

Tesla Model Y review: A day with newest silent runner

Jonathan Bell


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The Tesla Model Y.

The Tesla Model Y.

Down by the sea at Donaghadee.

Down by the sea at Donaghadee.

The looks are striking... if odd.

The looks are striking... if odd.

Effortless styling on the inside.

Effortless styling on the inside.

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The Tesla Model Y.

Can you rev a Tesla? What’s it sound like? How do you fill it up? Can it dance? What cool things does it do?

Have you ever driven an electric vehicle before?” was the rather polite response from the good folk at the new Belfast Tesla dealership. 

It’s the electric car – or EV as we must shorten it – to have, I’m told, have read, watched and clicked on. And the price suggests, for both new and second hand, it would need to be.

So Monday came around and I got my first run out in an EV. And what a vehicle it was. 

One of the very first of the new Model Ys. So new my demo car had the steering wheel on the wrong side. And so in demand I only had a six-hour window with the silent runner. 

The Y is Tesla’s second foray into the SUV market after the bigger and more expensive Model X. It is a cross over based off the Model 3 saloon car – but longer and higher, obviously.

Tesla says it opens up ownership to a new audience. And coming in at half the price of the X, they’d be right. But starting at £55k it is still a top end car. Plus these Tesla’s with their eight-year motor and battery guarantees and the current market, will hold their value. 

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Not needing the air intake of your combustion engine car, the Tesla stands out on the road. It has distinctive styling – for the aerodymanics – which make it instantly recognisable on the road. 

To me though, its an odd looking being and not the prettiest thing. The lack of very distinctive touches to certain models – things like VW put on a GTI, but not their base model for example – give the Tesla a bland look.

But for some reason, I admit, it appeals to me. 

Nevertheless, it is the interior, where the effort has clearly gone to make it look .. er … effortless. The dash is flush with air vents nicely hidden and a panel of wood running from the doors across give it a grand piano-like look. 

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Effortless styling on the inside.

Effortless styling on the inside.

Effortless styling on the inside.

All the controls are homed, bar steering and seats, in an imposing central screen, which is very fluid and near as responsive and quick as the car. The irritation of having to find the heater controls is not as bad as in some as it has a permanent home on the screen. 

Two stalks and two dials are all there is around and on the steering wheel. It’s all you need.

“It’s just like a toy remote control car,” was the advice on how to drive it.

And was he right. Go and stop, are all you need. The ‘go’ pedal, really does make you go.

The complications inferred with Tesla driving are a far cry from he realities. Get in and go. Beautiful.

American cars have the reputation for being loud, not as fast as they should be and with questionable build quality. The Tesla is simple, refined and from first impressions a solid build. And it should be, other than those moving parts which take the brunt of our roads, there is little should go wrong. 

The steering is very responsive – helped by the low centre of gravity with the battery between the wheels – point it where you want and it goes there.

I like a nice engine note, and even the delayed kick of a turbo diesel. But I think I would always have a smile on the instant blast of power the Tesla gives you, not matter the speed you are doing. Plus you’ve the added bonus of it not burning so much of you cash.

There is a change to driving style required for EV life. You can drive with the one pedal. Lifting off the accelerator slows the car much more drastically than on doing the same in your petrol car. And the energy is then recovered for the battery. 

Driving on our roads, the place you don’t want to be is on the left hand side. The state of the roads along the edges is abysmal. So I spent too much time trying to avoid the crumbling tarmac and potholes on my trip to Donaghadee – NI’s newest ‘crime’ capital (featuring as it does in the BBC’s newest drama).

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Down by the sea at Donaghadee.

Down by the sea at Donaghadee.

Down by the sea at Donaghadee.

But once you get used to the difference in driving – and how good the go pedal puts the speed down – you find you have so much more confidence in driving. There’s no noise, no drama, not a chance of a stall, need a touch of speed it is there. It will even drive you, with your hands on the wheel, which was very strange. 

It’s like an automatic without the whines of being stuck between two possible gears.

I ran up around 50/60 miles on the clock and the range dropped by around 70 miles. Economy was not a consideration in my driving and it was cold, which makes the battery work harder. It’s the same with the phone. 

The internal combustions engine has the advantage in this regard as the colder the air the better it will perform. 

But it is hard to think of many advantages the fuel has over the spark these days, other than fuelling. 

The computer brain in the Tesla told me I could make Belfast to Cork, just abouts on a charge. A stop would be needed in any car and with superchargers on the route and Tesla claiming 75miles in a five-minute plug in, it is an easy break for a long drive. 

I don’t buy into the ‘range anxiety’ thing. Unless you are experimenting for your TV show or YouTube channel, the vast majority of people will not be doing more than 50 miles in a day. Even when you do, it involves a stop, or an overnight. And when you’ve a three pin plug in the boot, you should not be caught out. 

No, no range anxiety for me, rather the fear of waking to an unplugged car. There’s probably a warning for that. Though I might wait until contactless charging is a thing. 

The Tesla is without doubt the car to have right now for the jump to EV. It is solid and that go pedal will put a smile on the face. For me though, the need for three kids’ seats across the back will always make it the second car. And for the price that’s not an option.. for now.


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