2023 Tesla Model Y RWD first look & drive – Worth the hype at RM199k?

Having tested quite a handful of electric cars in Malaysia, it is rather ironic that we haven’t yet tested a Tesla – and that is until today. Like it or not, Tesla is the poster boy for EVs and has become quite synonymous with it, just like how Colgate is synonymous with toothpaste and how Pampers is synonymous with diapers. Product comparisons aside, we’ve finally had the chance to test the 2023 Tesla Model Y RWD for Malaysia.

Before we go on, let’s get some facts and figures out of the way. This is the RWD variant of the Model Y which means its gets a single electric motor that powers the rear wheels. Maximum power and maximum torque are 347 hp and 420 Nm respectively, which launches the car from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds, onward to a limited top speed of 217 km/h. A 57.5kWh battery pack provides 455 km of range It costs RM199,000 to own and the red colour on this test unit costs an additional RM10,000.

Yes, there are also the Long Range AWD and Performance AWD variants, but we have yet to test them. So let’s focus on the base model which actually made the headlines due to its sub-RM200k price tag. Let’s carry on with it…

2023 Tesla Model Y exterior: Strong Mazda influence, with an American touch

One fun fact about Tesla is that its chief designer, Mr. Frans Von Holshausen is the former chief designer of Mazda. After serving at Mazda from 2005 to 2008, he went on to a new position at Tesla. Even if you didn’t know this, it is quite apparent that the Model Y and Model 3 have some Mazda resemblance. It is also quite humorous that sometime earlier this year, a Mazda test mule was spotted disguised as a Tesla. My point is, both brands are somehow related by this coincidence.

And that’s not a bad thing at all. If there’s anything to complain about, it is just the fact that the Model Y looks like an awkwardly tall Model 3. The design is coherent and even if it is a design from 2019, it still looks quite relevant in 2023, although the upcoming debut of the Model 3 Highland might change the relevance of that statement.

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Even from the outside, the Model Y challenges some conventions here and there. The side cameras, for instance, are placed on the front fender, the charging port is deliberately hidden in the left taillight, and the flush door handles have quite the novelty.

Going back to its overall design, the Model Y is a blend of a Sportback SUV and a minivan. It is a practical body style, but its proportions do take some getting used to. And before we forget about it, it is worth remembering that this is an American car (regardless of where it is made). So this here is an American-flavored EV- Interpret that as you wish.

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2023 Tesla Model Y Interior: Minimalistic and challenges conventions

Did we mention that this is a design from 2019? Well, that continues to the inside as well. But even if so, the Model Y’s interior is still challenging the status quo of today. Tesla perhaps did set the trend of smacking an iPad right in the middle of the dashboard. It also perhaps influenced premium cars to have their HVAC vent controls done via the head unit.

The cabin does take some getting used to, especially with the lack of an instrument cluster, the fact that most of its controls are done via the head unit (even adjustment of the steering wheel and side mirrors), and the virtually hidden air conditioning vents.

Ergonomics-wise, the Model Y’s cabin is a nice place to be in, and this is perhaps thanks to the “Mazda connection” that it has. Now, I have only driven this briefly, so I won’t expand too much on this. What I can say about the interior space is that it is American (hint: that means there’s a lot of space).

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Driving experience: Firmer than you think, the RWD is your average EV

To recap, we did only drive the Tesla Model Y RWD, which is the base variant of the car. As mentioned earlier, it makes 347 hp and 420 Nm from a single rear-mounted electric motor. The century sprint is done in 6.9 seconds onward to a limited top speed of 217 km/h.

Honestly, the Model Y RWD’s acceleration is pretty much average for an EV. A sub-7-second century sprint is fast for the average “A to B” ICE car, but normal for an EV. Of course, its acceleration will always be a refreshing experience if you’ve never driven an EV. The RWD model feels average and rightfully so, since it is the base variant. Asking for more at this positioning is really quite silly. And of course, this means that we do look forward to experiencing the Model Y Performance AWD.

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I was expecting a big and soft American SUV, but the Tesla Model Y RWD is actually quite firm. The steering feels firm and the suspension is on the firmer side of things. It really caught me by surprise. Even with the steering set to “Standard” (you have the choice of “Comfort” and “Sport” as well), it was a solid experience. So, that’s nice.

The unit that we tested was not equipped with additional safety packages, so it came with the standard Autonomous Advanced Driver Assistance system. The car can steer by itself in suitable conditions. Letting the car take over was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but it’s a pretty decent system with acceptable autonomous steering input. If there’s any problem in terms of this, it is the quality of our road markings – some of them have faded, causing the autopilot system to disengage abruptly.

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So that’s that for now, as we really only had 3 hours with the Tesla Model Y RWD. There’s not much we can say about the charging experience, range, etc, as it was only a brief drive.

Of course, we will provide you with a full review when the situation allows for it. You can check out the Tesla Model Y at Pavillion Kuala Lumpur Level 3 (while it’s still there), and if you’ve ordered one, deliveries will begin in 2024.

For the full-on facts and figures of the 2023 Tesla Model Y for Malaysia, you can check that out here.

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