The Tesla Model Y is Tesla’s newest vehicular creation that claims it can go “anywhere,” but does that include off-road? Recently, the Model Y’s predecessor, the Tesla Model 3, received an upgrade so that it is now equipped for off-roading adventures with the addition of a new lift kit with off-road wheels and tires. Therefore, consumers are anxious to see if Tesla’s latest and greatest can do the same.
Tesla’s Model Y car is fully capable of handling off-road conditions, thanks to its 18″ Martian Wheels, ultra-responsive, independent electric motors, and “off-road assist mode.” Essentially, the Model Y took everything that worked for the Model 3’s off-roading abilities and enhanced them for an even better ride.
Read on to learn more about Tesla’s Model Y and its off-roading capabilities. We’ll discuss the car’s best off-roading features, our modification recommendations for an improved ride, and some basic off-roading tips for maximum safety.
Off-Roading with the Tesla Model Y
You never want your car to limit your exploration abilities, regardless of how paved the road is ahead. This is a fact Tesla has become increasingly aware of as they’ve spent a great deal of time, effort, and resources on improving and incorporating what they learned from Model 3’s off-roading abilities for the Model Y.
Various exceptional features within the Model Y make it the perfect full-electric vehicle for off-roading as well as conditions such as rain, snow, and mud.
Model Y Tires
One of the best places to start when braving off-road conditions is with a quality pair of tires. It’ll be a short journey indeed if your car doesn’t have the proper tires to handle branches and rocks of varying size as well as mud, water without getting shredded to pieces.
Luckily, Tesla equips their standard Model Y with Goodyear Eagle Touring tires, although it is important to note that Tesla has changed its manufacturer suppliers from time to time.
Goodyear is a fairly reputable tire company that frequently appears on lists of the top off-roading tires on the market.
Although many seem to prefer the Goodyear Wrangler MT/R for all their off-roading needs, the Eagle Touring tires are a decent choice of an affordable all-season tire built to handle a wide range of weather and terrain conditions.
The tires are built with biting edges for maximum traction in wet, dry, and snowy conditions. Other essential and quality features include:
- Optimized tread pattern to help quiet noise from on-road driving.
- Optimized tire contact area with the road for enhanced handling and responsiveness.
- Perfectly balances a sophisticated appearance with competent handling.
- Consistent H-speed rated (or higher) durability.
The most significant issue with this particular tire is that many consumers have stated the tread wears down rather quickly, which isn’t ideal if you plan to take your Model Y off-roading semi-frequently.
Overall, the Goodyear Eagle Touring tires are a great start for your Model Y while you’re breaking it in and testing its limits, but you’re really serious about your off-roading, you might want to swap them out for an upgrade sooner rather than later.
Model Y Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive
When you hear the term off-roading, you probably assume the car has four-wheel drive (4WD). Although other drives are often capable of handling these conditions, 4WD is almost indisputably the best option, both for distance and car component longevity.
This is potentially the first area of concern for those questioning the Model Y’s off-roading capabilities because it isn’t equipped with 4WD but an all-wheel drive instead.
Four-Wheel Drive Versus All-Wheel Drive
When driving off-road, the most essential component for your car handling these rugged conditions are its tires. This is because there is very limited traction for the tires to grip since you’re driving on rock, sand, moss, and other terrains.
Because there is some debate about the traction longevity of the Model Y’s standard tires, this can be a significant concern. However, even a good pair of tires can be easily ruined if paired with the wrong drive.
For the best off-roading experience, your front and rear tires need to spin at different speeds when you’re turning a corner. 4WD is the best option because it has a center differential, which ensures the differential allows both axles to spin at different speeds is closed. This locks the tires’ speeds and allows the car to fully utilize their tires’ grips.
With AWD, the main concern is that torque follows the path of least resistance within a drive system. For an AWD car with three fully open differentials, all of the torque is sent to the fasts spinning wheel, which also happens to be the wheel with the least grip.
This means that your car is more likely to get stuck in mud, snow, or sand if it has an AWD unless it is supported with locking differentials on one or both axles.
How the Model Y Overcomes All-Wheel Drive for Off-Roading
Fortunately, the Model Y’s AWD is saved by the addition of Importantly, an “off-road assist mode,” which, according to Tesla, solves the issue of torque by allowing the wheels to spin as the mode simultaneously “balances the torque between the front and rear motors to optimize traction.”
This feature is efficient on both rough and soft surfaces and is supported with “two ultra-responsive, independent electric motors that digitally control torque to the front and rear wheels—for far better handling, traction and stability control.”
Model Y Battery
The Tesla Model Y is an all-electric compact SUV, and since it is fully electric, it needs to be charged before any off-roading.
Ironically, the fact that the Model Y is an electric car concerns many when it comes to off-roading because they are under the misconception that it would easily die out on the trails.
Realistically, a Tesla Model Y, or an electric car for that matter, will run out of charge just as easily as any standard car can run out of gas.
Therefore, its charging necessities have absolutely no effect on their off-roading abilities. The user just needs to prepare ahead of time and ensure their car has enough charge for the journey, as you would with any gasoline-fueled vehicle.
Each Model Y car is equipped with a 75 kWh 350 V lithium-ion battery with a peak range of 326 miles on a single charge. However, with Tesla’s reveal of the new 4680 battery cells, this model will likely receive the upgrade within the next few years. This would increase the vehicle’s range by 30% for a 410-mile range.
Of course, even without the fancy 30% range upgrade, the mileage range on the Model Y is more than capable of lasting the entirety of any off-roading trip and then some.
Not only is its range impressive, but the Model Y has exceptional charge times as well, allowing the battery to recharge around 162 miles in 15 minutes. This means you can fully charge your car in just under 45 minutes so that you can go on an off-roading trip at practically a moment’s notice.
Naturally, if you didn’t have time in advance to fully charge your Model Y, you can top-off your charge at one of Tesla’s 20,000+ Superchargers located along well-traveled routes worldwide. Half of which can be found in North America alone.
Model Y Storage and Other Features
When preparing for an off-road excursion, you’ll want to be able to bring as many friends and family as possible while having ample space for the necessities.
The Model Y can seat up to seven people and has a maximum cargo volume of 68 cubic feet. If you don’t need to fill your seats, you can fold the second-row independently, so it is flat for increased storage ease.
In addition to its storage and seating capacity, each Model Y is equipped with a 15-inch touchscreen display for all your off-road navigational needs.
It is also important to note that the Model Y improved significantly on its clearance height with 6.6 inches versus the Model 3’s 5.5 inches.
This increased height decreases the risk of damaging your vehicle while overcoming off-road obstacles and is supported by the Model Y’s impact protection, low center of gravity, and rigid structure.
Model Y Modifications for Improved Off-Roading
In terms of a classy, full-electric vehicle that can do it all, Tesla’s Model Y is quite the specimen, particularly for those searching for a car that is aesthetically elegant as it is capable of getting down and dirty.
Although the Model Y is a significant off-roading upgrade from the Model 3, some areas would strongly benefit from an upgrade or two for a safer, more efficient off-roading experience.
Tire Brand Upgrade: Toyo AT3
One of the biggest concerns with the Model Y is its standard Goodyear Eagle Touring tires. Although Goodyear is a decent tire brand, these tires are by no means the brand’s best and aren’t the best option for off-roading unless you intend to replace them almost annually.
Instead, we highly recommend that Model Y owners swap out their tires for ones that have much better reviews and are far more equipped for the task, such as the Toyo A/T3 tires.
When it comes to all-season tires, Toyo is one of the toughest and best-selling brands on the market. Their open country A/T2 Off-Road street tires (AT2) appear on multiple lists of the absolute best off-road tires you could have. As the newest addition to the Toyo tire lineage, the A/T3 simply does everything the A/T2 did and took it to the next level.
Toyo’s A/T3 tires are equipped with exceptional tire treads constructed with large blocks and reinforcing tie-bars for extra stability and handling both on and off-road. This stable tread allows the tire to easily grip any road surface, which reduces friction, keeps the tires cool while running, and ultimately increases tread life.
Another benefit of Toyo’s A/T3 is that it does all of this without sacrificing aesthetics. Many off-road enthusiasts enjoy a particular look for their tires, and Toyo fully delivers with a design that is as sleek and rustic as it is durable and functional.
Tire Size Upgrade: 31-inch
In addition to altering your tire brand, another beneficial modification would be to swap out the standard tires 21–24-inch tires for 31-inch tires.
These are potentially the largest-sized tires you could fit onto the Model Y, but if your goal is to go off-road driving, we strongly recommend getting a quality pair of these before you hit the dirt.
There are several benefits to having wider tires, which is why this is a common modification seen on numerous off-road vehicles. The first benefit is that it will help increase your Model Y’s overall clearance, which, as you’ll see momentarily, is something this car desperately needs before it is suitable for off-road conditions.
Another benefit is that these tires can even improve handling on dirt and gravel and on-pavement braking because more rubber comes into contact with the ground for increased traction.
Smaller tires are built more for fuel economy than anything. Considering the Model Y is a full-electric car, this isn’t really a concern. It is far more important to have wheels that match the task rather than sticking to your given defaults.
Suspension Upgrade: 4-inch Lift
Another significant issue for the Model Y actually lies with its clearance height. Although Tesla was conscious enough about this feature to increase the height over an inch from the previous model, 6.6 inches is still by no means high enough for intense off-road driving.
It is generally agreed upon that if a vehicle is going to test its limits at off-roading, it needs to have a clearance of at least 8.5 inches. This is one reason why you typically see larger SUVs or trucks cruising through off-road terrain versus smaller cars.
Because the Model Y is more than two inches too short for the standard, it would be extremely beneficial to the car’s longevity and the safety of its components and passengers to equip it with a lift.
We recommend a simple 4-inch lift, but if this feels too high for your tastes and ruins the car’s overall aesthetic, you can opt for a smaller size as long as your Model Y’s overall clearance is at least 8.5 inches.
Otherwise, you severely risk damaging your car’s undercarriage on any branches, large rocks, or hills you might drive over intentionally or unexpectedly while off-roading.
Preparing Your Model Y for Off-Roading
It’s certainly exciting that Tesla has made significant strides with the Model Y towards more versatile vehicles that can handle a wider range of terrains.
Many excellent features of the Model Y lend themselves well to off-roading, especially if you pair them with some, or all, of the modifications we’ve mentioned. However, off-road excursions can be dangerous if you haven’t prepared your Model Y enough for the trip, so here are our top tips to ensure you have a problem-free journey.
Reduce your Tire Pressure
It is highly recommended that drivers reduce their tire’s overall PSI to about 25 before they embark on an off-road journey. There are several benefits to this precaution, including:
- Increase in vehicle’s overall performance, handling, and capabilities.
- Increasing tire area contact with the ground for better grip and traction.
- Easing tension and impact on the driveline and suspension parts.
- Reduces the impact of bumps for an overall smoother and enjoyable ride.
Lowering the tire pressure might seem like an inconsequential step, but it can actually help spare your pricy Model Y from unnecessary damage and make the overall drive much more manageable.
Purchase and Pack a Spare Tire
If you’ve ever purchased a car from Tesla before, you’d know that the company doesn’t sell their vehicles with a spare tire, or if they do, it is at the request of the buyer for a significantly increased price.
We recognize that most Tesla drivers might be hesitant to buy a spare tire for their Model Y, considering that spare tires, in general, are rarely used, and the cost can be pretty substantial. The average all-season tire costs between $80 to $150, with our recommendation of the Toyo A/T3 ranging from $125 to $200.
However, we strongly recommend you have a spare tire whenever you decide to go off-roading with your Model Y despite the additional cost.
There is always a risk of damaging your tires when you are testing their limits on uneven and challenging terrain. You don’t want to be stuck in the wilderness with your Model Y because you’re waiting for roadside assistance to tow your car.
It is by far better to take precautions and purchase a spare tire. The only additional problem here is that not only does Tesla not supply spare tires with their vehicles, but they also don’t provide anywhere to put them.
That’s right; your Tesla Model Y does not have an interior well to store your spare tire, so you’ll have to strap it to your roof.
For this reason, and to supplement the model’s interior storage, it is not uncommon for Model Y drivers to modify their car with a custom roof rack for tasks such as this.
Take it Slow
The Model Y has the quickest acceleration of all Tesla models, with the ability to go from zero to 60 mph in as little as 3.5 seconds.
Although this is an absolutely thrilling feature to test, it’s probably best not to test it while off-roading. In fact, in these circumstances, the slower you go, the better.
Off-road trails are riddled with a wide range of challenges and obstacles, and the faster you attempt to fly other them, the more likely you will damage your Model Y. Considering how expensive this vehicle is alone, not to mention and necessary repairs, it isn’t in any driver’s best interest to push this point.
There are certainly times when a little bit of speed is necessary to get over a hill, or you might come across a long span of flat terrain where you really want to let your car fly. But when you’re faced with a gorge of unknown depth or a relatively bumpy trail ahead, take it slow and enjoy the ride.
As you can see, Tesla’s Model Y is more than equipped to handle any off-roading expedition your throw at it. Don’t believe us? Check out Tesla’s Model Y Trail Riding promotional video, “Mud and Carnage,” and watch as Tesla’s latest exceeds your off-roading expectations.
Of course, for the best success with your off-roading experiences, make sure your Tesla Model Y is fully stocked and equipped with a spare tire and ample charge before you head out for a long evening in the dirt and wilderness.